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0087 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 87 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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I discovered the origin of the quotation. Since WANG Ch'i wrote at the close of the 16th cent.,

it is clear, however, that he did not use, for the T'ang period, any source which is not available now. Pending further investigation, I can only say that the conception by looking into a well

and the location in Manchuria suggest a connection between the tale of that north-eastern « Kingdom of Women » in northern Manchuria and the one of the third century, though the latter was said to lie on an island of the sea.

The « Kingdom of Women » of the 3rd cent. to the north-east of China has been connected

with modern legends among the Japanese and Ainu. A fabulous island z   Nyôgo-no-
shima, off the coasts of Japan, was said to be peopled only by women (cf. LEMARÉCHAL, Dict. jap.français, 600). The main text is that of B. H. CHAMBERLAIN, Language, Mythology... of Japan,

viewed in the light of Aino studies (in Mein. of the Imp. University of Japan, No. 1 [1887], 22) : « A story, whose Aino version is clearly an echo of the Japanese, and the Japanese of the Chinese,

is that of the 'Land of Women', or 'Isle of Women'. The main feature of it is that these women

are murderous or even cannibals, who first make love to such stray men that may be stranded on their shore, and then destroy them after dallying with them for a season. Or else the story goes

that they become pregnant after emerging from the bath, by standing opposite to the South (the

Ainos say the East) wind. This is a very ancient Chinese fable. The popular Japanese mind localizes it in the Southern Island of Hachijô, where, — so it is said —, the women sometimes put

sandals on the beach, the heels turned seawards. Should any fisherman land and put on a pair

of these sandals, he becomes, for the time being, the husband of her to whom they belong. It is difficult to escape with life from the lascivious importunities of these Amazons. The Aino version

has its peculiarities, which are curious enough, but unfortunately far too indelicate for reproduction

in print. » B. PILSUDSKI, in Materials for the study of Ainu language and folklore (Cracow, 1912, 91), says that « an old man assured me that there was a whole island inhabited by women like the

one in the tale [= No. 6, p. 85]. They were, however, able to bring forth children, by exposing themselves to the East wind, by which they became pregnant. They used to kill all their male children, and kept only their daughters. »

In fact, neither PILSUDSKI's tale No. 6, nor No. 5, has anything to do with the « Kingdom of

Women». as was noticed by LAUFER (loC. cit., 207); but the interesting point is that, like CHAMBERLAIN, he heard from an Ainu the tale of the exposure to the eastern wind. It can hardly be doubted, however,

that the Ainu fable is of Japanese origin, and that the Japanese are in their turn indebted to the

Chinese, as remarked by CHAMBERLAIN. It must be pointed out, moreover, that the fable, as related by CHAMBERLAIN, is of a composite nature, and combines the features of the cannibal she-demons

or ràkîasi of Indian, Mussulman, and Chinese folklore with the conception resulting either from a bath, as in Kuo P'o's commentary on the Shan-hai ching, in the north-western « Kingdom of Women » of the Liang ssu kung-txû chi and in Hui-shên's pseudo-relation (cf. infra), or from exposure to the wind, as in the tale of the south-eastern « Kingdom of Women » which will be discussed further on. It is clearly a late aggregate of various legends.

Starting from the text of the Hou-Han shu, and combining it with a passage on a « Kingdom of Women » in the chapter devoted by Ma Tuan-lin to Ta-Ch'in or the Mediterranean Orient (cf. HIRTH, China and the Roman Orient, 84, 200-202), LAUFER (loc. cit., 206) declared that the latter text must