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0578 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 578 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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562   184. COWRIES

in shape and of the size of a chiang bean (dolichos sinensis). Ch'ien means « cash », « copper coin », and is used by both I-ching and Li-yen to render Skr. papa (BAGCHI, Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, 50, 229), but the ch'ien here intended must have been much below the papa in value. This is proved by another gloss of Hui-lin, ch. 26 ( , x, 2 b) : « Pana means a copper coin (t'ung-ch'ien); 16 papa make one kârsâpana. » So the modern scale of 16 pan (< pana) to one kâhan ( keirsâpana) goes back at least to the beginning of the ninth century. On the other hand the traditional equivalence of the kdrsdpana to one karsa of 16 mâsa is not in agreement with the scale adopted in the Mahavyutpatti where the kârsâpana is said to be worth 1600 cowries, and consequently to represent not 16 but 20 mâsaka (= mâsa) of 80 cowries each. This value of 1600 cowries to the kârsâpana is expressly stated by I-ching, in a note added to ch. 6 of his translation of the Suvarnaprabhâsa, to have been the one universally used in Magadha in his time, i. e. in the second half of the seventh century (cf. -, , ix, 23 b). The two values of 1280 and 1600 cowries for the kârsâpana have been known to Chinese commentators, and they are also given by Tibetan sources (cf. Sarat CHANDRA DAS, Tibetan-English Dict., 300). Such variations in value may be partly due to fluctuations in the modes of reckoning with 4 or with 5 or, still more, to attempts to pass from the vigesimal reckoning expressed by the unit of 80 cowries to a purely decimal system based on a unit of 100. Other translators, probably misinformed, and because of the ambiguity of ch'ien (which is either 0.1 of an ounce, or a coin in general, or a Chinese copper cash) have understood the papa as being one copper cash (ch'ien) and the kârsâpana as b eing 16 ch'ien, or have even merely rendered kârsâpana as ch'ien. It must be owing to some misunderstanding of this kind that grar-sa pa-ni, i. e. kârsâpana, is given as a synonym of iba'u, «cowry », in KOWALENSKI, 281. I-ching further remarks that, in the text which he translates and

which speaks of « 100 kârsâpana », one ms. gives « 100 1   ch'ên-na-lo », i. e. « 100 dindra»
or « gold coins »; a substitution rendered possible by the fact the kârsâpana, being in principle a certain weight, could, theoretically at least, be used of gold as well as of silver. More details are available on the kârsâpana; but I cannot discuss them here, and must refer the reader to I-ching (loc. cit.), Hsüan-ying, ch. 22 ON , vu, 86 a), Hui-lin, ch. 13 (ib., vIII, 97 a), ch. 29 (ib., VIII, 180 a), ch. 71 (ib., x, 2 b), K'o-hung, ch. 2 (ib., I, 21 b), Bongo jiten, 114-115 and 454-455, and ODA Tokuno, 210.

The scale of the cowries in Yün-nan was 4, 16 (4 X 4), and 80 (16 X 5), but in modern India it was 4 and 80 (4 X 20). The « four » basis of the reckoning also occurs in other ways in the values attributed to the kârsâpana : for since it was worth 400 ch'ien or 1600 cowries, the «ch'ien» of the first text of Hui-lin must have been worth four cowries, and must render not of course papa as usual, but gandaka > ganda, i. e. four cowries. At the same time, the number « 400 » itself, i. e. 20 X 20, supports PRZYLUSKI's view of a vigesimal reckoning, which also appears

in the higher values : 400 karsa make one tuld   Hind. told; cf. Hobson-Jobson2, 928; FERRAND,
in JA, 1920, II, 293 [where I doubt that we should start form Pers. tôlah], 294). I do not know the authority for GILES's statement (Glossary of Reference, 63) that 200 cowries make « one ana or about three halfpence »; the ana was usually worth 4 pan, i. e. 320 cowries.

Both pana and karsa have become usual terms in foreign trade.