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0068 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 68 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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664   228. FANSUR

something to do with the Lung-ya-chia-mao of the map. FERRAND thought that Chinese envoys to Java could not be driven by a storm to the south-western coast of Sumatra, but such an accident is not necessarily excluded. As to the state which sent an embassy, the map of the early 15th cent. shows that the course along the south-western coast of Sumatra was well-known to sailors, who used the Sunda Straits. Nervertheless, I must note that, according to ROUFFAER (Bijdragen, Vol. I, xxvii, 156), Wang Ta-yüan's description fits Bintan well (but why then does not Wang Ta-yuan call it Bintan as everybody did ?). Finally, it may be that some of the Chinese Pansur (Pancur) are to be sought for in the Straits, but the Pin-su of 1225 and the Pan-tsu of the 15th cent. map are enough to show that in the Middle Ages the Chinese knew Baros under the same name which is written « Fansur » by Polo.

According to FERRAND (JA, 1922, II, 95), quoting a work by L. VAN VUUREN, Pansur is properly the third stage on the road from Baros to the camphor and benzoin districts. « The Battaks write Pansur, but pronounce Patsur, hence the Malay form Pancur which combines both. » While I gladly accept that the name of the stage of Pansur is identical with the Fansùr of the Arabs and Pantsur of the Chinese, I am rather surprised that such an insignificant place should have acquired a worldwide renown. May it not be that Pantsur (or Pansur) and Barus were originally a double name for one and the same place, and that the ascription of one of them to the present Pansur is a late specification ? As to the Malay form Pancur, I may add that, according to DULAURIER, the name is written 5)5_,,n Pasüri in the Malay chronicle Sejarat Malayu (cf. Pa, 577; Y, II, 302; GERINI, Researches, 434 [with an alternate reading s,1„ß; Fasüri]) ; but it must eventually go back to an original Arabic source which gave Fansûri.

A last question remains. As has been said in Pe, LIx, it is very doubtful whether Polo, although he remained several months at « Sumatra » (= Pasé) and says he is speaking only of the states of Sumatra he has visited, would have gone out of his way to Baros, at least when he was accompanying the Mongol princess to Persia. The case is the same with « Basman » (q. v.), if Basman be Pasaman. The possibility remains, nevertheless, that, on a previous mission to the South Seas, Polo had visited the south-western coast of Sumatra, but brought his former information into the continuous account of his return journey. Or must we here raise again the question of the digressions turned into a continuous itinerary ?


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In F, camphor is called «canfara» and « canfre», but « canphora », « camphora», in Z, « canfre» in the FG Mss. ; forms like «caffren» in FC1 are fortuitous corruptions; and it may be surmised that even F's «canfara» is an erroneous reading instead of «canfora». Fra Mauro (Zu, 50) speaks of «ganfora».

Our word « camphor » is derived from Arabic kâficr; the inserted -m- (-n-) already occurs in the ancient forms Span. alcanfor, Port. alcamphor, directly borrowed from the Arabic. Yet, there are a few forms without the nasal : Ital. (ancient) cafura (caffera and chaffera in Pegolotti), MH Germ. gaffer, NH Germ. kaffer, > Czech kafr, Slovenian kâfra; modern Greek xacpoûpa; French cafor in Assises de Jérusalem, II, 176 (cf. DOZY and ENGELMANN, Glossaire, 84; BERNEKER, Slay. Etymol. Wörterbuch,468; LOKOTSCH, No. 1100). These forms may go back to the earliest form attested in the West, Lat. caphura, c. 540, in Aetius (cf. Hobson-Jobson2, 152; DEVic, Dict. étymol., 81). Kcifiv