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0514 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 514 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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498   183. COTTON

Chao Ju-kua's work is dated 1225. In its section on « cotton » (chi-pei), it gives no indication of the places where cotton was cultivated. In the description of the various Indo-Chinese countries, cotton is mentioned as being grown in Chiao-chih (= Tongking, HR, 46), Champa (HR, 48), and probably Cambodia, which produced mien cloth (lit. « floss cloth »; HR, 53;

« probably Siam » in HR, 219, seems to be a slip, since Siam is not included among Chao's notices). More is said in the long paragraph on Hai-nan. Not only is chi-pei included among the local products (HR, 176), but Chao has a paragraph on [Li-]tan and [Li-]mu (HR, 183, ii. 4-7), analogous to, but not identical with, that of Chou Ch'ü-fei. This paragraph, however, occurs in exactly the same terms in Li Hsin-ch'uan's Chien yen i-lai hsi-nien yao-lu (187, 14-15), which must antedate Chao Ju-kua's work by a few years (cf. Ssû-k'u ... , 47, 37-38); it is probable that both Li and Chao here draw from an undetermined source, perhaps the monograph on Hai-nan which had been written c. 1210 by one of Chao Ju-kua's ancestors (cf. HR, 178, 186; we must not lose sight of the fact, however, that the source may eventually have been the Kueihai yü-hêng chih, since the present editions of this work are only fragments of the original). What is more important, Chao Ju-kua ends his notice on the island with the following words :

The other products are mostly the same as in the Barbarian lands, with the exception of areca nuts and cotton (chi-pei) which are there extraordinarily plentiful; the Ch'üan [-chou] traders look principally to these for making profit. » So, in 1225, Hai-nan was the principal source of the export of cotton towards Fu-chien.

Although Chou Ch'ü-fei only mentions « cotton » as grown in Hai-nan, and as grown or woven in some districts of the southern coast of Kuang-tung, and although Chao Ju-kua is silent even on the latter point, several texts prove that, at dates prior to both authors, cotton was already grown not only in Kuang-tung, but in Fu-chien as well.

The earliest is P'ang Yüan-ying's Wên-ch'ang tsa-lu, dated 1085 (cf. supra, p. 437), in

which we read : « Beginning with Min (= Fu-chien) and Kuang[-tung] and more to the south, there is much cotton (mu-mien). The local peasants (t'u jên) emulate each other in planting it, and collect its flowers to make a cloth which is called chi-pei. » P'ang Yüan-ying goes on to say that this is the same plant as the one described as « ku-pei tree » in the Nan shih (cf. supra, p. 437).

Then comes Fang Cho's Po-chai pien, published c. 1125 (cf. WYLIE, Notes on Chinese

literature, 157; JA, 1913, I, 350; supra, p. 438; Po hai ed., 2, 5 b; Tu-hua-chai ts'ung-shu ed., redaction in 10 chs., 3, 3 b; redaction in 3 chs., 2, 5 a-b). It says : « In Min (= Fu-chien) and Kuang-tung, much mu-mien (cotton') is sowed. The tree (shu) is seven or eight feet high;

its leaves are like [those of] the   tso (an oak, Quercus serrata or Quercus dentata); it forms

a fruit which is like a large water-chestnut ( A   to-ling; I do not think that to-ling is the name of a

distinct species; the Po-hai ed. and the T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'ao-mu tien, 303, tsa-lu, 1 b, give jc

ta-mai, 'barley'; improbable in itself, this reading is rejected by the editor of the Tu-hua-chai

ts'ung-shu, and it is also to-ling which is given in 1285 in the quotation from the Po-chai pien made in Hu San-hsing's commentary on Tzû-chih t'ung-chien, 159, 48 a), but of blue-green (ch'ing) colour. When autumn is well advanced, it opens and discloses a white floss which is quite downy. The local peasants pick it up, discard the husk, get entirely rid of the black seeds