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0507 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 507 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   491

is pure and white, not different from the cloth made with ramie (= ' grass cloth '). It is also dyed in different colours and [then] woven to make ' variegated cloth ' (pan pu) ».

Even during the T'ang dynasty, we have no texts referring to cotton cultivation in China

proper. The authors of the Buddhist yin-i repeatedly say that tieh is a cloth made of mu-mien, which is a « plant » (ts'ao) of the Western countries. In the middle of the 7th cent., Hsüan-ying knew that, in Chi-pin (probably still Kashmir for him, not Kâpisi) and south of it, that plant grew to become a tree (ch. I; Tripit., t-, vii, 2 b). Hui-lin adds (ch. 68; ibid. ix, 182 a) that « now, Chiao-chih in the south (= Tongking) has it too »; he does not even speak of Kuang-tung. In 736, Chang Shou-chieh declares unambiguously : «Po-tieh is woven from mu-mien (cotton), which does not exist in China » (cf. supra, p. 446). The Tz'ic yiian (s. v. po-tieh) says that cotton first « entered » China under the T'ang dynasty; this can only refer to China proper, excluding Yün-nan and Hai-nan; but such a date is too late for cotton importation, and too early for cotton cultivation.

This name po-tieh, which goes back almost to Han times and is regularly used in Buddhist

translations, became specially familiar in mediaeval China, from the beginning of the 6th cent., on account of the cotton which was grown in the Turfan region, which was called tieh or po-tieh by the local Chinese colonists. But even then no cotton cultivation can be traced which might have passed from the Turfan region into Kan-su, Shan-hsi, or Shàn-hsi. The Hsin T'ang shu

(40, 8 b; the quotation in K'ang-hsi tzic-tien, s. v. tieh, is inaccurate) mentions « tieh cloth », as

an article of tribute, only for Hsi-chou, i. e. for the Turfan region; from the Yiian-ho chiin-hsien t'u-chih (40, 3 a, where tieh-[t]mao is a wrong reading for tieh pu or tieh-mao pu), we know that this item figured among the articles of tribute required from Hsi-chou in the statutes laid down in 713-741 (the P'ei-wên yün fu, s. v. po-tieh, gives a similar sentence as coming from the ktf -, 111 T'ang liu-tien; this would also take us back to the first half of the 8th cent.; but I have not found any such passage in the T'ang liu-tien, and the title may be misquoted).

The date at which cotton cultivation began in Chinese Turkestan is a most difficult problem.

After mentioning that cotton was grown in the Turfan region in the first half of the 6th cent., HIRTH and ROCKHILL add (HR, 218) that « its use was not so general in Turkestan in the sixth century but that we find in Yen-ki [__= Yen-ch'i, Qarasahr] ... the people using silk ;cocoons as wadding for clothes »; and they give a reference to the Wei shu, 102, 3 b. The original text is not very satisfactory, because it says that the people of Yen-ch'i used to « breed » silkworms, without making silk threads with the cocoons; this would rather suggest wild silkworms. What is more important is that the whole paragraph bears not on the 6th cent., but on the second quarter of the 5th cent., when it is quite possible that cotton was not yet cultivated even in Turfan.

I have said above that, according to LÜDERS, no name of a cotton textile occurs in the Kharothi documents of the first centuries of our era discovered in Chinese Turkestan, but that I should have to discuss this point (cf. supra, p. 433). Among the textiles of Ta-Ch'in mentioned

in the Wei lio, one is called «   Wên-s8 cloth (pu) »; cf. HIRTH, China and the Roman

Orient, 74, 113. But, instead of Wên-sê, the T'ai-p'ing yii-lan (820, 19 a) gives   Wên-su,

also adopted in the Ch'ien-lung edition of the Wei lio (San-kuo chih, 30, 13 a), and this is