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0558 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 558 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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542   184. COWRIES

on the Chêng-lei pên-ts'ao, the author of which was )   ftt T'ang Shên-wei. The T'u-ching

is certainly the T'u-ching pên-ts'ao, written after 1057 by Ni ffi Su Sung (cf. BRETSCHNEIDER, Bot. sin., 47). And the T'u-ching pên-ts'ao may have quoted Su Kung, the author of one of the redactions of the T'ang pên-ts'ao, about the middle of the seventh century. I am not certain where the quotation from Su Kung ends, nor even the one from Su Sung, since the last sentences may have been added by MAO Chin himself.

Txû pei, « purple shell », is in fact an ancient term in Chinese, though it is not certain that, from the beginning, it referred to the same shell as in works posterior to our era. From the « Nine songs » (Chiu-ko) of the Elegies of Ch'u, we know that, as early as the third century B. C., the tzû pei were used for decoration. In 179 B. C. the King of Nan-yüeh (— Canton), Chao T'o, sent 500 tzû pei to the Han Emperor (Ch'ien-Han shu, 95, 5 b). Although the term does not occur in the Êrh-ya, Kuo P'o added it in his commentary on this work. In his commentary on the Shan-hai ching (section Ta-huang nan ching) he gives it as a synonym of wen -pei (the same « veined pei» which we have already seen in the Shu ching), although in the section Hsishan ching he suggests that another shell is the wen -pei. Ch'in Shih-huang-ti's tomb is already described in legendary fashion by SA-ma Ch'ien; it was a representation of the world, with rivers of quicksilver (cf. CHAVANNES, Mém. historiques, II, 194). The Yiian-chien lei-han (364,

25 a) quotes a no less fantastic description from the lost   San fu ku-shih : a spring
(ch'üan) of quicksilver had been arranged; the moon was made of a «brilliant pearl » (coing-chu); and in the « water » (probably = shui-yin, « water silver », quicksilver), there were many « veined shells » (wen -pei). Whatever the truth may be with regard to these earlier mentions, the certain fact is that since the fourth or fifth century txû pei (sometimes to pei) has been the designation of a well-defined shell, which is not the cowry but a bigger Cypræa, the Cyprœa macula, as indicated by TARANZANO, Vocabulaire, I, 372. TARANZANO adds, as alternative names, wên-

pei, which may go back to Kuo P'o's commentary on the Shan-hai ching, and t f   hsia-lo,

which is a mistake for t f   ya-lo, « polishing shell ». In the twelfth century there is an

excellent description of the to pei or tzu pei in Chou Ch'ü-fers Ling-wai tai-ta, 7, 9 b.

For the true cowry, Cyprœa moneta, TARANZANO gives only one designation I   huo-pei,
«money shell », of which I know no literary example, but not gs," r ,~ ma-nao pei, «agate shell », which is said by Kuo Mo-jo to be now the scientific name of the cowry. As a matter of fact specific designations of the true cowry have been in use at least since the early fifth, and perhaps since the fourth, century of our era. Fa-hsien, c. A. D. 400, mentions the use of ft

pei-ch'ih, « shell teeth », in India (cf. LEGGE, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, 43). The T'ai-p'ing yii-lan (807, 14 b) has preserved the following passage of A fik 1#1 Liu Hsin-ch'i's 7x j~~ ßt1 Chiao-chou chi : « The great pei (la pei) are produced in Jih-nan (Annam); they are like wine-cups. The small pei (hsiao-pei) are the pei-ch'ih (« shell teeth »). They are effective against poison; all (? i. e. both kinds) exist with purple colour ». The Chiao-chou chi cannot be later than the first half of the fifth century; it is even believed to go back to the fourth (cf. MASPERO, in BEFEO, XVIII, III, 22; the only difficulty for such a date is that a fragment, occurring in the edition of the Ling-nan i-shu, 2, 1 b, mentions the « king of Po-ssù », i. e. Persia, and, if the fragment be genuine, would antedate by more than half a century the earliest