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l\tlARco POLO, the subject of this memoir, was born at Venice 
in the year 1254. He was the son of Nicolo Polo, a Venetian 
of noble family, who was one of the partners in a trading 
house, engaged in business \vith Constantinople. In the year 
1260, this Nicolo Polo, in company with his junior partner, 
his brother Maffeo, set out across the Euxine on a trading 
venture to the Crimea. They prospered in their business, 
but were unable to return to their base, owing to the break- 
ing out of a Tartar war on the road by which they had come. 
As they could not go back, they went forward, crossing the 
desert to Bokhara, where they stayed for three years. At 
the end of the third year (the fifth of their journey) they were 
advised to visit the Great Khan Kublai, the (( Kubla Khan" 
of Coleridge's poem. A party of the Great Khan's envoys 
were about to return to Cathay, and the two brothers there- 
fore joined the party, travelling forward, (( northward and 
northeastward," for a \vhole year, before they reached the 
Khan's Court in Cathay. The Khan received them kindly, 
and asked them many questions about life in Europe, especi- 
ally about the emperors, the Pope, the Church, and It all 
that is done at Rome." He then sent them back to Europe 
on an embassy to the Pope, to ask His Holiness to send a 
hundred missionaries to convert the Cathaians to the Chris- 
tian faith. He also asked for some of the holy oil from the 
lamp of the Holy Sepulchre. The return journey of the 
brothers (from Cathay to Acre) took three years. On their 
arrival at Acre the travellers discovered that the Pope was 
dead. They therefore decided to return home to Venice to 
wait until the new Pope should be elected. . They arrived at 
Venice in 1269, to find that Nicolo's \vife had died during her 
husband's absence. His son Marco, our traveller, was then 
fifteen years old. He had probably passed his childhood in 
the house of one of his uncles a t Venice. 
Nicolo and Maffeo Polo remained at Venice for a couple of 
years, waiting for a Pope to be elected, but as there seelned to 



be no prospect of this happening, they determined to return 
to the Great Khan, to tell him how their mission had failed. 
They therefore set out again (in 127 I) and Marco, now seven- 
teen years old, went \vith them. At Acre they obtained a 
letter from a Papal Legate, stating how it came about that 
the message had not been delivered. They had already 
obtained some of the holy oil, so that they were free to pro- 
ceed. They had not gone very far upon their journey \vhen 
they were recalled to Acre by the above-mentioned Syrian 
Legate, who had just heard that he had been elected Pope. 
The new Pope did not send a hundred missionaries, as 
Kublai had asked, but he appointed instead two preaching 
friars, who accolnpanied the Polos as far as Armenia, where 
rumours of war frightened them into returning. The Polos 
journeyed on for three years and a half, and arrived at 
the Khan's court (at Shangtu, not far from Pekin) in the 
Iniddle of 1275. The Khan received them "honourably and 
graciously," making much of 1\farco, " who was then a young 
gallant." In a little while, \vhen Marco had learned the 
speech and customs of the" Tartars," the Khan employed 
him in public business, sending him as a visiting adminis- 
trator to several wild and distant provinces. Marco noted 
carefully the strange customs of these provinces, and de- 
lighted the Khan with his account of them. On one of these 
journeys Marco probably visited the southern states of India. 
After some seventeen years of honourable service \vith 
Kublai, the three Venetians became eager to return to Venice. 
They were rich men, and Kublai was gro\ving old, and they 
knew that Kublai's death "might deprive them of that 
pu blic assistance by which alone they could expect to sur- 
mount the innumerable difficulties of so long a journey." 
But Kublai refused to al1O"w them to leave the Court, and 
even" appeared hurt at the application." It chanced, ho,v- 
ever, that at this time, Arghun, Khan of Persia, had sent 
ambassadors to Kub]ai to obtain the hand of a maiden "frou1 
among the relatives of his deceased wife." The maiden, 
aged seventeen, and very beautiful, was about to accompany 
the ambassadors to Persia; but the ordinary overland routes 
to Persia were unsafe, owing to wars among the Tartars. It 
was necessary for her to travel to Persia by ship, The 
envoys begged Kublai that the three Venetians might come 
\vith them in the ships" as baing pef'sons well skilled in 
the practice of navigation." Kublai granted their request, 



though not very gladly. He fitted out a. :;plendid squadron 
of ships, and despatched the three Venetians with the Per- 
sians, first granting then1 the golden tablet or safe-conduct, 
,vhich would enable them to obtain supplies on the way. 
They sailed from a Chinese port about the beginning of 1292. 
The voyage to Persia occupied about two years, during 
which time the expedition lost six hundred men. The Khan 
of Persia was dead when they arrived; so the beautiful 
maiden was handed over to his son, who received her kindly. 
He gave the Venetians safe-conduct through Persia; indeed 
he sent them forward with troops of horse, without which, 
in those troublous days, they could never have crossed the 
country. As they rode on their way they heard that the 
great I(han Kublai, their old master, had died. They arrived 
safely at Venice some time in the year 1295. 
There are some curious tales of their arrival at home. It 
is said that they were not recognised by their relatives, and 
this is not strange, for they returned in shabby Tartar 
clothes, almost unable to speak their native tongue. It was 
not until they had ripped the seams of the shabby clothes, 
producing stores of jewels from the lining, that the relatives 
decided to acknowledge them. (This tale may be read as 
allegory by those who doubt its truth as history.) 1\1arco 
Polo did not stay long among his relatives. Venice was at 
war with Genoa, and the Polo family, being rich, had been 
called upon to equip a galley, even before the travellers 
returned from Asia. Marco Polo sailed in command of this 
galley, in the fleet under Andrea Dalldolo, which \vas de- 
feated by the Genoese off Curzola on the 7th September 
1296. 1\1arco Polo was carried as a prisoner to Genoa., \vhere 
he remained, in spite of efforts lnade to ransom him, for about 
three years, during which time he probably dictated his book 
in very bad French to one Rustician of Pisa, a felJow-prisoner. 
II e returned to Venice during the year 1299, and probably 
n1arried shortly after\vards. 
I...ittle is known of his life after his return from prison. 
We know that he was nickllalned H II Milione " on account 
of his wonderful stories of Kublai's splendour; but as he was 
rich and famous the slighting nickname was probably partly 
a compliment. Colonel Yule, the great editor of Marco Polo, 
has discovered that he stood surety for a wine-smuggler, 
that he gave a copy of his book to a French noble, and that 
he sued a commission agent for the half profits on the sa](



some musIc It was at one time thought that he \vas the 
l\larco Polo who failed (in r 302) to have his water-pipe in- 
spected by the town plumber. This sin has now been laid 
upon another man of the same name, who II was ignorant 
of the order on that subject." On the 9th of January, 1324, 
feeling himself to be growing daily feebler, he made his will, 
which is still preserved. He named as his trustees his wife 
Donata and his three daughters, to whom the bulk of his 
estate was left. He died soon after the execution of this will. 
He was buried in Venice without the door of the Church of 
San Lorenzo; but the exact site of the grave is unknown. 
No known authentic portrait of the man exists; but as in 
the case of Columbus, there are several fanciful portraits, of 
\vhich the best dates from the seventeenth century. 
Marco Polo's book was not received with faith by his con- 
ten1poraries. Travellers who see marvellous things, even in our 
own day (the name of Bruce will occur to everyone) are seldon1 
believed by those who, having stayed at home, have all the 
consequences of their virtue. 
hen Marco Polo came back 
from the East, a misty, unknown country, full of splendour 
and terrors, he could not tell the whole truth. He ha d to 
leav e his t ale half told lest he should lack believers. HÌs 
book was less popular in the late; Middle Ages than the 
fictions and plagiarisms of Sir John Mandeville. !VIarco 
Polo tells of what he saw; the compiler of Mandeville, \vhen 
he does not steal openly from Pliny, Friar Odoric, and others, 
tells of what an ignorant person might expect to see, and 
\vould, in any case, like to read about,. since it is always 
blessed to be confirnled in an opinion, however ill-grounded 
it may be. How little lVlarco Polo \vas credited may be 
judged from the fact that the map of Asia was not modified 
by his discoveries till fifty years after his death. 
His book is one of the great books of travel. Even now, 
after the lapse of six centuries, it remains the chief authority 
for parts of Central Asia, and of the vast Chinese Empire. 
Some of his wanderings are hard to follow; some of the 
places which he visited are hard to identify; but the labour 
of Colonel Yule has cleared up most of the difficulties, and 
confirmed most of the strange statements. To the geo- 
grapher, to the historian, and to the student of Asiatic Hfe, 
the book of Marco Polo will always be most valuable. To 
the general reader,. the great charm of the book is its 



It is accounted a romantic thing to wander among 
strangers and to eat their bread by the camp-fires of the 
other half of the world. There is romance in doing thus, 
though the romance has been over-estimated by those whose 
sedentary lives have created in them a false taste for action. 
Marco Polo \vandered among strangers; but it is open to 
anyone (with courage and the power of nlotion) to do the 
same. Wandering in itself is merely a form of self-indul- 
gence. If it adds not to the stock of human knowledge, or 
if it gives not to others the imaginative possession of some 
part of the \vorld, it is a pernicious habit. Th
 aC<ß1 ìsition 
o f knowle dg e, the accumulation of fa ct, is noble only in those 
fevl who have that alc hem y which tran
 tes such clay 
to heavenly eternal gold. It may be thought that many 
träVêllers have given their readers great imaginative posses- 
sions; but the imaginative possession is not measured in 
miles and parasangs, nor do the people of that country write 
accounts of birds and beasts. It is only the \vonderful 
traveller who sees a wonder, and only five travellers in the 
world's history have seen wonders. The others have seen 
birds and beasts, rivers and \vastes, the earth and the (local) 
fulness thereof. The five travellers are Herodotus, Gaspar, 
Melchior, Baltha7ar, and Marco Polo himself. T e wonder 
of Marco Polo is this-that he ere tAd Asia for the European 
When Marco Polo went to the East, the whole of Central 
Asia, so full of splendour and magnificence, so noisy with 
nations and kings, was like a dream in men's minds. Euro- 
peans touched only the fringe of the East. At Acre, at 
Byzantium, at the busy cities on the Euxine, the nlerchants 
of Europe bartered with the stranger for silks, and jewels and 
precious balms, brought over the desert at great cost, in 
caravans from the unknown. The popular conception of 
the East was taken from the Bible, from the tales of old 
Crusaders, and from the books of the nlerchants. All that 
men knew of the East was that it was mysterious, and that 
our Lord was born there. rvlarco Polo, almost the first 
European to see the East, saw her in all her \vonder, more 
fully than any man has seen her since. His picture of the 
East is the picture vvhich we all make in our minds when we 
repeat to ourselves those t\VO strange \vords, "the East," 
and give ourselves up to the itnage which that sYlnbol evokes. 
It may be that the \Vestern mind will turn to l\1arco Polo for 









a conception of Asia long after If Cathay" has become an 
American colony. 
I t is difficult to read Marco Polo as one reads historical 
facts. One reads him as one reads romance; as one would 
read, for instance, the If Eve of St. Mark," or the If Well at 
the World's End." The East of which he writes is the East 
of romance, not the East of the Anglo-Indian, with his Simla, 
his missions to Tibet, and Reuter telegrams. In the East of 
romance there grows If the tree of the sun, or dry tree " (by 
which Marco Polo passed), a sort of landmark or milestone, 
at the end of the great desert. The apples of the sun and 
moon gro\v upon that tree. Darius and Alexander fought 
in its shade. Those are the significant facts about the tree 
according to Marco Polo. We moderns, who care little for 
any tree so soon as we can murmur its Latin name, have lost 
wonder in losing faith. 
The Middle Age, even as our own age is, was full of talk of 
the Earthly Paradise. It may be that we have progressed, 
in learning to talk of it as a social po

ibility, instead of as a 
geographical fact. We like to think that the old Venetians 
,vent eastward, on their famous journey, half believing that 
they would arrive there, just as Columbus (two centuries 
later) half expected to sight land If where the golden blossoms 
burn upon the trees forever." They did not find the Earthly 
Paradise; but they saw the splendours of Kublai, one of the 
mightiest of earthly kings. One feels the presence of 
Kqblai an through the narrative, as the red wine, dropped 
into the water-cup, suffuses all, or as the striI\g supports the 
jewels on a trinket. The imagination is only healthy when 
it broods upon the kingly and the saintly. In Kublai, the 
reader will find enough images of splendour to n1ake glorious 
the temple of his mind. When we think of Marco Polo, it 
is of Kublai that we think; and, apart from the romantic 
wonder which surrounds hitn, he is a noble person, worth our 
contemplation. I-Ie is Hke a king in a romance. It \vas the 
task of a kingly nature to have created him as he appears in 
the book here. It makes us proud and reverent of the poetic 
gift, to reflect tl1at this king, If the lord of lords," ruler of so 
many cities, so many gardens, so many fishpools, would be 
but a name, an image covered by the sands, had he not wel- 
comed tvV"o dusty travel1ers, who came to him one n10rning 
from out of the unknown, after long wandering over the 
world. Perhaps \vhen he bade them farewel1 the thought 













occurred to him (as it occurred to that other king in the 
poem) that he might come to be remembered U but by this 
one thing," when all his glories were fallen from him. and he 
lay silent, the gold mask upon his face, in the drowsy tomb, 
where the lamp. long kept alight, at last guttered. and died. 
and fell to d list. 

December 1907. 



THE elder Polos, ,vhen they left Constantinople in the year 
1260, had not planned to go far beyond the northern 
borders of the Euxine. 1"'hcy first landed at Soldaia, in the 
Crimea, then an iInportant trading city. From Soldaia they 
journeyed in a northerly and east-northeasterly direction to 
Sara, or Sarra, a vast city on the Volga, where King Cam- 
busca.n lived, and to Bolgara, or Bolghar, ,vhere they stayed 
for a year. Going sou th a short distance to U caca, another 
city on the Volga, they journeyed direct to the south-east, 
across the northern head of the Caspian, on the sixty days' 
march to Bokhara, where they stayed for three years. From 
Bokhara they ,vent with the Great Khan's people north- 
ward to Otrar, and thence in a north-easterly direction to the 
Court of the Khan near Pekin. On their return journey, 
they arrived at the sea-coast at Layas, in Armenia. From 
Layas they ,vent to Acre, and from .Acre to Ncgropont in 
Roulnania, and from Negropont to Venice, where they stayed 
for about t,vo years. 
On the second journey to the East, with the young Marco 
Polo, they sailed direct from Venice to Acre towards the end 
of the year Í27I. They made a short journey southward to 
Jerusalem, for the hoJy oil, and then rei. urned to Acre for 
letters fronl the Papal Legate. Leaving Acre, they got as 
far as Layas, in .l\rnlenia, before they ,vere recalled by the · 
newly elected Pope. On setting out again, they returned to 
Layas, at that time a great city, where spices and cloth of 
.gold 'v ere sold, and from \vhich Inerchants journeying to the 
East generally started. From Layas they pushed north- 
ward into '1'urcomania, past Casaria and Sivas, to Arzingan, 
where the people wove II good" Passing l\10unt 
Ararat, where Noah's Ark was supposed to rest, they heard 
stories of the Baku oil-fields. From here they went to the 
south-eastward, following the course of the Tigris to Bandas. 
From Bandas they seem to have made an unnecessary 
journey to the Persian Gulf. The book leads one to suppose 



that they travelled by way of Tauriz (in Persian lrak) ì"'czd, 
and I{erman, to the port of Orlnuz, as though they intended 
to take ship there. 1
hey could, ho\vever, have progressed 
nlore s\viftly had they followed t.he Tigris to Busrah, there 
taken ship upon the Gulf, and sailed by \vay of Keis or !{isi to 
Ormuz. After visiting Orllluz, they returned to !{erman by 
another road, and then pushed on, over the horrible salt 
desert of Kerman, through I(horassan to Balakshan. It is 
possib]e that their journey was broken at Balakshan, o\ving 
to the illness of Marco, who speaks of having at some time 
stayed nearly a year here to recover his health. On leaving 
Ba1akshan they proceeded through the high Pamirs to 
gar, thence south-eastward by ,yay of Khotan, not yet buried 
under the sands, to the Gobi de jcrt. 1"'he Gobi desert, like 
an deserts, had a bad name as being U the abode of many 
evil spirits, which amuse travellers to their destruction." 
The Polos crossed the Gobi in the usual thirty days, halting 
each night by the brackish ponds which make the passage 
possible. After crossing the desert, they soon entered China. 
At Ran Chau, one of the first Chinese cities which they 
visited, they may have stayed for nearly a year, on account 
of "the state of their concerns," but this stay probably took 
place later, when they were in Kublai's service. 1
hey then 
crossed the province of Shen-si, into that of Shan-si, finally 
arriving at Kai-ping-fu, where J(ublai had built his summer 
pleasure garden. 
On the return journey, the Polos set sail from the port of 
Zaitum, in the province of Fo-I{ien. They hugged the 
Chinese coast (in orùer to avoid the Pratas and Pracel Reefs) 
and crossed the Gulf of 'fong King to Champa in the south- 
east of Cambodia. Leaving Champa, they may have made 
some stay at Borneo, but more probably they sailed direct to 
the island of Bintang, at the nlouth of the Straits of Malacca, 
and to Sumatra, where the fleet was delayed for five months 
by the blo\ving of the contrary monsoon. 1
he ships seem 
to have waited for the monsoon to change in a harbour on the 
north-east coast, in the kingdom of Sumatra. On getting. 
a fair \vind, they passed by the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, 
and then shaped a course for Ceylon. They put across to 
the coast of Coromandel, and may perhaps have coasted as 
far to the north\vard upon the l\ladras coast as Masulipatam. 
On the Bombay side, they would seen1 to have hugged the 
coast as far as they could, as far perhaps as Surat, in the 


111 tinerary 

Gulf of Canlbay; but it is just possible that the descriptions 
of these places \vere taken from the tales of pilots, and that 
his fleet put boldly out to avoid the coast pirates. l\larco 
Polo tells us much about Aden, and about to,vns on the 
Arabian coasts; but the fleet probably never touched at 
them. All that is certainly known is that they arrived at 
Ormuz, in the Persian Gulf, and passed inland to Khorassan. 
On leaving Khorassan they journeyed overland, through 
Persia and Greater Armenia, until they came to Trebizonda 
on the Euxine Sea. Here they took ship, and sailed home 
to Venice, first touching at Constantinople and at Negro- 
pon t. "And this was in the year 1295 of Christ's Incarna, 

J. M. 













I. 10 
II. Of Armenia Minor-Of the Port of Laiassus-And of 
the Boundaries of the Province 30 
III. Of the Province called Turkomania, \vhere are the 
Cities of Kogni, Kaisariah, and Sevasta, and of its 
Commerce 32 
IV. Of Armenia Major, in which are the Cities of Arzingan, 
Argiron, and Darziz-Of the Castle of Paipurth- 
Of th
 Mountain where the Ark of Noah rested-Of 
the Boundaries of the Province-And of a remark- 
able Fountain of Oil 34 
V. Of the Province of Zorzania and its Boundaries-Of the 
Pass where Alexander the Great constructed the 
Gate of Iron-And of the miraculous Circum- 
stances attending a Fom1tain at Teflis 37 
VI. Of the Province of Mosul and its different lnhabit"ants 
-Of the People named Kurds-And of the Trade 
of this Country 41 
VII. Of the great City of Baldach or Bagadet, ancientlv 
called Babylon-Of the Navigation from thence to 
Balsara, situated in what is termed the Sea of India, 
but properly the Persian Gulf-And of the various 
Sciences studied in that City 42 
VIII. Concerning the Capture and Death of the I{haHf of 
Baldach, and the miraculous Removal of a 
Mountain 44 
IX. Of the noble City of Tauris, in Irak, and of its Com- 
mercial and other Inhabitants 47 
X. Of the Monastery of Saint Barsamo, in the Neighbour- 
hood of Tauris 49 
XI. Of the Province of Persia 50 
XII. Of the Names of the Eight Kingdoms that constitute 
the Province of Persia, and of the Breed of Horses 
and of Asses found therein 5 I 
XIII. Of the City of Yasdi and its Manufactures, and of the 
Anin1als found in the Country between that place 
and Kierm an 55 
XIV. Of the I{ingdom of Kierman, by the Ancients named 
Kannania-Of its Fossil and :Mineral Productions 
-Its Manufactures-Its Falcons-And of a great 
Descent observed upon passing out of that 
Country 5 ö 





XV. Of the City of Kamandu, and District of Reobarle-.Of 
certain Birds found there-Of a peculiar kind of 
Oxen-And of the Karaunas, a Tribe of Robbers 58 
XVI. Of the City of arm us, situated on an Island not far 
from the :l\1ain, in the Sea of India-Of its Com- 
rcial Importance-And of the hot Wind that 
blows there 
XVII. Of the Shipping employed at Ormus-Of the Season 
in which the Fruits are produced-And of the 
Manner of Living and Customs of the Inhabitants 67 
XVIII. Of the Country travelled over upon leaving Ormus, 
and returning to Kierman by a different Route; 
and of a Bitterness in the Bread occasioned by the 
Quality of the Water . . . . . 
XIX. Of the desert Country between Kierman and Kobiam, 
and of the bitter Quality of the \Vater 
XX. Of the Town of Kobiam, and its lVlanufactures . 
XXI. Of the J oUIney from Kobiam to the Province of Timo- 
chain on the Northern Confines of Persia-And of 
a particular Species of Tree 
XXII. Of the Old Man of the Mountain-Of his Palace and 
Gardens-Of his Capture and his Death. . 
XXIII. Of a fertile Plain of six Days' Journey, succeeded by a 
Desert of eigh t, to be passed in the \Vay to the City 
of Sapurgan-Of the excellent l\1elons produced 
there-And of the City of Balach 
XXIV. Of the Castle named Thaikan-Of the Manners of the 
Inhabitants-And of Salt-Hills 
XXV. Of the Town of Scassem, and of the Porcupines found 
XXVI. Of the Province of Balashan-Of the Precious Stones 
found there and which become the Property of 
the King-Of the Horses and the Falcons of the 
Country-Of the salubrious Air of the Ivlountains 
-And of the Dress with which the Women adorn 
their Persons 
XXVII. Of the Province of Bascià lying South of the former- 
. Of the golden Ornaments worn by the Inhabitants 
in their Ears-And of their l\1anners . 
XXVIII. Of the Province of Kesnulr situated towards the south- 
east-Of its Inhabitants who are skilled in l\Iagic- 
01 their Communication with the Indian Sea- 
And of a Class of Hern1its, their Mode of Life and 
extraordinary Abstinence. . . .' . 87 
XXIX. Of the Province of Vokhan-Of an Ascent for three 
Days, lead
ng to the SUIDrnit of a high l\lountain- 
Of a peculIar Breed of Sheep found there-Of the 
Effect of the great Elevation upon Fires-And of 
the Savage Life of the Inhabitants. . . 90 
XXX. Of the City of Kashcar, and of the Commerce of its 
Inhabitants. . . . . . . 
XXXI. Of the City of Sanlarcan, and of the 1\Iiraculous Colunul 
in the Church of St. John the Baptist 
XXXII. Of the Province of Karkan, the Inhabitants of which 
are troubled with swollen Legs and with Goitres 95 
 City of K9tan, w.hich is abundantly supplied 
WI tb all the NecessarIes of Life . . . 











9 2 


7 6 

Contents 3 

XXXIV. Of the Province of Peyn-Of the Chalcedonies and 
Jasper found in its River-And of a peculiar 
Custom with regard to Marriages 97 
XXXV. Of the Province of Charchan-Of the kinds of Stone 
found in its Rivers-And of the Necessity the 
Inhabitants are under, of fiying to the Desert on 
the approach of the Armies of the Tartars . 9 8 
XXXVI. Of the Town of Lop-Of the Desert in its Vicinity- 
And of the strange Noises heard by those who pass 
over the latter 99 
XXXVII. Of the Province of Tanguth-Of the City of Sachion- 
Of the Custom observed there upon the Birth of a 
Male Child-And of the Ceremony of burning the 
Bodies of the Dead. 101 

XXVIII. Of the District of Kamul, and of some peculiar Customs 
respecting the Entertainment of Strangers 106 
XXXIX Of the City of Chinchitalas 108 
XL. Of the District of Succuir, where the Rhubarb is pro- 
duced, and from whence it is carried to all parts of 
the World 110 
XLI. Of the City of Kampion, the principal one of the Pro- 
vince of Tanguth-Of the nature of their Idols, and 
of the l\.iode of Life of those amongst the Idolaters 
who are devoted to the services of Religion-Of 
the Almanac they make use of-And the Cu,;toms 
of the other Inhabitants with regard to Marriage I I 1 
XLII. Of the City of Ezina-Of the kinds of Cattle and Birds 
found there-And of a Desert extending forty 
Days' Journey towards the North. . . 114 
XLIII. Of tbe City of Karakoran, the first in which the 
Tartars fixed their Residence I IS 
XLIV. Of the Origin of the Kingdom of the Tartars-Of the 
Quarter from whence they came-And of their 
former Subjection to Un-khan, a Prince of the 
North, called also Prester John I 16 
XLV. Concerning Chingis- Khan, first Emperor of the Tartars, 
and his Warfare with Un-khan, whom he over- 
threw, and of whose Kingdom he possessed 
himself . . . . . . . I I 8 
XLVI. Of six successive Emperors of the Tartars, and of the 
Ceremonies that take place when they are carried 
for Interment to the Mountain of Altai 120 
XLVII. Of the \Vandering Life of the Tartars-Of their 
Domestic Manners, their Food, and the Virtue and 
useful Qualities of their Women 123 
XLVIII. Of the Celestial and Terrestrial Deities of the Tartars, 
and of their Modes of Worship-Of their Dress, 
Arms, Courage in Battle, Patience under Priva- 
tions, and Obedience to their Leaders . . 126 
XLIX. Of the Tartar Armies, and the manner in which they 
are constituted-Of their Order of Marching-Of 
their Provisions-And of their Mode of attacking 
the Enen1Y 128 
L. Of the Rules of Justice observed by these People-And 
of all Ünaginary I{ind of rvrarriage contracted 
between tbe deceased Children of different 
F anlÌlies 13 J 



LI. Of the Plain of Bargu near Kara - koran - Of the 
Customs of its Inhabitants-Of the Ocean, at the 
Distance of forty Days' Journey from thence- 
Of the Falcons produced in the Country on its 
Borders-And of the Bearings of the Northern 
Constellation to an Observer in those Parts 133 
LII. Of the Kingdom of Erginul, adjoining to that of Kam- 
pion, and of the City of Singui-Of a Species of 
Oxen covered with extremely fine Hair-Of the 
Fonn of the Animal that yields the Musk, and the 
Mode of taking it-And of the Customs of the 
Inhabitants of that Country, and the Beauty of 
the Women 135 
LIII. Of the Province of Egrigaia, and of the City of Kalacha 
-Of the l\fanners of its Inhabitants-And of the 
Camelots manufactured there 139 
LIV. Of the Province of Tenduk, governed by Princes of the 
Race of Prester John, and chiefly inhabited by 
Christians-Of the Ordination of their Priests- 
And of a Tribe of People called Argon, the most 
personable and the best-informed of any in these 
Countries 14 0 
LV. Of the Seat of Governlnent of the Princes of the Family 
of Prester John, called Gog and lYlagog-Of the 
l\lanners of its Inhabitants-Of their Manufacture 
of Silk-And of the Mines of Silver worked there 141 
LVI. Of the City of Changanor-Of different Species of 
Cranes-And of Partridges and Quails bred in 
that Part by the Orders of the Grand Khan . 143 
LVII. Of the Grand Khan's beautiful Palace in the City of 
Shandu-Of his Stud of \Vhite Brood-Mares, 
with whose l\1ilk he performs an Annual Sacrifice 
-Of the wonderful Operations of the Astrologers 
on occasions of Bad 'Veather-Of the Ceremonies 
practised by them in the Hall of the Royal Palace 
-.A..nd of two Descriptions of Religious Mendi- 
cants, with their Þ..fodes of Living 145 


I. Of the admirable Deeds of Kublai-Kaan, the Emperor 
now reigning- Of the Battle he fought with 
Nayan, his Uncle, and of the Victory he obtained 152 
11. Of the Return of the Grand Khan to the City of Kan- 
balu after his Victorv-Of the Honour he confers 
on the Christians, thë Jews, the Mahometans, and 
the Idolaters, at their respective Festivals-And 
the. R.eason he assigns for his not becolning a 
ChnstIan . . . . . . . 158 
IlL Of the kind of Rewards granted to those who conduct 
themselves well in Fight, and of the Golden 
Tablets which they receive . . . . r61 
IV. Of the Figure and Stature of the Grand Khan-Of 
his four principal 'Vives-And of the annual 
Selection of Young \\7 omen for him in the Pro- 
vince of Ungut 162 



V. Of the number of the Grand Khan's Sons by his four 
Wives, whom he Inakes Kings of different Pro- 
vinces, and of Chingis his First- born-Also of the 
Sons by his Concubines, whom he creates Lords 
VI. Of the great and admirable Palace of the Grand Khan, 
near to the City of Kanbalu . . . . 166 
VII. Of the new City of Tai-du, built near to that of Kanbalu 
-Of a Rule observed respecting the Entertain- 
ment of Ambassadors-And of the nightly Police 
of the City . . . . . . . 171 
VIII. Of the treasonable Practices employed to cause the 
City of Kanbalu to rebel, and of the Apprehension 
and Punishment of those concerned 
IX. Of the Personal Guard of the Grand Khan 
X. Of the Style in which the Grand Khan holds bis Public 
Courts, and sits at Table with all his Nobles-Of 
the Manner in which the Drinking Vessels of Gold 
and Silver, filled with the Milk of Mares and 
Camels, are disposed in the Hall-And of the 
Ceremony that takes place when he drinks 
XI. Of the Festival that is kept throughout the Dominions 
of the Grand Khan on tbe Twenty-eighth of 
September, being the Anniversary of his Nativity 186 
XII. Of the White Feast, held on the First Day of the 
Month of February, being the Commencelnent of 
their Year-Of the Number of Presents then 
brought-And of the Ceremonies that take place 
at a Table whereon is inscribed the Name of the 
Grand Khan. . . . . . . 188 
XIII. Of the Quantity of Game taken and sent to the 
Court, during the Winter Months 
XIV. Of Leopards and Lynxes used for hunting Deer-Of 
Lions habituated to the Chase of various Animals 
-And of Eagles taught to seize Wolves. . 193 
XV. Of two Brothers who are principal Officers of the 
Chase to the Grand Khan . . . . 194 
XVI. Of the Grand I{han's proceeding to the Chase, with 
his Gerfalcons and Hawks-Of his Falconers- 
And of his Ten ts . . . . . . 195 
XVII. Of the Multitude of Persons who continually resort to 
and depart from the City of I{anbalu-And of 
the Commerce of the Place . . . . 20 I 
XVIII. Of the kind of Paper Money issued by the Grand Khan, 
and made to pass current throughout his 
Dominions . . . . . . . 202 
XIX. Of the Council of Twelve great Officers appointed for 
the Affairs of the Army, and of Twelve others for 
the general Concerns of the Empire '. 205 
XX. Of the Places established on all the great Roads for 
supplying Post-Horses-Of the Couriers on Foot 
-And of the l\1ode in which the Expense is 
defrayed . . . . . . . 207 
XXI. Of the Relief afforded by the Grand I{han to all the 
Provinces of his Empire, in Times of Dearth or 
Mortality of Cattle . . 212 
XXII. Of the Trees which he causes to be planted at the 
Sides of the Roads, and of the Order in which they 
are ke{>t . 





