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0500 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 500 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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484   183. COTTON

known as the designation of a textile. Varnakambala (formed with varna, «colour» and kam-

bala, «woollen blanket ») renders Ch.   gj ch'ü-shu (or ch'ü-yü), a sort of woollen rug, in BAGCHI,
Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, 195, 326 (the Sanskrit characters give *varnakamula, which the editor has corrected to *varnakamula; this would make the term consist precisely of varnaka -}mûla; but the Sanskrit characters are an early addition, not always correct, and the Chinese transcription, in my opinion, leaves no doubt that varnakambala is meant, as is moreover supposed by the Japanese phonetic transcription added to the right; cf. also my remarks in my review of LÜDERS'S Textilien, in Oriental. Literaturzeitung, 1938, No. 3, 184). But, if yüeh-no be varnakâ, I am at a loss to tell what sort of fabric was known under that trade name.

THE INTRODUCTION OF COTTON CULTIVATION INTO CHINA. — The history of this introduction has been traced in the 18th century by the Jesuit CIBOT, in Mémoires concernant les Chinois, II, 602-622; CIBOT's memoir is interesting for modern times, and clearly marks the difference between the «cotton tree », thriving in the south, and the « cotton plant », better fitted for more northern conditions, but it is more or less romantic for the earlier period; it may be responsible for some of the statements made in EDKINS's Modern China. The now prevalent view, as expressed in HIRTH and ROCKHILL'S Chau Ju-kua (HR, 219) and in COuLING's Encyclopaedia Sinica (I, 134), is that the introduction of cotton cultivation and spinning into China proper, and more precisely into Chiang-su, took place in the 14th cent., and was due to a woman from Hai-nan

called   a   Huang Tao-p'o; GILES (Biogr. Dia. No. 870), following Wells WILLIAMS (The
Middle Kingdom, II, 37) and MAYERS (Chinese Reader's Manual, p. 71), adds that cotton itself had been «introduced from Turkestan », which will be shown farther on to be an error.

The source of the information about « Huang Tao-p'o » is T'ao Tsung-i's Cho-kêng lu, dated 1366 (24, 12-13), and although T'ao's text, in an abbreviated form, has been made available in various works, for instance in the Chinese Repository, xix, 458 (because of the quotation made from it in HO Kuang-ch'i's Nung-chêng ch'üan-shu, 35, 10 b-11), and in DORE, Recherches sur les superstitions, xI, 1040-1041, it is worthy of a complete and more accurate translation. The text says : «In Min (= Fu-chien) and Kuang (= Kuang-tung), many people plant (ff chung) cotton (mu-mien), and spin it to make cloth, which is called chi-pei. About 50 li east of Sung-chiang fu

(south-west of Shanghai), there is what is called I v   Wu-ni-ching (' Black mud Ching',
26 li south-west of Shanghai; cf. Ti-ming to tz'û-tien, 731). In that region, the soil is gravelly and poor, and does not yield grain for feeding the people; so they planned to plant trees in order to make a living out of it, and then they sought seeds (of mu-mien) there (i. e. in Fu-chien and Kuang-tung). They were absolutely without any such devices as iTtl $ t'a-ch'ê (another name for chiao-ch'ê, or seed-cleansing stand, described in the Nung shu; cf. supra, p. 458) and ff

ch'ui-kung (lit. ' hammer bow ', another name for the 5V   t'an-kung, ' carding bow ', described

and depicted in Nung shu, 21, 17 a) ; they opened and separated the seeds only by hand, and with

a string cord and a bamboo bow, the floss was ' flocked' by being beaten on a table (the text in

the Chin-tai pi-shu ed., ;r ip9   , makes no sense, and I follow the reading adopted in the

Nung-chêng ch'üan-shu,   031 41 4 »; it was a wearisome task. At the beginning of the [now

reigning] dynasty, there was an old woman (raj yü), whose name was Huang tao-p'o (tao-p'o is