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0559 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 559 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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184. COWRIES   543

known mention of Po-ssû in Chinese texts; see PERSIE). The same form pei-ch'ih, certainly referring to the cowry, occurred in the Ming-i pieh-lu by Tao Hung-ching (452-536, or 456-540; cf. Pên-ts'ao kang-mu, 46, 22 a). The Liang shu (54, 1 a), followed by the Nan shih (78, 1 a), gives the pei-ch'ih among the products of Lin-i (- - Champa). In a note to ch. 6 of the Suvarnaprabadsa (- , ix, 23 b), I-thing, discussing the value of the kdrsdpana, reckons its value in pei-ch'ih; pei-ch'ih also occurs in his Nan-hai chi-kuei nei-fa chuan (a, vii, 89 b; cf. TAKAKUSU, A Record of the Buddhist religion, 192), and is still employed by Hui-lin, ch. 29 (A , viii, 180 a). The T'ang pên-ts'ao (￿ Pên-ts'ao of the T'ang, written in the 7th century) said (T'aip'ing yii-lan, 807, 14 a; this passage is not included in the sections of the [Hsin-hsiu] pên-ts'ao of 659 recovered from Japan and published in the Chuan-hsi-lu ts'ung-shu) : «The P. -f peitzû is called pei-ch'ih; it is produced in the Eastern Sea ». As Su Sung says, the name pei-ch'ih, « shell teeth », was given to the cowry on account of the « teeth » on both sides of the slit in its flat underside. This term, which is not given by TARANZANO, also occurs more than once in early Buddhist commentaries quoted in the Bonzo jiten, 114-115 and 454-455. It is reversed as ch'ih-pei, « teeth shell », in Chiu T'ang shu, 198, 8 b, but correctly written pei-ch'ih in Hsin T'ang shu, 221 A, 10 b. As for pei-tzû, it occurs in ch. 2 of the Mokdvaddna (NANJIO, Catalogue, No. 1343), translated in 512 (cf. also Hui-lin, ch. 76, in A, x, 22 a). In a work of

c. A. D. 970 the cowry was called   po-pei, «white shell », a term which never became
common (Pen-ts'ao kang-mu, ibid.). In his general description of India Hsüan-tsang says that

the inhabitants use as currency « gold coins, silver coins, 4   pei-chu, and small pearls
(hsiao-chu)». JULIEN (Mémoires, I, 94) proposed to read chu-pei instead ofpei-chu, and translated «pearl shells ». However, it was not pearl oyster shells, but pearls themselves, which were occasionally used as a sort of currency. Even if we read chu-pei in this passage, we should be entitled to translate it « cowries » (« shells [used as if they were] pearls »), because this is the explanation adopted by Hui-lin (y, VIII, 150 b) when chu-pei occurs in ch. 76 of the Avatam.saka. (As a matter of fact JULIEN, tacitly abandoning his « pearl shells », gives « cowries » in his Index, Mémoires, II, 546). Chu pei, « cowries » occurs in a passage of the Kuang-chih on Burma (cf. infra, p. 555). The T'u-yü-hun women of Central Asia used to tie cowries (chu-pei) to the end of their plaited hair (Sui-shu, 83, 1 b; Chiu T'ang shu, 198, 4 b [confirmed by T'ai-p'ing yü-lan, 941, 1 a] ; Hsin T'ang shu, 221 A, 5 b). In the notice of Liu-ch'iu (probably Formosa) in Sui shu, 81, 5 a, we are told that the men adorned their caps with chu-pei, and that the women sewed « spiral shells » (lo) on their clothes, and tied « small shells » (hsiao pei) to the lower hem; here again, I think that chu-pei means « cowry ». But in Hsüan-tsang's text we should probably retain pei-chu (« pearls [which are] shells ») and translate it « cowries» just the same, since pei-chu is given as a synonym of pei-ch'ih in two early Japanese Buddhist commentaries quoted in Run's Bongo jiten, 114 and 454 (cf. also ODA Tokuno, 210`'). Since T'ang times a current name of the cowry has been pei-tzû. Su Sung (1020-1101) says of it (Pên-ts'ao kang-mu, 46, 22 a) : « The pei-tzii is the smallest of the pei; its shape is like [that of] a snail; it is about one inch long. Its colour is slightly white and red, but there are some which are dark purple and black. At present, many are strung together to be given to children as playthings. Northerners sew them as ornaments on to clothes and felt hats. Barbers use them