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0535 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 535 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   519

nor f   Wo-kuo (*•Uâ-kwak), Japan, as maintained by DE GOEJE. FERRAND was right (JA, 1932,

196-243) in identifying it with Madagascar (with a second Wâgwâq probably in Sumatra). Most of the Arabic texts speak of « women » instead of « small children », and none mentions the laughter, but only the particular sound « wäq, wäq », uttered by the fruit in human shape. Of the minor discrepancies in the Chinese texts, one only is of some interest. While most texts say

that the « small children » had the « head » (   t'ou) attached to the tree, the T'ang hui-yao of 961
merely says « since » ((?,yE chi) they are attached, and the earlier T'ang hui-yao of 804, as quoted by the Pei-hu lu, says that they were attached to the tree by the « coccyx » (j k'ao). «Since» is certainly corrupt. In view of the text of Al-Jabi?, which says (FERRAND, 202) that « the Wâgwâq» hung on the tree « by their hair », « head » is probably correct. [Children (wa-wa) attached to branches is a familiar subject of decoration on Sung pottery, particularly Ting-chou ware; see the T'ao-shuo]. I do not think that the still earlier legend of the « head of the king of Yüeh», which is the coconut, is really the prototype of the story as TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE tried to show, but some contamination between the two legends is not excluded. Moreover, there are parallel Indian stories which FERRAND, I do not know why, has ignored : the rsi Vâlakhilyas, one inch high, who hung upside down on a tree (cf. TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE, 899); Al-Birüni's «Khastha, i. e. people who are born from the trees, hanging on them by the navel-strings (SACHAU, Alberuni's India, I, 302) ; the men born of trees, whose lives lasted but one day, of the Saddharmasmrtyupasthâna, in whom S. Lkvi, perhaps too rashly, saw the prototype of the Arabic w~zgwäq (cf. JA, 1918, I, 33, 144-145); finally, in Malabar, according to Odoric's Italian ms. in Florence (not in IVy), the « trees which bear men and women like fruit upon them. They are about a cubit in measurement, and are fixed to the tree up to the navel, and there they be; and when the wind blows they be fresh, but when it does not blow they are all dried up... » ( Y', II, 138139, 343; I suspect that insino al bellico, «up to the navel », is due to some misunderstanding, and that the original statement was that the creatures were attached to the tree « by the navel », as in Al-Birûni).

It seems to me probable that Po T'ing's babies whose wailing was heard on the branches of the tree are weigwâq. But it will be noticed that the only Chinese source on the subject, passed on from one author to the other, makes them laugh, not wail. The laughing does not appear in Mussulman sources, and unless there is in the commentaries of the Shan-hai ching some corresponding passage which I have failed to discover, I am led to the conclusion that Po T'ing is alluding to a new form of the legend which had reached China under the Mongols. His comment on the « sowed sheep » has also some features which are not found elsewhere in Chinese sources : the statements that it was the horns which were sowed, and that the size of the sheep was that of a hare. On the second point, I have no parallel to quote, but, for the « horns », I may mention that, according to an Arabic alchemist of the early 12th cent., « seeds are produced by planting the horns of hoofed animals » (LAUFER, The Story of the Pinna, 118). That Po T'ing should have here original information of western origin is not a matter of surprise, since there is at least one other similar case. In TP, 1917, 1-30, LAUFER has devoted an important paper to

the mandrake, and shown that the 4p   ya-pu-lu described by Chou Mi (1232-1308) in two
parallel passages represented the Arabo-Persian name yabriclh of that plant. But the fact that