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0072 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 72 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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668   228. FANSUR

But there may be a third reason, to wit that Persia produced a drug which was not camphor proper, but reminded of it. In Ibn Baytâr's important notice on camphor (LECLERC, Traité des simples, in Not. et Extr., XXVI, i, 127-131), there is a passage mentioning, among the places of production of camphor, Sofala, which, without the addition « of India », may be the one on the eastern coast of Africa (cf. Fe, 95, 112, 288; HEYD, II, 591, is in favour of Sofàla = Supâra in India). This camphor of Sofâla may have been extracted from a tree which was not the Dryobalanops. The same thing may have occurred in Persia. The Pên-ts'ao kang-mu (34, 62) has preserved a notice

on a tree called jfj yüan-tz'ic-lo which was given in the lost Pên-ts'ao shih-i of F*   5
Ch'ên Tsang-ch'i, a Ning-po man who lived in the first half of the 8th cent. The notice begins with saying that the yüan-tz'û-lo « is produced in the kingdom of Po-ssû; it looks like the 'dragon-brain perfume' ; it is the 'grease' (JR chih) inside a tree »; it is used in much the same way as camphor, in particular against cataract. One may be surprised that LAUFER should not have adduced this camphor-like product of Po-ssû in favour of his « Malayan Po-ssû »; perhaps the name of the product stopped him. Yiian-tz'û-lo clearly is a transcription, and no less clearly is corrupt : yüan, followed by tz'û, gives a combination which is phonetically impossible. The most natural correction is to read jc wu instead of j yüan, and wu-tz'û-lo is *nguat-dz`i-lak; this would suppose an original like *uzrak. Now, one of the kinds of camphor mentioned by Ibn Baytâr is Jo azraq (LECLERC, 127; Fe, 288). In Arabic, vj) zurqah means « blue color », azraq, pi. 3j3 zurq, means « blue »; this is the reason why FERRAND, with a question mark, rendered azraq as « blue camphor »; it will be seen further on that this finds a curious counterpart in later Chinese sources. I cannot be certain that yüan-tz'zi-lo < *wu-tz'û-lo is azraq, but there is a fair chance that it is so, and here again we must think either of a camphor-like drug produced in Persia, or of camphor brought on Persian ships, which so came to be known to the Chinese under an Arabic name, probably used also by the Persians.

Sumatra was the great camphor producing country in the early Middle Ages; so it is surprising that I-thing, who was in Sumatra towards the end of the 7th cent., should say that « in the Southern Seas, a little camphor (lung-nao) is produced » (cf. TAKAKUSU, A Record of the Buddhist Religion, 129). Camphor (lung-nao) is also mentioned on TAKAKUSU'S p. 48. Moreover, on p. 45, it is

not certain that we must correct )T   p'ien tzû hsiang yu into (   *   fu-tzû hsiang-yu
as TAKAKUSU did; p'ien-tzic hsiang yu may be « oil of the flake perfume », i. e. « camphor oil ».

It is only under the Sung dynasty that we get more precise data on the Chinese terminology concerning camphor. In 977, the king of Po-ni (Borneo) sent an embassy which offered to the Chinese Emperor « one kati ( j chia-ti) of camphor in great flakes (3 Jritf to p'ien lung-nao), eight kati of the second class (ti-êrh-teng) [of camphor], eleven kati of the third

class (ti-san-têng), twenty kati of « rice camphor » (   no mi lung-nao), and twenty kati of

«bluish camphor» (   ts'ang lung-nao); every kati was equivalent to twenty ounces (liang).»

This example of the Indonesian kati, our « catty », ought to be added to Hobson-Jobson2, 175, where the earliest example is almost six centuries later. In the rest of the tribute, there were « five boards (pan) of camphor [wood] » (cf. Sung shih, 489, 8 a; GROENEVELDT, Notes on the Malay Archipelago, 230). It will be noticed that, judging from this text, there were three classes of « flake camphor », followed by « rice camphor » and « bluish camphor ». Mi means « husked