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0460 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 460 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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444   183. COTTON

would derive Turk. pahta, babta (and from it Pers. päbtä) from Ch. po-tieh (*b'vk-d'iep) can hardly be thought of, because, at a time when the ancient final -k of *b'vk was still heard, the -p of *d'iep ought to have been represented in the transcription, and we should expect in Turkish *bagtap, or rather *bäktäp.

But the main point is that there is no reason to connect po-tieh with Central Asia, since it is not about Central Asia that the term makes its appearance in Chinese texts (PRZYLUSKI's statement to the contrary in JA, 1919, i, 384, is an error). It is generally said to occur first in the Hou-Han shu, completed only c. 445, but based in principle on documents going back at least to the first

quarter of the 3rd cent. There we read (116, 8 a) : « The land of the   * Ai-lao Barbarians is
fertile and yields the five cereals, silkworms and mulberries. They know how to dye in colours

and [make] embroideries with designs; [they have] woollen textiles    : chi-to,    po-tieh, and
fine lan-kan cloth the woven designs of which (1 bk chih-ch'êng) have the appearance of damasked

(fix ling) and variegated silks (   chin). They have the   wu-t'ung tree (mu), the flowers
(hua) of which they spin to make cloth, every strip of which is five feet broad; it is clean and

white, and does not get soiled. They first cover with it the deceased, and afterwards wear it ». This passage is grammatically and technically difficult, and I am not certain that I have exactly rendered all its niceties. The meaning of to in chi-to is doubtful. Of course I have made use of the parallel text in the Hua-yang kuo chih (Han hai ed., 4, 18 b). My addition « they have»

between brackets is supported by the quotation in T'aip'ing yü-lan (796, 10 b) and by the Hua-yang kuo chih. HIRTH and ROCKHILL say (HR, 218) that, according to ch. 101 of the Wei shu, po-tieh « was a textile fabric of hemp, which was called in their language (= of the Ai-lao) lan-kan ». But there is not one word of this in the Wei shu, which merely speaks, in the section devoted to the ifif Lao Barbarians of south-western China (101, 10 a; the Lao Barbarians where scattered in Yün-nan, Kuang-hsi and Tongking, according to the Kuang chih quoted in T'ai-p'ing yü-lan, 356), of their habitations built on trees (such was also the case with the aborigines in part of Hai-nan ;

cf. the Kuang chih, quoted in Ch'u hsüeh chi, 8, 41 a), which habitations were called f   kan-
lan (on which cf. BEFEO, iv, 171). HIRTH and ROCKHILL have certainly confused this passage with a note in which the commentary of the Hou-Han shu, completed in 676-678, quotes the Hua-

yang kuo chih to the effect that lan-kan was the Lao word for   chu, which, by the way, is not
generally « hemp », but « grass cloth » made from the fibres of the ramie, Boehmeria nivea. The

fP4   Hua-yang kuo chih, or « Description of the kingdom of Hua-yang », is a work on the
history of Ssû-ch'uan down to 347 A. D., and written shortly after that date; the passage in question occurs in ch. 4, 18 b; lan-kan is clearly a transcription, but the original is unknown. As to potieh, it is written in the parallel passage of the Hua-yang kuo chih with the same characters as in the Hou-Han shu (the T'ai-p'ing huan-yii chi, 179, 13 a, quotes from the A, -J(i Ties Chiu-chou chi,

a geographical work by f   Yo Tzû, prior to 527 [cf. Sui ching-chi-chih k'ao-chêng, 6, 38 a], a
text which is exactly that of the Hou-Han shu, except that it includes the note on the meaning of lan-kan and omits the four words chi-to po-tieh). Now, we must not forget that, although the Hou-Han shu bears in principle on the period of the Hou-Han (25-220 A. D.), it was only written in the first half of the 5th cent., and the study of its chapter on western countries in particular has shown that its author has made great use of works dealing with somewhat later times, in particular