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0577 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 577 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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184. COWRIES   561

century, and preserved in the Mahvvyutpatti (SAKAKI ed.). The Tibetan name of the cowry is mgron-bu or 'gron-bu.

Here are the terms of interest for the present inquiry :

No. 9375 : « Skr. kakan i; Tib. ka-ka-ni; is worth 20 cowries (mgron-bu). » Skr. dictionaries give bikini, also with the value of 20 cowries. A Japanese Buddhist work also speaks of the kàkini and of its value of 20 cowries (Bongo jiten, 454). Pali texts have kakana (and kakanika), but the commentaries do not seem to have retained any exact recollection of its value.

No. 9376 : « Skr. masakah; Tib. Ma-spa-ka; is worth 80 cowries. » Masaka (Pali masaka) is identical with masa, « bean », and became the designation of a small coin; in the present case it

plays the same part as pan in the modern reckoning of cowries. Our « mace » comes from masa,

through Javanese and Malay mas (the derivation from Mal. mas amas, « gold », proffered in the second edition of Hobson-Jobson and accepted by FERRAND in JA, 1920, II, 296, is a failure).

The karsapana (cf. infra) was divided either into 16 masa or into 20, and finally was identified

with the ounce or tael of silver (cf. the important Chinese and Japanese texts quoted in Bongo

jiten, 114-115 and 454-455).   In the sixteenth century, the tael of Malacca was divided into

16 « mace », and it is generally believed that the reference of the word « mace » to the ch'ien, i. e.

the tenth part of a Chinese tael, is to be ascribed solely to early European traders in China. But it seems just as possible that, in the lingua franca of Indonesian trade with China, this designa-

tion had already been adopted, and that the Europeans took it from the Malay traders (cf. infra

for the analogous case of « cash »). This would not be without some consequence in the present case. If we suppose that the Masa > mas:- « mace » may have been identified with the Chinese

ch'ien at an early date, and since the masaka = masa was 80 cowries, Polo would in a way be

justified in stating that 80 cowries have the value of one saggio of silver, i. e. one ch'ien; and on the other hand we must remember that sa = so, i. e. originally a « string » of 80 cowries, is given

as the term for one ch'ien in a modern Lolo vocabulary. The masa, which was in principle a certain weight, could also be the designation of a small gold « ball » (wan) which, according to Hui-lin, ch. 60 (,t', ix, 152 a), was « about the size of a seed of wu-t'ung (Sterculia platanifolia) ». Hui-lin valued it at about 80 Chinese copper cash (t'ung-ch'ien); this is surprisingly little.

No. 9377 : « Skr. karsapanalh; Tib. kar-sa-pa-na; is worth 1600 cowries. » Skr. karsapana is well known, and is generally explained as being a coin (papa) of the weight of one karsa, the

karsa itself being a weight of 16 masa; but Pali kahapana, may rather be a sanskritization of an old dialectical form (cf. PISCHEL, Grammatik der Prakrit-Sprachen, 263; RHYS DAVIDS, Pali-English Dictionary, s. v. kahapana). In the scale used for cowries in India in the eigh teenth and nineteenth centuries, four pan (of 80 cowries each) made one ana, and four ana one kahan; the Lilian was thus worth 1280 cowries, and the word is merely the modern representative of the earlier karsapana (kahapana) of 1600 cowries.

The karsapana repeatedly occurs in Chinese Buddhist texts, and there are various glosses of T'ang times about it. According to SOOTHILL and HoDOUS, A Dictionary of Chinese

Buddhism, 315, it was worth «400 candareens », which, in modern reckoning, would mean four Chinese silver taels; but « candareens » must be a mistranslation. In Hui-lin, ch. 13 (8 , viii, 97 a), we are told that the karsapana was a piece of gold of the value of 400 ch'ien; it was round