21 4 



XXIII. Of the kind of 'Vine made in the Province of Cathay-- 
And of the Stones used there for burning in the 
manner of Charcoal . . . . . 2 I 4 
XXIV. Of the great and admirable Liberality exercised by the 
Grand Khan towards the Poor of Kanbalu, and 
other Persons who apply for Relief at his Court 215 
XXV. Of the Astrologers of the City of Kanbalu . . 217 
XXVI. Of the Religion of the Tartars-Of the Opinions they 
hold respecting the Soul-And of some of their 
Customs . . . . . . . 219 
XXVII. Of the River named Pulisangan, and of the Bridge over 
it . 
. . . . . . . 
Of the City of Gouza . 
Of the Kingdom of Ta-in-fu 
Of the City of Pi-an-fu . . 
Of the Fortress of Thaigin or Tai-gin . . . 
Of the very large and noble River called the Kara- 
moran .. 230 
XXXIII. Of the City of Ka-chan-fu 23 I 
XXXIV. Of the City of Ken-zan-fu . . 231 
XXXV. Of the Boundaries of Cathay and lVlanji " 233 
XXXVI. Of the Province of Sin-din-fu, and of the great River 
Kian . . . 234 
XXXVII. Of the Province of Thebeth 236 
XXXVIII. Of the Province of I{ain-du. . . . . 24 0 
XXXIX. Of the great Province of Karaian J and of Yachi its 
principal City . . 243 
XL, Of the Province named Karazan . . . . 24 6 
XLI. Of the Province of Kardandan and the City of V ochang 249 
XLII. Of the Manner in which the Grand Khan effected the 
Conquest of the Kingdom of Mien and Bangala 252 
XLIII. Of an uninhabited Region, and of the Kingd')ffi of Mien 257 
XLIV. Of the City of l\iIien, and of a grand Sepulchre of its 
King . . . 25 8 
XLV. Of the Province of Bangala 260 
XLVI. Of the Province of Kangigu 26 I 
XLVII. Of the Province of Amu . 262 
XLVIII. Of Tholóman . . . . . . . 263 
XLIX. Of the Cities of Chintigui, Sidin-fu, Gin-gui, and Pazan-fu 264 
L. Of the City of Chan-glu 267 
LI. Of the City of Chan-gli . 268 
LII. Of the City of Tudin-fu 268 
LIII. Of the City of Singui-matu . . . . . 270 
LIV. Of the great River called the Kara-rnoran, and of the 
Cities of Koi-gan-zu and Kuan-zu . . . 272 
LV. Of the most noble Province of Manji, and of the l\Ianner 
in which it was subdued by the Grand Khan 
Of the City of Koi-gan-zu 
Of the Town of Pau-ghin 
Of the City of Kain . . . 
Of the Cities of Tin-gui and Chin-gui . . . 
Of the City of Yan-gui, of which l\Iarco Polo held the 
Government. . . 279 
LX I. Of the Province of N an-ghin. . . . . 280 
LXII. Of the City of Sa-yan-fu, that was takeu by the Ineans 
of Nicolo and l\Iaffeo Polo . . . . 280 
LXIII. Of the City of Sin-gui and of the very great River 
Kiang. . 28 3 
LXIV, Of the City of J{ayn-gui 285 
LXV, Of the City of Chan-ghian-fu 2







29 0 
3 10 
3 11 
3 12 
3 1 2 

LXVI. Of the City of Tin-gui-gui . . 
LXVII. Of the Cities of Sin-gui and Va-giu . 
LXVIII. Of the noble and magnificent City of Kin-sai 
LXIX. Of the Revenues of the Grand I{han 
LXX. Of the City of Ta-pin-zu 
LXXI. Of the City of Uguiu . . . . . 
LXXII. Of the Cities of Gen-gui, Zen-gian, and Gie-za. . 
LXXIII. Of the Kingdom or Viceroyalty of Kon-cha, and its 
capital City named Fu-giu 
LXXIV. Of the City of Rue-lin-fu . 
LXXV. Of the City of Un-guen . 
LXXVI. Of the City of Ran-giu. . . . . . 
LXXVII. Of the City and Port of Zai-tun, and the City of Tin-gui 

I. Of India, distinguished into the Greater, Lesser, and 
Middle-Of the Manners and Customs of its 
Inhabitants-Of many remarkable and extra- 
ordinary Things to be observed there; and, in the 
first place, of the kind of Vessels employed in 
Navigation . . 3 21 
II. Of the Island of Zipangu . . . . . 3 2 3 
III. Of the nature of the Idols \vorshipped in Zipangu, and 
of the People being addicted to eating Human 
Flesh . . . . . . . . 3 2 7 
IV. Of the Sea of Chin, between this Island and the Pro- 
vince of Manji · · . 329 
V. Of the Gulf of Keinan, and of its Rivers . . 330 
VI. Of the Country of Ziamba, of the I{ing of that Country, 
and of his becoming tributary to the Grand Khan 33 1 
VII. Of the Island of Java. . . . . . 334 
VIII. Of the Islands of Sondur and Kondur, and of the 
Country of Lochac · · .. 335 
IX. Of the Island of Pentan, and of the Kingdom of 
Malaiur · . 336 
Of the Island of Java l\Hnor. . . . . 337 
Of the Kingdom of F elech, in the Island of Java Minor 33 8 
Of the Second Kingdom, named Basman · . 339 
Of the Third Kingdom, named Samara 34 1 
Of the Fourth I{ingdom, named Dragoian 343 
Of the Fifth Kingdom, named Lambri . . . 344 
Of the Sixth Kingdom, named Fanfnr, where l\tleal is 
procured from a certain Tree 
Of the Island of N ocueran 
Of the Island of Angaman 
Of the Island of Zeilan . 
Of the Province of Maabar . 
Of the Kingdom of l\lurphili or l\1onsul 
Of the Province of Lac, Loac, or Lar 
Of the Island of ZeÏlan . 
Of the City of Kael . 
Of the I{ingdoln of l{oulam 
Of Komari . 
Of the Kingdom of Dely 
Of Malabar . . 
Of the I{ingdom of Guzzerat 
Of the Kingdom of Kanan 




3 1 3 
3 1 4 
3 1 5 
3 Ib 
3 1 7 



34 8 
3 6 8 
3 8 1 
3 8 3 
3 8 5 


XXXI. Of the Kingdom of Kambaia 
X X X I I. Of the I{ingdom of Servena th 
XXXIII. Of the Kingdom of Kesmacoran . 
XXXIV. Of the Islands of Males and of Females 
XXXV. Of the Island of Soccotera . . 
XXXVI. Of the great Island of Madagascar . 
X X X VI I. Of the Island of Zenzibar . . . 
XXXVIII. Of the multitude of Islands in the Indian Sea . 
XXXIX. Of the Second or l\'Iiddle India, named Abascia (or 
Abyssinia) . 
Of the Province of Aden 
Of the City of Escier 
Of th
 City of Dulfar 
Of the City of I{alayati 
Of Ormus . . . . . . . . 
Of those Countries which are termed the Region of 
Darkness . . 
XLVI. Of the Province of Russia 
XLVII. Of Great Turkey. . . . . . . 
XLVIII. What the Grand Khan said of the Injuries done to him 
by Kaidu . . . . . . . 
XLIX. Of the Daughter of King Kaidu, how strong and valiant 
she was . . . . . 
L. How Abaga sent Argon his Son with an Army . 
LI. How Argon succeeded his Father in the Sovereignty 
LII. How Acomat went with his Host to fight Argon . 
LIII. How Argon held Council with his Barons before en- 
countering Acomat . 
How the Barons replied to Argon. . 
How Argon sent his Messengers to Acomat 
Acomat's Reply to the l\lessage of Argon 
The Battle between Argon and Acomat 
How Argon was liberated . . 
How Argon recovered the Sovereignty . . 
How Argon caused his Uncle Acolnat to be put to 
death. . 
LXI. The Death of Argon . . . . . . 
LXII. How Quiacatu seized upon the Sovereignty after the 
Death of Argon . . . . . . 
LXIII. How Baidu seized upon the Sovereignty after the 
Death of Quiacatu. . . . 
LXIV. Of the Lords of the Tartars of the 'Vest. . . 
LXV. Of the War between Alau and Berea, and the Battle 
they fought. . . . . 
How Berca and his Host went to meet Alan 
Alau's Address to his 
'Íen . . . . 
Of the great Battle between Alau and Berca. . 
How Totamangu was Lord of the Tartars of the 'Vest 
How Toctai sent for Nogai to Court 
How Toctai proceeded against N0gai 





COIl tents 


3 8 6 
3 86 
3 8 7 
3 8 8 
3 8 9 
39 1 
39 8 
4 0 4 
4 0 5 

4 11 
4 1 3 
4 1 4 

4 1 7 
4 1 7 
4 1 9 
4 20 
4 20 


4 22 
4 2 3 
4 2 3 
4 2 4 
4 2 5 
4 2 5 
4 26 
4 28 
4 2 9 
4 2 9 











YE emperors, kings, dukes, marquises, earls, and knights, and 
all other people desirous of kno,ving the diversities of the races 
of mankind, as well as the diversities of kingdoms, provinces, 
and regions of all parts of the East, read through this book, and 
ye will find in it the greatest and most marvellous charac- 
teristics of the peoples especially of Armenia, Persia, India, and 
Tartary, as they are severally related in the present work by 
Marco Polo, a wise and learned citizen of Venice, who states 
distinctly what things he saw and what things he heard from 
others. For this book will be a truthful one. It must be 
known, then, that from the creation of Adam to the present 
day, no man, whether Pagan, or Saracen, or Christian, or 
other, of whatever progeny or generation he may have been, 
ever saw or inquired into so many and such great things as 
Marco Polo above n1entioned. Who, wishing in his secret 
thoughts that the things he had seen and heard should be made 
public by the present work, for the benefit of those who could 
not see them with their own eyes, he himself being in the year 
of our Lord 12952 in prison at Genoa, caused the things which 
are contained in the present work to be written by master 
Rustigielo, a citizen of Pisa, who was with him in the same 
prison at Genoa; and he divided it into three parts. 
1 This prologue, omitted by Marsden, is here translated from the Latin 
text published by the French Geographical Society. It is found in the 
early French version published by the same society, and in SOlne of the 
I talian manuscripts; but is only given in an abridged form in Boni's 
Italian text. 
2 The early French translation gives the date 1298, with which the 
I talian prologues seem to agree. 



Travels of Marco Polo 


 I. It should be known to the reader that, at the time when 
Baldwin II. was emperor of Constantinople, 1 where a Inagis- 
trate representing the doge of Venice then resided,2 and in 
the year of our Lord 1250,3 Nicolo Polo, the father of the said 
Marco, and Maffeo, the brother of Nicolo, respectable and well- 

1 Baldwin II. count of Flanders, and cousin of Louis IX. king of France, 
who reigned from 1237 to 1261, was the last of the Latin emperors of 
2 The passage which in Ramusio's text is, cc dove all' hora soleva stare 
un podestà di Venetia, per nome di nlesser 10 Dose:" and upon which he 
has written a particular dissertation, has nothing corresponding to it in 
the LatLl or French versions, or in the Italian text published by Boni. 
The city of Constantinople and the Greek provinces had been conquered, 
in 1204, by the joint arms of the French and the Venetians, the latter of 
whom were commanded by their doge, the illustrious Henry Dandolo, in 
person. Upon the division of the territory and the immense spoil that 
fell into their possession, a larger share (including the celebrated bronze 
horses of Lysippus) was assigned to the republic than to the emperor 
elected on the occasion, and the aged doge, who had himself declined the 
imperial title, but accepted that of Prince of Romania, maintained an 
independent jurisdiction over three parts out of eight of the city, with a 
separate tribunal of justice, and ended his days at the head of an army 
that besieged Adrianople. It is doubtful whether any of his successors 
in the high office of chief of the republic made the imperial city their 
;>lace of residence. "The doge, a slave of state," says Gibbon, "was 
seldom permitted to depart from the helm of the republic; but his place 
was supplied by the bail, or regent, who exercised a supreme jurisdiction 
over the colony of Venetians." Such was the podestà, somethnes termed 
bailo, and sometimes despoto, whose cotemporary government is here 
spoken of, and whose political importance in tht1' then degraded state of 
the empire was little inferior to that of Baldwin; whilst in the eyes of 
the Polo family, as Venetian citizens, it was probably much greater. The 
name of the person who exercised the functions at the time of their arrival, 
is said, in the Sorenzo manuscript, to have been Misier Ponte de Veniexia, 
and, in 1261, when the empire, or rather the city, was reconquered from 
the Latins, the podestà was Marco Gradenigo. 
3 There are strong grounds, :Marsden says, for believing that this date 
of 1250, although found in all the editions, is incorrect. In the manu- 
script, of which there are copies in the British Museum and Berlin 
libraries, the commenCeInent of the voyage is placed in 1252, and some 
of the events related in the sequel render it evident that the departure, 
at least, of our travellers fronl Constantinople, must have been some 
years later than the middle of the century, and probably not sooner than 
1255. How long they were detained in that city is not stated; but, 
upon any calculation of the p
riod of their arrival or d
ll!e, it is sur- 
prising that Grynæus, the edJtor of the Basle and Pans editIon of 1532, 
and after him the learned l\lül1er and Bergeron, should, notwithstanding 
the anachronism, introduce into their texts the date of 1269, which was 
eight years after the expulsion of the e
or .Baldwin,. and was, in f9;ct, 
the year in which they returned to Syna trom therr first Tartanan 

The Brothers Polo 

I I 

informed men, embarked in a ship of their own, \vith a rich 
and varied cargo of merchandise, and reached Constantinople 
in safety. After mature deliberation on the subject of their 
proceedings, it was determined, as the measure most likely to 
improve their trading capital, that they should prosecute their 
voyage into the Euxine or Black Sea. l With this view they 
made purchases of many fine and costly jewels, and taking 
their departure from Constantinople, navigated that sea to a 
port named Soldaia,2 from \vhence they travelled on horse- 
back many days until they reached the court of a po\verful 
chief of the Western Tartars, named Barka, 3 who dwelt in "- 
the cities of Bolgara and Assara,'l and had the reputation of 
being one of the most liberal and civilized princes hitherto 
kno\vn amongst the tribes of Tartary. fIe expressed much 
satisfaction at the arrival of these travellers, and received 
them with marks of distinction. In return for which courtesy, 
when they had laid before him the je\vels they brought with 
them, and perceived that their beauty pleased him, they pre- 
sented them for his acceptance. The liberality of this conduct 

1 Tbe prosperity, ricbes, and political importance of the state of Venice 
having arisen entirely from its commerce, the profession of a merchant 
was there held in the highest degree of estimation, and its nobles were 
amongst the most enterprising of its adventurers in foreign trade. To " 
this illustrious state lnight have been applied the proud character drawn 
by Isaiah of ancient Tyre, which he describes as " the crowning city, 
whose Inerchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of 
the earth."" ............ 
2 Soldaia was the name given in the middle ages to tne place (the 
Tauro-Scythian port of the ancients) now called Sudak, situated near 
the southern extremity of the Crimea or Tauric Chersonesus. It is de- " 
scribed in these words: "About tbe midst of the said province towards ' 
the soutb, as it were upon a sharp angle or point, standeth a city called " 
Soldaia, directly against Synopolis. And there doe all the Turkie 
merchants, which traffique into the north countries, in their journey 
outward, arrive, and as they return homeward also fronl Russia, and 
the said northern regions, into Turkie."-Purchas, vol. iii. p. 2. 
3 This Tartar prince is usually named Bereké, the successor, and said 
to be the brother, of Batu, the son of Tushi, eldest son of J engiz-khan; 
who inherited, as his portion of the dominions of his grandfather (ai- 
though not in full sovereignty), the western countries of Kapchak or 
Kipchak, Allân, Russ, and Bulgar, and died in 1256. 
4 The Bolgar, Bulgar, or Bulghar, here spoken of, is the name of a 
town and an extensive district in Tartary, lying to the eastward of the 
Wolga, and now inhabited by the Bashkirs, sOInetÏInes distinguished 
from the Bulgaria on the Danube, by the appellation of the Greater 
Bulgaria. Assara is the city of Sarai (with the definitive article pre- 
fixed), situated on the ea5tern arm of the Wolga, or Achtuba. "The 
Astrachan mentioned by Balducci Pegoletti WRi) not on the same spot 
where that town stands no\v, but the ancient Astrachan was demolished, 
together with Saray, by the emperor Timur, in the winter of 1395. The 
old town of Saray was pretty near the ancient Astrachan."-Forster. 


"fravels ot Marco Polo 

on the part of the t,vo brother3 struck him with admiration; 
and being unwilling that they should surpass him in generosity, 
he not only directed double the value of the je,vels to be paid 
to them, but made them in addition several rich presents. 
The brothers having resided a year in the dominions of this 
prince, they became desirous of revisiting their native country, 
but ,vere impeded by the sudden breaking out of a ,var be- 
tween him and another chief, named Alaù, who ruled over the 
Eastern Tartars. 1 In a fierce and very sanguinary battle 
that ensued between their respective armies, Alaù was 
victorious, in consequence of which, the roads being rendered 
unsafe for travellers, the brothers could not attempt to return 
by the ,yay they came; and it was recommended to them, as 
the only practicable mode of reaching Constantinople, to pro- 
ceed in an easterly direction, by an unfrequented route, so as 
to skirt the limits of Barka's territories. Accordingly they 
made their ,yay to a town named Oukaka,2 situated on the 
confines of the kingdom of the vVestern Tartars. Leaving 
that place, and advancing still further, they crossed the Tigris,3 
one of the four rivers of Paradise, and can1e to a desert, the 
extent of which ,vas seventeen days' journey, wherein they 

1 These Eastern Tartars, as they are relatively termed, but whose 
country extended no further to the east than the provinces of Persia and 
Khorasan, were so named to distinguish them from the Western (or 
more properly, North- """estern) Tartars mentioned in the preceding 
note, who occupied the countries in the neighbourhood of the \Volga, 
and from thence to the confines, or beyond the confines, of Europe. 
Their chief, here named Ala-ù or Hala-ù, is the celebrated Hulagu, thE 
son of Tuli or Tuhvi, and equally with Datu, Mangu, and Kublaï (the 
latter of whom were his brothers), the grandson of J engiz-kban. Being 
appointed by his elder brother Mangu, to comrnand in the southern pro- 
vinces of the empire, he left Kara-korum, a short time before the visit of 
Rubruquis to that Tartar capital, and in the year 1255 ('rossed the J ihun 
or Oxus, with a large anny. In the fúllowing year, he destroyed the 
race or sect of the Ismaelians, called also Malahidet, of whon1 a parti- 
cular account will be given hereafter, and then turned his arms against 
the city of Baghdâd, which he sacked in 125 8 ; putting to death !\los- 
tasem Billah the last of the Abbassite khalifs. Upon the death of 
Ivlangu, in 1259, Hulagu becaI
le effectively the sovereigl! of Per.sian and 
Babylonian Irak, together wIth Khorasan; yet he stIll contInued to 
profess a nOlninal and respectful allegiance to his brother Kublai, who 
was acknowledged as the head of the Moghul family, and reigned in 
China. His death took place In 1265, at Tauris or Tabriz, his ca!Jital. 
2 There can be little doubt of this beiúg the Okak of Abulfeda; from 
hence the route of our travellers may be presumed to have lain towards 
the town of J aik, on the river of that name, and afterwards, in a south- 
easterly direction, to the Sihun. 
I The great river .crossed. by our travellers, and \vhic
 from its Ina&ni- 
tude they might thI?k entItled t? rank as one o
 the nvers of ParadIse, 
was evidently the Sihun, otherWIse naILed the SJIr. 

The Brothers at Bokhara 


found neither town, castle, nor any substantial building, but 
only Tartars with their herds, dwelling in tents on the plain. 1 
Having passed this tract they arrived at length at a ,veIl-built 
ci ty called Bokhara, 2 in a province of that name, belonging to 
the dominions of Persia, and the noblest city of that kingdom, 
but governed by a prince "\vhose name \vas Barak. 3 Here, 
from inability to proceed further, they remained three years. 
It happened while these brothers were in Bokhara, that a 
person of consequence and gifted with eminent talents made 
his appearance there. He was proceeding as ambassador from 
Alaù before mentioned, to the grand khan, supreme chief of 
all the Tartars, named Kublaï,4 whose residence was at the 
extremity of the continent, in a direction bet"\veen north- 
east and east. 6 Not having ever before had an opportunity, 

1 The desert here mentioned is that of Karak, in the vicinity of the 
Sihun or Sirr, which travellers from the north must unavoidably pass, 
in order to arrive at Bokhâra. 
i This celebrated city, the name of which could not be easily mis- 
taken, and has not been disguised by the transcribers, serves materially 
to establish the general direction of their course; for, having proceeded 
northwards from the Crirnea, they could not have reached Bokhâra 
otherwise than by crossing the several rivers with discharge themselves 
into the upper or northern part of the Caspian. 
3 This appears to be the prince whom P6tis de- la Croix names Berrac 
Can, and D' Herbelot Barak-khan, great-grandson of J agatai, the second 
son of J engiz-khan, who inherited Transoxiana, or the region now pos- 
sessed by the Usbek Tartars. Barak is said, by the latter, to have 
._, attempted to wrest the kingdom of l{horasan from the dominion of 
, Abaka the son of Hulagu; but this must be a rnistake, as the death of 
Barak is placed by the generality of historians in 1260 (by D'Herbelot, 
unaccountably, in 1240), and that of Hulagu in 1265. 
· lVlangu appointed Kublaï his viceroy in China, and gave to Hulagu 
the government of such of the 
ou thern provinces of Asia as he could 
reduce to obedience. Returning himself to China in 1258, he died at 
the siege of Ho-cheu, in the province of Se-chuen, in the following year. 
Kublai was at this titne in the province of Hu-kuang, and persevered in 
his efforts to render himself master of Vu-chang-fu, its capital, until he 
was called away to suppress a revolt excited by his younger brother 
Artigùuga, whom Mangu had left as his lieutenant at Kara-korunl. 
Contenting himself with exacting from the emperor of the Song, who 
ruled over l\1anji, or southern China, the payrnent of an annual tribute 
he retreated to the northward, and in 1260 was proclaimed grand khan' 
at Shang-tu, which from that tinle becarne his summer residence. W
are told, however, that he had hesitated for some tinle to aSSUille the 
title, and did not declare his acquiescence until the arrival of an envoy 
sent by his brother Hulagu (by some supposed to have been the elder) 
who urged him to accept the empire. This envoy we may reasonabiý 
presume to have been the person who arrived at Bokhâra in his way 
from Persia to Khatai, during the time that Nicolo and 'lVlaffeo Polo 
were detained in that city; and the period is thereby ascertained to 
have been about the year 1258. 
Ii This vague designation of the place of residence of the grand khan 
must be understood as applying to Khatai, or northern China, from 


Travels of Marco Polo 

although he wished it, of seeing any natives of Italy, he was 
gratified in a high degree at meeting and conversing ,vith these 
brothers, who had now become proficients in the Tartar lan- 
guage; and after associating ,vith them for several days, and 
finding their manners agreeable to him, he proposed to them 
that they should accompany him to the presence of the great 
khan, ,vho would be pleased by their appearance at his court, 
which had not hitherto been visited by any person from their 
country; adding assurances that they \vould be honourably 
received, and recompensed with many gifts. Convinced as 
they were that their endeavours to return homeward would 
expose them to the most imminent risks, they agreed to this 
proposal, and recommending themselves to the protection of 
the .Almighty, they set out on their journey in the suite of the 
ambassador, attended by several Christian servants \vhom they 
had brought with thelll from Venice. The course they took 
at first was between the north-east and north, and an entire 
year was consumed before they were enabled to reach the 
imperial residence, in consequence of the extraordinary delays 
occasioned by the snows and the swelling of the rivers, which 
obliged them to halt until the former had melted and the 
floods had subsided. . Many things worthy of admiration were 
observed by them in the progress of their journey, but ,vhich 
are here omitted, as they will be described by Marco Polo, in 
the sequel of the book. 

 2. Being introduced to the presence of the grand khan, 
I<.ublai, the travellers were received by him ,vith the conde- 
scension and affability that belonged to his character, and as 
they \vere the first Latins who had made their appearance in 
that country, they were entertained with feasts and honoured 
with other marks of distinction. Entering graciously into 
conversation with them, he made earnest inquiries on the 
subject of the western parts of the world, of the emperor of 
the Romans, l and of other Christian kings and princes. He 
wished to be informed of their relative consequence, the extent 
of their possessions, the manner in which justice was ad- 
ministered in their several kingdoms and- principalities, how 

which, or the adjoining district of !{archin, where Shang-tu was situated, 
he was rarely absent. 
1 By the emperor of the ROlnans is meant the emperor, whether Greek 
or Roman, who reigned at Constantinople. Those. cou:1tries which now 
form the dorninion of the Turks in Europe and ASIa !\hn
r, are vaguely 
designated, amongst the more ^Ea
tern people, by the name of Rûm, and 
their inhabitants by that of Rum!. 

The Grand Khan Kublai 


they conducted themselves in warfare, and above all he ques- 
tioned them particularly respecting the pope, the affairs of the 
church, and the religiou) "\vorship and do
trine of the Chris- 
tians. Being ,veIl instructed and discreet men, they gave 
appropriate answers upon all these points, and as they were 
perfectly acquainted with the Tartar (Moghul) language, they 
expressed themselves always in becoming terms; insomuch 
that the grand khan, holding them in high estimation, fre- 
quently commanded their attendance. 
When he had obtained all the information that the two 
brothers communicated with so much good sense, he expressed 
himself well satisfied, and having formed in his mind the de- 
sign of employing them as his an1bassadors to the pope, after 
consulting with his ministers on the subject, he proposed to 
them, with many kind entreaties, that they should accompany 
one of his officers, named Khogatal, on a mission to the see of 
Ron1e. His object, he told them, was to make a request to 
his holiness that he would send to him a hundred men of 
learning, thoroughly acquainted with the principles of the 
Christian religion, as well as with the seven arts, and qualified 
to prove to the learned of his dominions by just and fair argu- 
Inent, that the faith professed by Christians is superior to, 
and founded upon more evident truth than, any other; that 
the gods of the Tartars and the idols worshipped in their 
houses were only evil spirits, and that they and the people of 
the East in general were under an error in reverencing them 
as divinities. He moreover signified his pleasure that upon 
their return they should bring with them, from Jerusalem, 
SOine of the holy oil from the lamp which is kept burning over 
the sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he professed to 
hold in veneration and to consider as the true God. 1 Ha ving 
1 We may reasonably suspect (without entertaining any doubt of the 
elnbassy itself) that the expressions here put into the Inouth of the 
emperor, both as they regard the worship of the Tartars and the divinity 
of Christ, have been heightened by the zeal of Christian transcribers 
The circumstance of Kublaï, who is known to have been of an active and 
inquisitive mind, requesting to be furnished with a nunlber of mission- 
aries from Europe, to instruct his ignorant Tartar subjects in religion 
and more especially in the practice of useful arts, is no more than what 
has been frequently done since, by the princes of half-barbarous nations 
amongst whom the doctrine of the Koran had not already taken root: 
With regard to the holy oil, we find its importance thus stated by 
Chardin: "Ce qu'il (Ie clergé Arménien) vend Ie plus cher ce sont les 
saintes huiles, que les Grecs appellent myrone. La plûpart des chrétiens 
orientaux s'imaginent que c'est un baume physiquement salutaire contre 
toutes les rnaladies de l'arne. Le patriarche a seul Ie droit de la con- 
sacrer, Ii la vend aux évêques et aux prêtres. 11 y a quelques douze 


Travels of Marco Polo 

heard these commands addressed to them by the grand khan 
they humbly prostrated themselves before him, declaring their 
willingness and instant readiness to perform, to the utmost of 
their ability, whatever might be the royal will. Upon which 
he caused letters, in the Tartarian language, to be written in 
his .name to the pope of Rome, and these he delivered into 
their hands. He likewise gave orders that they should be 
furnished with a golden tablet displaying the imperial cipher,1 
according to the usage established by his majesty; in virtue 
of which the person bearing it, together with his whole suite, 
are safely conveyed and escorted from station to station by the 
governors of all places within the imperial dominions, and are 
entitled, during the time of their residing in any city, castle, 
town, or village, to a supply of provisions and everything 
necessary for their accommodation. 
Being thus honourably commissioned they took their leave 
of the grand khan, and set out on their journey, but had not 
proceeded more than twenty days when the officer, named 
Khogatal, their companion, fell dangerously ill, in the city 
named Alau. 2 In this dilemma it was determined, upon con- 
sulting all who were present, and with the approbation of the 
man himself, that they should leave him behind. In the pro- 
secution of their journey they derived essential benefit from 
being provided with the royal tablet, which procured then1 
attention in every place through which they passed. Their 
expenses were defrayed, and escorts were furnished. But 
not\vithstanding these advantages, so great \vere the natural 
difficulties they had to encounter, from the extreme cold, the 
snow, the ice, and the flooding of the rivers, that their pro- 
gress was unavoidably tedious, and three years elapsed before 
they were enabled to reach a sea-port town in the lesser 

ans que celui de Perse se mit en tête d'empêcher les ecclésiastiques 
Arméniens de tout l'orient, de se pourvoir des saintes huiles ailleurs que 
chez luL Ceux de Turquie s'en fournissent depuis long-terns à J eru- 
salem, auprès du patriarche Arménien qui y réside, et qui est Ie chef de 
tous les Cbrétiens Arméniens de l'empire Ottoman."-Voy. en Perse, 
tom. i. p. 170, 4tO. 
1 Frequent mention is made in the Chinese ,vritings of the tchikouei, 
or tablet of honour, delivered to great officers on their appointment; 
upon which their titles are set forth in gold letters, and which entitles 
them to considerable privileges in travelling. That which is here spoken 
of may be supposed to have been of nearly the same kind. In the vulgar 
European dialect of Canton, it is termed the emperor's grand chop, a 
word used to express " seal, lnark, warrant, licence, or passport." 
2 The name of the place where Khogatal was left is omitted in Marsden, 
and in the French and some of the Italian texts. 

Retllrn of the Brothers 


Armenia, named Laiassus. 1 Departing from thence by sea, 
they arrived at Acre 2 in the month of April, 1269, and there 
learned, with extreme concern, that pope Clement the Fourth 
was recently dead. 3 A legate \vhom he had appointed, named 
M. Tebaldo de' Vesconti di Piacenza, was at this time resident 
in Acre,4 and to him they gave an account of what they had in 
command from the grand khan of Tartary. He advised them 
by all means to wait the election of another pope, and when 
that should take place, to proceed with the object of their 
embassy. Approving of this counsel, they determined upon 
employing the interval in a visit to their families in Venice. 
rrhey accordingly embarked at Acre in a ship bound to Negro- 
pont, and from thence went on to Venice, where Nicolo Polo 
found that his wife, whom he had left with child at his de- 
parture, was dead, after having been delivered of a son, who 
received the name of l\1arco, and was no\v of the age of nineteen 
years. s This is the Marco by whom the present work is com- 
1 We have given the name Laiassus from the Latin text, instead of 
Giazza, given in 1Vlarsden's text, which is an evident corruption. The 
place meant is a port on the northern side of the gulf of Scandaroon, or 
Issus, which in our modern maps and books of geography has the various 
appellations of Lajazzo, Aiazzo, Aiasso, L' Aias, and Layassa. 
I Acre, properly Akkâ, the ancient Ptolemais, a maritime city of Pales- 
tine, was taken from the Saracens, in 1 I 10, by the Crusaders. In 1187 
it fell into the hands of Saladin or Salah-eddîn; and in 1191 it was 
wrested from him by the Chrisfian forces, under Philippe Auguste, king 
of France, and Richard Cæur de Lion, king of England. In 1265, and 
again in 1269 (about the period at which our travellers arrived there) 
it "vas unsuccessfully attacked by Bibars, sultan of Egypt. In 1291 it 
was finally conquered from the Christians, and in great part demolished 
by Khalil, another Egyptian sultan, of the dynasty of l\fameluk Baha: 
rites. In modern days, it suddenly arose froln the obscurity in which 
it had lain for five centuries, and once more becarne celebrated Íor the 
determined and triumphant resistance there made, in 179 8 and 1799 by 
J ezzar Pasha, assisted by a small British squadron and the gallantry of 
its distinguished commander, against the furious and sanguinary efforts 
of the invader of Egypt. 
3 Clement IV. died on the 29th of November, of. the year 1268. The 
event "vas consequently a recent one when our travellers arrived at 
Acre ,in April, 1269. It may be observed that the date of their arrival 
is differently stated in the i\ISS., some reading 1260, the Latin text having 
1270, and others 1272. Some MSS. specify the 30th of April as the day 
of their arrival. 
4 That Acre was the residence of a legate from the papal see about 
this period is proved by other records. 
ó The Basle, as well as the earlier Latin version, and the Italian 
epitomes, state the age of l\tlarco, who was to become the historian of the 
family, to have been then only fifteen years. If this reading be correct 
as probably it is, the father, w
o arrived at Acre in 1269, and may b
presumed to have reached VenIce in 1270, must have left home about 
the year 1255, (See Note a, on p. 10,) The age of nineteen seems to have 
þeen assigned in order to Inake it consistent with the supposed departure 
In I Z 5 0 


Travels of Marco Polo 

posed, and who will give therein a relation of all those matters 
of which he has been an eye-witness. 

