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0497 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 497 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   481

five years; at first I did not believe it. Passing Ch'üan-chou (in Fu-chien), I arrived between T'ung-an and Lung-ch'i (both S.W. of Ch'üan-chou). Swaying by the side of the road, [there was something] having the appearance of a hazel tree or Judas tree; when I came near and looked at it, it was cotton (mien-hua). The time was just ch'ing-ho (= the fourth moon); the old boughs already showed miserable yellow flowers. But this cannot be called mu-mien. The mu-mien hua (' mu-mien flower ') is a lofty tree, with red (tan) flowers like [those of] the camelia (ch'a; often = shan-ch'a, ' camelia '); the fruit (shih) it bears is abundant; it is what in Wu (= Chiang-su) is called p'an-chih hua. YANG Yung-hsiu (= YANG Shên) has spoken of it at length in the Tanch'ien (= Tan-ch'ien hsü-lu), and has marvelled at it, saying that it occurred in Chan-i chou in Yunnan (Chan-i chou, now Chan-i hsien, is somewhat north-east of Ch'ü-ching in Yün-nan; but YANG Shên really refers to A-mi chou, much more to the south [cf. supra], and it is A-mi chou which is correctly given here by the T'u-shu chi-ch'êng), and that he had heard that in the Ling (= Wu-ling mountains) and in Kuang [-tung] (but in fact YANG'S text gives ' Ling-nan', not ' Ling Kuang ') it was extremely abundant. [This shows that] he did not know that the Hui-an chih (' Description of Hui-an '; Hui-an is a hsien east of Ch'üan-chou in Fu-chien) had already

mentioned that tree and called it   j p'an-kuei hua (' flower of grasped cinnamon ' ?);
Yang says pan-chih hua; with the p'an-chih hua used in Wu (= Chiang-su), it makes three names for one and the same product. The quality (p'in) of the flower (of the p'an-chih hua) is inferior to that of the mien-hua (true cotton), and it is only good for stuffing mattresses » (this last sentence is omitted in the T'u-shu chi-ch'êng). On the question of names, I rather think that p'an-kuei hua is a graphic corruption of p'an-chih hua and that we have only two forms. What is more important is the astonishment of the Chiang-su man, who in his own province knew only Gossypium herbaceum, when he saw in Fu-chien the Gossypium arboreum for the first time. Moreover, his text !eaves no doubt that, in his time and his province of Chiang-su, mu-mien and p'an-chih hua were synonymous and had become designations no longer of the cotton tree, Gossypium arboreum, but of the silk-cotton tree, Bombax malabaricum.

The Wu-Hsün tsa-p'ei (cf. supra, p. 438) also speaks of the p'an-chih hua (cf. T'u-shu chich'êng, ts'ao-mu tien, 303, tsa-lu, 2 a) : « Our tZ Sung (= Sung-chiang; the author was a native of the region of Shanghai) covers the world with its garments of cotton cloth (mien-pu), but the beginnings of the introduction of cotton (mien-hua) [into China] are not known. The tradition is that the plant came from the Hsi-Fan (a term loosely used in late Ming times for the ' Western Countries' of earlier and later texts) and for the first time entered China under the Yüan ... » The author goes on with quoting in full a long text on cotton cultivation which he attributes to Shih Chao, who lived c. 1100, and concludes : « What Shih Chao speaks of is, without any doubt, cotton (mien-hua); the only thing is that now the bow to card cotton is made of wood and more than six feet long (the text attributed to Shih Chao spoke of a bamboo bow one foot and four or five inches long), which merely makes a small difference with the ancient [practice]; so it is wrong to say that [cotton cultivation] began under the Mongols (as will be shown in the last part of the present memoir, the text attributed to Shih Chao has nothing to do with him, and dates from the end of the 13th cent.). But Shih Chao speaks of the plant as mu-mien, which is not correct. The mu-mien was produced in Chiao [-chou] and Kuang[-chou] ; this tree was an armful in girth;