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0561 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 561 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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184. COWRIES   545

slightly bluish shell, i. e., in my opinion, the true cowry. But the main proof is this. Ta-ii is Yün-nan. Although Chou Ch'ü-fei did not travel to Yün-nan, he knew that cowries were used there for decoration; on the other hand, he alludes to the cowry currency in ancient China. If cowry currency had been widespread in Yün-nan in his time, it would seem that he must have heard of it, and, if he had, he could not have failed to mention it, even, and the more so, if he should have mistaken it for a survival from China's past. So it may be that, in his days, the people of Yün-nan still valued objects mainly in « strips of silk », as they did in the ninth century. At any rate, if cowries were already more or less in use in Yün-nan as currency, these must have come from Burma or Siam, and were perhaps somewhat different from those which were sent there from Hai-nan for decorative use.

Whatever the truth of this matter may be, cowries were the only currency actually used in Yün-nan when the Mongols seized that province in the second half of the thirteenth century.

From that date we find various new designations for the cowry. The term p   pei-ch'ien,
«shell cash », which was used in T'ang times in the Fan-yü tsa-ming (cf. BAGCHI, Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, 50), never occurs, although it may have survived in Japanese : SAKAKI's edition of the Mahâvyutpatti uses it, No. 9374 (read haisen?), although the true Japanese word for pei,

«shell », is kai; the Cyprcea is vf   (Ch. pao-pei), read takaragai (from takara, «precious », and
kai, «shell. »; « Wohlstands-Muschel » in SCHILDER, 325, is misleading), and the cowry properly so

called is 1.4   (Ch. pei-tzû), read kidakaragai (from ki, «precious» [?], takara, «precious », and
kai, «shell »). In Chinese texts of the Mongol period we find pei or pei-tzû, as in literary Chinese

or PI pa, or Rat   pa-tzü (cf. infra); in Ming times pa or i    hai-pa «sea pa» (cf. TP, 1915,

102, 110, 437; 1933, 416), or irt:   hai-pa (Ming shih, 313, 4a; Ming T'ai-tsung shih-lu, 77,

3 a; WANG Ch'i's Hsü Wên-hsien t'ung-k'ao, 29, 20 a; Tien i, 3, 10; misread   hai-fei by

KLAPROTH in JA, Febr., 1834, 155, hence «Meerfelt» in SCHNEIDER, 107, and SCHILDER, 325), or

t hai-pa (Pên-ts'ao kang-mu, 46, 22 a), or q;   lo-pei (Tien i, 3, 10), or a t to pa and
e, to pa (Tung-hsi yang k'ao, Hsi-yin-hsüan ts'ung-shu, ed., 2, 14 b; 7, 10 b, 12 a); also under

the Ming, but mainly under the Manchu dynasty,   E hai-pa (WANG Ch'i, Hsü Wên-hsien t'ung-
k'ao, 33, 10 b; Ssû-t'i ho pi wên-chien, 32, 101 a, and Chinese version of the Maheivyutpatti,

Nos 5994, 9015, 9264, 9265, 9374), and j4   hai-pei (Tien hsi, 4, 16-17; Hsü Yün-nan t'ung-
chih kao, 160, 32 a, 37 a).

The common element pa of most of these terms must be accounted for. In spite of the variety of the characters used to write it, and contrary to PARKER'S opinion (cf. Y, III, 82), I do not think that it can be the transcription of a foreign word connected with the Thai name of the cowry to be mentioned further on. Nor do I believe it to be identical with the name of the shell called b. in the Êrh-ya. The dictionaries give p'a as the correct pronunciation of the latter character; yet, when translating the text of the Êrh-ya, I have transcribed it pa in agreement with a phonetic note appended to the commentary. But I think that its use in hai-pa is of scholarly origin, to connote a popular pronunciation pa of . pei (*puâi; to pa is but a modern form of the ancient it.A ft or ty,R to pei (*ld puâi > Mong. labai, «horn », originally « conch »; on to pei, cf. Hui-lin in A, vIII, 54 b; Hsin T'ang shu, 222 B, 6 b). We should have expected *puâi to give *pai, but there are many other cases in which the final -i has been dropped, such as M. kua