 3. In the meantime the election of a pope ,vas retarded by 
so many obstacles, that they remained t,vo years in Venice 
ally expectin
 its accomplishment; 1 \vhen at length: 
becomIng apprehensIve that the grand khan might be dis- 
pleased at their delay, or might suppose it was not their inten- 
tion to revisit his. country, they judged it expedient to return 
to Acre; and on this occasion they took with them young 
Marco Polo. Under the sanction of the legate they made a 
visit to Jerusalem, and there provided themselves with some 
of the oil belonging to the lamp of the holy sepulchre, con- 
forilla bI y to the directions of the grand khan. As soon as 
they ,vere furnished with his letters addressed to that prince 
bearing testimony to the fidelity with which they had en- 
deavoured to execute his commission, and explaining to him 
that the pope of the Christian church had not as yet been 
chosen, they proceeded to the before-mentioned port of 
Laiassus. Scarcely however had they taken their departure, 
\vhen the legate received messengers from Italy, despatched 
by the college of cardina1s, announcing his o,vn elevation to 
the papal chair; and he thereupon assumed the name of 
Gregory the Tenth. 2 Considering that he ,vas now in a situa- 
tion that enabled him fully to satisfy the \vishes of the Tartar 
sovereign, he hastened to transmit letters to the king of 
Armenia,3 communicating to him the event of his election, 
1 A vacancy in the papal see, for a period of nearly three years, occurred 
on this occasion, in consequence of the cabals existing in the Sacred 
College; when, at length, it was determined to refer the choice of a pope 
to six of the cardinals, who elected Tebaldo of Piacenza, on the first day 
of September, 1271. In order to prevent the inconvenience and scandal 
of such delays for the future, the institution of the Conclave (upon a 
principle that resenlbles the impanelling of our Engli
h juries) was 
2 In the list of sovereign pontiffs we fiud him styled" B. Gregorius X. 
Placentinus." His election, as has been mentioned, took place on the 
1st of September, 1271. He was then acting as legate in Syria; but, 
having early notice of the event, he was enabled to take his departure 
from thence so soon as the 18th November following, and landed at 
Brindisi, near Otranto, in January, 1272. 
3 At this tiIne Leon, or Livon 11., reigned in the lesser Annenia, the 
capital of which was Sis, and Aïas, or Aïazzo, its chief port. His father, 
whom we call Haiton, and the Arabian writers Hatem, had acted a con- 
spicuous part in the late transactions, having accompanied H ulagu froIn 
the court of Mangu-khan to Persia, and assisted in his wars with the 
Mussulmans. In 1270 he had obtained the consent of Abaka the son of 
H ulagu then his liege sovereign, for transferring the crown of Armenia, 
on acc
unt of his age and infirn1Ìties, to his son Leon. The principal 
actions of his life are recorded by his namesake, relation and coteln- 

Election of Pope Gregory X. I 9 

and requesting, in case the two ambassadors who were on their 
way to the court of the grand khan should not have already 
quitted his dominions, that he would give direc.ti
ns for th:ir 
immediate return. These letters found them stlll1n ArmenIa, 
and with great alacrity they obeyed the summons to repair 
once more to Acre; for \vhich purpose the king furnished them 
with an armed galley; sending at the same time an ambassador 
fron1 himself, to offer his congratulations to the sovereign 
pontiff. . . I hi h 1 . . d h 0 d o 0 
Upon theIr arnva, s olness receIve t em In a IstIn- 
O"uished manner, and immediately despatched them v{ith letters 
papal, accompanied by t"\vo friars of the order of Preachers, 
who happened to be on the spot; men of letters and of science, 
as well as profound theologianso One of them was named Fra 
Nicolo da Vicenza, and the other, Fra Guielmo da Tripoli. 
To them he gave licence and authority to ordain priests, to 
consecrate bishops, and to grant absolution as fully as he 
could do in his own person. He also charged them with 
valuable presents, and among these, several handsome vases 
of crystal, to be delivered to the grand khan in his name, and 
along with his benediction. Having taken leave, they again 
steered their course to the port of Laiassus, l where they landed, 
and from thence proceeded into the country of Armenia. 
Here they received intelligence that the soldan of Babylonia, 
named Bundokdari, had invaded the Armenian territory \vith 
a numerous army, and had overrun and laid waste the country 
to a great extent. 2 Terrified at these accounts, and appre- 

porary, who, having long distinguished himself as a soldier, became an 
ecclesiastic. His work was edited by Grynæus, at Basle and Paris, in 
1532, under the title of " Haithonis Armeni de Tartaris liber," and again, 
by Andreas l\Iüller, in 1671, under that of " Haithoni Armeni Historia 
Orientalis: quæ eadem et de Tartaris inscribitur." See also Abul- 
Pharajii Hist. pp. 328-357; and De Guignes, Hist. Gén. live xv. pp. 
1 As it m
y be presum

 that our travellers commenced their journey 
about the tIme of the sailIng of Pope Gregory from Acre, the period is 
fixed by authority that win scarcely adl.ílit dispute, to the end of the 
year 1271, or beginning of 1272. 
2 This soldan was Bibars, surnalned Bundokdari, Mameluk sultan of 
Egypt (which is meant by Babylonia), who had conquered the greater 
part of Syria, and had already (in or about 1266) invaded Armenia, 
and plundered the towns of Sis and Ais. In 1270 he Inade himself 
master of Antioch, slew or made captives of all the Christian inhabitants 
and demolished its churches, the most magnificent and celebrated in th
East, It must have been about the beginning of the year 1272 that ou.r 
travellers .enten;d Armenia; and, although it is not 
that any irrUptIon by the soldan took place at that tIme, It is evident 
that he had Dot ceased to harass the neighbouring country of Syria; and, 


Travels of Marco Polo 

hensive for their lives, the two friars determined not to proceed 
Íurther, and delivering over to the Venetians the letters and 
presents entrusted to them by the pope, they placed themselves 
under .the protection of 
he master of the knights templars,l 
and \X/lth hin1 returned dIrectly to the coast. Nicolo, Maffeo, 
and Marco, however, undismayed by perils or difficulties (to 
,vhich they had long been inured), passed the borders of 
Armenia, and prosecuted their journey. After crossing 
deserts of several days' march, and passing many dangerous 
defiles, they advanced so far, in a direction between north-east 
and north, that at length they gained information of the grand 
khan, who then had his residence in a large and magnificent 
city named Cle-men-fu. 2 Their whole journey to this place 
occupied no less than three years and a half; but, during the 
winter months, their progress had been inconsiderablc. 3 The 
grand khan having notice of their approach whilst still remote, 
l..nd being a\vare ho\v much they must have suffered from 
fatigue, sent for\vard to meet them at the distance of forty 
days' journey, and gave orders to prepare in every place 
through which they were to pass, whatever might be requisite 
to their comfort. By these means, and through the blessing 
of God, they \vere conveyed in safety to the royal court. 
notwithstanding the formidable combination just mentioned, we find 
him again, in 1276, invading the province of Rûm, immediately border- 
ing on the lesser Armenia to the northward. The alarms must have 
been perpetual, and these alone may have been sufficient to deter the two 
theologians froln proceeding with their more adventurous companions; 
"tvho did not, however, meet with the enemy. 
1 It is well known that the knights of the hospital of St. John of J eru- 
salem, and the knights of the Temple, were two great monastic military 
orders that arose from the fanaticism of the crusades, and becalne the 
Inost regular and effective support of the Christian cause in Asia.... It is 
not unlikely that a body of the latter may have been statiuned in this 
part of Arnlenia (which we should term the pashalic of Marash), for its 
defence, and the ecclesiastics would naturally seek the protection of its 
cfJmmander, who may have been the nlaster, but was more probably 
vnly a knight of the order. 
2 The ordinary residence of Kublaï at this period must have been Yen- 
king (near the spot \
here Pe
ing now 
tands), whilst he 'yas emp
in laying the foundatIons of hIS new capItal of T
-tu, of WhICh partIcular 
nlention will be made in the sequel. The operatIons of war, or the regu- 
lations of newly-conquered provinces, might, however, occasion his visit- 
ing other cities; and our travellers may have found him in the western 
part of his dominions.. "Il établit sa. cour d'abord,': says Du. H
" à Tai-yuen-fou, capItale de la prOVInce de Chan-sl, et ensuJte 11 la 
transporta à Peking."-Descript. de la Chine, tom. i. p. 49 6 . 
3 When the Teshu Lama of Tibet visited (in 1779-80) the late emperor 
of China at Peking, his journey (although from what we consider a 
ing country, and which .has since been. garrisoned by 
troops) occupied ten months, dunng four of WhICh he was detamed at 
one place by the snow. 

The Brothers Reach ChiI1a 


 4. Upon their arrival they were honourably and graciously 
received by the grand khan, in a full assembly of his principal 
officers. When they drew nigh to his person, they paid their 
respects by prostrating themselves on the floor. He imme- 
diately commanded them to rise, and to relate to him the 
circumstances of their travels, with all that had taken place 
in their negotiation with his holiness the pope. To their 
narrative, which they gave in the regular order of events, and 
delivered in perspicuous language, he listened with attentive 
silence. The letters and the presents frorn pope Gregory 
were then laid before him, and, upon hearing the former read, 
he bestowed much commendation on the fidelity, the zeal, 
and the diligence of his ambassadors; and recejving with due 
reverence the oil from the holy sepulchre, he gave directions 
that it should be preserved with religious care. Upon his 
Iarco Polo, and inquiring who he was, Nicolo made 
answer, "This is your servant, and my son;" upon which the 
grand khan replied, " He is welcome, and it pleases me much," 
and he caused him to be enrolled amongst his attendants of 
honour. And on account of their return he made a great 
feast and rejoicing; and as long as the said brothers and 
Marco remained in the court of the grand khan, they \vere 
honoured even above his o\vn courtiers. Marco was held in 
high estimation and respect by all belonging to the court. He 
learnt in a short time and adopted the manners of the Tartars, 
and acquired a proficiency in four different languages, which 
he became qualified to read and write.! Finding him thus 
accomplished, his master ,vas desirous of pu tting his talents for 
business to the proof, and sent him on an important concern of 
state to a city named Karazan, 2 situated at the distance of six 
1 Perhaps the Moghul or l\tlungal, Ighur, lVlanchu, and Chinese. The 
last will be thought the least probable; but no inference should be 
drawn from his orthography of Chinese names in European characters, 
and particularly in the corrupted state of the text. The Latin text says 
that Marco learnt" the Tartar and four other languages; " the French 
text says, " their language and four different characters" of writing. 
2 Having here the name rnerely, without any circumstance but that of 
Its remoteness from the capital of China, we must presume it to be in- 
tended for a city of Khorasan; to which there is no objection but the 
probabiiity of his having passed through that province when he first 
visited Tartary, and that it is not here spoken of as a place with which 
he had been previously acquainted. It was then (together with Persia) 
under the dOlninion of the second son of Hulagu, who succeeded his 
brother Abaka, and took the nmne of Ahmed Khan, upon his embracing 
the l\1aholüetan religion, It would, perhaps, be taking a liberty with 
the orthography to suppose that the name might be intended for Khor. 
asmia, the Kharism of modern geographers. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

months' journey from the imperial residence; on which occa- 
sion he conducted himself with so much wisdom and prudence 
in the management of the affairs entrusted to him) that his 
services became highly acceptable. On his part) perceiving 
that the grand khan took a pleasure in hearing accounts of 
whatever was new to him respecting the customs and manners 
of people) and the peculiar circumstances of distant countries) 
he endeavoured) wherever he \vent) to obtain correct informa- 
tion on these subjects) and made notes of all he saw and heard) 
in order to gratify the curiosity of his master. In short) 
during seventeen years 1 that he continued in his service, he 
rendered himself so useful) that he was employed on confi- 
dential missions to every part of the empire and its depen- 
dencies; and sometimes also he travelled on his own private 
account, but always with the consent) and sanctioned by the 
authority) of the grand khan. Under such circumstances it 
was that Marco Polo had the opportunity of acquiring a know- 
ledge) either by his own observation) or what he collected from 
others) of so many things) until his time unknown) respecting 
the eastern parts of the world) and which he diligently and 
regularly committed to writing) as in the sequel will appear. 
And by this means he obtained so much honour) that he pro- 
voked the jealousy of the other officers of the court. 

 5. Our Venetians having now resided many years at the 
imperial court) and in that time having realized considerable 
wealth) in jewels of value and in gold) felt a strong desire to 
revisit their native country) and) however honoured and 
caressed by the sovereign) this sentiment was ever predomi- 
nant in their minds. It became the more decidedly their 
object) when they reflected on the very advanced age of the 
grand khan) whose death) if it should happen previously to 
their departure, might deprive thern of that public assistance 
by \vhich alone they could expect to surmount the innumerable 
difficulties of so long a journey, and reach their homes in 

1 In Rarnusio's text the period is said to be ventise
, " twenty-six 
years," and Purchas endeavours to explain in what sense this number 
should be understood; but I prefer, in this instance, the reading of the 
Latin version which has" xvii annas," as more consistent with the fact. 
It is certain that the family did not leave Acre, on their return to China, 
before the end of 1271; and as there is reason to believe that they did 
not reach the enlperor's court before 1273 or 1274, nor remain there 
beyond 12 9 1 , it follows that the period of Marco's service could not ha
exceeded seventeen years by more than a fe
v months. T

years include the whole of the period elapsed sInce the first VISIt of lus 
father and uncle in 1264 or 1265. 

Queen Bolgana 


safety; which on the contrary, in his lifetime, and. throug
favour, they might reasonably hope. to accomplIsh. NIcolo 
Polo accordingly took an opportunIty one day, when .he 
observed him to be more than usually cheerful, of throwIng 
himself at his feet, and soliciting on behalf of himself and his 
family to be indulged with his majesty's gracious permission 
for their departure. But far from showing himself disp
to comply with the request, he appeared hurt at the apphca- 
tion, and asked what motive they could have for wishing to 
expose themselves to all the inconveniences and hazards of a 
journey in which they might probably lose their lives. If gain, 
he said, was their object, he was ready to give them the double 
of whatever they possessed, and to gratify them with honours 
to the extent of their desires; but that, from the regard he 
bore to them, he must positively refuse their petition. 
It happened, about this period, that a queen named Bolgana, l 
the \vife of Arghun, 2 sovereign of India, died, and as her last 
request (which she likewise left in a testamentary writing) 
conjured her husband that no one might succeed to her place on 
his throne and in his affections, who was not a descendant of her 
own family, now settled under the dominion of the grand khan, 3 
1 Although we do not find in the histories of this period that have 
come to our hands, any mention of the consort of Arghun-khan, yet the 
name that is here written Bolgana, and in the Latin of the Basle edition, 
as well as that of the British Museum manuscript, Balgana occurs, with 
little difference of orthography, amongst the females of the family. The 
daughter of J agatai, son of J engiz-khan and uncle of Hulagu, was named 
Bolghân-khâtûn, as appears from the " Rouzat alsafà" of !\1irkhond. 
The Latin and French texts, and the Italian text in Boni's edition, call 
the queen Bolgara. 
2 Arghun-khan, the son of Abaka-khan, and gTandson of Hulagu-il- 
khan, succeeded his uncle Ahmed-khan Nikodar on the throne of Persia, 
I{horasan, and other neighbouring countries, in 1284; and his first act, 
as we are infonned by De Guignes (Liv. xvii. p. 265) was to send to the 
emperor I{ublaï, as the head of the family and his liege sovereign, to 
demand the investiture of his estates. The death of his queen, here 
spoken of, must, from the circumstances mentioned in the sequel, have 
taken place about the year 1287, and he hinlself died in 1291. The 
name in all the versions of the work is uniformly written Argon, which 
approaches extremely near to the Persian orthography. 
3 The grand khan, at whose court the family of this queen is said to 
have resided in I{ataia, was the grand-uncle of Arghun, her husband, 
and the queen herself was probably of the same royal lVloghul family, 
from the common stock of J engiz-khan. Her anxiety therefore was, 
that þ'er husband should not degrade himself and her memory, by con- 
ng a marriage with any person of less noble lineage than their own. 
VIewIng the circumstances therefore in their proper light, it will be found 
that .what might at first be thought a romantic story, of a king of India 
lng an embassy to an emperor of China, for the purpose of obtaining 
a wIfe, resolves itself into the simple and natural transaction, of one of 
the younger members of a great family applying to the he3.d of the house 


Travels of Marco Polo 

in the country of Kathay.l Desirous of complying \vith 
this solemn entreaty, Arghun deputed three of his nobles 
discreet men, whose names were Ulatai, Apusca, and Goza,2 
attended by a numerous retinue, as his ambassadors to the 
grand khan, with a request that he might receive at his hands 
a maiden to wife, from among the relatives of his deceased 
queen. The application was taken in good part, and under 
the directions of his ma j esty, choice was made of a damsel 
aged seventeen, extremely handsome and accomplished, whose 
name was Kogatin,3 and of whom the ambassadors, upon her 
being shown to them, highly approved. When everything 
was arranged for their departure, and a numerous suite of 
attendants appointed, to do honour to the future consort of 
king Arghun, they received from the grand khan a gracious 
dismissal, and set out on their return by the way they came. 
Having travelled for eight months, their further progress was 
to be allowed to strengthen the connexion, by marrying from amongst 
those who were probably his cousins in the second degree; for we may 
presume that if this female had not been one of I{ublaï's own immediate 
race, (a granddaughter, perhaps, as he was then advanced in years,) 
there would not have existed a necessity for making so formal a demand. 
In regard to the distance between Persia and China, which might be con- 
sidered an objection to the probability of the fact, it is well known that 
amongst all the branches of this Moghul family, however remote from 
each other, a continual intercourse had, up to that period, been main- 
tained, and Arghun himself had applied for and received his investiture 
from the same monarch. In the event, however, it proved that the 
difficulties attending the returning journey, over land, had become 
1 The situation of Khatai, or Kataia, (or as it was usually called by the 
medieval writers, Cathay,) has been a subject of much discussion amongst 
the learned; but it cannot, I think, be doubted by those who consult 
the eastern geographers and historians rather than the Greek, that they 
apply the name to the northern provinces of what we call China, which 
were conquered by J engiz-khan, and his son, Oktaï, not from a Chinese 
governlnent, but frOITI a race of eastern Tartars, called Niu-che and l{in, 
by whom they had been subdued about one hundred and twenty years 
before. \Vhether they confine it strictly to these provinces, or include 
some of the adjoining parts of Tartary, without-side the wall, it is not 
easy to determine, as their accounts of these regions are far from being 
precise; but the former I should judge to be the case. 
2 These nalnes vary considerably in the different versions and editions, 
where they appear in the forms of Ulatai and Gulatay, Apusca, Apusta, 
and Ribusca, Goza, and Coyla; all of th{'m, probably, much disfigured 
by transcribing from indistinct manuscripts. The Latin text calls them 
Oulata, Alpusca, and Cor. They are not, however, of any historical 
3 One of the wives of Hulagu, and mother of Ahmed-khan Nikodar 
(the uncle of Arghun), was naiTIed Kutai-khatull, of which Roga.tin, 
(otherwise written Gogatirn and Koganyn) may perhaps be a corruptIon. 
The word khatun, which signifies" lady," is very frequently annexed 
to, or fonns parts of proper naines, borne by Persian and Tartar WOlnen 
of rank. 

Return of the Brothers 


obstructed and the roads shut up against them, by fresh wars 
that had broken out amongst the Tartar princes. l Much 
against their inclinations, therefore, they were constrained to 
adopt the measure of returning to the court of the grand khan, 
to whom they stated the interruption they had met with. 
About the time of their reappearance, J\larco Polo happened 
to arrive from a voyage he had made, vlith a few vessels under 
his orders, to some parts of the East Indies,2 and reported to 
the grand khan the intelligence he brought respecting the 
countries he had visited, with the circumstances of his own 
navigation, which, he said, was performed in those seas with 
the utmost safety. This latter observation having reached 
the ears of the three ambassadors, who were extremely anxious 
to return to their o\vn country, from whence they had now 
been absent three years, they presently sought a conference 
with our Venetians, whom they found equally desirous of 
revisiting their home; and it was settled betvveen them that 
the former, accompanied by their young queen, should obtain 
an audience of the grand khan, and represent to him with what 
convenience and security they might effect their return by sea, 
to the dominions of their master; whilst the voyage would be 
attended with less expense than the journey by land,3 and be 
performed in a shorter time; according to the experience of 

Iarco Polo, who had lately sailed in those parts. Should his 
majesty incline to give his consent to their adopting that mode 
of conveyance, they were then to urge him to suffer the three 
Europeans, as being persons well skilled in the practice of 
navigation, to accompany them until they should reach the 
1 These wars must have taken place about the year 1289, and pro. 
bably in the country of IVlawara'lllahr, or Transoxiana, amongst the 
s of J agataï or 
agataï, whose history is particularly obscure; 
but there IS reason to belIeve that they (or any of the l\Ioghul princes) 
were seldom in a state of tranquillity. Troubles were also excited, 
nearer to China, by a younger brother of Kublaï, who attempted to dis- 
pute with him the right to the empire. 
I What are here termed the East Indies lllUSt not be understood of the 
continent of India, but of SOTne of the islands in the eastern archipelago 
 the Philippines, or possibly the coast of Tsian1pa, or Charnpa: 
WhICh, ill another part. of the work, our author speaks of having visited. 
The voyage here mentloned was subsequent to the grand and disastrous 
expedition which the active genuis of l{ublaï led him to fit out against 
the kingdom of Japan. It should be observed that the Latin and French 
texts, and the I talian publishe
 by Boni, say nothing of the ships, but 
merely state that he was returnIng from an embassy to India. 
3 The suggestion of this econornical motive may seem extraordinary 
but attachment to money ,vas one of the weak parts of Kublaï's char
acter, and the practices he adopted, or cOJ1.Jllved at, for raising it. have 
been the subject of much reprehension. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

territory of king Arghun. The grand khan upon receivinø 
this application showed by his countenance that it was exceed
ingly ?ispleasing .to him, averse as he was to parting with the 
VenetIans. FeelIng nevertheless that he could not with pro- 
priety do otherwise than consent, he yielded to their entreaty. 
I-Iad it not been that he found himself constrained by the im- 
portance and urgency of this peculiar case, they would never 
other\vise have obtained permission to withdra,,y themselves 
from his service. He sent for them, however, and addressed 
them with much kindness and condescension, assuring them of 
his regard, and requiring from them a promise that when they 
should have resided some time in Europe and with their own 
family, they would return to him once more. With this object 
in view he caused them to be furnished with the golden tablet 
(or royal chop), which contained his order for their having free 
and safe conduct through every part of his dominions, \vith 
the needful supplies for themselves and their attendants. He 
like\vise gave them authority to act in the capacity of his 
ambassadors to the pope, the kings of France and Spain, and 
the other Christian princes.! 
At the same time preparations were made for the equipment 
of fourteen ships, each having four masts, and capable of being 
navigated with nine sails,2 the construction and rigging of 
,,yhich "vould admit of ample description; but, to avoid pro- 
lixi ty, it is for the presen t omitted. Among these vessels there 
were at least four or five that had crews of two hundred and 
fifty or two hundred and sixty men. On them were embarked 
the ambassadors, having the queen under their protection, 
1 In the Latin version it is said that he appointed ambassadors of his 
own to these monarchs to accompany the expedition; but as no allusion 
is afterwards lllade to such personages, although an obvious occasion 
(that of the rnortality) presents itself, the Italian reading is considered 
as preferable. 
2 For the modern practice, in the northern part of China, and parti- 
cularlyon the Pe-ho, of rigging vessels intended. to be employed in foreign 
voyages with four rnasts, we have the authonty of Barrow, who says: 
" It is i
possible not to consider the notices given by this early traveller 
larco Polo) as curious, interesting, and valuable; and as far as they 
regard the empire of China, they bear internal evidence of their being 
generally correct. He sailed from Cbina in a fleet consisting of fourteen 
ships each carrying four lnasts, and having their holds partitioned into 
separ'ate chambers. . .. We observed many hundreds of a larger de- 
scription, that 
re employed in foreigl
 voyag:es, all carrying fo

-Travels in Cluna, p. 45. In the LatIn versIon. t
e .words are, quan!lli 
quælibet habebat quatuor maIos, et multæ ex IllIs Ibant cum duodec.un 
velis "--" of which each had four masts, and Inany of them went wIth 
e sails." It is well known that now Chinese vessels do not carry 
an y kind of topsail. 

Return of the Brothers 


together with Nicolo, Maffeo, and Marco Polo, when they had 
first taken their leave of the grand khan, who presented them 
with many rubies and other handsome jewels of great value. 
Re also gave directions that the ships should be furnished with 
stores and provisions for two years. 1 

 6. After a navigation of about three months, they arrived 
at an island which lay in a southerly direction, named Java,2 
where they saw various objects worthy of attention, of which 
notice shaÍ1 be taken in the sequel of the work. Taking their 
departure from thence, they employed eighteen months in the 
Indian seas before they were enabled to reach the place of their 
destination in the territory of king Arghun; 3 and during this 
part of their voyage also they had an opportunity of observing 
many things, which shall, in like manner, be related hereafter. 
But here it may be proper to mention, that between the day of 
their sailing and that of their arrival, they lost by deaths, of 
the crews of the vessels and others who were embarked, about 
six hundred persons; and of the three ambassadors, only one, 
whose name was Goza, survived the voyage; whi]st of all the 
ladies and female attendants one only died. 4 
Upon landing they were informed that king Arghun had 
died some time before,ó and that the government of the 
country was then administered, on behaif of his son, who 
still a youth, by a person of the name of Ki-akato. 6 ]'rom 
1 The sailing of this remarkable expedition from the Pe-ho, or river of 
Peking, we may infer, from circumstances mentioned in different parts 
of the work, to have taken place about the beginning of 1291, three 
years before the death of the emperor Kublaï, and four years previous 
to the arrival of the Polo farnily at Venice, in 1295, 
2 Some details of this part of the voyage are given in book iii. chap. 
x" where the island here called J ava, is termed Java minor, and is evi 
dently intended for Sumatra. It ,vill appear tbat they wanted the 
change of the monsoon in a northern port of that island, near the western 
entrance of the straits of lVlalacca. 
3 The place where the expedition ultimately arrived is not directly 
mentioned in any part of the work; but there are strong grounds for 
inferring it to have been the celebrated port of Orrrluz. With respect 
to the prince named Arghun-khan, see Note 2 , on p. 23. 
· This mortality is no grea.ter than might be expected in vessels 
crowded with men unaccustomed to voyages of snch duration, and who 
had passed several months at an anchorage in the straits of Malacca; 
and although it should have amounted to one-third of their whole 
number, the proportion would not have exceeded what was suffered by 
Lord Anson and other navigators of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
. 51\rghun-k
an, according to the authorities followed by De Guignes, 
dIed In the thIrd nlonth of the year 690 of the hejrah, answering to l\larch 
in the year of our Lord 1291. 
8 The person here named Ki-akato, or Chiacato in t1w Italian (\rth0- 
graphy, and described as the ruler of the country in tnp. n
lJnc of the late 


Travels of Marco Polo 

him they desired to receive instructions as to the manner in 
which they were to dispose of the princess, WhOll1 , by the 
orders of the late king, they had conducted thither. His 
answer was, that they ought to present the lady to Kasan,! 
the son of Arghun, who was then at a place on the borders of 
Persia, wl1ich has its denomination from the Arbor secco 2 
where an army of sixty thousand men was assembled for the 
purpose of guarding certain passes against the irruption of 
the enemy.3 This they proceeded to carry into execution, 
and having effected it, they returned to the residence of Ki- 
akato, because the road they were afterwards to take lay in 
that direction. 4 Here, however, they reposed themselves for 

king's son, was Kai-khatu, the second son of Abaka-khan, and conse- 
quently the brother of Arghun, upon whose death he is said to have 
seized the throne (although perhaps only as regent or protector), to the 
prejudice of his nephew, then a minor, 
I The prince whose name is here written Kasan, or Casan, and by De 
Guignes Cazan, was Chazan-khan, the eldest son of Arghun. He did not 
succeed to the throne of Persia until the end of the year 1295, nearly 
five years after the death of his father, who had sent him to reside ill 
Khorasan, under the tutelage of an atabeg, or governor, named Nu- 
roz, by whose persuasion he afterwards embraced the Mussulman faith, 
and took the name of Mahmûd. It does not appear that he was molested 
in that province by his uncle Kai-khatu, and this recommendation, that 
the princess should be conveyed to him as the representative of his 
father, serves to show that they were not upon terms of actual hostility. 
It is further proved by the circumstance, that when, upon the murder 
of Kai-khatu, the governInent fell into the hands of Baidu (a grandson 
of Hulagu in a different line), and Ghazan marched with an army to 
Rey (Rages) to assert his hereditary claims, the first demand he made 
was, that the assassins of his uncle should be delivered up to him. After 
a doubtful struggle maintained during a period of eight months, the 
defection of his principal officers led to the destruction of the usurper, 
and Ghazan ascended the throne of Persia, about two years subsequently 
to the arrival of the princess, of whom nothing further is recorded. _ 
:I More circumstantial mention is made of this district, and of the tree 
from whence it is said to derive its appellation, in chap. xx. of this book. 
a This is the important pass known to the ancients by the appellation 
of Portæ Caspiæ or Caspian Straits (to be distinguished from those of 
Derbend, as well as of Rudbar), and termed by Eastern geographers 
the Straits of Khowar, or Khawr, from a Persian word, signifying a 
valley between two mountains, or from a small town near the eastern 
entrance which bears the same name. "This remarkable chasm," says 
Rennell, "is now called the strait or passage of I{howar (Chora of the 
ancients), from a town or district in the neighbourhood. It is situated 
at the termination of the great Salt Desert, almost due north from 
Ispahan, and about fifty miles to the eastward of the ruins of Rey (or 
Rôges). Alexander passed through it in his way froIn Rages towards 
Aria and Bactria. Della Valle and Herbert amongst the moderns, and 
Pliny amongst the ancients, have described. it particul

ly. It is eiþ"ht 
tniles through, and generally forty yards In breadth. -GeographIcal 
System of Herodotus exalnined and explained, p. 174, note. 
, From the preceding part of the narrative we n1Ïght be led to suppose 
the residence of Kai-khatu to have been in one of the southern provinces 

The Brothers in Persia 


the space of nine months.! When they took their leave he 
furnished them with four golden tablets, each of them a cubit 
in length, five inches ,vide, and weighing three or four marks of 
gold. 2 Their inscription began with invoking the blessing of 
the Almighty upon the grand khan,3 that his t;ame migh
held in reverence for many years, and denouncIng the punIsh- 
ment of death and confiscation of goods to all who should 
refuse obedience to the mandate. It then proceeded to direct 
that the three ambassadors, as his representatives, should be 
treated throughout his dominions with due honour, that their 
expenses should be defrayed, and that they should be pro- 
vided with the necessary escorts. All this was fully complied 
,vith, and from many places they were protected by bodies of 
two hundred horse; nor could this have been dispensed with 
as the government of Ki-akato was unpopular, and the people 
were disposed to commit insults and proceed to outrages, 
which they would not have dared to attempt under the rule 
of their proper sovereign. 4 In the course of their journey our 
of Persia; but here, on the contrary, we find, that, conformably with 
the histories of the times, it lay in the route between the place where 
Ghazan was encamped, on the eastern side of the Caspian straits, and 
the country of Armenia, towards which our traveHers were advancing 
By D'Herbelot, De Guignes, and others, we are accordingly told that 
the capital of the princes of this dynasty ,vas the city of Tauris or Tabriz, 
in Aderbijan, but that they frequently resided (especially in summer) at 
Hamadan, in Aljebal, in order to be nearer to the Syrian frontier. 
1 From what has been said in the preceding note, we may presume 
this place to have been Tabriz. . 
2 The mark being eight ounces, the tablets must have been unneces- 
sarily expensive and inconveniently ponderous. The other versions do 
not specify either weight or size, and some state them to be only two 
additional tablets. 
3 This shows that the sovereignty of the head of the family was still 
acknowledged by these branches, and I{ai-khatu might have particular 
motives for courting its sanction. Ghazan is said to have been the first 
who renounced this slight species of vassalage, and probably did not 
send an ambassador to China to demand the investiture. 
, In the conduct here described we have a proof of the general doubt 
en tertained respecting his right to the throne, although the Mogh ul 
chiefs affected to consider it as dependent upon their election. The 
historians all agree in reprobating his habits as debauched and infamous, 
and these chiefs, indignant at being governed by a prince so corrupt, 
" equally hated by his subjects and despised by foreigners," resolved to 
remove him, and made an offer of the cro,vn, not to Ghazan, whom 
they might think still too young, or too feeble in bodily frame, for their 
purrose, but to Baidu, a grandson of Hulagu, and cousin of the late 
king, who was then governor of Baghdad. A battle was fought, In 
which Kai-khatu, personally brave, found himself deserted by a principal 
officer who commanded a wing of his arrny, was defeated, and subse- 
quently strangled. For a circumstantial detail of these transactions on 
the authority of Khondernir, see the Bibliothèque Orientale, under the 
article Baidu. See also the article Gangiatu, "que l'on trouve auss1 

3 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

travellers received intelligence of the grand khan (Kublaï) 
having departed this life; 1 which entirely put an end to all 
ct of their revisiting those regions. Pursuing, therefore, 
theIr Intended route, they at length reached the city of Trebi- 
zond, from whence they proceeded to Constantinople, then to 

 egropont,2 and finally to Venice, at vvhich place, in the en- 
Joyment of health and abundant riches, they safely arrived in 
the year 1295. On this occasion they offered up their thanks 
to God, who had now been pleased to relieve them from such 
great fatigues, after having preserved them from innumerable 
perils. The foregoing narrative may be considered as a pre- 
liminary chapter, the object of which is to make the reader 
acquainted with the opportunities J\:larco Polo had of acquiring 
a knowledge of the things he describes, during a residence of so 
many years in the eastern parts of the ,vorld. 


