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0502 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 502 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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486   183. COTTON

The Sung-chiang fu chih compiled under Chia-ch'ing (1796-1820; 18, 15-16; cf. DORE, lot. tit.) has a long paragraph on Huang tao-p'o and her shrine; it reproduces both the inscription of CHANG Chih-hsiang and that of CHANG So-wang. Chang Chih-hsiang's text expressly says that Huang tao-p'o was a native of the fJchên to which Wu-ni-ching belonged, and that she came back in 1295-1296; but it adds that she « carried [back] cotton of Min (— Fu-chien) and Kuang (= Kuang-tung) and sowed it », which is a very loose and almost misleading way of speaking of Yai-chou in Hai-nan, which formed part of Kuang-tung. According to the Sungchiang fu chih, the man who first built the shrine was the village headman _ fip J Chao Jukuei. After it had been destroyed by soldiers under the Yüan dynasty, it was rebuilt in 14651487 by the district magistrate '►J Ig1 Liu Wan. In 1573-1619 (in fact, before 1577), CHANG Chih-hsiang transferred it to Chang-chia-ping ; less than thirty years later, this too was in ruins, and in 1626 Chang So-wang erected an independent shrine (pieh-tz'ü) west of the Ning-kuo-ssû.

Another «independent shrine », at   Uti Mei-ch'i-hung, in Shanghai itself, and south-west of
the seat of the Shanghai magistrate, is the one spoken of in the Mu-mien p'u (15 b) ; it may originally have been dedicated to another nun with the Huang surname; it was restored in 1784, and expressly dedicated to Huang tao-p'o in 1813.

A scholar, native of the Tui-shan, in the district of Shanghai,   nMAO Hsiang-lin,

published in 1870 a miscellaneous work in 4 chs., entitled gi~j]'   ~<   Tui-shan-shu-
wu mo-yü lu, in which a paragraph entitled « Huang tao-p'o tz'û », «the Shrine of Huang tao p'o », gives some additional information for more recent times (Pi-chi hsiao-shuo ta-kuan ed., ist chi, 2, 21). According to MAO Hsiang-lin, the shrine at Mei-ch'i-hung in Shanghai was erected by the Shanghai people after the original shrine had been removed first to Chang-chia-ping and afterwards west of the Ning-kuo-ssû. The weavers of Shanghai used to assemble for a fair at the Mei-ch'i-hung shrine. Shortly after 1821, the provincial governor T'ao Chu restored it and enlarged its area with land which originally belonged to the family of MAO Hsiang-sin's grandmother. MAO Hsiang-lin gives details on the sights and the pavilions of this shrine, at which women used to come in crowds for theatricals every year in the fourth moon, on Huang tao-p'o's birthday. But this beautiful site was laid waste in the T'ai-p'ing rebellion in 1853.

As may be seen from the above texts, the memory of Huang tao-p'o, this « public-spirited woman» as W. WILLIAMS calls her, has not sunk into such complete oblivion as T'ao Tsung-i's text would imply; DORE even reproduces a popular coloured picture of the old lady. But it may be that this popularity is a more or less artificial revival, of bookish origin. Late traditions which speak of Tämür's reign (1294-1307), or more precisely of 1295-1296, are not necessarily better informed than the almost contemporary T'ao Tsung-i, who merely says « at the beginning of the [now reigning] dynasty », and Chao Yü-hsüan who, according to T'ao Tsung-i, rebuilt the shrine, is very probably the same as Chao Ju-kuei who, according to the Sung-chiang fu chih,

built it in the first instance.   It is by no means certain either that there was any authoritative
tradition about the birthday of Huang tao p'o. Even if there may be some inaccuracies in T'ao's account, it is from it that we must start. From this account it emerges very clearly that cotton (i. e. true cotton) had been extensively grown in Fu-chien and Kuang-tung (of which Hai-nan always formed part) for an indeterminate length of time before the advent of the