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0519 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 519 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   503

of Shàn ', i. e. Shàn-hsi). It is there prosperous and abundant, without any difference from its country of origin. Those who sow it derive great profit from it ... » Wang Chêng then quotes almost the whole of the passage in the Nung-sang chi-yao translated above, and concludes : « Cotton (mu-mien) is something the planting of which does not tell on the peasant's time; its production does not require much human effort. In regular succession it flowers and bears fruit; one may say it is floss without silkworms and cloth without hemp; moreover it can replace felt

and rugs, and help to save the cost of serge garments (   A i-ho, probably a wrong reading

instead of   A ch'iu-ho, ' furs and serge ', as in 21, 16 a). One may say it combines the advan-

tages of north and south. » It will be noticed that, while Wang Chêng marks cotton cultivation as a « recent » acquisition, it was already in general practice in Fu-chien, and had been introduced not only into Chiang-su, but also into Shàn-hsi. North-western China is here mentioned for the first time as a cotton-growing region. Although Wang Chêng's text would almost imply that, even to Shàn-hsi, the seeds had come from the south, it may well be that, in fact, the Shàn-hsi cotton growers were indebted to their near neighbours of Turfan.

Wang Chêng's illustrated notices on the method of preparing cotton after the « fruit » has been taken from the plant (each of which ends with a mnemotechnic verse) are mainly interesting in showing that an elaborate technique was already in full swing in 1313. But the introduction to these notices adds some information of historical value (21, 16 a) : «After ' the mulberry land had silkworms ' ( (_ ; , a quotation from the Shu thing; cf. LEGGE, Chinese Classics, III, 99), people have cared only for cocoons and their floss silk, and have known nothing about the use of

cotton (mu-mien). Cotton was produced south of the sea (   j hai-nan; or ' in Hai-nan ' ); the
method of planting and manufacturing it came north gradually. Chiang and Huai (= Chê-chiang,

Chiang-su, and An-hui) as well as )J(   Ch'uan and Shu (= Ssû-ch'uan) had profited from it, and
when south and north were united (i. e. when the Mongols had conquered the Sung dominions), traders sold it in the north, so that the wearing of it gradually developed. It is called â ,ro chi pu (' chi cloth ', abbreviated from chi-pei pu) and mien pu (' mien cloth ' = ' mu-mien cloth '). [Here Wang Chêng quotes in a note the passage from the pseudo-I-wu chih I have discussed above; (cf. supra, p. 439); he then goes on :] In the making of [cotton] strips, there are fixed sizes in length and breadth (as there are for silk). In softness, denseness, lightness, and warmth, [cotton] can equal silken fabrics (tsêng-po) ; it is also used for plush garments, rugs, and satins, which can

take the place of the real articles. P'ei Yüan's Kuang chou chi says (cf. supra, p. 462) : ' The southern Barbarians (Man-i) have no silkworms, but pluck mu-mien to make floss (hsü) '.

Moreover, according to the   :►   Chu fan tsa-chih (this refers to Chao Ju-kua's Chu fan

chih, but it is a summary of Chao's information, not a word for word quotation), mu-mien is produced by the chi-pei tree (mu); such kingdoms like Chan-ch'êng ( = Champa) and Shê-p'o

(= Java) all have it. At the present time it has become already one of the valued things of China,

but there is not enough of it, apart from what comes from its place of origin. If we compare it with mulberry and silkworms, one does not have the trouble of plucking [the leaves] and breeding [the worm], and there is certainty of reaping; if compared with hemp and ramie, it spares the work of twisting and connecting [the threads], and has the advantage of warding off the cold. One may say that it is cloth (pu) without hemp, and floss (hsü) without cocoons. Although it