IN cOlnmencing the ðescription of the countri2s which Marco 
Polo visited in Asia, and of things worthy of notice which he 
nommé Caictu, et Caicatu." "Khondemir remarque que Ie véritable nom 
de ce prince stoit Aicatu, ou Gaicatu." We should learn from hence to 
hesitate before we condelnn the orthography of our author, 'whose lllode of 
writing this uncouth nalue differs so little, if at all, from some of thege 
high authorities. It is a circumstance extreluely remarkable, that one of 
the principal motives assigned for the revolt of the l\loghul chiefs against 
this prince, was his having attempted to establish ill his dominions a 
system of paper-money, like that of China.-De Guignes, Hist. des Huns, 
Liv. xvii. p. 267. 
1 Kublaï, whose name the Chinese pronounce Hupili or Hupilé, whilst 
in their annals they bestow on him that of Chi-tsu, was proclaimed grand 
khan in the year 1260, became emperor of China upon the destruction of 
the dynasty of the Song, who reigned ill Manji or the provinces south 
of the great river Kiang, in 1280, and died in the beginning of 12 94, at 
the age of eighty years. It is not surprising that the news of an event 
so important to all the tribes of Moghuls or Tartars should have found 
its way to the court of Persia, and consequenily to our travellers, with 
extraordinary expedition. . 
2 Their most direct route from Tabriz would have lain through Bedhs 
in Kurdistan to Aleppo, but at this time the sultans of Egypt, with whom 
the kings of Persia were continually at war, had possession of all the 
seaports of Syria, and would pay little respect to their passports. By 
the \,\ray of Georgia to Trebisond, on the Euxine, their land-journey was 
shorter and Inore secure, and when at that place they were under the 
prot6.ction of the Christian prince, whose farnily reigned in the small 
independent kingdom of Trebisond, from 12 0 4 to 14 6 2. 

Account of Armenia 

. 3 I 

observed therein, it is proper to mention that we are to dis- 
tinguish t\VO Armenias, t
e Lesser. and 
he Great
r.l rrhe 
king of the Lesser Armenta dwells In a CIty caned Sebastoz, 2 
and rules his dominions \vith strict regard to justice. The 
towns fortified places, and castles are numerous. There is 
ablmdance of all necessaries of life, as ,veIl as of those things 
which contribute to its comfort. Game, both of beasts and 
birds is in plenty. It must be said, however, t h at the aÎ rof the
è oun t ry is not remarkably healthy. In former times its gentry 
'\vere esteemed expert and brave soldiers; but at the pres en t 
day they are great drinkers, pusillanimous, and \vorthless. 
On the sea-coast there is a city named Laiassus,3 a place of 
considerable traffic. Its port is frequented by merchants from, 
Venice, Genoa, and many other places, who trade in spi
and drugs of different sorts, manufactures of silk and of wool, 
and - other rich comm odities. Those persons who design to 
- -- ---- 
1 This distinction of the Arn1enias into the Greater and the Lesser, is 
conformable to what we find in Ptolemy and the geographers of the 
middle ages; although other divisions have taken place since that 
part of Asia has been subject to the Ottoman empire. The Lesser 
AL\.rmenia is defined by Büsching as comprehending that part of Cap- 
padocia and Cilicia which lies along the western side of the Greater 
Armenia, and also on the western side of the Euphrates. That in the 
days of Haiton it extended south of Taurus, and included Cilicia (cam- 
pestris), which was not the case in more ancient times, we have the 
unexceptionable authority of that historian. 
2 As it appears from the passage quoted in the preceding note, as well 
as from other authorities, that Sîs was the capital of the Lesser Armenia 
during the reigns of the Leans and I-Iaitons, we are led to suppose the 
Sebastoz here mentioned to have been the ancient name of that city, or 
of one that stood on the same site. It is obvious, indeed, from the geo- 
graphy of Ptolemy, that there were many places in Asia Minor that bore 
the names of Sebastia, Sebaste, and Sebastopolis (besides one in Syria) 
and in his enumeration of the towns of Cilicia, we find a Sebaste, to which' 
in the Latin translation, published at Venice in 1562, the epithet of 
" augusta" is annexed. Upon the foundations of this, Leon I. (from 
whom the country is called by the Arabians, Belan Leon, as well as Belad 
Sîs), may have built the modern city, and the Greek nan1e may have been 
still prevalent. We are told, however, that the city which preceded Sîs 
as the capital of Armenia Minor, was named ì\lessis, l\:1assis, or l\1assissa' 
the ancient Mopsuestia, and it must be confessed that if authority wa
not in opposition to conjecture, the sound of these names might lead us 
to suppose that the modern name was only an abbreviation of Mes-sis 
and Sebastoz a 
ubstitution for l\Iopsueste. In a subsequent part of 
the chapter the CIty of Sevasta or Sevaste, the modern Siwas or Sivas is 
spoken of under circumstances that appear to distinguish it entirely frbm 
the Armenian capital; having been recently conquered by the i\loghuls 
from the Seljuk princes. 
3 Lajazzo, or Aias, is situated in a low, morassy country, formed by 
the alluvion of the two rivers Sihon and Jihon (of Cilicia) and (as 
observed to me by Major Rennell) at the present mouth of the latter. 
I ts trade has been transferred to Alexandretta or Scanderoon on the 
opposite or Syrian side of the gulf. J 

3 2 . 

Travels of Marco Polo 

travel into the interior of the Levant,! usually proceed in the 
first instance to this port of Laiassus. The bou:ïdaries of the 
Lesser Armenia are, on the south, the Land of Promisè, no\v 
pied by the Saracens; 2 on the north, Karamania, in- 
hablted by Turkomans; towards the north-east lie the cities 
of Kaisariah, Sevasta,3 and many others subject to the Tar- 
tars; and on the western side it is bounded by the sea, which 
extends to the shores of Christendom. 



THE inhabitants of Turkon1ania 4 may be distinguished into 
three classes. The Turkomans, who reverence lVlahomet and 
follow his la\v, are a rude people, and dull of intellect. They 
1 Levant is a translation of the word AnatolÏa or Anadoli, from the 
Greek åvaroÀ'Ì] " artus, oriens," signifying the country that lies eostward 
from Greece. As the name of a region therefore it should be equivalent 
to N atolia, in its n10re extensive acceptation; and it is evident that our 
author employs it to denote Asia Minor. Sn1yrna is at present estee"11ed 
the principal port in the Levant, and the term seems to be now confined 
to the sea-coast, and to mercantile usage. 
2 For the Land of Promise, or Palestine, which extends no further to the 
north than Tyre, is here to be understood Syria, or that part of it called 
Cælo-Syria, which borders on Cilicia or the southern part of Armenia 
Minor. As the more general denomination of Syria includes Palestine, 
and the latter name was, in the time of the Crusades, more familiar to 
Europeans than the former, it is not surprising that they should some- 
tiInes be confounded. The Saracens here spoken of were the subjects 
of the Mameluk sultans or sol dans of Egypt, who recoverd from the 
Christian powers in Syria, what the princes of the family of Saladin, or of 
the Ayubite dynasty, had lost, In other parts of the work the term is 
employed indiscrin1inately with that of I\'Iahometan. 
a The Turkomans of Karanlania were a race of Tartars settled in Asia 
Minor, under the government of the Seljuk princes, of whom an account 
will be found in the following note, Kaisariah or Cæsarea, and Sevasta or 
Sebaste, the Sebastopolis Cappadociæ of Ptolelny and Siwas or Sivas of 
the present day, were cities belonging to the same dynasty, that had 
been conquered by the l\loghuls in the year 1242. . 
4 By Turkolnania we are .to un.derst.and, general!y, the poss

ons of 
the great Seljuk dynasty In ASIa l\'hnor, extendIng. from Cll1cla and 
Panlphylia, in 
he, south, to the !thores of the EuxlI
e s
a, an
Pisidia and l\lysIa, In the west,. to the borders o
a MIn?r; Includ- 
ing the greater part of Phrygia aI
d CappadocIa, tOßetJ.1er wIth ,Pontus, 
and particularly the nlodern provrnces of Karamanla and Rumiyah, or 

Province of Turkon1ania 


dwell amongst the mountains and in places difficult of access) 
\vhere their object is to find good pasture for their cattle, as 
they live entirely upon animal food. The
e is h
n_ excel- 
lent breed of ho rses \vh ich has the apDellation of Turki, and 
fine muleswlÍiëh are sold at hig h pri
es .l - T he ot liërcl as ses 
are Greeks -and Armenians, wno resiâe in the cities and Íorti- 
fied places, and gain their living by commerce and manu- 
facture. The best and handsomest carpets in the world are 
wrought here, and also silks of crimson and other rich colours. 2 
Amongst its cities are those of Kogni, Kaisariah, and Sevasta, 
in which last Saint Blaise obtained the glorious crown of 
martyrdoln. 3 They are all subject to the great khan, emperor 
of the Oriental Tartars, who appoints governors to them. 4 
We shall now speak of the Greater Armenia. 
the country of Rûm. Of the former of these, the capital ,vas Iconium, 
corrupted by the oriental writers to Kuniyah, and by those of the 
Crusades to I{ogni; of the latter, Sebaste or Sebastopolis, corrupted 
to Siwas or Sivas. The chief fraIn whom the dynasty of Seljuks derived 
its appellation, was by birth a Turkoman, of Turkistan, on the north- 
eastern side of the river Sihon or J axartes, but in the service of a prince 
of !{hozar, on the Wolga, from which he fled and pursued his fortune in 
Transoxiana; as did some of his family in Khorasan. Having acquired 
great celebrity, they were at length enabled, by the means of numerous 
tribes of Turkomans who joined their standard, to establish a sovereignty, 
or, in point of extent, an empire, the principal seat of which was in Persia. 
Another branch, about the year 1080, wrested the fine provinces of Asia 
Minor from the Greek emperors, and formed the kingdom of which \ve 
are now speaking. Through its territory the Christian princes repeatedly 
forced their way in their progress to the Holy Land, and it is computed 
by historians that not fewer than six hundred thousand men perished in 
this preliminary warfare. At length the power of the Seljuks yielded to 
the overwhelrning influence of the house of J engiz-khan, and in our 
author's time they were reduced to insignificance; but from their ruins 
sprang the empire of the Ottomans, the founder of which had been in the 
service of one of the last sultans of Iconium. 
1 The pastoral habits of the Turkoman Tartars are preserved to this 
day, even in Asia Minor, and the distinction of their tribes subsists also. 
The Turki breed of horses is esteemed throughout the East, for sDirit 
and hardiness. .a; 
2 " Et ibi fiunt soriani et tapeti pulchriores de mundo et pulchrioris 
coloris," are the words of the Latin text. 
3 " Blaise, bishop of Sebasta, in Cappadocia, in the second and third 
centuries," says the Biographical Dictionary, U suffered death under 
Diocletian, by decapitation, after being whipped and having his flesh 
torn with iron combs. . . . It is difficult to say how the invention (of 
wool combing) came to be attributed to him; but it had probably no 
better origin than the circumstance of his being tortured with the instru- 
ments used in the combing of wool." 
4. It is the family of Hulagu, and the tribes who followed his standard 
from the north, whom our author always designates by the name of 
Oriental Tartars, to distinguish them from the descendants of Batu, who 
settled near 
he Wolga, on the north-\vestern side of the Caspian, and 
exte?ded theIr conquests towards Europe; whilst the former entered 
PersIa from the Eastern quarter, by the ,yay of Transoxiana and Khorasan. 


Travels of Marco Polo 



ARMENIA Major is an extensive province, at the entrance of 
which is a city named Arzingan,t \vhere there is a manufacture 
of v
y_ fine cotton _cloth called bom bazin es,2 as well as of 
,) many other c uri ous f
brics; which it would be tedious to 
enumerate. It possesses the handsomest and most excellent 
baths of warm water) issuing from the earth, that are any- 
where to be found. 3 Its inhabitants are for the most part 

1 Arzengân, or, as written by the Arabians, who have not the Persian 
g, Arzenjân, is a city near the frontier of Rumiyah, but just within the 
limits of Armenia Major. "Cette ville," says D'Herbelot, " appartient 
plutôt à l' Arménie, et fut prise par les l\iogols au Tartares l'an 640 de 
l'Hégire, de J. C. 1242, après la défaite de Kaikhosrou, fils d' Aladin Ie 
Selgiucide, aussi bien que les villes de Sébaste et de Césarée." By an 
oriental geographer it is said to be, "Oppidum celeberrimum, elegans, 
amænum, copiosum bonis rebus, incQlÏsque: pertinens ad Armeniam: 
inter Rumæas provincias et Chalatam situn1, haud procul Arzerroumo: 
esseque incolas ejus maixmam partem Armenios." Alberti Schu1tens 
Index Geographicus in Vitam Salaclini. J osaphat Barbaro, a Venetian. 
who travelled into Persia, in the fifteenth century, speaks of Arsengan 
as a place that had formerly been of consequence, but was then mostly 
in ruins. 
2 The name of a species of cloth which I have here translated" bom- 
bazine," is in the Italian of Ramusio, " bochassini di bambagio," and in 
the Latin versions "buchiranus, buchyramis, and bucaraillus." Its 
substance or texture is not clearly explained in our dictionaries. That 
of Cotgrave, printed in 1611, defines" boccasin," to be " a kind of fine 
buckeram, that hath a resemblance of taffata, and is much used for 
lining; also the stuffe callimanco," But this, it is evident, cannot apply 
to a manufacture of bombagio or cotton; and the V ocabolario della 
Crusca, as well as the Glossary of Du Cange, speak of " bucherame bian- 
chissima," and" bucherame bambagino," and both of theln quote our 
author for the use of the word. All the examples convey the idea of 
fine, white, and soft c?tton cloth; the reverse of what is now called buck- 
ram. The early Latln text speaks of boccorame and bambace as two 
distinct things. 
3 Natural warm baths are- found in many parts of Asia Minor, and 
particularly near Ancyra, the modern Angora or Anguri, which are still 
much frequented. Their situation is denoted by the word Thermæ, in 
Rennell's map explanatory of the Retreat of the Ten thousand. They 
are also spoken of at Tefiis in Georgia; but of their existence at Arzengan 
I have not been able to find notice in tbe works of the Eastern geo- 

City of Arzingan 


native Armenians, but under the dominion of the Tartars. 
In this province there are many cities, but Arzingan is the 
principal, and the seat of an archbishop; and the next in con- 
sequence are Argiron 1 and Darziz. 2 It is very extensive, and, 
in the summer season, the station of a part of the army of the 
Eastern Tartars, on account of the good pasture it affords for 
their cattle; but on the approach of ,vinter they are obliged 
to change their quarters, the fall of snow being so very deep 
that the horses could not find subsistence, and for the sake of 
,varn1th and fodder they proceed to the southward. Within 
a castle named Paipurth,3 which you meet with in going from 
Trebisond to rrauris, there is a rich mine of silver. 4 In the 
central part of Armenia stands an exceedingly large and high 
mountain, upon which, it is said, the ark of Noah rested, and 
for tillS reason it is termed the mountain of the ark. 5 The 

1 Argiron, or, in the Latin versions, Argyron, is a corruption of Arzerrûm, 
Erzerûm, or Arzen er-rûm, a distinctive name given to a city called Arzen, 
as being the last strong place, in that direction, belonging to the Greek 
èmpire. "Arzerrûm," says Abulfeda, "est extremus :finis regionum 
Rumæorum ab oriente. In ejus orientali et septentrionali latere est 
fons Euphratis." 
2 Darziz, which in the Basle edition is Darzirim, in the older Latin, Arziu, 
and in the Italian epitomes, Arciri and Arziri, is the town now called 
i\.rjîs, situated on the border of the Lake Van, anciently named Arsissa 
paluso "Argish," says Macdonald I{inneir, "is a town containing six 
thousand inhabitants, situated on the north-west side of the lake, three 
days' journey from Van. There are four islands in the lake, on one of 
which is an Arn1enian monastery, and three hundred priests." Memoir 
of the Persian Empire, pp. 328, 329. These places, it may be observed, 
lay in our author's returning route, from Tauris to Trebisond. 
3 Paipurth, the Baiburt of D' Anville's and Rennell's maps, is situated 
among the Inoun tains, in a norther! y direction fronl Arzerrûm. As the 
word purt signifies a castle in the Armenian language, and as the Arabian 
geographers, from not having the letter p in their alphabet, are obliged 
to substitute the b, it is probable that the former is the more genuine 
orthography. This castle is particularly noted by J osaphat Barbaro, 
who says, " Partendo d'essa (Trabisonda) per andar à Thauris . . . il 
primo luogo notabile che si trova, è uno castello in piano in una valle 
d' ognitorno circondata da monti, nominato Baiburth, castel forte e 
murato. . . . Cinque giomate piu in la, si trova Arsengan. . . . Poi 
si ritrova un castello nominato Carpurth."-Viaggio in Persia, p. 48, ed. 
1545, 121no. 
& Although this particular mine may have been exhausted, silver 
Inines are known to exist in this part of Armenia. 
ó The mountain of Armenia (the Ararat of Scripture) upon which the 
ark is believed by the Christians of that country to have rested, stands 
not far from the city of Erivan or Irwân. The l\1ahometans, however, 
assign to it a different situation. "L'opinion commune des Orientaux," 
says D'Herbelot, "est que l'arche de Noë s'arrêta sur la montagne de 
Gioudi, qui est une des croupes du mont Taurus ou Gordiæus en Ar- 
ménie, et cette tradition est autorisé en ce pays-là par plusieurs his- 
toires qui approchent fort de la fable." "J oudi," says Ibn Haukal, 
" is a mountain near Nisibin. It is said that the ark of Noah {to whom 

3 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 


circuit of its base cannot be compassed in less than two days 
The ascent is impracticable on account of the snow towards 
the sun1n1it, which never melts, but goes on increasing by each 
successive fall. In the lower region, however, near the plain, 
the melting of the snow fertilizes the ground, and occasions 
such an abundant vegetation, that all the cattle which collect 
there in summer from the neighbouring country, meet with a 
never-failing supply.1 Bordering upon Armenia, to the south- 
"vest, are the districts of 1\1:osul and Maredin, ,vhich shall be 
described hereafter, and many others too numerous to parti- 
cularize. To the north lies Zorzania, near the confines of which 
there is a Jo

 tai n of
 oil which discharges so great a quantity 
as to furnish loading for many camels. 2 The use made of it 
is not for the purpose of food, but as an unguent for the cure of 
cutaneous distempers in men and cattle, as well as other com- 
plaints; and it is also good for burning. In the neighbouring 
country no other is used in their lamps, and people come from 
distant parts to procure it. 
be peace,) rested on the slUllinit of this mountain." Ouseley's trans- 
lation, p. 60. 
Iajor Rennell observes, that J eudi is the part of the 
Carduchian mountains opposite to the J ezirat ibn On1ar, and that the 
dervishes keep a light burning there, in honour of Noah and his ark. 
1 This fertility of the country in the vicinity of the mountains, is 
noticed by l\10ses Chorenensis, who says, " Habet autem Araratia montes 
camposque, atque omnenl fæcunditatem."-Geograpbia, p. 361. 
2 Springs of petroleum or earth (properly, rock) oil, are found in many 
parts of the world. The spring or fountain here spoken of is that of 
Baku in Shirvan, on the border of the Caspian. "N ear to this place," 
says John Cartwright, in what are termed the Preacher's Travels, " is a 
very strange and wonderful fountain under ground, out of which there 
springeth and issueth a marvellous quantity of black oyl, which serveth 
all parts of Persia to burn in their houses; and they usually carry it all 
over the country upon kine and asses, whereof you shall oftentimes meet 
three or four hundred in company."-Oxford ColI. of Voyages, vol. Í. 
(vii.) p. 731. Strahlenberg speaKs of this as a spring of white naphtha, 
which he distinguishes from the black sort of bitumen; but the most 
satisfactory account of both white and black naphtha in this district i
given by !(ænlpfer J in his Amænitaiès Exoticæ, p. 274-281. 

Situation of Georgia 




IN Zorzania 1 the king is usually styled David Melik, which 
in our language signifies David the king. 2 One part of the 
country is subject to the Tartars, and the other part, in con- 
sequence of the strength of its fortresses, has remained in the 
possession of its native princes. It is situated between two 
seas, of which that on the northern (western) side is called the 
Greater sea (Euxine), and the other, on the eastern side, is 
called the sea of Abakù (Caspian). 3 This latter is in circuit 
two thousand eight hundred miles, and partakes of the nature 
of a lake, not communicating with any other sea. It has 
several islands, with handsome towns and castles, some of 
which are inhabited by people who fled before the grand Tartar, 
when he laid waste the kingdom or province of Persia, 4 and 
took shelter in these islands or in the fastnesses of the moun- 
tains, where they hoped to find security. Some of the islands 
are uncultivated. This sea produces abundance of fish, 
particularly sturgeon and salmon at the mouths of the rivers, 

1 By Zorzania is meant the kingdom of Georgia, bordering on Armenia, 
lnd of which Teflis was the capital. The substitution of the z for the 
;oft g, belonged to the old Venetian dialect, in which the original of our 
luthor's work is understood to have been written, and the orthography 
1as been preserved in some of the Latin, as well as in the vulgar Italian 
versions. The early Latin text reads Georgia. 
:I The name of David or Davit frequently occurs in the list of kings who 
lave reigned in Georgia, and their predilection for it is traced to a very 
"emote source. It is not surprising, therefore, that a traveller should 
;uppose the names of the Georgian kings to bave been, invariably 
)avid. The title of l\lelik shows that our author's information wa
lerived from Arabs or l\Ioghuls, who would naturally substitute it for 
.he native title of Meppe. 
3 The Caspian, which is generally tenned by oriental writers the sea of 
:<'hozar, was also called by the Persians the sea of Baku, and by this 
lame (l\'Iar di Bachau) it appears in the maps to an edition of Ptolemy 
>rinted at Venice in 1562. It derives the appellation from the celebrated 
:ity and port of Baku, on its south-western coast. 
, This refers to the conquest and devastation of Persia by the armies 
,f J engiz-khan, about the year 1221. The islands, to which it is not 
mprobable a number of the wretched inhabitants fled for security are 
.t present uninhabited, or frequented only by fishermen. ' 

3 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

as well as others of a large sort. l The general wood of the 
country is the box-tree. 2 I ,vas told that in ancient times the 
kings of the country were born with the mark of an eagle on 
the right shoulder. 3 The people are well made, bold sailors, 
expert archers, and fair combatants in battle. They are 
Christians, observing the ritual of the Greek Church, and 
wear their hair short, in the manner of the Western clergy. 
This is the province into which, when Alexander the Great 
attempted to advance northwards, he was unable to penetrate, 
by reason of the narrowness and difficulty of a certain pass, 
which on one side is washed by the sea, and is confined on the 
other by high mountains and woods, for the length of foul 
miles; so that a very few men were capable of defending 
it against the whole world. Disappointed in this attempt, 
Alexander caused a great wall to be constructed at the entrance 
of the pass, and fortified it with towers, in order to restrain 
those who dwelt beyond it from giving him molestation. From 
its uncommon strength the pass obtained the name of the Gate 
of Iron,4 and Alexander is commonly said to have enclosed the 
1 The fishery of the Caspian, especially about the mouths of the Wolga, 
has at all periods been important. "Among the great variety of fish 
with which this river abounds," says P. H. Bruce, " the sturgeon is none 
of the least considerable, whose eggs afford what the Russians call ikari, 
and we caviar: the beluga, or white fish, deserves also to be mentioned
they are from five to six yards long, and thick in proportion. Besides 
these it yields also the osotrin, another very large fish, very fat and deli- 
cious: this river also abounds with salmon, sterlitz, a most delicious 
fish, and innumerable other sorts too tedious to mention."-Memoirs, 
p. 236. Strahlellberg also notices the beluja as " the largest eatable river- 
fish in the world, having seen one fifty-six feet in length, and eighteen in 
girth."-P. 337. 
2 By modern travellers the box-tree is merely enumerated amongst 
the vegetable productions of the country, without any notice of its pre- 
valence; but by Ambrogio Cantareno, who travelled in the fifteenth 
century, it is n10re particularly distinguished. "Era in detta pianura," 
he says, in speaking of 
/Iingrelia, " di molti arbori in modo di bussi, ma 
malto maggiori."-P. 65, 12mo. 
8 By this pretended tradition it may be understood that they were, 
or affected to be thought, a brand} of the imperial falnily of Constan- 
tinople, who bore the Roman eagle amongst their insignia. 
, This is the celebrated pass between the foot of l\10unt Caucasus and 
the Caspian sea, where stands the small but strong city of Derbend, 
called bv the Arabs, Bab-al-abuab, or the" Gate of gates," by the 'Turks, 
Demir-éapi, or the" Gate of iron," and by the Persians, Derbend, or the 
" Barrier," between Georgia and the Persian province of ShirvaI).. "Tbe 
natives in general are of opinion," says P. H. Bruce, " that the city of 
Derbent was built by Alexander the Great, and that the long wall that 
reached to the Euxine, was built by his order, to prevent the incursions 
of the Scythians into Persia. "-Memoirs, p. 2 8 4. The ,vall is said to 
have been repaired by Yezdegerd II. of the Sassanian dynasty, who 
reigned about the middle of the fifth century, and again by N ushirvan, 
of the same family, who died in 579. 

The Lake of Geluchalat 


Tartars between two mountains. It is not correct, however, 
to call the people Tartars, which in those days they were not, 
but of a race named Cumani,t with a mixture of other nations. 
In this province there are many towns and castles; the neces- 
saries of life are in abundance; the country produces a great 
quantity of silk, and a manufacture is carried on of silk inter- 
woven with gold. 2 Here are found vultures of a large size, of 
a species named avigi. 3 The inhabitants in general gain their 
livelihood by trade and manual labour. The mountainous 
nature of the country, with its narrow and strong defiles, have 
prevented the Tartars from effecting the entire conquest of it. 
At a convent of monks dedicated to Saint Lunardo, the follow- 
ing l11iraculous circumstances are said to take place. In a 
salt-water lake, four days' journey in circuit, upon the border 
of which the church is situated, the fish never make their 
. appearance until the first day of Lent, and from that time to 
Easter-eve they are found in vast abundance; but on Easter- 
day they are no longer to be seen, nor during the remainder of 
the year. It is called the lake of Geluchalat. 4 Into the before- 
1 The notices we have, respecting the people named Comani or COID.a- 
nians, are in general obscure and vague. It appears, however, that in the 
thirteenth century they were the inhabitants of the countries lying on 
the north-western side of the Caspian, and extending from the Wolga 
towards the Euxine, who were afterwards subdued and supplanted by 
the Kapchak Tartars. "The Comans, U says Gibbon, "were a Tartar 
or Turkn1an horde which encamped in the XIth and XIIth centuries 
on the verge of lVIoldavia. The greater part were pagans, but some 
were Mahometans, and the whole horde was converted to Christianity 
(A.D. 1370) by Lewis, king of Hungary." 
I Some of the provinces of Georgia, as well as of Armenia and the 
adjoining parts of Persia, have in all ages been famous for the culture of 
the silk-worm and commerce in silk. 
a I know not what species of vulture is here meant, nor can we be cer- 
tain of the correctness of the orthography of the word avigi. That the 
country is noted for birds of this class, appears from the \vritings of 
several travellers. When Chardin arrived in Mingrelia he found it neces- 
sary to deceive the Turks by giving out that he was a merchant, whose 
object in visiting the country was to procure birds of prey for the Euro- 
pean market. . 
· Within the proper boundaries of Georgia I am unable to identify this 
large salt-water lake of Gelu-chalat. Upon an island in that near Erivan 
which Ð' Anville names Gheuk-sha ou Eau bleu, stands a very ancient 
monastery, which Chardin tells us was founded six hundred years before 
his time, or in the eleventh century, and must therefore have existed in 
our author's days; but on the other hand, its waters are described as 
being fresh and sweet, and it is separated from Georgia by a ridge of 
mountains. There is more reason for supposing it to be the lake now 
called Van or Wan, and formerly Arjish, although this lies still further 
within the boundary of Armenia. In its neighbourhood was situated a 
town of some celebrity, named Khalât and Akhlât. Its circumference is 
described by Abulfeda as being of four days' journey, and he says it is 
noted for a peculiar species of fish called tharnag
 said to resemble the 
herring. . 

