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0505 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 505 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   489

hibiscus (4   r. mu fu-jung, hibiscus mutabilis). It is different from the annual sowing in

China, and so when he says that it lives for ten or more years it is clearly not a tree (cf. Ciba Review, 95, Dec. 1952, p. 340, where it is said that the cotton plant, indigenous in the tropics where it is perennial, is killed by frost and has become an annual in « the chief cotton-growing areas »). If chi-pei is called a tree, it is just as the Yü-kung uses the word herb (If hui; cf. supra, p. 487; the hui of the Yü-kung certainly does not refer to cotton), a word chosen to distinguish it from silkworm floss. If it is not called mu-mien in Min (Fu-chien) and Kuang [-tung], that is because there they call the p'an-chih-hua (bombax, cf. supra, p. 480) mu-mien. The p'an-chihhua can be used to make mattresses and cushions; but though it is soft and glossy it is not tough, and cannot possibly be spun. How can it be made into cloth? If one suspects that mu-mien is this (i. e. bombax), and says that it can be made into cloth but the method is forgotten, he is mistaken; the mu-mien of which the Wu-lu speaks is precisely chi-pei. If one supposes that because it says that the tree is ten feet high it must be the p'an-chih, he forgets that the p'anchih is more than 100 feet high. Since the chi-pei of the south will live for several years, that it should be more than ten feet high is after all no reason for surprise. So the chi-pei of Lin-i spoken of in the Nan-shih and the mu-mien of Yung-ch'ang in the Wu-lu both mean herbaceous mu-mien which will make cloth. I suppose that they are the so-lo tree (cf. p. 470 sqq.), but absolutely unrelated to the p'an-chih-hua. Moreover the cotton cloth (mien pu) woven in China differs

from the Indian muslin (t4   Hsi yang pu; cf. TP, 1933, 328) in fineness and is not brilliant
at all. But when I saw the robe handed down from Shih Hui-nêng of Ts'ao-ch'i (q X a g. a; a Lu Hui-nêng, 638-713, was one of the Patriarchs of the school of Bodhidharma), said to be of ch'ü-shun cloth, that is to say po-tieh cloth, and described as woven from the heart (6 hsin) of the mu-mien of the western countries, it looked as glossy as threads of silkworm silk. Was

this the so-lo lung tuan (?   it R, « so-lo covering damask ») ? Or are there still other sorts
of chi pei in the western lands? Moreover I had suspected that the fineness of the foreign cloth (j yang pu) could not have been made from the chi-pei of our country; and when I saw chipei from Bengal, that the seeds were extremely small and the floss extremely soft, quite different from the Chinese sort, then I knew that the chi-pei hitherto transmitted was not the best. »] (l)

This is a remarkable text, and I can only concur with almost every point of Hsü's argument. It is evident that a tree which is but ten feet high cannot be the Bombax, a great forest tree. Moreover, as Hsü says, the very mention that the mu-mien of the IVu lu could last ten years without being sowed again precludes the possibility that this mu-mien should be a long-lived tree like the Bombax. Without the slightest hesitation, we must conclude that it was a variety of Gossypium arboreum. The particulars given are in striking agreement with Polo's statements when the traveller describes in Guzerat « trees which make cotton, ... six paces high ... and these have quite twenty years » (cf. Vol. I, 420). Moreover YULE ( Y, II, 394) has quoted extracts from Mohammedan authors who mention in India « cotton plants » which « grow as large as trees » and «yield produce ten years running ». Another reference may be added, because it happens to give the same number of years as Polo : « Some Arabs of the tribe of Kalb, informed me

"" Paragraphe écrit à nouveau par A. C. MOULE.