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0485 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 485 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   469

from the lost) -J.Ij pes Ching chou chi of   Z Shêng Hung-chih, who lived under the Liu

Sung (420-479; cf. Sui ching-chi chih k'ao-chêng, 6, 13 b); it concerns a tree which in A.D. 300 appeared all of a sudden and grew to gigantic proportions in a temple of Pa-ling (Yo-chou-fu, now Yo-yang, in Hu-nan) and which a foreign monk stated to be a so-lo tree, the sala species of Buddha's parinirvana; the tree long gave quite ordinary small white flowers, and then, in 434, a flower of the shape and the colour of the nelumbium (? or hibiscus; fu-jung) appeared on it (I combine the more or less corrupt versions of the Ch'i-min yao-shu, 10, 47 a, Yu-yang tsa-tsu, 18, 4 b, and T'ai p'ing yii-lan, 961, 3 b; the T'ai-p'ing kuang-chi, 406, 4 b, in fact copies Tuan Ch'êng-chih, but our editions now have p'o-lo instead of so-lo; cf. also T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'aomu-tien, 309, i-wen, 3 b; tsa-lu, 2 a). The main interest of this tale of mirabilia is to establish that the so-lo tree was almost unknown in China. In the same way, when, in the 8th cent., the Chinese « protector » of Kucâ forwarded to the Court 200 twigs of so-lo which he said came from Ferghâna, it created quite a sensation, and we possess various official and private accounts of this event (cf. Yu-yang tsa-tsu, 18, 4 b-5 a, and the texts in T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ibid. by Chang Wei

and Li Yung). A poem of Mei Yao-ch'ên (1002-1060) speaks of   so-lo (T'u-shu chi-ch'êng,
ibid., i-wen, 3 a), which is more exactly the name of another tree, but his reference to Li Yung's text proves that he actually means our first so-lo, the sala tree. Hung Mai (1123-1202) speaks of the so-lo tree of Li Yung's tablet both in his Jung-chai ssû pi and in his I-chien chih (end of ch. 45; but, in some editions, so-lo is altered into p'o-lo). On the ultimate fate of that so-lo tree and the younger ones which took its place, cf. Yü Yieh's Ch'a-hsiang-shih hsü-ch'ao, 25, § so-lo shu. In the Hung-chi-ssû, a Buddhist temple located 45 li north-east of Nanking, two so-lo trees were said to have been brought back from abroad by the famous eunuch Chêng Ho in the first quarter of the

15th cent. (cf. Lang Ying's Ch'i-hsiu lei-kao, 40, 4 a; pkts T'an Ch'ien's A .   Tsao-lin
tsa-tsu, chung-chi section [Ilsiao-shuo pi-chi ta-kuan ed.], 36 a); but, from the description, they seem to have been not Shorea robusta, but an Aesculus (cf. infra).

Of the other possible meanings of so-lo, one will not detain us. In the account of Chu-lien, i. e. the Cola (Coromandel coast), the Sung shih (489, 9 a), in a long list of local products, speaks

of flowers called « blue-green (ch'ing), yellow and green-blue (pi)   so-lo » (?), and PARKER
(China Review, xix, 193) has stated that so-lo was there the designation of « a sort of cotton ». This is possible, but no more than possible, since we have no indication of what these so-lo of different colours could have been, nor even are we certain that we must read so-lo; in the preceding line, the Sung shih gives a wrong reading so-to-mi, instead of po-to-mi, «jack-fruit »; the reverse error is possible here, and, as a matter of fact, we find p'o-lo in the corresponding list of Chao Jukua (HR, 96). Nor shall I dwell on the identification of the so-lo tree (shu) with the fl _ t yu-t'an hua, « yu-t'an flower », which seems to have been known in some parts of Yün-nan in the 17th cent. Yu-t'an is a shortened transcription of Skr. udumbara (not « udarnbara » as in LAUFER, Sino-Iranica, 411), Ficus glomerata, the fig-tree, to which many legends attached. I do not know the origin of this mistaken identification (on which cf. Yü Yüeh's Ch'a-hsiang-shih hsü-ch'ao, 25, § so-lo shu). It may have arisen from a confusion between so-lo and yu-t'an-p'o-lo (one of the transcriptions of udumbara), with the common misreading of the latter part of the transcription as so-lo instead of p'o-lo. Under the name of « seeds of the so-lo tree » (so-lo shu tzû), Hung