4 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

mentioned sea of Abakù, which is encolnpassed \vith Inoun.. 
tains, the great rivers Herdil,! Geihon, Kur, and Araz, with 
many others, disembogue. The Genoese merchants have 
recently begun to navigate it, and they bring from thence the 
kind of silk called ghellie. 2 In this province there is a hand- 
some city named Tef1is,3 around which are suburbs and many 
fortified posts. I t is inhabited by Armenian and Georgian 
Christians, as well as by some 1vlahometans and Jews; 4 but 
these last are in no great numbers. Manufactures of silks and 
of many other articles are carried on there. Its inhabitants 
are subjects of the great king of the Tartars. 5 _.L\.lthough we 
speak only of a few of the principal cities in each province, it 
is to be understood that there are many others, which it is 
unnecessary to particularise, unless they happened to contain 
something remarkable; but should the occasion pr
sent itself, 
these will be hereafter described. Having spoken of the 
countries bordering on Armenia to the north, we shall now 
mention those which lie to the south and to the east. 

1 By the Arabians and Turks the name of Etol is given to the Wolga, 
and it is here corrupted to Herdil. This river, according to Ibn Haukal 
comes from the countries of Rûss and Bulgar, and at the season when it
waters are collected, it is said to be greater than the river J ihun, rushing 
into the sea with such a body that it seems to conquer the waters of the 
Caspian. See Ouseley's translation, pp. 185-187. The names of Jihon or 
Oxus, Kur or Cyrus, and Araz or Araxes, do not require any particular 
S The province of Ghilan (called also al-Ghil), on the Caspian, being 
famous for its trade in silk, we can scarcely doubt that this word ghellie 
or ghilli was a name given to the article on that account; as florentine, 
a species of silk, has (or may be presumed to have) its appellation from 
Florence. The red silk of Ghilan is mentioned by Niebuhr; and Elphin- 
stone, speaking of the trade of Caubul with Persia, says, "The imports 
are raw silk of Gheelaun and Resht, silken stuffs made at Yezd and Kas- 
haun."-P. 295. 
a For a particular account of the city of Tefiis, the capital of Georgia 
see Chardin, p. 220, fo. with the Plate. Our author's route from Tabriz 
to Trebisond did not carry him to this city, and there is reason to con- 
clude that what little he says of it is from the report of others. 
· In Chardin's tin1e this city contained fourteen churches, of which six 
belonged to the Georgian, and eight to the Armenian Christians. Being 
then subject to the Persian government, frequent atten1pts were made 
by the l\1ahometans to erect mosques, but without success; the populace 
never failing to demolish the work. 
6 By the king of the (Moghul) Tartars must here be understood the 
descendant of Hulagu, who ruled over Persia and the neighbouring 
countries; not the grand khau. 

Christial1S of Mosul 

4 1 



MOSUL is a large province 1 inhabited by various descriptions 
of people, one class of whom pay reverence to Mahomet, and 
are called Arabians. 2 The others profess the Christian faith, 
but not according to the canons of the church, which they 
depart from in many instances, and are denominated Nes- 
torians, J acobites, and Armenians. They have a patriarch 
whom they call Jacolit,3 and by him archbishops, bishops, and 
abbots are consecrated and sent to all parts of India, to Cairo, 
to Baldach (Baghdad), and to all places inhabited by Chris- 
tains; in the same manner as by the pope of the Romish church. 
.All those cloths of gold and of silk ,vhich we call muslins 4 are of 
1 The city of l\iosul, or according to the Arabic pronunciation, lVlausil, 
formerly the capital of Mesopotamia and no,v of the Turkish pashalik 
bearing its own name, stands upon the right or western bank of the Tigris, 
opposite to the site of the ancient Nineveh, with which it is connected by 
a bridge of boats. It is described by Abulfeda and all the oriental geo- 
graphers as one of the most distinguished cities under the Mahometan 
government. Although our author terms it a province, he may be 
thought to describe it rather as a city; but the district itself is called by 
the Arabians Diyar Mausil as well as Diyar al- J ezirah. 
II The bulk of the population is at this day Arabian, and that language 
is the general medium of communication amongst the inhabitants, what- 
ever their national origin or religion may be. 
3 This word, in some editions written J acolich, presents a striking 
example of the degree of corruption our author's text has unfortunately 
experienced, being no other than the title of Catholicos, by which the 
patriarchs of the Greek church in Georgia and Armenia are distinguished. 
The extent of their jurisdiction I am unable to ascertain, but suppose it 
embraces all the communities of the same sect, wherever situated. The 
Catholicos or Patriarch of Georgia, who was at the same time brother to 
the lVlahometan prince of the country, is mentioned by Chardin. 
4 The origin of the word " muslin," in French, " mousseline," and in 
Italian (from whence the others are borrowed), "mussolo e mussolino, 
sorta di tela bambagina, cosi detta dal nome del paese dove per 10 più si 
fabbrica," is here satisfactorily pointed out; but our author, if his editors 
have not misrepresented his meaning, includes under that denomination 
articles of a nature very different from that to which we apply the name. 
It is not, however, improbable that the city of Mosul, being at this time 
one of the greatest entrepôts of eastern commerce, and also itself a place 
of considerable manufacture, may have given the appellation to various 
productions of the loom conveyed from thence to the lVlediterranean, 
although in later days the word mussolino has been exclusively applied 
to the well-known Indian fabric or its imitations. When Ives, in the 
account of his journey, tells us that" this city's manufacture is rnussolen 

4 2 

1'ravels of Marco Po1o 

the manufacture of Mosul, and all the great merchants termed 
Mossulini, \vho convey spices and drugs, in large quantities, 
from one country to another, are from this province. In the 
mountainous parts there is a race of people named Kurds, 
some of whom are Christians of the Nestorian and Jacobite 
sects, and others Mahometans. They are all an unprincipled 
people, whose occupation it is to rob the merchants.! In the 
vicinity of this province there are places named Mus and 
Maredin, 2 where cotton is produced in great abundance, of 
which they prepare the cloths called boccasini, and many other 
fabrics. 1"'he inhabitants are manufacturers and traders, and 
are all subjects of the king of the Tartars. We shall now 
speak of the city of Baldach. 


BALDACH is a large city, heretofore the residence of the khalif3 
or pontiff of all the Saracens, as the pope is of all Christians. 
(a cotton cloth), which they make very strong and pretty fine, and sell 
for the European and other markets," it is evident that he does not de- 
scribe a cloth of the delicate or flimsy texture that we call muslin, but 
rather the kind that with us has acquired the name of calico, from the 
city of Calicut in the East Indies. 
1 Kurdistan, which formed the northern part of the ancient Assyria, 
is a mountainous region to the eastward of the Tigris, and immediately 
at the back of lVlosul, Nisibin, and Maredin. The inhabitants for the 
most part speak a corrupt dialect of Persian, but in their habits and 
manners resemble the Bedouin Arabs, and like them make a practice 
of robbing the caravans when not adequately protected. Cartwright 
terms them" a most thievish people; " and the accounts of all subse- 
quent travellers agree in describing them as systematical plunderers: a 
state of society that results from their local situation, being that of a 
mountainous tract which must necessarily be traversed in passing from 
one rich country to another. The principal articles of commerce in this 
country appear to be gall-nuts, cotton, and a species of silk called kas or 
kês, described by Niebuhr as growing on trees.-Voyage, tom. ll. p. 268. 
2 For an account of 1\1aredîn, a city of Mesopotamia, in the district of 
Diyar-Rabiah, see the Voyage par Niebuhr. He speaks of its manu- 
factures of flax and cotton. l\Iush i
 a town on the borders of Kurdistan 
and Armenia, between Bedlis and the Euphrates in the upper part of its 
3 The city .of Baghdâd was built by Abu J àfar al-l\lansur, second khalif 

The City ûf Baldach 


1\. great river flows through the midst of it, 1 by means of which 
the merchants transport their goods to and from the sea of 
India; the distance being computed at seventeen days' navi- 
ga tion, in consequence of the windings of its course. Those 
who undertake the voyage, after leaving the river, touch at a 
place named Kisi,2 from whence they proceed to sea: but pre- 
viously to their reaching this anchorage they pass a city named 
Balsara,3 in the vicinity of which are groves of palm-trees pro- 
ducing the best dates in the world. In Baldach there is a 
manufacture of silks wrought ,vith gold, and also of damasks, 
as well as of velvets ornamented with the figures of birds and 
beasts. 4 Almost all the pearls brought to Europe from India 
have undergone the process of boring, at this place. The 
Mahometan law is here re gularly stud ied , as are als o_magic, 
phy sics, asfronomy, geoma ñcy, and physiognomy. It is the 
noblest an d most extensive city to be found in this part of the 

of the Abbassite dynasty, about the year 765, and continued to be tne 
residence of his successors until the death of the last khalif of that race, 
in the year 1258, \vhen it fell under the dominion of the lVloghuls. 
1 This river is the Tigris, named Dijleh by the Arabs, which falls into 
the Euphrates, when their united streams acquire the appellation of 
Shat-al-arab, and discharge themselves into the Persian Gulf. The 
modem city of Baghdad stands on the eastern bank, and is connected 
with the suburb on the western side of the river by a bridge of boats; but 
on that side there are also found the ruins of buildings that belonged to 
the ancient city or seat of the khalifs; and our author is therefore correct 
in describing it as divided by the river in his time. Abulfeda speaks of 
it as occupying both banks of the Tigris. 
i Kisi, or Chisi in the Italian orthography, is a small island on the 
eastern side of the Gulf of Persia, named Kîs or Kês, to which the trade 
of Siraf, a port on the neighbouring continent, much celebrated by 
eastern geographers, was transferred; in consequence, as it may be pre- 
sumed, of wars in that quarter, and of injuries sustained by the mer- 
chants. The exact situation of the latter is not now pointed out by any 
3 Balsara, more commonly \vritten Balsora, but properly Basrah, is a 
city of great cornmercial importance, situated on the south-west side of 
the Shat-al-arab, about half-way between the point where the Euphrates 
and Tigris unite their streams, and the Persian Gulf. It lies, conse- 
quently, in the way (as our author remarks) of those who navigate from 
Baghdad to the island of Kîs. 
t It may be suspected that instead of " velluti" (velvets), we should 
here read " tappeti " (carpets), for the manufacture of which Persia has 
always been celebrated. With respect to the figures of animals, the 
Mahometans of the Shiah sect have never been strict, as those of the 
Sunni are known to be, in prohibiting the representation of them in their 
ornamental works. 


Travels of Marco Polo 



THE above-mentioned khalif, who is understood to have 
amassed greater treasures than had ever been possessed by any 
other sovereign, perished miserably under the following cir- 
cumstances. I At the period when the Tartar princes began 
to extend their dominion, there '\Tere amongst them four 
brothers, of whom the eldest, named Mangu, reigned in the 
royal seat of the family. Having subdued the country of 
Cathay, and other districts in that quarter, they were not 
satisfied, but coveting further territory, they conceived the 
idea of universal empire, and proposed that they should 
divide the world an10ngst them. With this object in view, it 
was agreed that one of them should proceed to the east, that 
another should make conquests in the south, and that the 
other two should direct their operations against the ren1aining 
quarters. The southern portion fell to the lot of Ulaù, who 
assembled a vast army, and having subdued the provinces 
through which his route lay, proceeded in the year 1255 to 
the attack of this city of Baldach. 2 Being aware, however, of 
its great strength and the prodigious number of its inhabi- 
tants, he trusted rather to stratagem than to force for its re- 
duction, and in order to deceive the enemy with regard to the 
number of his troops, which consisted of a hundred thousand 
horse, besides foot soldiers, he posted one division of his army 
on the one side, another division on the other side of the ap- 
proach to the city, in such a n1anner as to be concealed by a 
1 Mostasem Billah, the last of the Abbassite khalifs of Baghdad, began 
to reign in 1242, and was put to death in 1258. His character was that 
of a weak, indolent, voluptuous, and at the same time avaricious priIlce, 
who neglected the duties of his government, and committed them to the 
hands of a wicked minister, by whom he was at length betrayed to his 
mortal enemy. 
2 This date is given in the early Latin text. Marsden has 1250; but 
he observes that according to the most accurate oriental historians, it 
was not until the year 1255 that Hulagu (whom Haiton calls Haolanus 
or Haolo P. Gaubil Holayou, and our author Ula-u) crossed the Oxus. 
In 1256 he required Mostasem to assist him in the reduction of the 
Ismaelians, and in 1258 obtained possession of Baghdad. P. Gaubil, upon 
the authority of the Chinese annals, places this event in 1257. 

Baldach Captured by the Tartars 45 
\vood, and placing himself at the head of the third, advanced 
boldly to within a short distance of the gate. The khalif 
made light of a force apparently so incon
iderable, .and co.nfi- 
dent in the efficacy of the usual Mahometan eJaculatIon, 
thought of nothing less than its entire destruction, and for 
that purpose marched out of the city \vith his guards; but 
as soon as Ulaù perceived his approach, he feigned to retreat 
before him, until by this means he had drawn him beyond 
the wood where the other divisions were posted. By the 
closing of these from both sides, the army of the khalif was 
surrounded and broken, himself was made prisoner, and the 
city surrendered to the conquerer. Upon entering it, Ulaù 
discovered, to his great astonishment, a tower filled with 
gold. He called the kha1if before him, and after reproach- 
ing him with his avarice, that prevented him from en1ploying 
his treasures in the formation of an army for the defence of 
his capital against the po\verful invasion \vith which it had 
long been threatened, gave orders for his being shut up in 
this same to\ver, '\vithout sustenance; and there, in the midst 
of his wealth, be soon finished a miserable existence. 
I judge that our Lord Jesus Christ herein thought proper 
to avenge the wrongs of his faithful Christians, so abhorred 
by this khalif. From the time of his accession in 1225, his 
daily thoughts were employed on the means of converting to 
his religion those who resided \vithin his dominions, or, upon 
their refusal, in forming pretences for putting them to death. 
Consulting with his learned men for this purpose, they dis- 
covered a passage in the Gospel where it is said: "If ye have 
faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this moun- 
tain, Ren10ve hence to yonder place, and it shall remove," 
(upon prayer to that effect addressed to the Divine Majesty). 
and being rejoiced at the discovery, persuaded as he was that 
the thing was utterly impossible, he gave orders for assem- 
bling all the N estorian and Jacobite Christians \vho dwelt in 

aghdad, and who were very numerous. 
o these the ques- 
tion was propounded, whether they belIeved all that is 
asserted in the text of their Gospel to be true, or not. They 
made answer that it was true. "Then," said the khalif 
" if it be true, let us see which of you will give the proof of hi
faith; for certainly if there is not to be found one amongst you 
who possesses even so small a portion of faith in his Lord, as 
to be equal to a grain of mustard, I shall be justified in re- 
garding you, henceforth, as a wicked, reprobate, and faithless 

4 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

people. I allow you therefore ten days, before the expiration 
of which you must either, through the power of Him whom 
you worship, remove the mountain now before you, or em- 
brace the law of our prophet; in either of which cases you will 
be safe; but other\vise you must all expect to suffer the most 
cruel deaths." The Christians, acquainted as they were with 
his merciless disposi tion, as well as his eagerness to despoil 
them of their property, upon hearing these words, tren1bled 
for their lives j but nevertheless, having confidence in their 
Redeemer, that He would deliver them fron1 their peril, they 
held an assembly and deliberated on the course they ought to 
take. None other presented itself than that of imploring the 
Divine Being to grant then1 the aid of his mercy. To obtain 
this, every individual, great and small, prostrated himself 
night and day upon the earth, shedding tears profusely, and 
attending to no other occupation than that of prayer to the 
Lord. When they had thus persevered during eight days, a 
divine revelation came at length, in a dream, to a bishop of 
exemplary life, directing him to proceed in search of a certain 
shoemaker (whose nan1e is not known) having only one eye) 
whon1 he should summon to the mountain, as a person capable 
of effecting its removal, through the divine grace. Ha ving 
found the shoemaker and made him acquainted with the 
revelation, he replied that he did not feel himself worthy of 
the undertaking, his merits not being such as to entitle hinl 
to the reward of such abundant grace. Importuned, however, 
by the poor terrified Christians, he at length assented. It 
should be understood that he was a man of strict morals and 
pious conversation, having his mind pure and faithful to his 
God, regularly attending the celebration of the mass and other 
divine offices, fervent in works of charity, and rigid in the 
observance of fasts. It once happened to him, that a hand- 
some young woman who came to his shop in order to be fitted 
with a pair of slippers, in presenting her foot, accidentally 
exposed a part of her leg, the beauty of which excited in 
him a momentary concupiscence; but recollecting himself, he 
presently dismissed her, and caning to mind the words of the 
Gospel, where it is said, " If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out 
and cast it from thee; for it is better to enter the kingdom of 
God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell 
fire," he immediately, with an instrument of his trade, scooped 
out his right eye; evincing by that act, beyond all doubt, the 
excellence of his faith. 

The Christians Saved lVliraculously 47 
The appointed day being arrived, divine service was per- 
formed at an early hour, and a solemn proçession was made 
to the plain where the n10untain stood, the holy cross being 
borne in front. The khalif likewise, in the conviction of its 
proving a vain ceremony on the part of the Christians, chose 
to be present, accon1panied by a number of his guards, for 
the purposing of destroying them in the event of failure. Here 
the pious artisan, kneeling before the cross, and lifting up his 
hands to heaven, humbly besought his Creator that he would 
compassionately look down upon earth, and for the glory and 
excellence of his name, as well as for the support and confirma- 
tion of the Christian faith, would lend assistance to his people 
in the accon1plishment of the task imposed upon them, and 
thus manifest his power to the revilers of his law. Having 
concluded his prayer, he cried with a loud voice: "In the 
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I command thee, 
o mountain, to remove thyself!" Upon these words being 
uttered, the mountain moved, and the earth at the same time 
tren1bled in a wonderful and alarming manner. The khalif 
and all those by whom he was surrounded, were struck with 
terror, and remained in a state of stupefaction. Many of the 
latter became Christians, and even the khalif secretly em- 
braced Christianity, always wearing a cross concealed under 
his garment, which after his death was found upon him; and 
on this account it was that they did not entomb him in the 
shrine of his predecessors. In commemoration of this singu- 
lar grace bestowed upon them by God, all the Christians, 
Nestorians, and Jacobites, from that time forth have continued 
to celebrate in a solemn manner the return of the day on 
which the miracle took place; keeping a fast also on the vigil.1 


TAURIS is a large and very noble city belonging to the pro- 
vince of Irak, which contains many other cities and fortified 
1 The pretended miracle is here more minutely detailed than in other 
versions, and the Latin text states it to have taken place at Tauris, and 
not at Baghdad, although that "would have been inconsistent with the 
presence of the khalif. [The early Latin text says it occurred in 1275. 
U intp.I Baldach et Mesul; " and the French text agrees with it.] 

4 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

places, but this is the most eminent and most populous. 1 The 
inhabitants support themselves principally by commerce and 
manufactures, which latter consist of various kinds of silk, 
some of them interwoven with gold, and of high price. It is 
so advantageously situated for trade, that merchants from 
India, from Baldach, Mosul, Cremessor,2 as well as from dif- 
ferent parts of Europe, resort thither to purchase and to sell 
a number of articles. Precious stones and pearls in abun- 
dance may be procured at this place. 3 The merchants con- 
cerned in foreign commerce acquire considerable wealth, but 
the inhabitants in general are poor. They consist of a mixture 
of various nations and sects, N estorians, Armenians, J acobites, 
Georgians, Persians, and the followers of Mahomet, who form 
the bulk of the population, and are those properly called 
Taurisians. 4 Each description of people have their peculiar 
language. The city is surrounded with delightful gardens, 
producing the finest fruits. 5 The Mahometan inhabitants are 
treacherous and unprincipled. According to their doctrine, 
whatever is stolen or plundered from others of a different 
faith, is properly taken, and the theft is no crime; whilst 
those who suffer death or injury by the hands of Christians, 
are considered as martyrs. If, therefore, they were not pro- 

1 The city of Tauris, by the Persians and other orientals nained Tabriz, 
is situated in the province of Aderbijan, which borders on that of AI- 
J ebal, or the Persian lrak, and formed with it the ancient kingdom of 
Media. I t has been, at all periods, a place of great importance. Upon 
the conquest of Persia by the Moghuls, about the year 1255, it became 
the principal residence of Hulagu and his descendants, until the found- 
ing of Sultaniyah, in the beginning of the fourteenth century. 
2 Cren1essor, otherwise written Cremosor, Cormosa, Cremos, and 
Cormos, is no other than the famous city of Ormuz or Honlluz, by the 
ancients called I-Iarmuza, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf; of which 
there will be occasion to speak more particularly hereafter. Baldach, 
we have already seen, is the city of Baghdad. 
3 Chardin mentions a particular bazaar (" Ie plus beau de tous") for 
the sale of jewels, and other articles of extraordinary value. The pearls, 
both from the fisheries of Ceylon, and from Bahrein in the Gulf of Persia, 
appear to have been conveyed in the first instance to Baghdad, where 
they were polished and bored, and troin thence to the other markets of 
Asia and Europe, and particularly to Constantinople. 
4 These Persians, as distinguished from the Mahometans, must have 
been the original inhabitants of Farsistan, who retained the ancient 
religion of Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, the characteristic of which was the 
worship of fire, and whom (in their modern state of expatriation) we 
term Parsîs. They constitute at this time the most wealthy, as well as 
the most ingenious class of native inhabitants, living under the English 
protection at Bombay. 
&) Abulfeda praises its gardens; and the abundance and variety of its 
fruits are noticed by Chardin. 

The M011astery of Sail1t Barsamo 49 
hibited and restrained by the powers who now govern them,1 
they would commit many outrages. These principles are 
common to all the Saracens. When they are at the point of 
death, their priest attends upon then1, and asks whether they 
believe that Mahomet was the true apostle of God. If theIr 
answer be that they do believe, their salvation is assured to 
them; and in consequence of this facility of absolution, which 
gives free scope to the perpetration of everything flagitious, 
they have succeeded in converting to their faith a great pro- 
portion of the Tartars, who 
onsider it as relieving them from 
restraint in the commission of crimes. From Tauris to Persia 
is twelve days' journey.2 



NOT far from Tauris is a monastery that takes its name from 
the holy saint Barsamo,3 and is erri'inent for devotion. There 

 here an abbot and many monks , .F ha res emble_the ord ër 
of_ Cãrmelit es iñt he fashio n of their dress. That they may 
not lead a lifeof idleness, they-employ-themselves continually 
in the weaving of woollen girdles, which they place upon the 
altar of their saint during the celebration of divine service, 
and when they make the circuit of the provinces, soliciting 
alms (in the same manner as do the brethren of the order of 
the Holy Ghost), they present these girdles to their friends 
and to persons of distinction; being esteemed good for rheu- 
matic pains, on which account they are devoutly sought for 
by all ranks. 

1 That is, by their new lords, the Ivloghul Tartars. 
:I This must be understood of Persia Proper, Fars or Farsistall of 
which Persepolis was the ancient capital, as Shiraz is the modern' 'but 
he probably means the distance from Tauris to Kasbin, which he speaks 
of in the next chapter as the first city upon entering Persia. 
a This saint is no doubt St. Barsinlæus, bishop of Edessa in the second 


ravels of I\larco Polo 



PERSIA was anciently a large and noble province, but it is 
now a great part destroyed by the Tartars. In Persia there 
is a city which is called Saba, from whence were the three 
magi who came to adore Christ in Bethlehem; and the three 
are buried in that city in a fair sepulchre, and they are all 
three entire with their beards and hair. One was called Bal- 
dasar, the second Gaspar, and the third Melchior. Marco 
inquired often in that city concerning the three magi, and 
nobody could tell him anything about them, except that the 
three magi were buried there in ancient times. After three 
days' journey you come to a castle which is called Palasata, 
which means the castle of the fire-worshippers; and it is true 
that the inhabitants of that castle worship fire, and this 
is given as the reason. The men of that castle say, that 
anciently three kings of that country went to adore a certain 
king who was newly born, and carried with them three offer- 
ings, namely, gold, frankincense, and n1yrrh: gold, that they 
might know if he were an earthly king; frankincense, that 
they might know if he were God; and n1yrrh, that they 
might know if he were a mortal man. When these n1agi 
were presented to Christ, the youngest of the three adored 
him first, and it appeared to him that Christ was of his 
stature and age. The middle one came next, and then the 
eldest, and to each he seemed to be of their own stature and 
age. Having compared their observations together, they 
agreed to go all to worship at once, and then he appeared to 
them all of his true age. When they went away, the infant 
gave them a closed box, which they carried with them for 
several days, and then becoming curious to see what he had 
given them, they opened the box and found in it a stone, 
which was intended for a sign that they should remain as 
firm as a stone in the faith they had received from him. When, 
however, they saw the stone, they marveHed, and thinking 
themselves deluded, they threw the stone into a certain pit, 
and instantly fire burst forth in the pit. When they saw this, 
they repented bitterly of what they had done, and taking 
some of the fire with them they carried it home. And having 


Province of Persia 


placed it in one of their churches, they keep it continually 
burning, and adore that fire as a god, and make all their 
sacrifices with it; and if it happen to be extinguished, they 
go for more to the original fire in the pit where they threw the 
stone, which is never extinguished, and they take of none other 
fire. And therefore the people of that country worship fire. 
Marco wa
 told all this by the people of the country; and it 
is true that one of those kings was of Saba, and the second 
was of Dyava, and the third was of the castle.! Now we ,vill 
treat of the people of Persia and of their customs. 



IN Persia, which is a large province, there are eight kingdoms,2 
the names of which are as follows :-rrhe first \vhich you meet 
with upon entering the country is Kasibin; 3 the second, 

1 This story of the magi is no doubt of Eastern origin, as it does not 
coincide with the Western legends. In other manuscripts the name is 
written Kalasata-perinsta. The idea of a well ignited by celestial fire is 
obviously founded on the existence of burning ,yells or caverns in various 
parts of Asia, particularly at Baku, near the Caspian, and on the coast 
of Karamania, seen by Capt. Beaufort; but to the Persian scholar the 
name of the place will present the strongest criterion of veracity, as he 
must perceive that the words Kala sata-perinsta are intended for Kalàt 
percstân, or perhaps Kalah âtish perestân, literally, the" Castle of the 
fire-worshippers." The name of Saba, which is certainly not to be dis- 
covered among the towns of Persia, may be thought to have a reference 
to the doctrines of Sabaisln, so nearly connected with those of the Guebers. 
2 In the ordinary use of these terms, a kingdom is understood to con- 
sist of provinces; but upon the partition of the immense empire inherited 
by the descendants of J engiz-khan, the province assigned (as a fief) to 
each of his sons or grandsons comprehend what were, before his con- 
quests, independent kingdoms. 
a 'Upon entering Persian Irak from the side of Tauris, the first great 
city (Sultaniyah not being then built) is Kasbin, or more properly Kazvin, 
which has at different periods of its history been a royal residence. In 
the enumeration of these eight kingdoms, our author sometimes gives 
the name of the capital, as in this instance, and SOInetÏrnes that of the 
province or district, as in those which immediately follow. He seems to 
have written down or dictated the names as they occurred to his recollec- 
tion, without system, and with little regard to arrangement. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

lying towards the south (west), is Kurdistan; 1 the third is 
Lor; 2 towards the north, the fourth is Suolistan; 3 the fifth, 
Spaan; 4 the sixth, Siras ; 5 the seventh, Soncara; 6 the eighth, 
Timocain,7 which is at the extremity of Persia. All these 
kingdoms lie to the south, excepting Timocain, and this is to 

1 We 
hou1d not. have expected to find Kurdistan, which belonged to 
the anCIent AssyrIa, sta
ed as one .of the component parts of Persia, 
although many parts of It have at tImes been brought under subjection 
to that monarchy; nor, if included, can it be said to lie to the south. 
It may, indeed, be conjectured that Khuristan (often written Khuzistan) 
the ancient Susiana, situated at the head of the Persian gulf, and conse: 
quently south from Kazvin, and not Kurdistan, which lies to the west 
is the district intended. "Churestan, ait 01 Muschtarek, etiam Chuzes: 
tan appellatur. Est ampla provincia, multas urbes tenens, inter AI 
Basram et Persiam."-Abulfedæ Geographia. 
j If the former place be meant for l{huristan, Lôr or Lûr may with 
propriety be said to lie to the north of it, although with respect to Kazvin 
and Persia in general, it is a southern province. "Il ne faut pas con: 
fondre," says D'Herbelot, " Ie pays de Lor avec celui de Lar ou Laristan, 
qui s'étend Ie long du gulfe Persique. Celui de Lor ou Lour est mon- 
tagneux, et dépendoit autrefois de la province nommée Kouzistan, qui 
est l'ancienne Susiane."-Biblioth. Orient. 
a Of Suolistan it would be difficult to form any conjecture; but finding 
the name, in other versions, written Cielstam, Ciliestam, and in the early 
Italian epitome, Ciestan, I have little doubt of its being intended for 
Sejestan, also written Siyestan, a province which lies in the eastern 
quarter of Persia. 
'The city of Spaan, Spahan, or Ispahan, by the Arabians called 
Isfahan, situated in the southern part of Persian Irak, is well known as 
the magnificent capital of the kings of the Sefi family, which, especially 
during the reign of Shah Abbas II., exceeded in splendour, as well as 
extent, most Asiatic cities. It fell under the dominion of the l\-1oghuls 
in 1221, and was taken, plundered, and nearly destroyed by Tamerlane 
in 1387. 
5 Shiraz, the capital of Fars or Persia proper, and, at some periods, of 
the Persian empire, is also too well known, by the description of travellers, 
to render it necessary to say more bere than that it ranks next to Ispahan 
amongst the royal cities. 
8 This much corrupted name, which is Soncara in Ramusio's text, 
Socham in that of the Basle edition, Sontara in the earlier Latin, Concara 
in the B. M., and Soncara (according to Müller) in the Berlin manuscript, 
Corcata in the Italian epitomes, and Corchara in the old English version, 
is the Korkan or Gurkan of eastern geographers, and evidently connected 
with the Hyrcania of the ancients. Its situation is at the south-eastern 
extremity of the Caspian, north of the Damaghan range and of the pro- 
vince of Kumis or Comisene. 
., However distant the resemblance of the names may be thought, 
Timocain (which in the Basle edition is Tymochaim, and in the older 
Latin Thymachaym) is undoubtedly intended for Damaghân, the capital 
of th
 small province of Kumis, in the north-eastern quarter of Persia. 
By J osaphat Barbaro, the Venetian ambassador to that court, it is called 
Tremigan. and by our countryman, Thomas Herbert, Diurgument: but 
this we find was not his own corruption; for in one of the letters of 
Pietro della 'Valle he complains of this abuse and uncertainty in the 
names of places: 1, Come per essempio, 
l Dié1f"g
ment, che l'Epitome 
Geografica dice esser nome moderno dell Hrrcanla. 

