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0573 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 573 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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and Philippines. The cowry found in the Philippines, however, like that of the eastern coast of Africa, is not the Cyprœa moneta, but the Cyprœa annulus, and MARTENS states in 1872

1t   (SCHNEIDER, 108) that all the cowries he still found on the market in Siam were Cyprœa annulus.
That the fall in the value of the cowry in Siam c. 1830-1850 should be connected in any way with the substitution on a large scale of the Cyprœa annulus for the Cyprœa moneta is, however,

hi   by no means certain, since a similar depreciation occurred about the same time in Orissa,
where the Cyprœa moneta alone seems to have circulated.

From GERVAISE'S description (p. 151-152), « round on one side as a musket-ball, and on the other

tq   flat with a slit in the middle », as well as from the plate in LA LOUBÈRE, it is clear that the former
silver coinage of Siam was but an imitation of the cowry, and even now the monetary nomenclature

IY   retains traces of the former cowry currency. In contemporary Siam, as in the seventeenth century,

yk   the money unit is the « tical » (this term, used by foreigners, is not Siamese; cf. YULE, Hobson-

,   Jobson2, 918; Sir R. TEMPLE, in Indian Antiquary, xxvi, 253 sq.; FERRAND, in JA, 1920, II, 254),

in Siamese bat, or ngôn bit (lit. « silver bat »). But there are special words for four «tical », ngön tâmliing 'tang, lit. « one silver tâmlôn ,; » (nûng =one), and for eighty « tical », ngön xàng nûng,

~i   lit. « one silver xàng »; while to express « twenty tical » or « forty tical », one does not say « twenty
bat » or « forty bit », but « five tâmlüng» or « ten teimliing ». Although there is a word for 0.01 of a « tical », sâtang (sâtang nûng), so that for 0.25 of a « tical » one can say « 25 sâtang », the

'e   classical term for 14 of a tical is ngön sâlônti, « [one] silver saliing »; 18 of a tical is ngôn füâng,

« [one] silver füâng »; 1,'64 of a tical is at nûng, «one at ». But ngön füâng nûng, «one silver füâng », is also the designation of « 800 cowries », as it was according to the scale used from the sixteenth century to the first part of the nineteenth. A « string » of cowries is tab nûng, « one tab », and, although I find no precise statement to this effect, I suppose it to have originally been 80 cowries. So in Siam the whole silver monetary system of the present day is on a basis of

4 X 20(4 X 5 or 5 X 4) X 10, and of sub-multiples of 4 and 8 (4 X 2). It still reflects, to a great extent, the scale known for the cowries in Yün-nan under the Ming dynasty, with its « strings » of 80, made up of4X4X5.

Polo mentions also the use of a cowry currency in Bengal, the part of India where, in fact, this currency has been mostly employed in modern times. Information on the cowry currency

discussion of Chinese sources and the elucidation of some questions connected with the scale and the

`   value of this currency.

The usual names ,1 the cowry in Sanskrit are kaparda (> kapardaka, kapardikd) and varâta (> varâtaka), once svetikâ, « the white one » (cf. STEIN, Rüjatarangini, II, 324), and the first two are certainly old, but they have not been traced hitherto in early texts of a certain date. Bhâskara (not « Blankara » as in SCHILDER, 324) and Dandin are approximately dated in the sixth century of our era. Fa-hsien, who travelled in India at the beginning of the fifth century, antedates them when he says of the people°of India proper (Madhya-desa) that in trade they use cowries (pei-ch'ih; cf. LEGGE, A Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms, 43; on pei-ch'ih, cf. supra, p. 542).

In his general description of India Hsüan-tsang, who travelled there in the second quarter of the seventh century, says (cf. Stan. JULIEN, Mémoires, I, 94) : « In trade they use (huo yung),