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0524 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 524 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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508   183. COTTON

west of the sea]. In this country all the domestic animals come out of the water. Some say that they do not only use sheep's wool, but also the bark of trees [vegetable fibre?] and the silk of wild silk-worms in weaving cloth, and the Ch'ü-shu, the T'a-têng, and Chi-chang class of goods [serge or plush rugs?] of their looms are all good; their colours are of brighter appearance than are the colours of those manufactured in the countries on the east of the sea. » Except for « tree-bast » for «the bark of trees and « [that is, evidently, flax] » instead of « [vegetable fibre?] », LAUFER's translation (loc. cit. 103) is practically identical. Yet such a rendering is open to various objections. First of all, HIRTH ought to have written « cloth of West of the Sea ». Hai-hsi, « West of the Sea », as expressly stated in the Wei lio, was the popular designation of Ta-Ch'in, and it is used in contradistinction to Hai-tung, « East of the Sea », the « Sea » being the Indian Ocean, and particularly the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, ch'ii-shu and t'a-têng are names of rugs which are to be retained (cf. supra, pp. 492 and 447), but there is no such term as chi-chang; chi is the designation of a woollen carpet, and chang means « curtain » or « tent ». But, above all, none of the former translators seems to have suspected that &Ih chih-ch'êng has two meanings in Chinese; in many cases, it merely means « to weave » (as for instance in the passage on the lankan cloth of the Ai-lao, supra, p. 444). But in ancient times chih-ch'êng was also the designation of a particular sort of brocade (cf. the section chih-ch'êng in T'ai-p'ing yii-lan, 816, 11 a, and the

Tz'ic yüan, s. v. chih-ch'êng; also supra, p. 452). The very construction of the first sentence quoted above implies that chih-ch'êng is to be taken there in the latter sense. I think that we must translate it in the same way when it occurs a second time, and it is so understood in the T'ai-p'ing yti-lan, which moreover punctuates the passage as I have done. The quotation from the I-wu chih which HIRTH (p. 255) found in the K'ang-hsi tzü-tien and which would seem to favour another punctuation, with chih-ch'êng in its ordinary sense of « to weave », is a distorted and arbitrary combination of part of the passage of the Wei lio with a text from the Nan-chou i-wu chih, both given independently in the T'ai-p'ing yii-lan, 708, 12 b (but this is not the direct source of the K'ang-hsi tzic-tien, in which the last sentence ends differently). The whole section of the Wei lio on the products of Ta-Ch'in has been in fact very badly translated by HIRTH, and even CHAVANNES has not been too successful in his rendering of the corresponding passage in the Hou-Han shu (TP, 1907, 183). I would propose the following interpretation of the Chinese text quoted above : « They have a brocaded (chih-ch'êng) fine cloth, for which it is said they use the down (ts'ui) of the water sheep (shui-yang), and which is called ' Hai-hsi cloth ' (' cloth of the West of the Sea [kingdom] '). In that kingdom, the six domestic animals all come out of the water. Some say that they not only use sheep's wool (mao), [but] also use the bark of trees or the silk of wild silkworms to make [this] brocade (chih-ch'êng). Their ch'ü-shu, t'a-têng and [other textiles] of the class of woollen rugs (chi) and curtains (chang) are all good; moreover their colours are brighter than [the colours] of those manufactured in the kingdoms of the East of the Sea (Hai-tung). »

The parallel passage in the Hou-Han shu reads as follows (118, 4 b) :   A-451 Ai7J~

4   Mfr fl . 1. H IRTH's translation (p. 41) is : « They further have ' fine cloth ', also

called Shui-yang-ts'ui [i. e. down of the water-sheep] ; it is made from the cocoons of wild silkworms. » CHAVANNES (TP, 1907, 183) renders it : « They have moreover a light cloth which some