Products of Persia 


the north, near the place called Arbor Secco. l The country 
is distinguished for its excellent breed of horses, many of which 
are carried for sale to India, and bring high prices, not less in 
general than two hundred livres tournois. 2 I t produces also 
the largest and handsomest breed of asses in the world, which 
sell (on the spot) at higher prices than the horses, because they 
are more easily fed, are capable of carrying heavier burthens, 
and travel further in the day than either horses or mules, 
which cannot support an equal degree of fatigue. The 
merchants, therefore, who in travelling from one province to 
another are obliged to pass extensive deserts and tracts of sand, 
where no kind of herbage is to be met with, and where, on ac- 
count of the distance between the wells or other \vatering 
places, it is necessary to make long journeys in the course of 
the day, are desirous of providing themselves with asses in 
preference, as they get sooner over the ground and require a 
smaller allowance of food. Camels also are employed here, 
and these in like manner carry great weights and are main- 
tained at little cost, but they are not so swift as the asses. 
The traders of these parts convey the horses to Kisi,3 to 
Ormus, and to other places on the coast of the Indian sea, 
where they are purchased by those who carry them to India. 
In consequence, however, of the greater heat of that country, 
they do not last many years, being natives of a temperate 
climate. In some of these districts, the people are savage and 
bloodthirsty, making a common practice of wounding and 
murdering each other. They would not refrain from doing 
injury to the merchants and travellers, were they not in terror 
of the eastern Tartars,4 who cause them to be severely 
punished. A regulation is also established, that in all roads 
where danger is apprehended, the inhabitants shall be obliged, 
1 The district to which the appellation of Arbor Secco was given has 
already been adverted to, and will be found more particularly mentioned 
in a subsequent chapter. 
S The excellence of the Persian horses, for which they may perhaps be 
indebted to the mixture of the Arabian and the Turki breed, is well 
known. A detailed account of their qualities is given by Chardin (tom. 
ll. chap. viii. p. 25, 4to); and also by lVlalcolm (Hist. of Persia, vol. ü. 
p. 516). As the livre tournois, in the fourteenth century, was at the pro- 
portionate value of twenty-five to one livre of the present times, it 
follows that the price at which the Persian horse sold in India was from 
fifteen hundred to two thousand rupees. 
8 l{isi or Chisi has been shown (p. 43, note,) to be the island of Kîs or 
Kês, to which the trade of Siraf, in the Persian gulf, was removed. Of 
the celebrated port of Onnuz, there will be occasion to speak hereafter. 
& By "the eastern Tartars" are meant the IVloghul Tartars, who 
entered Persia from the eastern side of the Caspian. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

upon the requisition of the merchants, to provide active and 
trusty conductors for their guidance and security, bet,veen 
one district and another j who are to be paid at the rate of t\VO 
or three groats 1 for each loaded beast, according to the dis- 
tance. They are all followers of the l\'lahometan religion. 
In the cities, however, there are Inerchants and numerous 
artisans, who manufacture a variety of stuffs of silk and gold. 2 
Cotton grows abundantly in this country, as do wheat, barley,3 
millet, and several other sorts of grain; together with grapes 
and every species of fruit. Should anyone assert that the 
Saracens do not drink wine, being forbidden by their law, 
it may be answered that they quiet their consciences on 
this point by persuading themselves that if they take the 
precaution of boiling it over the fire, by which it is partly 
consumed and becomes sweet, they may drink it without 
infringing the commandment; for having changed its taste, 
they change its name, and no longer call it wine, although it is 
such in fact. 4 

1 The Italian grossi, or groats, were a small silver coin, which have 
differed in weight and value at different periods. 
2 " J e ne parlerai point," says Chardin, "d'une infinité de sortes 
d'étoffes de soye pure, ni des étoffes de soye avec du coton. . . . J e 
ne parlerai que de leurs brocards. Us appellent Ie brocard Zerbafe, 
c'est-à-dire, tissure d'or. . . . 11 ne se fait point d'étoffe si chère par 
tout Ie monde." (tom. ii. p. 86, 4to.) Pottinger, speaking of the manu- 
factures of Kashan, says: "Its staples are copper-ware, carpets, and 
coloured and flowered silks, which latter are exquisitely beautiful. I 
purchased some of them made in scarfs, in imitation of the richest Kash- 
meer shawls."-Travels in Beloochistan, p. 244. 
3 \Vhea t grows in the northern provinces of Persia, and also in the 
southern, although less commonly. "Barley," says n'Ialcolm, "is often 
sold in Persia at one farthing per pound, and wheat is not on the average 
more than a third of the price dearer than barley."-Hist. of Persia, vol. 
ii. p. 519. 
'The practice of boiling wine is known to be common amongst the 
eastern people, but whether the motive for it here assigned be the true 
one, or whether we should not rather conclude that they prefer the taste, 
may be doubted. The Persians have always been less strict than the 
other more orthodox Mahometans, in regard to indulgence in wine; and 
Pietro della Valle mentions two ordinances of Shah Abbas; the one for- 
bidding the use of it, which shows that the religious precept had failed 
of its effect; and a second annulling the prohibition, upon his finding 
that the people, and especially the soldiers, had substituted for wine a 
liquid preparation of opium, by which their health was injured. 

The City of Yasdi 




Y ASDI is a considerable city on the confines of Persia, where 
there is much traffic. 1 A species of cloth of silk and gold 
manufactured there is known by the appellation of Yasdi, 
and is carried from thence by the merchants to all parts of 
the world. 2 Its inhabitants are of the Mahometan religion. 
Those who travel from that city, employ eight days in passing 
over a plain, in the course of which they meet with only three 
places that afford accommodatioll. 3 The road lies through 
extensive groves of the date-bearing palm, in which there 
is abundance of game, as well beasts as partridges and quails; 
and those travellers who are fond of the amusements of the 
chase, may here enjoy excellent sport. Wild asses 4 are like- 
wise to be met with, very numerous and handsome. At the 
end of eight days you arrive at a kingdom named Kierman. 5 
1 Yezd is the most eastern city of the province of Fars or Persia Proper. 
Captain Christie, by whom it was visited in 1810, describes it as " a very 
large and populous city, situated on the edge of a sandy desert, contigu- 
ous to a range of mountains running east and west." "It is celebrated," 
he observes, " by all merchants, for the protection afforded to speculators, 
and the security of its inhabitants and their property. It is the grand 
mart between Hindoostan, Khorasan, Bagdad, and Persia, and is said 
to be a place of greater trade than any other in the latter empire."- 
Trav. in Beloochistan, App. p. 421. 
2 D'Herbelot observes that " les étoffes de soye qu'on y travaille, et 
que ron appelle en Turc et en Persan comasche Yezdi, la rendent fort 
marchande." In the Melnoirs of Abdulkurrim, also, 'we read of a dona- 
tion made to an ambassador, by Nadir Shah, consisting of twenty-five 
pieces of Yezdy brocade. 
S This is usually named the Desert of Kirman. 
'We read of wild asses delivered as presents, and consequently as 
curiosities, to Shah Abbas, and other kings of Persia. Rennell observes 
that" the wild asses remarked by Xenophon for their swiftness, bear 
much the same character at present. Texeira in 1606 saw herds of them 
in the Arabian desert, immediately opposite to the desert of Mesopotamia, 
where Xenophon saw them."-Illustrations, p. 100. 
l) The distance between Yezd and the capital of Kirman is about one 
hundred and sixty geographical miles, which would be at the rate of 
twenty miles per day. But the average travelling rate of a light cara- 
van, as deduced by Major Rennell, is only fifteen to fifteen and a half, 
with camels, or seventeen to eighteen with mules; when on long journeys. 
It may, indeed, be understood that the desert alone, exclusive of some 
portion of cultivated country, employed eight days. Some of the manu- 
scripts have seven days. 


Travels of Marco Polo 



KIERMAN is a kingdom on the eastern confines. of Persia,! 
which was formerly governed by its own monarchs, in here- 
ditary succession; but since the Tartars have brought it under 
their dominion, they appoint governors to it at their pleasure. 
In the mountains of this country are found the precious 
stones that we call turquoises. 2 There are also veins of 
steel 3 and of antimony 4 in large quantities. They manu- 
facture here in great perfection all the articles necessary for 
1 Kirmân is a province of Persia, situated at the south-eastern ex- 
tremity of that kingdom. Its capital city appears to be most usually 
called by the same name, but is also known by that of Sirgan, as the word 
is pronounced by the Persians, or Sirjan, as pronounced by the Arabs. 
" The city of Kirman," says Pottinger, 'c is situated on the western side 
of a capacious plain, so close to the mountains, that two of them, on 
which there are ancient decayed forts, completely comma...T}d it. It was 
once the most flourishing in Persia, and in size was second to none, except 
the capital, Isfahan. . .. No city in the East has been more subject 
to reverses of fortune, or oftener the scene of the most destructive wars, 
both foreign and domestic, than Kirman."-P. 222. It would seem 
that our author did not consider Kirman as being, in his time, an integral 
part of Persia, from his not including it amongst the eight provinces or 
kingdoms which he enumerates; and in this light also it was held by 
Edrisi, who wrote in the twelfth century, and says, " Et verò terra Kar- 
man interjacet terræ Persia et terræ Mecran."-P. I29. 
I " La plus riche mine de Perse," says Chardin, U est celIe des tur- 
quoises. On en a en deux endroits, à Nichapour en Carasson, et dans 
une montagne qui est entre l'Hyrcanie et la Parthide, à quatre journées 
de la Mer Caspienne, nommée Phirous-cou."-Tom. ii. p. 24, 4tO. "In 
these mountains," says Malcolm, speaking of Nishapore, U the Ferouzah 
or turquoise stone is found."-Hist. of Persia, vol. ll. p. 220, note. 
3 U Les mines de fer," says Chardin, "sont dans l'Hyrcanie, dans la 
lVlédie septentrionale, au pais des Parthes, et dans la Bactriane. Les 
mines d'acier se trouvent dans les mêmes pais, et y produisent beau- 
coup."-P. 23. He then proceeds to describe its particular qualities, 
and to compare it with the steel of India. 
4 The word" andanico" of Ramusio's text, or " andanicum U of the 
Basle edition, is not to be found in any dictionary; nor have preceding 
translators attempted to render it by any corresponding tenn, but have 
let the word stand as they found it in their copy. I should not, from any 
resemblance of sound, have hazarded the conjecture of its b
ing intende? 
for U antimonio; " but learnin.g from the travels. of Chard
 that ar: tI - 
nlony is the produce of countnes on the eastern sIde of PersIa, of WhICh 
our author here speaks, I consider the probability of such a corrup- 
tion as having some weigh t. 

TJ-le Kingdoln of Kierman 


warlike equipment, such as saddles, bridles, spurs, swords, 
bows, quivers, and every kind of arms in use amongst these 
people. The women and young persons work with the needle, 
in embroideries of silk and gold, in a variety of colours and 
patterns, representing birds and beasts, \vith other ornamental 
devices. 1 These are designed for the curtains, coverlets, and 
cushions of the -sleeping places of the rich; and the work is 
executed with so much taste and skill as to be an object of 
adlniration. In the mountainous parts are bred the best 
falcons that anywhere take wing. Th
 y are_smaller than the 
peregrine falcon; reddish about the breast, belly, and under'\.\ 
the il; _ and their fl ight issoswift th
no bi rd can escape '"' 
them. Upon leaving Kierman, you travel for se ve n days 
along a plain, by a pleasant road, and rendered still more de-
lightful by the abundance of partridges and other game. 2 
You also meet frequently with towns and castles, as well as "V 
scattered habitations; until at length you arrive at a moun- 
tain whence there is a considerable descent, which occupies 
two days. Fruit trees are found there in great numbers; the 
district having formerly been peopled, though at present \vith- 
out inhabitants, except herdsmen alone, who are seen attend- 
ing the pasturing of their cattle. In that part of the country 
which you pass before you reach the descent, the cold is so 
severe that a man can with difficulty defend himself against 
it by wearing many garments and pelisses. 3 
1 " I learn," says Pottinger, " from a manuscript history of the con- 
quest of M ukran, in the ninetieth year of the hijree, that Kinnan was 
then a very extensive city, full of riches, and celebrated for the excellence 
of the shawls and arms made in it."-P. 222. "The trade of Kirman, 
though still considerable, has never revived in a manner to be compared 
to what it was previous to its last depopulation. . . . Its manufac- 
tures of shawls, matchlocks, and numuds or felts, are celebrated allover 
Asia, and are said to afford emploYlnent to upwards of one-third of the 
inhabitants, whether male or female."-P. 225. 
2 " Les perdrix de Perse," says Chardin, "sont, comme je crois, les 
pluns grosses perdrix du monde et du goût Ie plus excellent."-P. 30. 
8 The road from the city of Kirman towards the Persian Gulf, here 
described, probably lay through the town of Barn or Bumln, which stands 
near the boundary line between what are considered as the cold and the 
warm regions of Kirman. "The province of Nurmansheer," says Pot- 
tinger, "extends from the waste dividing it from Beloochistan to the 
city of Bumm. . . . Its boundary to the westward is the province of 
Kirman, of 'which, I believe, it is now deemed a component district; to 
the eastward it has the desert, as already mentioned; and, north and 
south, two ranges of moun
ains, the last of which are by much the highest 
and I imagine, at all seasons, crowned with snow, as they were when i 
saw them, at which period it was exceedingly hot in the plain beneath." 
-Po 199. These appear to be the mountains of Maren, which, says Ibn 
Haukal, U belong to the cold region of Kirrnan; snow falls on them." 
-Po I4I. 


Travels of lVlarco Polo 



AT the end of the descent of this mountain, you arrive at a 
plain that extends, in a southern direction, to the distance of 
five days' journey; at the commencement of which there is a 
town named Kamandu,l formerly a very large place and of 
much consequence, but not so at this day, having been re- 
peatedly laid waste by the Tartars. The neighbouring district 
is called Reobarle. 2 The temperature of the plain is very 
warm. It produces wheat, rice, and other grains. On that 
p art of it w hich lies nearest to the hills, dates, pomegranates, 
qu i nces, and a variëtjõ f o tner fiuits,giõW; aIhóngst which is 
one called Adäïñ's_ a pp le,3 not kno wn in o ur cool-cli ma te. 
Turtle-doves are found here in vast numb ers, occasioned by 
the plenty of small fruits which supply them with food, and 
their not been eaten by the Mahometans, who hold them 
in abomination. 4 There are likewi se man y pheasants and 
f rancolins, which latter do not resemble th ose of other coun- 
t The geography of the country lying between t he cap ital of the pro- 
vince of Kirman and the Persian Gulf is very imperfectly known; and 
even Pottinger's map, the most modern we possess, exhibits but one 
solitary name in that tract, although the chains of hills are there laid 
down with an appearance of precision. I t is difficult therefore to ascer- 
tain the place intended by Kamandu (in the B. 1\1. and Berìin manu- 
scripts, Camandi, and in the Italian epitomes, Edgamad), even if there 
were grounds to believe that this town, which had lost its consequence 
before our author's time, is still in existence. It may perhaps be the 
Memaun of D' Anville's map, which is called l\rlahân by Ibn Haukal, or 
else the Koumin of the latter: but these are offered as mere conjectures. 
2 Reobarle is obviously meant for Rud-bâr, a descriptive term applied, 
in numerous instances, to towns or districts in Persia and the neighbour- 
ing countries. It signifies" a river in a valley, the channel of a torrent, 
and also a place where many streams run; " and the district here spoken 
of as answering that description, would seeln from the circumstances to 
have occupied the banks of the river which in D' Anville's and IYlalcolm's 
maps bears the name of Div Rud, and must be crossed in the way from 
Kirman or Ormuz. 
3 Pomus Adami is a name that has been given to the fruit called pumple- 
nose shaddock, or citrus decumanus of Linnæus; but here it may prob- 
ably' be intended for the orange itself, or ponzurn aurantium, named by 
the Arabians and Persians naranj. 
'This objection to the flesh of doves, as food, may have been a local 
prejudice; for it does not appear that they are generally regarded as au 
unclean meat by a l\1ahometan. 

Zoology of Persia 


t ries, !þ eir colour being a mixture of white and black with red 
legs and beak. 1 Among the cattle also there are some of an 
uncommon kind, particularly a species of large white oxen, 
with short, smooth coats (the effect of a hot climate), horns 
short, thick, and obtuse, and having between the shoulders a 
gibbous rising or hump, about the height of two palms. 2 They 
are beautiful animals, and being very strong are made to 
carry great weights. Whilst loading, they are accustomed to 
kneel down like the camel, and then to rise up with the bur- 
then. We find here also sheep that are equal to the ass in size, 
with long and thick tails, weighing thirty pounds and upwards, 
which are fat and excellent to eat. 3 In this province there 
are many towns encompassed with lofty and thick walls of 
earth, 4 for the purpose of defending the inhabitants against 

1 The tetrao /rancol'tnus, or francoline partridge of the Levant, has red 
legs and beak, as here described. Dr. Russell calls it Irancoli1
us olinæ, 
" known to the French by the nan1e of gelinot (gélinotte)." The flesh, 
he says, is delicious, but the bird is not to be met with at less than a 
day's journey from the city.-(Nat. Hist. of Aleppo.) 
t This species of ox, commonly employed at Surat and other places on 
the \vestern coast of India, in drawing the carriages called hakkries, was 
probably introduced troin thence to the eastern provinces of Persia. It 
has been described by many writers, and among others by Niebuhr. 
See Voyage en Arabie, etc. tom. ii. p. 52. tab. xii. 
8 This extraordinary breed of sheep (ovis laticaudata) is a native of 
various parts of Asia and Africa, and has been often described. In the 
Natural History of Aleppo, the following circumstantial account of it is 
given, with a plate :-" They have two sorts of sheep," says Russell, 
" in the neighbourhood of Aleppo: the one called Beduin sheep, which 
differ in no respect from the larger kinds of sheep in Britain, except that 
their tails are somewhat longer and thicker: the others are those often 
mentioned by travellers on account of their extraordinary tails; and this 
species is by much the most numerous. This tail is very broad and 
large, terminating in a small appendage that turns back upon it. It is 
of a substance between fat and marrow, and is not eaten separately, but 
mixed with the lean meat in many of their dishes, and also often used 
instead of butter. A common sheep of this sort, without the head, feet, 
skin and entrails, weighs about twelve or fourteen Aleppo rotoloes (of 
five pounds), of which the tail is usually three rotoloes or upwards; but 
such as are of the largest breed and have been fattened, will sometimes 
weigh above thirty rotoloes, and the tails of these, ten (or fifty pounds); 
a thing to some scarce credible. These very large sheep being, about 
Aleppo, Itept up in yards, are in no danger of injuring their tails; but in 
some other places, where they feed in the fields, the shepherds are obliged 
to fix a piece of thin board to the under part of the tail, to prevent its 
being torn by bushes, thistles, etc.; and some have small wheels, to 
facilitate the dragging of this board after theIn; whence, with a little 
exaggeration, the story of having carts to carry their tails."-P. 51. 
Chardin's account of " les Inoutons à grosse queüe," of Persia, whose 
tails, he says, weigh thirty pounds, corresponds exactly with the above. 
'Frequent mention is nlade by Hamilton of these mud entrench- 
ments. "The Ballowches," he says, " appeared near the town of Gom- 
broon, on a swift In arch towards it, which scared the (Persian) governor 


Travels of Marco Polo 

the incursions of the Karaunas, who scour the country and 
plunder every thing ,vithin their reach. 1 In order that the 
reader may understand what people these are, it is necessary 
to mention that there was a prince named Nugodar, the 
nephew of Zagatai, who was brother of the Grand Khan 
(Oktai), and reigned in Turkestan. 2 This Nugodar, whilst 
living at Zagataï's court, became ambitious of being himself 
a sovereign, and having heard that in India there was a pro- 
vince called Malabar,3 governed at that time by a king named 
so much, that, although there was an high mud wall between him and 
them, he got on horseback and fled. . . . The Ballowches came first 
to the west quarter of the town, where our factory stands, and soon made 
passages through the mud walls."-New Account of the East Indies, vol. 
i. p. 108. " The village of Bunpoor," says Pottinger, " is small and ill- 
built: it has been at one time surrounded by a low mud wall, with smaU 
bastions at intervals; but the whole is now gone to decay."-Travels in 
Beloochistan and Sinde, p. 1:76. 
1 The early La tin text calls them " Scarani et Malandrini." The Ka- 
raunas we may presume to be the inhabitants of Makrân, a tract of 
country extending from the vicinity of the Indus towards the Persian 
Gulf, and which takes its name from the word karána, signifying a cc shore, 
coast, or border." They appear to differ little from the neighbouring 
people of Balûchistan, if they be not in fact the same race; and what 
our author states of them is a faithful picture of the predatory habits 
ascribed to the latter. "The Boloujes," says Ibn Haukal, U are in 
the desert of Mount Kefes, and Kefes in the Parsi language is Kouje; 
and they call these two people Koujes and Boloujes. The Boloujes are 
people who dwell in the desert; they infest the roads, and have not 
respect for any person."-P. 140. Of the habits of this people we have 
the most particular account in the journal of Lieut. Pottinger, who says, 
" The Nharooés are the most savage and predatory class of Belooches; 
and whilst they deem private theft dishonourable and disgraceful in the 
extreme, they contemplate the plunder and devastation of a country 
with such opposite sentiments, that they consider it an exploit deserving 
of the highest commendation; and steeled by that feeling, they will 
individually recount the assistance they have rendered on such occasions, 
the numbers of men, women, and children they have made captives and 
carried away or murdered, the villages they have burned and plundered, 
and the flocks they have slaughtered when unable to drive them off." 
-P.58. cc We are now in Mukran," said a native of Beloochistan to the 
same traveller, U where every individual is a robber by caste, and where 
they do not hesitate to plunder brothers and neighbours."-P. 139. 
I Nikodar Oghlan was the son of H ulagu, and grand nephew of J agatai; 
he succeeded his brother Abaka in the throne of Persia, by the name of 
Ahmed Khan, and was the first of his family who made public profession 
of Mahometanism. If the Nikodar, who pushed his fortune, as we are 
here told, on the side of India, did actually visit the court of J agataï, 
who died in 1240, he must have belonged to the preceding generation, as 
it was not until 1282 that Ahmed Khan Nikodar became the sovereign 
of Persia, and forty-two years is an interval too great to admit of our 
supposing him to have been the eastern adventurer. There may have 
been an earlier Nikodar amongst the numerous grandsons of Jengiz-khan, 
and in fact the consistency of the story requires that the event should 
have taken place long before our author's time. 
3 I must here be indulged in a conjecture, wbi
h, however bold it may 
seem. will be justified by the sequel: that instead of Malabar or Malawar 

Conquest of Delhi 


As-idin Sultan, l which had not yet been brought under the 
dominion of the Tartars, he secretly collected a body of about 
ten thousand men, the most profligate and desperate he could 
find, and separating himself from his uncle without giving him 
any intimation of his designs, proceeded through Balashan 2 
to the kingdom of Kesmur,3 where he lost many of his people 
and cattle, from the difficulty and badness of the roads, and 
at length entered the province of Malabar. 4 Coming thus 
upon As-idin by surprise, he took from him by force a city 
called Dely, as well as many others in its vicinity, and there 
began to reign. 6 The Tartars whom he carried thither, and 
who were men of a light complexion, mixing with the dark 
Indian women, produced the race to whom the appellation of 
Karaunas is given, signifying, in the language of the country, 
a mixed breed; 6 and these are the people who have since been 
(as it is often written) the word should be, and was in the original, Laha- 
war, or, as commonly pronounced, Lahore; for through this province, 
and certainly not through Malabar, this adventurer must necessarily have 
passed in his way to Delhi. 
1 Azz-eddin, Ghiyas-eddin, and Moazz-eddin, with the addition of 
Sultân, were common titles of the Patan sovereigns of Delhi, as well as 
of the princes who governed the provinces of their empire. 
S Badakhshan, near the sources of the Oxus, lies on that side of J agatai's 
country which is nearest to the heads of the Indus and Ganges, and con- 
sequently in the line of march towards Delhi. 
a Kesmur cari be no other than Kashmir, which lies in the direction 
from Badakhshan towards Lahore, Sirhind, and the capital. The more 
comnlon route is by Kabul, but the object of this petty invader was, to 
keep amongst the mountains, and thereby conceal his intentions. 
'Here it becomes perfectly obvious, that the country into which he 
penetrated upon leaving Kashmir was the Panjâb, of which Lahawar or 
Lahore is the principal city. 
i We do not read in any native historian, of this conquest of Delhi by 
the l\Ioghul Tartars, antecedent to the invasion by Tamerlane. But we 
learn from the History of Hindustan, as translated by Dow from the 
text of Ferishta, that Moazz-eddin Byram Shah, king of Delhi, whose 
reign began in 1239 and ended in 1242, was involved in troubles with his 
vizir and principal omrahs, by whom a mutiny was excited amongst his 
troops. At this crisis, "news arrived that the Moghuls of the great 
Zingis had invested Lahore; that IVlalek, the viceloy of that place, find- 
ing his troops mutinous, had been obliged to flee in the night, and was 
actually on his way to Delhi; and that Lahore was plundered by the 
enemy, and the miserable inhabitants carried away prisoners." H The 
vizir, in the meantime, advanced with the army to the capital, which he 
besieged for three months and a half. Rebellion spreading at last among 
the citizens, the place was taken in the year 1241. Byram was thrown 
into prison, where, in a few days, he came to a tragical end. The l'vloghtùs 
after plundering the provinces on the banks of the five branches of the 
Indus, returned to Ghizni." Thus we perceive that at the very period 
in question, which was a little before or after the death of J agatai in 1240, 
an army of Moghuls did advance into provinces subject to the king of 
Delhi, and plundered his frontier cities. 
e One of the meanings of the Sanskrit word karana is, cc a person of a 
Inixed breed." 


Travels of Marco Polo 

in the practice of committing depredations, not only in the 
country of Reobarle, but in every other to which they have 
access. In India they acquired the knowledge of magical 
and diabolical arts, by means of which they are enabled to pro- 
duce darkness, obscuring the light of day to such a degree, that 
persons are invisible to each other, unless within a very small 
distance. 1 Whenever they go on their preda tory excursions, 
they put this art in practice, and their approach is conse- 
quently not perceived. Most frequently this district is the 
scene of their operations; because when the merchants from 
various parts assemble at Ormus, and wait for those who are 
on their ,vay from India, they send, in the winter season, their 
horses and mules, ,vhich are out of condition from the length of 
their journey, to the plain of Reobarle, where they find abun- 
dance of pasture and become fat. The Karaunas, aware that 
this will take place, seize the opportunity of effecting a general 
pillage, and make slaves of the people who attend the cattle, 
if they have not the means of ramsom. Marco Polo himself 2 
was once enveloped in a factitious obscurity of this kind, but 
escaped from it to the castle of Konsalmi. 3 Many of his com- 
panions, however, were taken and sold, and others were put to 
death. These people have a king named Corobar. 
1 The belief in such supernatural agency was the common weakness of 
the darker ages. Although the appearance and effects are materially 
different, it may be suspected that there is some connexion between this 
story of mists produced by enchantment, and the optical deception 
noticed by Elphinstone, in his journey across what may be considered as 
an extension of the same desert, notwithstanding the separation of its 
parts by the country through which the Indus takes its course. "To- 
wards evening," he says, " many persons were astonished with the ap- 
pearance of a long lake, enclosing several little islands. . . . It was, 
however, only one of those illusions which the French call mirage, and 
the Persians sirraub. I had imagined this phenomenon to be occasioned 
by a thin vapour (or something resembling a vapour), which is seen over 
the ground in the hot \veather in India, but this appearance was entirely 
different, and, on looking along the ground, no vapour whatever could be 
perceived. . . . I shall not attempt to account for this appearance, 
but shall merely remark, that it seems only to be found in level, smooth, 
and dry places."-Account of Caubul, p. 16. 
2 The story may amount to nothing more than that these robbers, 
having their haunts in the neighbourhood of mountains, availed them- 
selves of the opportunity of thick mists, to make their attacks on the 
caravans with the more security; whilst their knowledge of the country 
enabled them to occupy those narrow defiles through which the travellers 
roust unavoidably pass. 
8 This castle of Konsahni, or, according to another reading, Kanosalim, 
is not now to be discovered in our maps, but it may be remarked that the 
Persian words Khanah aI-salam signify, " the house of safety, or peace." 
" A small but neat tower," says Elphinstone, " was seen in this march 
(through the desert), and we were told it was a place of refuge for 
travellers, against the predatory hordes who infest the route of cara- 
vans."-P. 17. 

