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0027 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 27 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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«there are a number of roaming vagabond people... They seldom show themselves, but yet they are given to trade. Their wives and children, as frightful goblins as themselves, they carry about upon

donkeys » (Yi, III, 245; this passage is omitted in Wy, 545) ; and further : «There are also wild men,

naked and hairy, who have wives and children, but abide in the woods. They do not show themselves among men, and I was seldom able to catch sight of one ; for they hide themselves in the forest

when they perceive anyone coming. Yet they do a great deal of work, sowing and reaping corn and

other things ; and when traders go to them, as I have myself witnessed, they put out what they have to sell in the middle of the path, and run and hide. Then the purchasers go forward and deposit the

price, and take what has been set down » ( Wy, 548; Y', III, 259). The first passage certainly refers to the Veddah, the second one either to the Veddah or to the continental Poliar or southern India, but more probably to the former.

The whole evidence seems quite consistent; yet I entertain doubt on some important points. TENNENT (I, 570) takes Fa-hsien's account to refer to the conditions which prevailed in the traveller's time, while Fa-hsien's very words show that he merely repeats what he heard about a legendary past. About 400 A. D., Ceylon was a prosperous island, with a well advanced civilization and a prosperous

foreign trade. As to AI-Birûni's text, it is true that Lanka was an ancient name of Ceylon, but the conditions obtaining in Ceylon c. 1030 preclude that trade should have been done in the island on

the basis of the dumb trade described by the Mussulman writer. He himself remarks that the accounts of Lanka given by travellers do not in the least tally with those of the Hindus. In my opinion, this Lanka cannot be Ceylon, and he gives an indirect proof of it when he tries to derive the name of Lanka from Skr. lavartga, « clove », and speaks of cloves as the article which the native of

Lanka delivered when bartering with foreign traders : the clove is not a produce of Ceylon, but of Indonesia. The impossibility of locating Al-Birûni's Laiikà in Ceylon had already struck FERRAND,

who, on the strength of another passage (SACHAU, I, 310), thought that this Lanka, was Langa-balûs,

the Nicobar Islands (Fe, 166; see « Necuveran »). ROUFFAER went further, and tried to establish (Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië, 77 [1921], 97-103, 360-365)

that, even in Indian texts, Lanka referred in most cases not to Ceylon, but to Ujung Tanah, alias Johore, i. e. the south-eastern end of the Malay Peninsula. Although I would not suscribe to all details in ROUFFAER'S argument, and particularly do not agree with his identification of Léngasuka (in my opinion, the old name of Patani) with Lanka = Ujung Tanah (see « Lochac »), I concur with him that Al-Birnni's Lanka' lay in Further India (cf. also Mi, 188-189; J. L. MOENS, Çrivijaya, Yâva en Ka ha, in Tijdschrift v. Ind. Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Vol. LXXVII [1937], 397, 402, although, as a rule, I do not share the views of the author).

The second in date of the mentions of dumb trade in Chinese texts refers to these same regions;

it is the one concerning the « kingdom » of gIj Lo-ch'a. Lo-ch'a (* Li-Wat) is a transcription of râksasa, « demon », and the name was given to the inhabitants, on account of their savage character,

either by Hinduized populations of Further India or by Chinese. The Chinese heard of Lo-ch'a in

connection with the mission of Ch'ang Clain to Ch'ih-t'u (« Red Earth ») in 607. In spite of GROENEVELDT and SCHLEGEL, who said that for a long time this was the designation of the Nicobar Islands, it is out of the question to look for Lo-ch'a further west than the Malay Peninsula (cf. BEFEO, iv, 281, 400; LAUFER, in TP, 1915, 211; Y, II, 308; and see « Lochac »). The Lo-ch'a people had red (? red-