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0477 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 477 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   461

chih section, in the description of the Wo kingdom, or Japan (30, 11 a); it is very embarrassing. We are told that, in the Wo kingdom, « men leave the top of the head bare and

tie mu-mien round (?) their heads » (   -kV   #4 DA). Now, scholars are agreed
that the Wo people did not know cotton for centuries after the date of this text. Mu-mien has, however, been interpreted as meaning cotton in this passage, possibly with the idea that this was cotton stuff imported from abroad. But it seems hardly possible that, at a date when cotton was still unknown in China proper, enough cotton material should have come from the south seas to provide one of the elements of the national costume of the Wo population. I have consulted my colleague Haguenauer on this point. Unfortunately, the history of the Japanese names of cotton, momen and water, is hard to trace; in particular, one cannot tell how and when Ch. mu-mien, which ought to have given *moku-men in Japanese, became momen. HAGUENAUER remarks that, in the Kiki and the Manyôsha, 7Ktrill is used to represent Jap. yufu (*jup-) > yû, and that this may reflect the change of technique from a tow headband to a cotton one. But

as representing Jap. yufu > yic, has also been interpreted as a designation of the ancient coarse cloth made from the « liber » of the paper-mulberry, Broussonetia papynfera (cf. also the cloth and the paper made from the « bark » of the fu-sang tree in the half-legendary accounts of Fu-sang [Liang shu, 54, 11-12, and SCHLEGEL, in TP, 1892, 121, 129-134]). The cloth which, according to the Sui shu, 81, 5 a, was worn by the natives of Liu-ch'iu (probably then = Formosa), seems to have been made from the « bark » of a different tree. I have no authority to decide on the purely Japanese side of the problems, but I feel certain that, in the text of the San-kuo chih, mu-mien does not mean cotton. The term had been created in southern China and Tongking where there were both Bombax and Gossypium; but the Wei, in northern China, had neither. On the other hand, when speaking of the mu-mien of Wo men, the Chinese Wei account cannot have copied a Sino-Japanese term, since Chinese writing was still unknown in Japan at that period. The Wei must have used the new southern term mu-mien, «tree-floss », which conveyed no precise meaning to them, as a designation of the mulberry bast cloth of the Japanese. And, at first, the Japanese in their turn copied the Wei when they adopted 4c trA as an ideographic notation of their own native word yufu. It was only at a later stage that they read it momen and used it in the sense of « cotton ».

We might have expected to find something about mu-mien in the Nan fang ts'ao-mu chuang, « Description of plants and trees of the southern regions », due to ,l A Hsi Han (264307). In fact, the term does not even occur in it. But we must not forget that the transmission of the work attributed to Hsi Han is far from satisfactory; the text, as we have it, contains interpolations, and there are also omissions (cf. BEFEO, XIV, Ix, 10).

The g r#   Lo-fou-shan chi, or « Description of the Lo-fou Mountain » (in Kuang-

tung), by_it   Yuan Hung (328-376; cf. Sui ching-chi-chih k'ao-chêng, 6, 19 a; Wu Shih-

chien's Pu Chin shu ching-chi-chih, 2, 20 a) is lost, but the following passage has been preserved in the T'ai-p'ing yii-lan (960, 17 a; cf. also T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'ao-mu tien, 303, 1 b, and, for a very incomplete version, shih-huo tien, 312, tsa-lu, 2 a) : « The mu-mien gives in the first month flowers which are as great as [those of] the fu-jung (' neiumbium', or, if taken in the sense of 7c X V. mu fu-jung, ' hibiscus '). When the flowers fall, it forms carpels ( A txû.