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0127 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 127 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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were called ` P'u-sa Man ', and then I understood the [term]. » As these ` Barbarians ' probably were Mohammedans, HIRTH jumped to the conclusion that « P'u-sa Man » was nothing else than a transcription of `Mussulman'; as parallel forms, he adduced the « Busurman » of the old Russian chronicles, and the « Bisermin » of Plan Carpine. As a matter of fact, Plan Carpine had Russian interpreters, so that he very naturally employed the Russian form, but even the Russian « Busur-man » leaves us very far from Canton. On the other hand, there can be no doubt the « P'u-sa Man » of the Bureau of Music, which goes back to the 8th cent., simply meant « Man wearing ornaments like those of the bodhisattva ». Even at Canton, in the 12th cent., and in case `Mussulman' were intended, one does not see why this designation should be used only for the wives of Mohammedans, who, moreover, probably came to China without any wives, and found women locally. It may be that these women, perhaps belonging in part to the native tribes of southern China and Indo-China, were called ` P'u-sa Man ' on account of the song itself and as an allusion to the jewels which their Mohammedan husbands bestowed upon them. As a conclusion, I may say that the paragraph of the Tu-yang tsa-pien cannot be trusted as to the two events it pretends to narrate, and does not even provide a precise location for its two Kingdoms ` of the women Man ' and ` of the woman King '. The ` dragon ' would point to the tradition of a sea-side kingdom, and this is clearly the reason why the Pa-hung huang-shih (Lung-wei pi-shu ed., 1, 5 a), quoting without acknowledgement the paragraph of the Tu-yang tsa-pien in an abbreviated form (and writing ` P'u-sa man ' with the erroneous form advocated by MAYERS), begins with the statement that the « Kingdom of the women Man » was in the Southern Sea. But, because of the use of the word ` Man ', and even in case of a sea-side tribe, the terms ` Kingdom of the women Man ' and ` P'u-sa Man ' can have referred only to people of southern China, including Hai-nan, or of northern Indo-China. In fact, beyond the names of the country, or the two countries, no serious inference can be drawn from the Tu-yang tsa-pien, since both embassies, and consequently the tribute they brought, are most probably fictitious.

In Indo-China herself, there are still traditions about one or several ` Kingdoms of Women ', but my information about them is fragmentary. Siamese folklore knows a Müang Mè-mài, « Country of Widows», or Müang Lab-lë Më-mài, « Evasive [lit. appearing and disappearing Country of Widows », inhabited only by women, but the very fact that Hanumàn is supposed to reside there points to an island country to the south or south-east, and consequently falls under the next section of the present note (cf. GERINI, Researches on Ptolemy's Geography, 384, 752-753). The Chams speak of the ` Kingdom of Women ' under the name of Palëi Timur; paléi means « country », and timur (or tamur) may represent both Malay timur, « east », or Timor Island (cf. CABATON, Diction-noire Cam-Français, 191) ; both interpretations point to Indonesia. In Cambodia, the Kingdom of Women is known as Srôk Lovo, « Lovo Kingdom », and the women inhabiting it as Sréi Lovo, « Lovo Women » (cf. GERINI, loc. cit., 753; CABATON, loc. cit., 191). I do not know the meaning and origin of Lovo in this place. But, in a Cambodian legend narrated in AYMONIER'S Textes khmers (p. 3-8; tale of Âlêv), we read that in that country only inhabited by women, nothing can float on the water. Whatever may be the traditional location of the Srôk Lovo in Cambodia, it cannot be doubted that this double characteristic echoes the Chinese fables which associate the

Kingdom of Women ' and the ` Weak Water '.