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0521 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 521 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   505

cotton (mu-mien), and had been repeatedly patched and repaired. [Ying-tsung] drew a long sigh and told his attendants : ' To such a point did Our Ancestors suffer hardships in founding Our dynasty and were thrifty in their dress ! How can I forget this for one moment ? ' » (YS, 28 6 a). It is quite possible that Chinghiz had taken to wearing cotton of Turkish manufacture. Yingtsung's successor T'ai-ting-ti was presented in 1325 or 1326 (cf. WANG Ch'i's Hsii WeAn-hsien t'ungk'ao, 32, 15 a) with a « great field tent of cotton » (mu-mien to hsing-chang), the earliest counterpart I have found hitherto to the « black tent of cotton » of the Liang Emperor Wu in the first part of the 6th cent. (cf. supra, p. 462).

All these texts show that, from its earliest days, the Mongol dynasty, less hampered than the purely Chinese dynasties by the old traditions which regarded silk on the one hand and hemp and ramie on the other as the only proper materials for Chinese clothing, was fully aware of the great advantages to be derived from the new plant of foreign origin and did all in its power to favour its cultivation and sale throughout the Empire. Nor can there be any doubt that the cotton which was cultivated in Chiang-nan from the 12th cent. was not the cotton tree, Gossypium arboreum, then cultivated in Fu-chien, but the cotton plant, Gossypium herbaceum.

I know of no text before the 17th cent. to support CIBOT's contention (Mém. concern. les Chinois, II, 604) that the cotton plant was introduced into China from the Hsi-Fan (i. e. from Central Asia), and none of any date in favour of the statement in Wells WILLIAMS, The Middle Kingdom, 1883 ed., II, 37 (copied by DYER BALL, Things Chinese3, 150), that, early in the 11th cent., the plant was brought over and cultivated in the north-western provinces by persons from Khotan (« Khotan » is perhaps a mistake for « Kao-ch'ang » = Turfan). The same may be said of MAYERS'S view (Chinese Reader's Manual, p. 71) that Huang tao-p'o's activities in Chiang-nan took place «about the commencement of the 14th century, after the cotton plant had been introduced from Turkestan » (cf. also GILES, Biogr. Dict. No. 870; STUART, Materia Medica, 197-198).

Apart from the Wu-Hsün tsa-p'ei, written about the middle of the 17th cent., the earliest work which may seemingly lend colour to a Central Asian origin is the Tai-tsui pien, or more com-

pletely i F lI ~~   , Lang-yeh tai-tsui pien, by ix- r ~? CHANG Ting-ssû. CHANG Ting-ssû was

a doctor of 1577; his Lan-yeh tai-tsui pien, in 40 chs., was written when he was well advanced in life, presumably c. 1600 (cf. Ssü-k'u..., 126, 12 b; 132, 2 b). I have had no access to the complete

work, and the passage on cotton is not included among those copied in eh. 8 of the Shuo fu hsü;

so I can only give it as it is quoted in the Pên-ts'ao kang-mu shih-i (5, 10 a) : « According to the [Lang-yeh] Tai-tsui pien, cotton seeds (mien-hua chung) were brought over by the Barbarian

envoy (fan-shih)   M. Huang Shih; towards the end of the Sung, [cotton cultivation] was for the

first time (IM shih) introduced into Chiang-nan » (the quotation is somewhat different in the Kuei-

ssû lei-kao, 14, 6 b, which speaks of « Kuang-tung » instead of « Chiang-nan »). In itself, the word fan, « Barbarian », may just as well refer to a southern foreigner as to a man of Central Asia, a Hsi-Fan; but the main point is that the text seems to be devoid of any authority. The very

name of the « Barbarian envoy », with his purely Chinese surname, at once raises suspicion. Moreover, it would be most extraordinary if that foreign envoy not only had a Chinese surname but happened to have the same surname as Huang tao-p'o. My view is that, in all likelihood, we have here to deal with a distorted version of Huang tao-p'o's story. I believe it is probable that