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0028 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 28 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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dened) frizzled hair, a black body, tusks like beasts and claws like hawks. « Occasionally they would trade with Lin-i (= Champa), but at night; in day time, they hid their faces» (T'ung tien, 188, 8a; T'ai p'ing yü-lan, 788, 26 a, quoting a lost passage of the Sui shu). The text is not very precise, but it is more than probable that dumb trade is meant. Neither the true position of Ch'ih-t'u, nor that of Lo-ch'a is known; but, from the data in the Sui shu and the T'ung tien, they must have lain either in the south-eastern part of the Malay Peninsula, or, as I surmised in 1904, and at least for Lo-ch'a, east of Bali.

A last mention of the dumb trade has been translated by HIRTH from the Hsin T'ang shu (221 B, 8 a) in China and the Roman Orient (58, 60, 279-283). HIRTH thought that the Hsin T'ang shu drew from an older account reflecting the conditions which prevailed « during the first century A. D. between the aboriginal Singhalese and Chinese or Roman traders », and quoted at length TENNENT'S Ceylon where Pliny's text on the dumb trade of the Serae is said to refer in fact to the Singhalese. But HIRTH'S explanation was based on a wrong surmise, as is implicitly admitted in HR, 104, 110. In the present case, the source of the Hsin T'ang shu is well known ; it is the Ching-hsing chi of Tu Huan, written c. 762, and dealing with countries of south-western Asia; the author of the Hsin T'ang shu knew it from the fragments quoted in the T'ung tien (193, 4 b). In his notice on Fu-lin (= Frôm, Rôm, the Mediterranean Orient), Tu Huan says that this kingdom « to the west borders on the Western Sea, and to the south borders on the Southern Sea ». He then adds : « In the Western Sea, there is a market, where it is agreed between the visitor and the owner that when one goes, the other comes; when the other goes, the former comes back. The seller first spreads his [goods] ; the buyer afterwards puts forward the equivalent [he offers], the price being placed on the side of the various objects. He waits until the price has been accepted, and then collects the goods. This is called 'Devil market' ( 9d, iiï kuei-strip).» It is clear that this «Western Sea» is the sea to the west of Fu-lin, in principle the Mediterranean. But Tu Huan, who never went further than Mesopotamia, is speaking here from hearsay. His notes extend as far as Mo-lin (MA-l;,én), which must be the ancient kingdom of Malli in the region of the Niger. The Devil-market' is probably to be located somewhere in northern Africa, where, moreover, it is mentioned by Mas`ûdi not so long after Tu Huan.

The very name kuei-shih implies in Chinese something uncanny. Just as Fa-hsien ascribed the dumb trade in Ceylon to a time when the island was only peopled by demons, and as the black Loch'a or Râksasa bartered only at night, A1-Birüni's informants were in doubt whether the dumb trade at Lanka was carried on by demons or by savage men. In the north, Mussulman sources locate it in the mysterious Land of Darkness. In China herself, kuei-shih, ' Devil market ', has been used in the Middle Ages as the designation of both a market held only at night, mostly for stolen goods, and of a place of meeting for demons whose approach was accompanied by wind, rain and darkness (cf. the Tz'ic-yüan, s. v. kuei-shih). Although the real practice of the dumb trade is not to be denied, it seems as though it was often wrapped in an atmosphere of legend, and some caution may have to be exerted before accepting all the accounts of it at their face value. These accounts, particularly those relating to northern Russia, must also be qualified for another reason : it is well known that the ancient Russians said of people who spoke another language than their own that they were « dumb » (némoï), an epithet which is the basis of the Russian name « Némec » of the Germans.