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0533 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 533 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   517

each set of bones buried, they can get several Iambs; this is a transformation outside the pale of the four kinds of birth; it is not to be wondered at; it is because China does not have it that doubts have arisen. ' Later I read the ' Song of the book cushion [made] of the skin of a sowed sheep of the Western Countries' by Wu Li-fu (= Wu Lai), which says... [Yao T'ung-shou here copies the whole poem, and adds :] (Wu Lai) says that it is the shin-bone which is sowed, which is not in agreement with what the Master [Fan-]ch'i saw with his own eyes. It must be that in Persia there is another method of sowing, in agreement with what was heard in Wu's poem. » Ch'u-shih is the tzei of *,t 1 Fan-ch'i, a well-known Buddhist priest who lived from 1296 to 1370; Fan-ch'i seems to have lived in northern China only in 1321-1323; his information would thus go back to that period. But it will be noticed that he ascribes the « sowed sheep » to regions west of the Great Desert, and that, contrary to Yao T'ung-shou's statement, he does not say that he saw it himself.

Another poet of the Mongol period, j   Po T'ing, tzic g 1. T'ing-yu (1248-1328), has

written an obscure poem entitled , g   3fff +   Hsü Yen-ya shih-shih, «Ten verses in continua-

tion of the Yen-ya », which is preserved in his (   _ffz1 Chan-yiian chi (edited as M

Chan yican i-kao in Chih-pu-tsu-chai ts'ung-shu; the poem is in ch. 2, 5-6; the original Chan-yüan chi is lost, and the present text has been re-compiled from the fragments which have survived; the poem was copied in 1366 by T'ao Tsung-i into his Cho-kêng lu, 9, 3 b). The fourth verse is V

pgi rig it   An i 1 4   *g û « The wailing of the baby is heard on
the branch of the tree; the breast of the ram is seen among the blades of grass. How is it that a body which is to last a hundred years has on the contrary no root to which to be attached ? ». A commentary, almost certainly due to Po T'ing himself, accompanies every verse, and the gloss on the fourth one is as follows : « North of the Desert (mo-pei), they sow sheep's horns and [these] can give birth to sheep, which are as big as hares. They are fat and very good to eat. As to

the baby-girl wailing on the branch of the tree ', see what is reported in the Shan-hai ching. »

I do not know to which passage of the Shan-hai ching Po T'ing may allude. More than once, in its descriptions of fabulous animals, the Shan-hai ching says that their « voice » is like that of a baby, but there is nothing in the whole work which recalls the sentence used in the Hsü Yen-ya shih-shih. It may be a misquotation altogether, or occur only in some commentary where it has escaped me; at any rate, it is not to be found in Kuo P'o's Shan-hai ching t'u-tsan (Ch'ün-shu shih-pu ed., ch. 19). If I have properly understood Po T'ing's meaning, he opposes creatures whose lives are short, in spite of the fact that they remain tied to the place of their birth, to man, whose span of life can extend to a hundred years, although he has no « root » from which he would always receive strength and food.

The wailing baby attached to the branch of the tree seems to be a variant of the famous story of the wâgwâq tree, mainly known from Mussulman and Chinese sources. For China, it had been quoted in 1883-1886 by SCHLEGEL from the Wên-hsien t'ung-k'ao (in DE GoEJE's Appendix to DEVIL, Merveilles de l'Inde, 303), then by TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE (Transactions of the Ninth Congress of Orientalists, II [1893], 901-902), who traced it to the Chiu T'ang shu (in a combined edition of both T'ang shu), and supposed that the tale had been brought to China by the Arab embassy of 713. In a review in TP, 1904, 486-487, CHAVANNES, unaware of TERRIEN'S