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0120 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 120 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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104   80. BRAZIL

there the explanation of the term of the inventory; « chamocha bachami » is « brazil-dyed damask

The modern trade-name of the Asiatic brazil-wood is « sappan-wood », hence the botanical

name Coesalpinia sappan. After CALDWELL'S unfortunate attempt to trace sappan back to «Japan » (cf. LAUFER, in Y, III, 119), the generally accepted theory is that sappan or sapan is probably based on Malay . säpai, but that säpatt itself goes back to Tamil lappu or Malaya. shappartrtam (Y, II, 380; Hobson-Jobson2, s. v. « sappan-wood »; DALGADO, Glossario Luso-

Asidtico, II, 290; MURRAY, NED, s. v. « sapan »; LoxoTSCH, No. 190). Yet I have no doubt that LAUFER was right when he claimed the word as being originally Mon-Khmêr and Malayan (in Y, III, 119). The modern Chinese name 7r su-mu, « su wood », would not have been very enlightening, had not a more complete forms fb su fang (*suo-b'i"'ang) occurred at an early date. The oldest work to mention and describe the su fang, the Nan fang ts'ao-mu chuang attributed to Hsi Han, is not free from interpolations, so that the date of c. 300 adopted by LAUFER is far from being certain in the present case; but the passage cannot be later than the 6th cent. Although the Malay word is säpari, and not supang as said in HR, 217, we can safely assume that su fang is a transcription of a form very near Khmêr sbart, Malay säpaii, etc. The early notice on su-fang gives it as a tree of northern Annam, and Chau Ju-kua says that the « su wood » comes from Cambodia. If there is a connection between the Indo-Chinese and Malayan name and some Indian forms, the word must then have travelled from Indo-China to India, but not vice-versa. KERN (Itinerario ... van Linschoten, I, 83), commenting on LINSCHOTEN'S « sapon », says that Mal. sépaA, Jay. sépari, are probably derived from old Jay. sapari, «red ».

Polo mentions brazil-wood as a product of « Lochac », of « Lambri », of Ceylon and of « Coilum »; in the chapter on « Lochac », he says it was cultivated (domesce; see « Lochac »). Pegolotti also distinguishes the « verzino dimestico » and the « verzino salvatico » (EvANS, 295, 296), in the same way as he mentions « cultivated » and « wild » cardamoms, « cultivated » and « wild » cubebs (EvANS, 294). Moreover, Pegolotti speaks of brazil-wood «ameri », « colonmi » (or « colombino ») and « sieni » (or « seni »). « Ameri » is probably for « Lameri » _ « Lambri », as said by YULE and HEYD (cf. EvANS, 433), and « verzino colombino » is of course « brazil-wood from Coilum ». For « Sieni» or « Seni », both YULE ( Y, II, 380) and HEYD (Hist. du commerce, Ii, 589) agree in supposing that the term refers to brazil-wood brought to India by Chinese traders; « Sieni » or « Seni » would be the same as Arab. Sini, « Chinese ». Of course, there are other products which have been called « Chinese », although they were not indigenous to China (cf. LAUFER, Sino-Iranica, 543544). Of the four sources of brazil-wood mentioned by Polo, two remain available for the « Sieni» sort : Ceylon and Lochac (= Siam). I do not think that « Sieni » or « Seni » can represent a corrupt form of « *Seilani », Ceylonese. On the other hand, in Pegolotti's time (c. 1340) the conquest of the lower Menam had not yet been achieved by the Siamese, whose name was still unknown in the West; consequently, « Sieni » cannot be an approximate rendering of « *Siami ». Without much conviction, however, I adhere to YULE'S and HEYD'S hypothesis, but at the same time suppose that, by « Sieni » or « Seni », the traders of the early 14th cent. understood the sappanwood produced in Siam, Cambodia and Annam, that is in regions which, being coterminous with China or within the area of Chinese influence, could be loosely designated Chinese.