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0449 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 449 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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with ni, are interesting vestiges of the time when most of the foreign trade of China was carried on at Amoy and Chang-chou.

KARPASA ; KU-PEI. — Of greater significance than tou-lo-mien is another name of cotton, which is in fact one of the few terms to have travelled all over the ancient world. The

cultivation of cotton probably started in India. Now, a usual Sanskrit word for cotton and cotton

goods of any sort, be they the produce of the cotton plant, or of the cotton tree, or even of the silk-cotton tree (if there have ever been any such, which I doubt), is karpâsa (> karpâsa).

In the West, it was anciently borrowed in such forms as Hebrew karpas (Esther, I, 6), Greek

xxp,raa•os, Latin carbasus. But it has also passed to Central and Eastern Asia. In Persian, the word occurs as kirpâs in the Sâh-nâmäh (VuLLERS, II, 811-812) ; from the Persian it was borrowed

as kirbas in Arabic and kerpas in Armenian (cf. SAINT-MARTIN, Mém. sur l'Arménie, II, 394,

468). The Persian word is given as kärbâs in the Sino-Persian Vocabulary of the Board of Translators, with the translation j pu, « cloth » (cf. also TP, I, 11; China Review, )(Ix, 134).

As to Central Asia, it is remarkable that no word for cotton occurs in the Kharosthi documents of the first centuries of our era, which contain so many names of textiles (cf. LÜDERS, Textilien im alten Turkistan, in Abhandl. d. Pr. Ak. d. W. 1936, No. 3, 38); nor have any fragments of cotton stuff prior to the T'ang dynasty been hitherto discovered in Chinese Turkestan. This goes a long way to show that cotton was not yet much grown in that region (for a seeming exception, cf. infra, p. 491). But in the beginning of the 6th cent. conditions had already changed. In the Liang shu (54, 1.3 b), which is based on documents of 502-556 and the author of which died in 637, we read that in the country of Kao-ch'ang, i. e. the Turfan region (see «Carachoço »), «there are many shrubs, the fruit of which is like a cocoon; in the cocoon are threads like fine hempen threads, and it is called À a7 po-tieh-tzä (tzä is an affix of the spoken language). The people of the country commonly use it to weave into cloth (.(j pu). This cloth is extremely soft and white, and it is used in trade exchange (with other countries). » This text, which has generally been quoted from the later Nan shih (79, 7 a) into which it has been copied, has been interpreted by CHAVANNES as a possible reference to cotton, but with much qualification (Doc. sur les Tou-kiue, 102, 352), and CHAVANNES has been followed in this hesitation by F. W. K. MÜLLER (Uigurica, II, 70, 105). LAUFER, not without some reluctance, admitted that cotton was referred to in this text (Sino-Iranica, 490). As a matter of fact. no doubt is possible. It will soon be seen that, as early as the end of the Han period, po-tieh, « white tieh », was probably used in the sense of « cotton goods »; and, at any rate, such was its meaning among the Chinese of the Turfan region and practically all over China in pre-T'ang and T'ang times. Suffice it to say here that, in a Sino-Sanskrit vocabulary of the T'ang period, which is the work of a monk from Kun, po-tieh is rendered karpâsa, « cotton » (cf. BAGCHI, Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, pp. 47, 279), and that I-thing expressly gives po-tieh as the Chinese equivalent of Skr. kârpei sika ('j; , VIII, 87 a).

We are not aware of the native name under which cotton went in the Turfan region before the Uighur occupation. But the Uighur word is well known, it is käbäz, given by Kä yar (BROCKELMANN, 101) and occurring several times in Uighur documents from Turfan (cf. MALOV'S