Description of HormllZ 




AT the extremity of the plain before mentioned as extending 
in a southern direction to the distance of five days' journey, 
there is a descent for about twenty miles, by a road that is 
extremely dangerous, from the multitude of robbers, by whom 
travellers are continually assaulted and plundered. 1 This 
declivity conducts you to another plain, very beautiful in its 
appearance, two days' journey in extent, which is called the 
plain of Ormus. Here you cross a number of fine streams, 
and see a country covered with date-palms, amongst ,vhich 
are found the francoline partridge, birds of the parrot kind, 
and a variety of others unknown to our climate. At length 
you reach the border of the ocean, where, upon an island, at 
no great distance from the shore, stands a city named Ormus,2 
1 " In the mountains near Hormuz, it is said, there is much cultivated 
land, and cattle, and many strong places. On every mountain there is 
a chief, and they have an allowance from the sultan or sovereign; yet 
they infest the roads of Kirman, and as far as the borders of Fars and 
Sejestan. They commit their robberies on foot; and it is said that their 
race is of Arabian origin, and that they have accumulated vast wealth." 
-Sir \V. Ouseley's transl. of Ibn Haukal, p. 140. 
2 The original city of Ormuz, or Hormûz, was situated on the eastern 
shore of the Gulf of Persia, in the province of i\1ogostan, and kingdom of 
Kinnan. Ibn Haukal, about the latter part of the tenth century, speaks 
evidently of this city, on the main, when he says: "Hormuz is the 
emporium of the merchants in Kirman, and their chief sea-port: it has 
mosques and market-places, and the merchants reside in the suburbs." 
-Po 142. It was destroyed by one of the princes who reigned in Kirman, 
of the Seljuk dynasty, according to some accounts, or the J.\tloghul, accord- 
ing to others. The exact period is not satisfactorily ascertained. On 
this occasion, the inhabitants removed, with their most valuable effects, 
to the neighbouring island of J erun, about thirteen geographical miles 
from the former situation, where the foundation of the new city of 
Hormuz, or Ormuz, destined to acquire still greater celebrity than the 
former, was laid,-although under the disadvantages of wanting water, 
and of a soil impregnated with galt and sulphur. Abulfeda, who wrote 
in the early part of the fourteenth century, and was a contemporary of 
our author, describes the insular city. This island was taken from the 
native princes, in 1507, by the Portuguese, under the famous Alfonso 
Albuquerque. U In their hands," says Robertson, "Ormuz soon be- 
came the great mart from which the Persian empire, and all the pro- 
vinces of Asia to the west of it, were suppEed with the productions of 
India; and a city which they built on that barren island, destitute of 
water, was rendered one of the chief seats of opulence, splendour, and 


Travels of Marco Polo 

whose port is frequented by traders from an parts of Indi
who bring spices and drugs, precious stones, pearls, gold 
tissues, elephants' teeth, and various other articles of mer- 
chandize. These they dispose of to a different set of traders, 
by whom they are dispersed throughout the world. This 
city, indeed, is eminently commercial, has towns and castles 
dependent upon it, and is esteemed the principal place in 
the kingdom of Kierman. 1 Its ruler is named Rukmedin 
Achomak,2 who governs \vith absolute authority, but at the 
same time acknowledges the king of I<.Îerman 3 as his liege 
luxury in the eastern wodd."-Historical Disquisition, p. 140. From 
them it was wrested, in 1622, by Shah Abbas, with the assistance of an 
Eng1ish squadron. Its fortifications, and other public structures, ,vere 
razed by that conqueror; and its comlnerce was transferred to a place 
on the neighbouring coast, called Gambrûn, to which he gave the name 
of Bandar Abbassi. But in the meantime the discovery of the pas- 
sage from Europe by the Cape of Good Hope operated to divert the 
general trade into a new channel, and that which was carried on by the 
medium of ports in the Gulf of Persia rapidly declined. In the year 1765, 
when Niebuhr visited these parts, the island on which Hormuz stood was 
possessed by a person who had been in the naval service of Nadir Shah, 
and the place was become quite insignificant. 
1 By this must be meant, that Hormuz exceeded the other cities in 
opulence, and perhaps in population; but Sirgan or Sirjan, also called 
Kinnan, was the capital of what we term the province of that name, and 
there the sovereign resided. 
II In the list of sultans of Hormuz furnished by Texeira in his trans. 
lation of the annals of Turan.shah, we find one named Rukn-eddin l\1ah- 
mud, who, although the dates are very imperfect, may be supposed to 
have reigned about the period of our author's visit to the Gulf of Persia, 
and to be the prince here called Rukmedin Achomak. The latter name 
is evidently intended for Achmet, in which mode that of Ahmed has been 
commonly though improperly written; and it is well known that oriental 
writers themselves frequently commit errors by confounding the three 
names of Ahmed, Muhammed, and Mahmud. 
3 No record of the kings of Kirman can be traced to a later date than 
the year 1187, when Malik Dinar, of the race of Ali (a Seyed), expelled 
the last of the Seljuk princes, and established hin1self on the throne; 
but under Hulagu and his successors, who conquered Persia in the follow- 
ing century, and formed a Moghul dynasty, it must have become again a 
province or fief of that empire, governed (as it is at the present day) by 
a branch of the reigning family. De Barros (Decade ll. live ii. cap. 2) 
informs us that a king or chief of Hormuz (in the district of Mogostan, on 
the main,) obtained from his neighbour, the l\-lalek of Kâez, a cession of 
the island of J erun, lying near his part of the coast, and established there 
a naval force, for the purpose of cOll1manding the straits; that in the 
event of a war, provoked by this assumption of power, he became master 
of the island of Kâez also; that the king of Persia (or, rather, the ruler 
of Kirman), to whon1 the Ma1ek had been used to pay tribute, marched 
an army into l\logostan, and compelled the king of Hormuz to abandon 
his city on the continent, and to take refuge in the island of J erun, where 
he founded the new city of Hormuz; that upon his consenting to acknow- 
ledge vassalage and pay tribute (a share of the tolls on shipping) to the 
Persian king, he was suffered to remain in possession of both islands; and 
that in his new establishment he afterwards reigned thirty years.- The 

Description of Horn1UZ 


lord. \Vhen any foreign merchant happens to die within his 
jurisdiction, he confiscates the property, and deposits the 
amount in his treasury. 1 During the sun1n1er season, the in- 
habitants do not remain in the city, on account of the exces- 
sive heat, which renders the air un\vholesome, but retire to 
their gardens along the shore or on the banks of the river, 
,vhere with a kind of ozier-work they construct huts over the 
water. These they enclose with stakes, driven in the water 
on the one side, and on the other upon the shore, making 
a covering of leaves to shelter them from the sun. Here 
they reside during the period in which there blows, every 
day, from about the hour of nine until noon, a land-wind so 
intensely hot as to impede respiration, and to occasion death 
by suffocating the person exposed to it. None can escape 
from its effects who are overtaken by it on the sandy plain. 2 
..J\s soon as the approach of this \vind is perceived by the in- 
habitants, they immerge themselves to the chin in water, and 
continue in that situation until it ceases to blow. 3 In proof 
circumstances thus stated by De Barros agree in the material parts with 
what our author relates at this place, and more pm ti
ularly in book iii. 
chap. xliii.; but the Portuguese historian refers all the transactions to 
the single reign of Gordun-shah, who, he says, obtained the cession of 
J erun in I273, and who, according to Texeira's list, where he is named 
Azz-eddin Gordan-shah, died in I3I8. There is reason, however, to 
believe that he gives an unfounded extension to this reign, and that the 
earlier events spoken of belonged to those of Seif-eddin and Rukn-eddin, 
who were probably the father and grandfather of that prince. 
1 This odious right is known to have been exercised in Europe, in very 
n10dern times, under the name of " droit d'aubaine." 
2 The hot wind known in Italy by the nalne of 11 Sirocco, and in Africa 
by that of Harmatan, has been often described by travellers. In the 
deserts of the south of Persia its effects are perhaps most violent. "The 
winds in this desert," says Pottinger, " are often so scorching (during the 
hot Inonths from June to September) as to kill anything, either animal 
or vegetable, that may be exposed to them, and the route by which I 
travelled is then deemed impassable. This wind is distinguished every- 
'.vhere in Beloochistan, by the different names of Julot or J.ulo (the 
flame), and Badé sumoom (the pestilential wind). So powerfully search- 
ing is its nature, that it has been known to kill camels, or other 
animals; and its effects on the human frame were related to me, by those 
who had been eye-witnesses of them, as the most dreadful that can be 
imagined: the muscles of the unhappy sufferer become rigid and con- 
tracted; the skin shrivels; an agonizing sensation, as if the flesh was on 
fire, pervades the whole frame, and in the last stage it cracks into deep 
gashes, producing hemorrhage, that quickly. ends this misery."-P. 136. 
3 For this practice of immersion we have the testimony of Pietro della 
Valle, who was in the Gulf of Persia during the siege of Hormuz. and 
visited the island immediately after its falling into the hands of the 
Persians. "I-Iormuz," be writes in his letter of the I8th January, 1623, 
"comunemente si stima la piu calda terra del mondo. . . . E mi 
dicono, che in certo tempo dell' anno, Ie genti di Hormuz non potrebbero 
vivere, se non vi stessero qualche hora del giorno immersi fin' alla gola 


Travels of Marco Polo 

of the extraordìnary degree of this heat, Marco Polo says that 
he happened to be in these parts when the following circum- 
stance occurred. The ruler of Ormus having neglected to pay 
his tribute to the king of Kierman, the latter took the resolu- 
tion of enforcing it at the season when the principal inhabitants 
reside out of the city, upon the main land, and for this pur- 
pose despatched a body of troops, consisting of sixteen hun- 
dred horse and five thousand foot, through the country of 
Reobarle, in order to seize them by surprise. In consequence, 
however, of their being misled by the guides, they failed to 
arrive at the place intended before the approach of night, and 
halted to take repose in a grove not far distant from Ormus; 
but upon recommencing their march in the morning, they 
were assailed by this hot wind, and were all suffocated; not 
one escaping to carry the fatal intelligence to his master. 
When the people of Ormus became acquainted with the event, 
and proceeded to bury the carcases, in order that their stench 
might not infect the air, they found them so baked by the 
intenseness of the heat, that the limbs, upon being handled, 
separated from the trunks, and it became necessary to dig the 
graves close to the spot where the bodies lay.1 

nell' acqua, che, a questo fine, in tutte le case, tengono in alcune vasche, 
fatte a posta." Although additional testimony be not wanting, I shall 
give that of Schillinger, an intelligent Swabian traveller, who visited 
these countries in the year 1700, and furnishes a good description of 
Hormuz and Gambrün. "Wann die grosse Hitze einfallet," he says, 
" legen sich die Innwohner den gantzen Tag durch in darzu bequemte 
vVasser-tröge, oder stehen in mit wasser angefüllten Fassern biss an hals, 
umb also zu ruhen, und sich der unleydentlichen Hitze zu erwehren." 
- Persianische Reis, p. 279. 
1 With regard to the state of the bodies, however extraordinary the 
circumstances may appear, they are fully corroborated by Chardin, 
who, speaking further of this wind, says, " Son effet Ie plus surprenant 
n'est pas même la mort qu'il cause; c'est que les corps qui en meurent 
sont comme dissous, sans perdre pourtant leur figure, ni méme leur 
couleur, en sorte qu'on diroit qu'ils ne sont qu'endormis, quoiqu'ils 
soient morts, et que si on les prend quelque part, la piêce demeure à la 
main." He then proceeds to adduce some recent facts in proof of his 
assertion.-Tom. ü. p. 9, 4 tO . 

The Shipping at Ormus 




THE vessels built at Ormus are of the worst kind, and danger- 
ous for navigation, exposing the merchants and others who 
make use of them to great hazards. Their defects proceed 
from the circumstance of nails not being employed in the con- 
struction; the wood being of too hard a quality, and liable 
to split or to crack like earthenware. When an attempt is 
made to drive a nail, it rebounds, and is frequently broken. 
1'he planks are bored, as carefully as possible, with an iron 
auger, near the extremities; and wooden pins or trenails 
being driven into them, they are in this manner fastened (to 
the stem and stem). After this they are bound, or rather 
sewed together, with a kind of rope-yarn stripped from the 
husk of the Indian (cocoa) nuts, \vhich are of a large size, and 
covered with a fibrous stuff like horse-hair. This being 
steeped in water until the softer parts putrefy, the threads or 
strings remain clean, and of these they make twine for sewing 
the planks, which lasts long under water.! Pitch is not used 
for preserving the bottoms of vessels, but they are sn1eared 
with an oil made from the fat of fish, and then caulked with 
oakuln. The vessel has no more than one Iuast, one helm, 
1 We know little of the shipping employed in the Gtùf of Persia before 
tbe conquest of Hormuz by the Portuguese; and since that period the 
influence and example of these and other Europeans have much changed 
the system of Persian and Indian navigation; yet the account given by 
our author corresponds in every essential particular with the kind of 
vessel described by Niebuhr. Such also are the boats employed at the 
present day on the coast of Coromandel, called chelingues by the French, 
and masulah boats by the English, which are thus described by Le Gentil: 
"Les bateaux dans lesquels se passent ces barres, se nomment che- 
lingues; ils sont faits exprès; ce sont des planches mises l'une au-dessus 
de l'autre, et cousues l'une à l'autre, avec du fi.l fait de l'écorce intérieur 
du cocotier (de la noix du coco); les coûtures sont calfatées avec de 
l' étoupe faite de la même écorce, et enfoncée sans beaucoup de façons avec 
un mauvais couteau. Le fond de ces bateaux est plat et formé comme 
les bords; ces bateaux ne sont guère plus longs que larges, et il n'entre 
pas un seul clou dans leur construction." (Voyage, tom. i. p. 540.) 
This twine, Dlanufactured from the fibrous husk of the cocoa-nut (not 
from the bark of the tree, as Ivl. Le Gentil supposed), is well known in 
India by the name of co ire, and is worked into ropes for running-rigging 
aud cables. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

and one deck. 1 When she has taken in her lading it is 
covered over ,vith hides, and upon these hides they place the 
horses which they carry to India. They have no iron anchors, 
but in their stead employ another kind of ground-tackle; 2 
the consequence of which is, that in bad weather, (and these 
seas are very tempestuous,) they are frequently driven on 
shore and lost. 
The inhabitants of the place are of a dark colour, and are 
1\lahometans. They sow their wheat, rice, and other grain in 
the month of November, and reap their harvest in l\ifarch. 3 
The fruits also they gather in that month, with the exception 
of the dates, which are collected in May. Of these, with 
other ingredients, they make a good kind of wine. 4 When it 
is drunk, however, by persons not accustomed to the beverage, 
it occasions an immediate flux; but upon their recovering 
from its first effects, it proves beneficial to them, and 'con- 
tributes to render them fat. The food of the natives is 
diffërent from ours; for were they to eat wheaten bread and 
flesh meat their health would be injured. They live chiefly 
upon dates and salted fish, such as the thunnus, cepole (cepola 
tania), and others which from experience they know to be 
wholesome. Excepting in marshy places, the soil of this 
country is not covered with grass, in consequence of the ex- 
treme heat, which burns up everything. Upon the death of 
men of rank, their wives loudly be\vail them, once in the course 
of each day, during four successive weeks; and there are also 
1 It is to be observed that the nun1erous praws which cover the seas of 
the further East, are steered, in general, with two helms or kamûdis; 
and that such vessels had recently been under the notice of our author 
in his passage to the straits of Malacca. 
2 Neither are the vessels of the Malays commonly provided with iron 
anchors; which I presume to be what is meant by " ferri di sorzer," 
although the term is not to be Inet with either in the general or the marine 
dictionaries. Their anchors are formed of strong and heavy wood, have 
only one arm or fluke, and are sunk by means of heavy stones attached 
to them. 
a \Ve Inight not expect to read of wheat being cultivated in so hot a 
climate, but the fact is well ascertained. 
'What has usually been termed palm-wine, or toddy, is a liquor ex- 
tracted from trees of the class of palms, by cutting off the shoot for 
fructification, and applying to the wounded part a vessel into which the 
liquor distils; but we read also of an inebriating liquor prepared from 
ripe dates, by steeping them in warm water, until they undergo vinous 
fermentation. Pottinger, speaking of the people of Mukran (adjoining 
to the province of Kirman), says: "They likewise drink great q
of an intoxicating beverage, made from the fermented dates, whIch must 
be exceedingly pernicious in its effects." (P. 306.) In the Anabasis of 
Xenophon, this liquor is spoken of as having been met with by the Greeks 
in the villages of Babylonia. 

Return to Kierman 


people to be found here who make such lamentations a pro- 
fession, and are paid for uttering them over the corpses of 
persons to whom they are not related. 1 · 


HAVING spoken of Ormus, I shall for the present defer treat- 
ing of India, intending to make it the subject of a separate 
Book, and now return to Kierman in a northerly direction. 
Leaving Ormus, therefore, and taking a different road to that 
place, you enter upon a beautiful plain, producing in abun- 
dance every article of food; and birds are numerous, especi- 
ally partridges: but the bread, which is made from wheat 
grown in the country, cannot be eaten by those who have not 
learned to accommodate their palates to it, having a bitter 
taste derived from the quality of .the waters, which are all 
bitter and salsuginous. On every side you perceive warm, 
sanative streams, applicable to the cure of cutaneous and 
other bodily complaints. Dates and other fruits are in great 


UPON leaving Kierman and travelling three days, you reach 
the borders of a desert extending to the distance of seven 
1 These excessive lamentations, so common in the East, and not un- 
known in some parts of Europe, as well as the practice of hiring profes- 
sional mourners, have been often described by travellers. "Les femmes 
sur tout," says Chardin, " s'emportent aux excès de fureur et de désola- 
tion les plus outrez, qu'elles entremêlent de longues complaintes, de 
récits tendres et touchans, et de doulloureuses apostrophes au cadavrc 
insensible." (Tom. ii. p. 385.) U It is usual," says Fryer, "to hire 
people to lament; and the widow, once a moon, goes to the grave with 
her acquaintance to repeat the doleful dirge." (Account of East India 
and Persia, p. 94.) It may be. observed, that In the early Latin and 
other early texts the time of mourning is stated to be four years instead 
of four weeks. 

7 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

days' journey, at the end of which you arrive at Kobiam. 1 
During the first three days (of these seven) but little water 
is to be met with, and that little is impregnated with salt, 
green as grass, and so nauseous that none can use it as drink. 
Should even a drop of it be swallowed, frequent calls of nature 
will be occasioned; and the effect is the same from eating a 
grain of the salt made from this water. 2 In consequence of 
this, persons who travel over the desert are obliged to carry 
a provision of water along with them. The cattle, however, 
are compelled by thirst to drink such as they find, and a flux 
immediately ensues. In the course of these three days not 
one habitation is to be seen. The whole is arid and desolate. 
Cattle are not found there, because there is no subsistence 
for them. 3 On the fourth day you come to a river of fresh 
water, but which has its channel for the most part under 
ground. In some parts however there are abrupt openings, 
caused by the force of the current, through which the stream 

t Kobiam (Gobiam in the early Latin text, Kobinam in others) is the: 
Kabis of D' Anville, the Chabis of Edrisi, the Khebis, Khebeis, and 
Khubeis of Ibn Haukal, and the Khubees of Pottinger. "Khebeis," 
says Ibn Haukal, II is a town on the borders of this desert, with running 
water and date-trees. From that to Durak is one melhileh; and during 
this stage, as far as the eye can reach, everything wears the appearance 
of ruin and desolation; for there IS not any kind of water." (Ouseley's 
translation, p. 199.) "It formerly flourished," says Pottinger, "and 
was tbe residence of a Beglerbeg on the part of the chief of Seistan, but 
now is a miserable decayed place, and the inhabitants are notorious 
robbers and outcasts, who subsist by infesting the highways of Khorasan 
and Persia, and plundering karawans."-P. 229. 
2 The salt springs and plains incrusted with salt, which Pottinger met 
with in Kirman and the adjacent countrie.'), are thus spoken of: "We 
crossed a river of liquid salt, so deep as to take my horse to the knees; 
the surface of the plain for several hundred yards on each side was entirely 
hid by a thick incrustation of white salt, resembling a fall of frozen snow, 
that crackled under the horse's hoofs." (P. 237.) U The whole of these 
mountains (of Kohistan) abound with Inineral productions: in several 
places there are brooks of liquid salt, and pools of water covered with a 
scum similar to the naphtha, or bitumen, found near the Caspian sea." 
(P. 312.) "On the high road from Kelat to Kutch Gundava there is a 
range of hills, from which a species of salt, perfectly red in its colour, is 
extracted, that posses
'es very great aperient qualities. Sulphur and 
alum are to be had at the same place." (P. 323.) It would seem from 
its effects that the salt of these deserts contains sulphate of magnesia, 
and the green colour noticed by our author may proceed from a mixture 
of sulphate of iron. 
S U On the east," says Ibn Haukal, " the desert of Khorasan partly 
borders the province of lVlakran and partly Seistan; to the south it has 
Kinnan and Fars, and part of the borders of Isfahan. . . . This 
desert is almost totally uninhabited and waste. . . . It is the haunt 
of robbers and thieves, and without a guide it is very difficult to find the 
way through it, and one can only go by the "vell-líllown paths."-Pp. 

The Town of Kobiarn 

7 1 

becomes visible for a short space, and water is to be had in 
abundance. IIere the wearied travel1er stops to refresh him- 
self and his cattle after the fatigues of the preceding journey.) 
The circumstances of the latter three days resemble those of 
the former, and conduct_him at length to the town of Kobiam. 



KOBIAM is a large town, the inhabitants of which observe 
the law of Mahomet. They have plenty of iron, accarum, 
and andanicum. Here they make mirrors of highly polished 
steel, of a large size and very handsome. Much antimony 
or zinc is found in the country, and they procure tutty which 
makes an excellent collyrium, together with spodiuln, by the 
following process. They take the crude ore from a vein that 
is known to yield such as is fit for the purpose, and put it 
into a heated furnace. Over the furnace they place an iron 
grating formed of small bars set close together. The smoke 
or vapour ascending from the ore in burning attaches itself to 
the bars, and as it cools becomes hard. This is the tutty; 
whilst the gross and heavy part, which does not ascend, but 
remains as a cinder in the furnace, becomes the spodium. 2 
1 This place of refreshment may perhaps be Shûr, which Ibn Haukal 
terms a stream of water in the desert, on the road which begins from the 
Kirman side. In another place he says it is one day's journey from 
Durak, (mentioned in note l , p. 70,) and describes it as a broad water- 
course of rain-water. No notice, however, is there taken of its passing 
under ground; and the identity, therefore, is not to be insisted upon; 
but the subterraneous passage of rivers is not very uncommon. 
:I In Note', p. 56, a reason was assigned for supposing that by the word 
andanico was meant antimony, which is stated by Chardin and others to 
be found in the quarter of Persia here spoken of; but from the process 
of making tutty and spodium so particularly described in this place, we 
should be led to infer that lapis calaminaris, or zinc, is the mineral to 
which our author gives that name, or rather, the name of which andanico 
is the corruption. How far the qualities of antimony and of zinc may 
render them liable to be mistaken for each other, I do not pretend to 
judge, but upon this point there seems to exist a degree of uncertainty 
that may excuse our author, if he supposed that the former, instead of 
the latter, was employed in the manufacture of tutia or tutty. "The 
argillaceous earth," says Bontius, " of which tutty is made, is found in 
great quantities in the province of Persia called Kirmon, as I have often 
been told by Persian and Armenian merchants." (Account of Diseases, 

7 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 



LEAVING Kobiam you proceed over a desert of eight days' 
journey exposed to great drought; neither fruits nor any 
kind of trees are met with, and what water is found has a 
bitter taste. Travellers are therefore obliged to carry with 
them so much as may be necessary for their sustenance. 
Their cattle are constrained by thirst to drink such as the 
desert affords, which their owners endeavour to render palat- 
able to them by mixing it with flour. At the end of eight 
days you reach the province of Timochain, situated towards 
the north, on the borders of Persia, in which are many to\vns 
and strong places.! There is here an extensive plain remark- 
able for the production of a species of tree called the tree of 
the sun, and by Christians arbor secco, the dry or fruitless tree. 
Its nature and qualities are these:-It is lofty, with a large 
stem, having its leaves green on the upper surface, but white 
or glaucous on the under. It produces husks or capsules 

Natural I-list. etc. of the East Indies, chap. xiii. p. 180.) Pottinger, in 
the journal of his travels through Beloochistan towards Kirman, speaks 
of a caravansery " called Soormu-sing, or the stone of antimony, a name 
which it derives from the vast quantities of that mineral to be collected 
in the vicinity." (P. 38.) That the collyrium so much in use amongst 
the eastern people, called surmeh by the Persians, and anfan or unjun by 
the natives of Hindustan, has tutty for its basis, will not, I suppose, be 
disputed: but in the Persian and Hindustani dictionaries it will be found 
that surmeh and unjan are likewise the terms for antimony. Whatever 
may be the proper application of the names, he is at least substantially 
correct in the fact that tutty, employed as a collyrium or ophthalmic 
unguent, is prepared from a mineral substance found in the province of 
1 It has already been shown that the Timocain or Timochain of our 
text is no other than Damaghân, a place of considerable importance on 
the north-eastern confines of Persia, having the ancient Hyrcania, from 
which it is separated by a chain of mountains, to the north, the province 
of Khorasan to the east, and the small province of Kumis, of which it is 
the capital, together with the salt-desert, to the south. In this neigh- 
bourhood it ,vas that Ghazan the son of Arghun, heir to the throne of 
Persia, then occupied by his uncle, was stationed with an army to guard 
the important pass of Khowar or the Caspian Straits, at the period of 
the arrival of the Polo family from China; and thither they were directed 
to proceed, in order to deliver in to his hands their precious charge, a 
princess of the house of Kuhlaï. 

The Old Man of the Mountail1 73 
like those in which the chestnut is enclosed, but these con- 
tain no fruit. The wood is solid and strong, and of a yellow 
colour resembling the box.! There is no other species of tree 
near it for the space of a hundred miles, excepting in one 
quarter, where trees are found within the distance of about 
ten miles. It is reported by the inhabitants of this district 
that a battle was fought there between Alexander, king of 
Macedonia, and Darius. 2 The towns are well supplied with 
every necessary and convenience of life, the climate being 
temperate and not subject to extremes either of heat or cold. 3 
The people are of the Mahometan religion. They are in 
general a handsome race, especially the women, who, in my 
opinion, are the most beautiful in the world. 


HAVING spoken of this country, mention shall now be made of 
the old man of the mountain. 4 The district in which his 

1 This tree, to which the name of arbor secco was applied, would seem 
to be a species of fagus, and tú partake of the character of the chestnut. 
But from various passages of later writers, we shall be justified in con- 
sidering it was intended for a variety of the platanus, or plane-tree. The 
epithet of secco seems to imply nothing more than this: that when the 
form of the husk promises an edible nut, the stranger who ga.thers it is 
disappointed on finding no perceptible contents, or only a dry and taste- 
less seed. 
a The last battle fought between Alexander and Darius was at Arbela 
(Arbîl), in Kurdistan, not far from the Tigris, but in the subsequent 
operations, the vanquished king of Persia was pursued from Ecbatana 
(Hamadan), through the Caspian Straits or pass of Khowar, which Alex- 
ander's troops penetrated without opposition, into the province of Comi- 
sene (Kumis), of which Hecatompylos (supposed to be Damaghàn) was 
the capital; nor did the pursuit cease until the unfortunate monarch was 
murdered by his o\vn subjects not far from the latter city. Alexander 
himself advanced by a nearer way, but across a desert entirely destitute 
of water. Traditions respecting the Macedonian conqueror abound in 
this part of the country. 
3 The mildness of the climate, and at the same time its extreme 
unhealthiness, along the southern shore of the Caspian, i<s noticed by 
Olearius, Chardin, and other travellers; but the district about Damaghân, 
here spoken of, is separated by a chain of mountains from the swampy 
tract between Asterabad and Ferhabad (the places chiefly visited by 
Europeans during the reign of Shah Abbas, who frequently held his 
court in them), and occupies a much more elevated region. 
4 The appellation so well known in the histories of the crusades, of 
" Old man of the mountain," is an injudicious version of the Arabic title 


Travels of Marco Polo 

residence lay obtained the name of Mulehet, signifying in the 
language of the Saracens, the place of heretics, and his people 
that of Mulehetites,1 or holders of heretical tenets; as \ve 
apply the term of Patharini to certain heretics an10ngst 
Christians. 2 The follo\ving account of this chief, Marco Polo 
testifies to having heard from sundry persons. He was named 
Alo-eddin, 3 and his religion was that of Mahomet. In a 
beautiful valley enclosed between two lofty mountains, he 
had formed a luxurious garden, stored with every delicious 

Sheikh al J ebal, signifying" chief of the mountainous region." But as 
the word sheikh, like signor, and some other European terms, bears the 
Ineaning of " elder," as well as of " lord or chief," a choice of interpreta- 
tions was offered, and the less appropriate adopted. The places where 
this personage, who was the head of a religious or fanatical sect, exercised 
the rights of sovereignty, were the castles of Alamût, Lamsir, Kirdkuh, 
and Maimun-diz, and the district of Rudbar; all situated vvithin the 
limits of that province which the Persians name Kuhestan, and the 
Arabians Al-jebal. "La position d'Alamout," says De Sacy, in his 
Mémoire sur la Dynastie des Assassins et sur l'Origine de leur Nom, "située 
au milieu d'un pays de montagnes, fit appeler Ie prince qui y régnoit 
scheikh-aldjebal, c'est-à-dire, Ie scheikh ou prince des montagnes, et 
l'équivoque du mot scheikh, qui signifie également vieillard et prince, a 
donné lieu aux historiens des croisades et au célèbre voyageur l\larc Pol, 
de Ie nommer Ie Vieux de la montagne." 
1 This correct application of the Arabic term, Mulehet or Mulehed, is 
one of the many unquestionable proofs of the genuineness of our author's 
relation, and would be sufficient to remove the doubts of any learned and 
candid inquirers on the subject of his acquaintance with oriental matters. 
Under the article l'flelahedah, in the Bibliothèque Orientale of T)'Herbelot, 
we read: "c' est Ie pluriel de Melhed, qui signifie un impi
) un homme 
sans religion. Melahedah Kûhestan: Les Impies de la Montagne. 
C'est ainsi que sont appellés les Ismaèlians qui ont régné dans l'Iran, et 
particulièrement dans la partie montueuse de la Perse." This oppro- 
brious epithet was bestowed by the orthodox Mussulmans upon the 
fanatic sect of Ismaelians, Batenians, or, as they style themselves, Refîk, 
or Friends, who, under the influence of an adventurer named Hasan ben 
Sabbah, began to flourish in Persia about the year 1090, during the reign 
of Malik Shah J elal-eddin, third sovereign of the Seljukian dynasty. 
With respect to the two grand divisions of the 
lussuhnan political faith, 
they professed themselves to belong to the Shiahs or Rafedhi (as they are 
termed by their adversaries), who maintain the legitimate right to the 
khalifat in the descendants of AlL Their particular tenets appear to 
have been connected with those of the more ancient Karmats and modern 
2 The Paterini are more generally known by the name of Waldenses, 
Albigenses, and amongst the French writers by that of Patalins or 
a Ala-eddin, the Ismaelian prince, was killed, after a long reign, about 
the end of the year 1255, and was succeeded by Rukn-eddin ben Ala- 
eddin, who reigned only one year before the destruction of his power 
under the circumstances our author proceeds to relate. He is correct 
therefore in attributing the actions which roused the indignation of the 
world to the former; but be does not appear to have been a\vare that it 
was the son against whom the attack of the Moghuls was directed, although 
the expedition must have been undertaken against Ala-eddin, the father. 

The Old Man of the Moul1tail1' 75 
fruit and every fragrant shrub that could be procured. 
Palaces of various sizes and forms were erected in different 
parts of the grounds, ornamented with works in gold, with 
paintings, and with furniture of rich silks. By means of small 
conduits contrived in these buildings, streams of wine, milk, 
honey, and some of pure water, were seen to flow in every 
direction. The inhabitants of these palaces were elegant and 
beautiful damsels, accomplished in the arts of singing, play- 
ing upon all sorts of musical instruments, dancing, and especi- 
ally those of dalliance and amorous allurement. Clothed in 
rich dresses they were seen continually sporting and amusing 
themselves in the garden and pavilions, their female guardians 
being confined within doors and never suffered to appear. 
The object which the chief had in view in forming a garden 
of this fascinating kind, was this: that Mahomet having pro- 
mised to those who should obey his will the enjoyments of 
Paradise, where every species of sensual gratification should 
be found, in the society of beautiful nymphs, he was desirous 
of its being understood by his followers that he also was a 
prophet and the compeer of Mahomet, and had the power of 
admitting to Paradise such as he should choose to favour. In 
order that none without his licence might find their way into 
this delicious valley, he caused a strong and inexpugnable 
castle to be erected at the opening of it, through which the 
entry was by a secret passage. At his court, likewise, this 
chief entertained a number of youths, from the age of twelve 
to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants of the surround- 
ing mountains, who showed a disposition for martial exer- 
cises, and appeared to possess the quality of daring courage. 
To them he was in the daily practice of discoursing on the sub- 
ject of the paradise announced by the prophet, and of his own 
power of granting admission; and at certain times he caused 
opium to be administered to ten or a dozen of the youths; and 
when half dead with sleep he had them conveyed to the several 
apartments of the palaces in the garden. Upon awakening 
from the state of lethargy, their senses were struck with all 
the delightful objects that have been described, and each per- 
ceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing, 
and attracting his regards by the IDost fascinating caresses, 
serving him also with delicate viands and exquisite ,vines; 
until intoxicated ,vith excess of enjoyment amidst actual 
rivulets of milk and wine, he believed himself assuredly in 
Paradise) and felt an unwillingness to relinquish its delights.. 

7 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

When four or five days had thus been passed, they were 
thrown once J;l1ore into a state of somnolency, and carried out of 
the garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence, and 
questioned by him as to where they had been, their answer 
was, " In Paradise, through the favour of your highness: " 
and then before the whole court, who listened to them with 
eager curiosity and astonishment, they gave a circumstantial 
account of the scenes to which they had been witnesses. The 
chief thereupon addressing them, said: "We have the assur- 
ances of our prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit 
Paradise, and if you show yourselves devoted to the obedience 
of my orders, that happy lot awaits you." Animated to 
enthusiasm by words of this nature, all deemed themselves 
happy to receive the commands of their master, and were 
forward to die in his service. 1 The consequence of this 
system was, that when any of the neighbouring princes, or 
others, gave umbrage to this chief, they were put to death by 
these his disciplined Assassins; none of whom felt terror at 
the risk of losing their own lives, which they held in little 
estimation, provided they could execute their master's will. 
On this account his tyranny became the subject of dread in 
all the surrounding countries. He had also constituted two 
deputies or representatives of himself, of whom one had his 
residence in the vicinity of Damascus, and the other in Kur- 
distan; 2 and these pursued the plan he had established for 
training their young dependants. Thus there was no person, 
however powerful, who, having become exposed to the enmity 
of the old man of the mountain, could escape assassination. 
His territory being situated within the dominions of Ulaù 
(Hulagu), the brother of the grand khan (Mangu), that prince 
had information of his atrocious practices, as above related, 
as well as of his employing people to rob travellers in their 
1 This story was the current belief of the people of Asia, who seem to 
have thought it necessary to assign extraordinary causes for an effect so 
surprising as that of the implicit devotion of these religious enthusiasts 
to the arbitrary will of their master. The name of Assassins, given to 
these people by other writers, is not found in Marco Polo. 
t I cannot discover any traces of an establishment of Ismaelians, under 
a regular chief, in Kurdistan, although dais or missionaries of the sect 
were frequently employed there; but of the e<<istence of the subordinate 
government in Syria here mentioned we have ample testimony. (See 
De Sacy, Mémoire, p. 6, and De Guignes, Rist. gén. des Huns, live vi. 
P.342.) I am the more particular in citing these aut
orities, to proy
, in 
confirmation of what Marco Polo asserts, that the PersIan was the onglllal 
government, although the Syrian branch became better known in Europe, 
and to its sheikhs the title of " old man of the mountain U seems to have 
been generally if not exclusively applied. 

