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0513 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 513 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   497

chou (three chou in Kuang-tung on the mainland) and among the Li districts (   il1Pj Li Lung)

of Hai-nan, some of the rich use it in place of silk and ramie. In Lei-, Hua-, and Lien-chou it is woven into strips. When these are long, broad, and clean and white, fine and close,

they are called    ,t man chi-pei (HR, 219, translate ' soft chi pei ', evidently on account of
the following name; but man is ' lax ', almost the contrary of what we should expect for a close texture; it may be that man was adopted on account of the other * man, flX man, etc., which have been used as designations of the cotton sampot or sarong; cf. supra, p. 453). The narrow

strips, which are coarse and lax and of a dull colour, are called ,   ►`, (j ts'u chi-pei. Some
chi-pei stuffs are extremely fine as well as light and soft, clean and white, and, when worn, last long. Those woven in Hai-nan are of many qualities. When the strips are very broad and

do not make pieces of a regular size (   TiG tuan-p'i), by joining two strips one can make bed
sheets (;k pef; wo-tan) which are called V Li sheets. By taking strips of different colours, the strange designs of which are conspicuously bright, and joining four strips one can make a curtain ( mu), called V Çji Li-shih (shih ' ornament ' is probably a corrupt reading for mu

curtain ', which is given in the Kuei-hai yü-hêng chih and also in HR, 176). That with the

various colours fresh and bright and fit to be used as a cover for a writing table (   J(,
wen-shu chi-an ' a table for documents ') is called R #p an-ta (I do not know this term; an is perhaps a mistake for an ' table ', and if so an-ta might mean ' table-cloth '). The long strips are used by the Li people to wind round their waists. That woven by the Nan-chao is still more delicate. The white is chao-hsia. The king wears po-tieh, the queen wears chao-hsia. These are what the Tang histories call po-tieh chi-pei and chao-hsia chi pei. »

Apart from the fact that they testify to the renown of Yün-nan cotton goods, Chou Ch'üfei's last sentences are valueless. Their antiquarian character is revealed by the use of the obsolete name Nan-chao instead of Ta-li. The chao-hsia could not be white (cf. supra, p. 453). The T'ang histories speak of ku-pei, not of chi-pei. Moreover their po-tieh ku-pei and chao-hsia ku-pei are not mentioned in connection with Nan-chao, but with Champa. All that preedecs this last paragraph, however, is very important. Chou Ch'ü-fei's hesitation in identifying the ku-pei of the T'ang with the chi-pei of his own time, apart from the graphic corruption from ku to chi, is due to the fact that the « plant » of the T'ang histories was Gossypium herbaceum, while the « tree » he knew was Gossypium arboreum; but both gave true cotton. It also comes out very clearly from his account that, in 1178, most of the cotton cultivation in Hai-nan was in the hands of the Li aborigines. But cotton, either indigenous or imported from Hai-nan, was also already being woven in different parts of Kuang-tung. Nothing is yet said, however, of the cultivation or manufacture of cotton in Fu-chien or in any part of China proper, apart from the southern coast of Kuang-tung.

The importance of cotton weaving in Hai-nan under the Southern Sung is confirmed by

the Sung shih (406, 1 a-b). A Cantonese,   1   Ts'ui Yü-chih (c. 1160-1240), who held an

office in his native province, made a tour of inspection in Hai-nan about A. D. 1200 : « The people of Ch'iung (= of Hai-nan) [used to] weave with chi-pei (= cotton) clothes and coverlets; this work was entirely entrusted to women, to the point that some would abandon their young children all the year round or neglect their old men; the people suffered greatly from this ... »