The Road to Sapurgan 


passage through his country, and in the year 1262 sent one 
of his armies to besiege this chief in his castle. I t proved, 
however, so capable of defence, that for three years no im- 
pression could be made upon it; until at length he was forced 
to surrender from the want of provisions, and being made 
prisoner was put to death. His castle ,vas dismantled, and 
his garden of Paradise destroyed. l And from that time there 
has been no old man of the mountain. 



LEAVING this castle, the road leads over a spacious plain, 
and then through a country diversified with hill and dale, 
where there is herbage and pasture, as well as fruits in great 
abundance, by which the army of Ulail was enabled to remain 
so long upon the ground. This country extends to the dis- 
tance of full six days' journey. It contains many cities and 
fortified places,2 and the inhabitants are of the Mahometan 
1 The circumstances attending the destruction of this sect, which, as 
we have seen in the preceding notes, had erecte
 itself into an indepen- 
dent sovereignty, are noticed by Abu'lfaraj, Hist. Dynast. p. 330, as well 
as by others amongst the Oriental writers, who record the actions of the 
descendants of J engiz-khan, but by none with so much historical detail 
as by Mirkhond, whose account of the dynasty of the Ismaëlians of Persia 
was translated and published at Paris, together "vith the original text, by 
M. Jourdain. With regard to the date of 1262, which our author assigns 
to the commencement of these operations, there must be a mistake of 
about six years, as all the historians agree that Hulagu's expedition 
against the M:ulhedites was prior to that against Baghdad, and the latter 
is known with sufficient certainty to have fallen in the year 1258. We 
have, at the same time, the circumstantial authority of Mirkhond for the 
reduction of the castles of the former in the years 1256 and 1257. This 
and similar inaccuracies of Marco Polo may be excused on the ground 
that the events having happened many years before the commencement 
of his travels, he must have depended upon the information of others for 
their dates, which may have been expressed according to modes of reckon- 
ing that required a calculation to reduce them to the Christian era. 
S From Damaghân his course was nearly east, or in the direction of 
Balkh, and seems to have lain through J an- J erm and Nishapfu towards 
Meru-ar-rud; but the number of days' journeys is evidently too small 
unless we can suppose him to have travelled at double the rate of th
ordinary caravans, or full forty miles per day; which is less probable 
than that an omission of some stages has been made in the narrative. 

7 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

religion. A desert then commences, extending forty or fifty 
miles,l where there is no water; and it is necessary that the 
traveller should make provision of this article at his outset. 
As the cattle find no drink until this desert is passed, the 
greatest expedition is necessary, that they may reach a water- 
ing place. At the end of the sixth day's journey,2 he arrives 
at a town named Sapurgan,3 which is plentifully supplied 
with every kind of provision, and is particularly celebrated for 
producing the best melons in the world. These are preserved 
in the follo"ring manner. They are cut spirally, in thin s1ices, 
as the pumpkin with us, and after they have been dried in the 
sun, are sent, in large quantities, for sale, to the neighbouring 
countries; where they are eagerly sought for, being sweet as 
honey.4 Game is also in plenty there, both of beasts and birds. 
Leaving this place, we shall now speak of another named 
Balach; a large and magnificent city.6 It was formerly still 
more considerable, but has sustained much injury from the 
Tartars, who in their frequent attacks have partly demolished 
its buildings. It contained many palaces constructed of 
marble, and spacious squares, still visible, although in a ruin- 
ous state. 6 It was in this city, according to the report of 
1 The country of Khorasan, through which the route, whetner from 
Alamut or from Damaghân to the place next mentioned must have lAin, 
is said to be in general level, intersected with sandy deserts and irregular 
ridges of lofty mountains. 
2 It is quite necessary to the sense that this should mean six days' 
journey from the eastern side of the desert just mentioned. 
I Of the identity of this place, which at first might seem to be intended 
for Nishapur, there can be no doubt. "Cheburgan, ville de Corassane, 
près du Gibon et de Bale," says Pétis de la Croix, the translator of Shere- 
feddin, " a 100 degrés de long. et 360 45' de latitude." In the tables 01 
N assir-eddin, from which the above situation is taken, it is named Ash- 
burkan; in D' Anville's map, Ashburgan; in Strathlenberg's, Chaburga; 
in Macdonald Kinneir's, Subbergan; and in Elphinstone's, Shibbergaun. 
By the last writer it is spoken of as a dependency of the government 01 
<< The province of Khorasan is celebrated by all the eastern writers for 
the excellence of its fruits, and the inlportance here given to its nlelons 
is fully supported by the authority of Chardin. (Tom. ii. p. 19, 4to.) 
On the subject of the "melon du Khorasan," see also Relation de 
l'Egypte, notes, p. 126. 
6 Balach or Balkh, the U Bactra regia" of Ptolemy, which gave name 
to the province of Bactriana, of which it was the capital, is situated to- 
wards the heads of the Oxus, in the north-eastern extremity of Khorasan. 
It is one of the four royal cities of that province, and has been the seat 
of government perhaps more frequently even than Nishapur, Herat, or 
· J engiz-khan, who took this city by assault in 1221, from the Khoraz- 
mians caused all the inhabitants to be massacred (as we are told by his 
historian, Abu'lghazi) and the walls to be razed to their foundation. In 
13 6 9 it was taken from the descendants of that conqueror by Tamerlane, 

Desolatioll of Balk11 


the inhabitants, that Alexander took to wife the daughter of 
king Darius. 1 The 1iahometan religion prevails here also. 2 
The dominion of the lord of the Eastern Tartars extends to this 
place; and to it the limits of the Persian empire extend, in a 
north-eastern direction. 3 Upon leaving Balach and holding 
the same course for two days, you traverse a country that is 
destitute of every sign of habitatíon, the people having all fled 
to strong places in the mountains, in order to secure them- 
selves against the predatory attacks of lawless marauders, by 
whom these districts are overrun. Here are extensive waters, 
and game of various kinds. Lions are also found in these 
parts,4 very large and numerous. Provisions, however, are 
scarce in the hilly tract passed during these two days, and the 
traveller must carry with him food sufficient both for himself 
and his cattle. 
whose family possessed it until they were obliged to give place to the 
Uzbek Tartars, between whom and the Persians it was subsequently 
the subject of perpetual contentÎon. U All the Asiatics," Elphinstolle 
observes, " are impressed with an idea of its being the oldest city in the 
world. . . . This ancient metropolis is now reduced to insignificauce. 
Its ruins still cover a great extent, and are surrounded with a wall, but 
only one corner is inhabitated." (P. 464.) The houses are described 
by Macdonald Kinneir as being of brick, and the palace of the khan, all 
extensive building, nearly all of marble, brought troln quarries in the 
neighbouring Inountains. 
1 The Persian marriages of Alexander with Barsine or Statira, the 
daughtel' of Darius, and with Parisatis, the daughter of Ochus, are gener- 
alll understood to have taken place at Susa. 
Abll'lghazi informs us that at the time of the destruction of Balkh by 
J engiz-khan, it contained no fewer than 12,000 Inosques; which, although 
an exaggeration, shows at least the prevalence of Islamism in that city. 
3 Khorasan being so frequently subject to Persian donlinion, and 
particularly under the descendants of Hulagu, who possessed it at the 
time our author travelled there, it was natural for him to consider it as 
an integral part of the Persian empire. Balkh is correctly stated as 
lying on the north-eastern frontier. The Latin says, " usque ad istam 
terram durat dominium domini de Levante." 
t Chardin enumerates lions amongst the wild animals of Persia, and 
especially in the frontier provinces. U Partout où il y a des bois," he 
says, " comme en Hircanie et en Curdistan, il y a beaucoup de bêtes sau- 
vages, des liüns, des ours, des tigres, des leopards, des porc-epy, et des 
sangliers."-Tom. Ü. p. 29, 4tO. 


Travels of l\tlarco Polo 



AT the end of these two days' journey you reach a castle named 
Thaikan, where a great market for com is held, it being situated 
in a fine and fruitful country. The hills that lie to the south 
of it are large and lofty.l They all consist of white salt, ex.. 
tremely hard, with which the people, to the distance of thirty 
days' journey round, come to provide themselves, for it is 
esteemed the purest that is found in the world; but it is at the 
same time so hard that it cannot be detached otherwise than 
with iron instruments. 2 The quantity is so great that all the 
countries of the earth might be supplied from thence. Other 
hills produce almonds and pistachio nuts, 3 in which articles 
the natives carryon a considerable trade. Leaving Thaikan 

1 This account of Thaikan or Taikân (written Caycam in the manu- 
scripts, and Taitham in the Italian epitomes), which is situated amongst 
the sources of the Oxus, will be found remarkably correct. U Of Tok- 
h arest an, " says Ibn Hauka1, " the largest city (ttJwn) is Taikân, situated 
on a plain in the vicinity of mountains. It is watered by a considerable 
river, and has many orchards and gardens." (P. 224.) "From Taikân 
to Badakshan is seven days' journey." (P. 230.) See also Abulfeda. 
These authors clearly distinguish it from a place named Talkan, lying 
south-west of Balkh, near Meru-er-rûd, and situated on a steep rock; 
but Edrisi gives to the former the name of Talkan, and has been followed 
by modern geographers, and particularly by Ð' Anville, in whose map 
both places are written with the same letters. "Their course," says 
Lieut. :Macartney, speaking of the streams of the Oxus, near ,vhose junc- 
tion Talikan (or Taikân) stands, "is through a mountainous country, 
but containing many excessively rich and fertile valleys, producing all 
kinds of fruit in the greatest abundance."-Elphinstone's Account of 
Caubul, Appendix, p. 650. 
:& This kind of hard fossil salt is found in several parts, and is thus de- 
scribed by Chardin: "Dans la l\iédie et à Ispahan Ie sel se tire des mines} 
et on Ie transporte par gros quartiers, comme la pierre de taille. II est 
si dure en des endroits, comlne dans 1a Caramanie déserte (Kirmân) 
qu'on en employe les pierres dans 1a construction des maisons des pauvres 
gens." (Tom. ii. p. 23.) "The road beyond," says E1phinstone, speak- 
ing of a place in the country of the Afghâns, " was cut out of solid salt, 
at the foot of cliffs of that Inineral, in some places more than one hundred 
feet high above the river. The salt is hard, clear, and almost pure." 
-Account of Caubul, p. 37. 
3 Both almonds and pistachio nuts are enumerated by Chardin amongst 
the productions of the northern and eastern parts of Persia. U II croft 
des pistaches à Casbin et aux environs. . . . lls ont de plus les 
am andes, les noisettes, etc. Le plus grand transport de fruits se fait de 
Yesde."-Tom. ü. p. 21. 

The Town of Scassem 


and travelling three days, still in a north-east direction, you 
pass through a well inhabited country, very beautiful, and 
abounding in fruit, com, and vines. The people are Mahome- 
tans and are blood-thirsty and treacherous. They are given 
also'to debauchery, and to excess in drink, to which the excel- 
lence of their sweet wine encourages them.! On their heads 
they wear nothing but a cord, about ten spans in length, with 
which they bind them round. They are keen sportsmen, and 
take many wild animals, wearing no other clothing than the 
skins of the beasts they kill, of which materials their shoes 
also are made. They are all taught to prepare the skins. 



DURING a journey of three days there are cities and many 
castles, and at the end of that distance you reach a town named 
Scassem, 2 governed by a chief whose title is equivalent to 
1 This country has since been overrun by a different race of people. 
" The Uzbeks," says Elphinstone, " first crossed the J axartes about the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, and pouring on the possessions of 
the descendants of Tamerlane," who \vere themselves invaders, "soon 
drove them from Bokhaura, I{hoarizm, and Ferghauna, and spread 
terror and dismay to the remotest parts of their extended empire. They 
now possess besides Bulkh (Balkh), the kingdoms of Khoarizm (or Or- 
gunge), Bokhaura and Ferghauna, and perhaps some other little countries 
on this side of Beloot Taugh. I am told that they are to be found beyond 
Beloot Taugh, and as far east as Khoten at least; but of this I cannot 
speak with confidence. They belong to that great division of the human 
race which is known in Asia by the name of Toork, and which, with the 
!\'Ioghuls and I\Ianshoors, compose what we call the Tartar nation. Each 
of these divisions has its separate language, and that of the Toorks is 
widely diffused throughout the west of Asia."-Account of Caubul, 
p. 4 6 5. 
2 This name, which in the Latin texts as well as in that of Ramusio is 
Scassem, and in the Italian epitomes Echasem, is evidently the Keshem 
of D' Anville's map, and the Kishm-abad of Elphinstone's, situated near 
the Ghori river which falls into the Oxus, and somewhat to the eastward 
of the Ineridian of Kabul or Caubul. Ibn Haukal, who describes it 
immediately after speaking of Taikân, and before he enters upon Badakh- 
shan, names it Khesh, and says it is " the largest town in this mountain- 
ous country." J. R. Forster (Voyages in the North, p. 125) supposes 
Scassem to be Al-shash, on the river Sirr or J axartes, but against all pro- 
bability, considering its vast distance from the last mentioned place; 
whilst Keshem or Kishm is not only in the vicinity, but in the direct route 
to that which is next described. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

that of our barons or counts; and an10ngst the mountains he 
possesses other towns and strong places. Through the midst 
of this town runs a river of tolerable size. Here are found 
porcupines, which roll thelnselves up when the hunters set 
their dogs at them, and with great fury shoot out the quills 
or spines with which their skins are furnished, wounding both 
lTIen and dogs. The people of this country have their pecu- 
liar language. The herdsmen who attend the cattle have 
their habitations amongst the hills, in caverns they form for 
themselves; nor is this a difficult operation, the hills consisting, 
not of stone, but only of clay. Upon departing from this place 
you travel for three days without seeing any kind of building, 
or meeting ,vith any of the necessaries required by a traveller, 
excepting water; but for the horses there is sufficient pasture. 
You are therefore obliged to carry with you every article for 
which there may be occasion on the road. At the end of the 
third day you arrive at the province of Balashan. 1 



IN the province of Balashan, the people are Mahometans, 
and have their peculiar language. It is an extensive kingdom, 
being in length full twelve days' journey, and is governed by 
princes in hereditary succession, who are all descended from 
Alexander, by the daughter of Darius, king of the Persians. 

1 This place is unquestionably Badakhshân, as the name is correctly 
written by Ibn Haukal and other geographers, although often pro- 
nounced Balakhshân. By D'Herbelot its situation is thus described: 
" Badakschian et Balakhschian, pays qui fait une partie de la province 
de Thokharestan, et qui s'étend vers la tête du fleuve Gihon ou Oxus, 
par lequel il est borné du côté du levant et du septentrion." "Budukh- 
shaun," says Elphinstone, in his Account of CaubuI,. " though an exten- 
sive country seems to be but one great valley runnIng up from the pro- 
vince of Bulkh (Balkh) to Beloot T
ugh, betweeI
, the islands connected 
with the Pamere and the range of Hmdoo Koosh. -P. 628. 


The Province of Balashan 


All these have borne the title in the Saracenic tongue of Zul- 
karnen, being equivalent to Alexander. 1 In this country are 
found the precious stones called balass rubies, of fine quality 
and great value, so called from the name of the province. 2 
They are imbedded in the high mountains, but are searched 
for only in one, named Sikinan. 3 In this the king causes 
mines to be worked, in the same manner as for gold or silver; 
and through this channel alone they are obtained; no person 
daring under pain of death, to make an excavation for the 
purpose, unless as a special favour he obtains his majesty's 

1 Abu'lfazl, speaking of the districts of Sewad and Bijore, which he 
describes as consisting of hills and wilds, and inhabited by the tribe of 
Yousef Zy, proceeds to say: "In the thne of l\lirza Ulugh Beg (1450), 
the tribe of Sultan, who assert themselves to be the descendants of the 
daughter of Sultan Secunder Zulkernain, came from Cabul, and possessed 
themselves of this country. They say that Secunder left treasure in 
Cabul under the care of some of his relations; and some of their descen- 
dants, who carry their genealogical table in their hands, now dwell in the 
mountainous parts." (Ayin Akbari, vol. li. p. 195.) This filiation is 
also noticed by Lieut. Macartney, who says in his Memoir: "The king 
of Derwauz (near the sources of the Oxus) claims his descent from Alex- 
ander the Great, and his pretensions are admitted by all his neighbours." 
(Account of Caubul, App. p. 628.) It is almost unnecessary to observe 
that the word zul' -karnein signifies "having horns," and that it was 
given by the orientals to Alexander, whom they name Sekunder, from 
the appearance of his head on the Greek coins, which long circulated, 
and were afterwards initated, in Persia. 
51 Every writer who has treated of this country, mentions its two pro- 
ductions, the balass ruby (classed by the orientals as a species of hyacinth) 
and the lapis lazuli. "Badakbshan," says Ibn Haukal, " produces the 
ruby (laàl), and lapis lazuli (lajaward). The mines are in the mountains." 
(P. 2!S.) "C'est dans ses montagnes," says D'Herbelot, " que se trouve 
la mine des rubis que les orientaux appellent Badakhschiani et Balakh- 
schiani, et que nous nommons rubis ba1ays." "The part of Beloot 
Taugh within Budukhshaun," says Elphinstone, "produces iron, salt, 
and sulphur, as well as abundance of lapis lazuli; but the celebrated 
mines of rubies, which occasion Budukhshaun to be so often alluded to 
by the Persian poets, are situated in the lower hills near the Oxus. They 
are not now wrought."-P. 629. 
· It may be thought a vain attempt to find corresponding authority 
for the name of the particular mountain from whence these stones were 
procured; but one which strongly resembles that of Sikinan presents 
itself as belonging to a district in the vicinity of the places of which we 
have been speaking. "The river Jihun (or Oxus)," says Ibn Haukal 
U rises within the territories of Badakhshan, and receives the waters of 
many other streams. . . . The Wekhshab comes out of Turkestan 
into the land of Wekhsh, near a mountain where there is a bridge between 
Khotlan and the borders of Weish-kird (the Vash-gherd of D' Anville). 
. . . Near Wekhsh there are some districts (of Mawaralnahr), such as 
Dekhan and Sekineh: these two belong to the infidels. . . . There 
are mines of gold and silver in Wekhshab." (P. 239.) By" infidels" 
are probably here meant the race of people named Kâ, whose country 
and peculiarities are described in the Appendix to Elphinstone's Account 
of Caubul, under the head of Caufiristaun, p. 617; and whom some sup- 
pose to be the descendants of the Greeks of Bactriana. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

licence. Occasionally the king gives them as presents tc 
strangers who pass through his dominions, as they are not 
procurable by purchase from others, and cannot be exported 
without his permission. His object in these restrictions is, 
that the rubies of his country, with which he thinks his credit 
connected, should preserve their estimation and maintain 
their high price; for if they could be dug for indiscriminately, 
and every one could purchase and carry them out of the king- 
dom, so great is their abundance, that they would soon be of 
little value. Some he sends as complimentary gifts to other 
kings and princes; some he delivers as tribute (to his superior 
lord); and some also he exchanges for gold and silver. These 
he allows to be exported. There are mountains likewise in 
which are found veins of lapis lazuli, the stone which yields the 
azure colour (ultramarine),1 here the finest in the world. 
The mines of silver, copper, and lead, are likewise very pro- 
ductive. It is a cold country. The horses bred here are of 
a superior quality, and have great speed. Their hoofs are so 
hard that they do not require shoeing. 2 The natives are in 
the practice of galloping them on declivities where other cattle 
could not or would not venture to run. They asserted that 
not long since there were still found in this province horses of 
the breed of Alexander's celebrated Bucephalus, which were 
all foaled with a particular mark in the forehead. The whole 
of the breed was in the possession of one of the king's uncles, 
who, upon his refusal to yield them to his nephew, was put to 
death; whereupon his widow, exasperated at the murder, 
caused them all to be destroyed; and thus the race was lost to 
the world. In the mountains there are falcons of the species 
called saker (faZeo saeer), which are excellent birds, and of 
strong flight; as well as of that called laner, (faZco Zanarius). 
There are also goshawks of a perfect kind (faZco astur, or 
paZumbar-ius), and sparrow hawks (faZco nisus). The people 
of the country are expert at the chase both of beasts and birds. 
Good wheat is grown there, and a species of barley without 
1 Speaking of Badakhshan, Abulfeda says: "Inde effertur 01 lazurd 
et 01 bellaur, seu lapis lazuli et beryllus." (Geogr. p. 352.) See also a 
passage to the same effect, from Ibn Haukal J in note 2, P: 83. 
I Elphinstone observes that " by far the best breedIng country (for 
horses) in the Caubul dominions is Bulkh (Balkh), and it is from that 
province (bordering on Badakhshan) and the Toorkmun country lower 
down the Oxus, that the bulk of those exported are brought." (P. 296.) 
The practice of shoeing horses seems to be unnecessary where the country 
is not stony nor particularly hard. In Sumatra they are never shadden, 
nor in J ava, excepting in some instances for the paved streets of Batavia 

Productions of Balashan 


the husk. 1 There is no oil of olives, but they express if from 
certain nuts, and from the grain called sesame,2 which re- 
sembles the seed of flax, excepting that it is light-coloured; 
and the oil this yields is better, and has more fia vour than any 
other. It is used by the Tartars and other inhabitants of 
these parts. 
In this kingdom there are many narrow defiles, and strong 
situations, which diminish the apprehension of any foreign 
power entering it with a hostile intention. The men are 
good archers and excellent sportsmen; generally clothing 
themselves with the skins of wild animals; other materials 
for the purpose being scarce. The mountains afford pasture 
for an innumerable quantity of sheep, which ramble about in 
flocks of four, five, and six hundred, all wild; and although 
many are taken and killed, there does not appear to be any 
diminution. 3 These mountains are exceedingly lofty, inso- 
much that it employs a man from morning till night to ascend 
to the top of them. Between them there are wide plains 
clothed with grass and with trees, and large streams of the 
purest water precipitating themselves through the fissures of 
the rocks. In these streams are trout and many other delicate 
sorts of fish. On the summits of the mountains the air is so 
pure and so salubrious, that when those who dwell in the towns, 
and in the plains and valleys below, find themselves attacked 
with fevers or other inflammatory complaints, they immedi- 
ately remove thither, and remaining for three or four days in 
that situation, recover their health. Marco Polo affirms that 
he had experience in his own person of its excellent effects; 
for having been confined by sickness, in this country, for 
nearly a year,4 he was advised to change the air by ascending 
the hills; when he presently became convalescent. A pecu- 
liar fashion of dress prevails amongst the women of the superior 

1 The barley here described is the kind known by the appellations of 
hordeum nudum, hordeum glabrum, and hordeum vulgare seminibus decor- 
ticatis. Our author's expression of senza scorza is exactJy therefore the 
specific name given to it by Linnæus. 
I In India oil is chiefly procured from this grain, the sesamttll
Both walnuts and hazel nuts, from which oil may be extracted, are found 
in the northern parts of Persia. 
a " Les provinces de Perse les plus abondantes en bétail," says Chardin, 
" sont la Bactriane, etc. J 'y ai vû des troupeaux de moutons qui couv- 
roient quatre à cinq lieues de pais." Tom. n. p. 29, 4tO. 
'The residence in Badakhshan to which our author here adverts, 
must have taken place at the period when he was sent on a mission by 
the emperor Kublai to the province of l{horasan or of Khorasmia, 01 
which mention is made in the latter part of the first chapter. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

class, who wear belov{ their waists, in the manner of drawers, 
a kind of garment, in the making of which they employ, accord- 
ing to their means, an hundred, eighty, or si..""{ty ells of fine cotton 
cloth; which they also gather or plait, in order to increase the 
apparent size of their hips; those being accounted the most 
handsome who are the most bulky in that part. 1 



LEAVING Balashan and travelling in a southerly direction 
for ten days, you reach the province of Bacià,3 the people of 
which have a peculiar language. They worship idols; are of 
a dark complexion, and of evil disposition; and are skilled in 
the art of magic, and the invocation of demons, a study to 
which they continually apply themselves. They wear in 
their ears pendent rings of gold and silver, adorned with 
pearls and precious stones. 3 The climate of the province is 
1 In describing the dress worn by the Belooche women, Pottinger says: 
" Their trowsers are preposterously wide, and made of silk, or a fabrica- 
tion of that and cotton mixed."-Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde, 
p. 65. 
2 From the southerly, or rather south-easterly, situation of this place 
with respect to the province of Badakhshan, its distance of about two 
hundred miles, and other circumstances, I should infer that by Bascia 
(in the epitomes Bassia) is meant Paishore or Peshawer, a city not far 
from the principal confluence of the rivers that form the Sind or Indus. 
It is described by Forster as large and populous, and in consequence of 
its well chosen position an important mart, the residence of wealthy 
merchants. He says, indeed, that it was founded by Akbar, whose 
reign began in 1556; but although that enlightened monarch might have 
improved P aish ore, and did actually found Attok, lower down on the 
river, there is evidence in his own Institutes that the former was in exist- 
ence before his time. I t is there said: "Bekram, commonly called 
Paishore, enjoys a deligh Hul spring season. Here is a temple called 
Gorekehtery, a place of religious resort, particularly for jowgies." (Ayin 
Akbari, vol. n. p. 205.) This is not the description of a city of recent 
date; nor if built by his master, would Abu'lfazl have mentioned it in 
such slight terms. It is probable upon the whole that Forster applied 
to Paishore what he had been told of Attok. 
S It is evident that the people here described, if not actually Indians, 
are nearly allied to them. "The houses, food, and habits of life of the 
tribes of Peshawer," says Elphinstone, " resemble those of the Eusofzyes. 
The dress has also some resemblance, being a mixture of that of the 
Indians with that of the Afghauns."-P. 359. 

The Province of Kesmur 


in some parts extremely hot. l 1"he food of the inhabitants is 
meat and rice. 2 




Kesmur is a province distant from Bascià seven days' journey.3 
Its inhabitants also have their peculiar language. 4 They ar
adepts beyond all others in the art of magic; insomuch that 
they can compel their idols, although by nature dumb and 
deaf, to speak; they can likewise obscure the day, and per- 
form many other miracles. They are pre-eminent amongst the 
1" The heat of Peshour," says Forster, " seemed to me more intense 
than that of any other country I have visited in the upper parts of 
India. . . . The atmosphere in the summer solstice becomes almost 
inflammable. " (Vol. ii. p. 50.) "Peshawer," says Elphinstone, "is 
situated in a low plain, surrounded on all sides except the east with hills. 
The air is consequently much confined, and the heat greatly increased. 
In the summer of 1809 . . . the thermometer was for several clays at 
112 0 and 113 0 , in a large tent artificially cooled."-P. 132. 
I" The markets," Forster adds, " are abundantly supplied with pro- 
visions of an excellent kind, particularly the mutton, which is the :flesh 
of the large-tailed sbeep."-P. 50. 
a Kesmur or Chesmur (Chesimur in the Latin versions and CassimUl 
in the Italian epitomes) is undoubtedly intended for Kashmir. The 
distance, indeed, from Paishore or Peshawer, as it cannot be less than 
two hundred miles, and in a mountainous country, should be more than 
seven days' journey; but we must not look for strict accuracy in this 
respect; and our own maps differ considerably in the relative position 
of the two places. For circumstantial accounts of this interesting 
country, the reader may consult the Ayin Akbari, Bernier's and Forster's 
Travels, Rennell's Memoir of a Map of Hindoostan, and Elphinstone's 
Account of Caubu!. In the ages in which our author wrote its popu1a- 
tion appears to have been chiefly Hindu; as in more ancient times it was 
esteemed one of the principal seats of that religion and of Sanskrit litera- 
ture. The wealth derived from its celebrated manufacture, and its 
idolatrous sanctity, tempted the avarice, and roused tbe fanatic zeal of 
the Mahometans, by whom it was invaded at an early period; but as it 
did not fall under the dominion of J engiz-khan or his immediate suc- 
cessors, it is here spoken of as an independent kingdom. 
.. " The language of Kashlnir," says Forster, " evidently springs from 
the Sanskrit stock, and resembles in sound that of the Mahrattas" 
(P. 22.) "The Cashmerians," says Elphinstone, " are a distinct nation 
of the Hindoo stock, and differ in language and manners from all their 
neighbours."--P. 506. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

idolatrous nations, and from them the idols, worshipped in 
other parts, proceed. 1 From this country there is a com- 
munication by water with the Indian Sea. 2 The natives are 
of a dark complexion, but by no means black; and the women, 
although dark, are very comely. Their food is flesh, 3 with 
rice and other grains; yet they are in general of a spare 
habit. The climate is moderately warm. 4 In this province, 
besides the capital, there are many other towns and strong 
places. There are also woods, desert tracts, and difficult 
passes in the mountains, which give security to the inhabitants 
against invasion. 5 Their king is not tributary to any power. 
They have amongst them a particular class of devotees, who 
live in communities, observe strict abstinence in regard to 
eating, drinking, and the intercourse of the sexes, and refrain 
from every kind of sensual indulgence, in order that they 
may not give offence to the idols whom they worship. These 
persons live to a considerable age. They have several monas- 
1 This is consistent with what we are told in the Ayin Akbari, that 
" the Hindoos regard all Cashmeer as holy land, where forty-five places 
are dedicated to Mahadeo, sixty-four to Bishen, three to Brahma, and 
twenty-two to Durga (the goddess of mountains)." (Vol. ii. p. 156.) It 
is therefore by no means improbable that the Brahmins of this remote 
and sacred country may have supplied southern India with many of 
those images of their deities in stone and copper with which the temples 
abound: for idols of home manufacture, we may presume, have less 
honour in their own country than those imported from distant places of 
holy repute. 
a " Most of the trade of the c.Quntry," says the Ayin Akbari, " is carried 
on by water." The river J eilum or Behut, which :flows through the 
valley of Kashmîr, and is there navigable, falls into the Indus, after 
uniting its waters with those of the Chenâb and the Râvi, not far from 
the city of Multân: but as its course, after leaving that valley, is through 
a mountainous country, the navigation must be interrupted in some 
3 If the population of Kashmir was at that time Hindu, as we have 
every reason to suppose, although it had been occasionally subdued by 
1vlahometans, it may be thought difficult to reconcile to the customs of 
those people what is here said of their food consisting in part of flesh; 
but in fact, the Hindu castes are not practically so strict in regard to 
meats, as the precepts of their religion would lead us to believe. Add 
to this, that the Kashmirians being noted at all periods for their ligh t 
and dissolute character, it is not among them (however holy their land) 
that we are to look for a strict observance of the Vêdas. 
4 The temperateness of its climate has always been a subject of pane- 
gyric, and was the occasion of its being the summer residence of the 
Moghul emperors of Hindustan. "The whole of this soobah," says the 
Ayin Akbari, " represents a garden in perpetual spring."-Vol. ü. p. 152. 
ó The valley of Kashmîr, eInbosomed within the Hindu-koh of Indian 
Caucasus, is nearly surrounded by lofty mountains, and is consequently 
difficult of access to an army; but yet, from the unwarlike character of 
the natives, it has been exposed to frequent invasions. "The fortifica- 
tions with which nature has furnished it," Abu'lfazl adds, "are of an 
astonishing height." 

The Inhabitants of Kesmur 89 

teries, in which certain superiors exercise the functions of our 
abbots, and by the mass of the people they are held in great 
reverence. 1 The natives of this country do not deprive any 
creature of life, nor shed blood, and if they are inclined to eat 
flesh-meat, it is necessary that the 1Æahometans who reside 
amongst them should slay the animal. 2 The article of coral 
carried thither from Europe is sold at a higher price than in 
any other part of the world. 
If I were to proceed in the same direction, it would lead me 
to India; but I have judged it proper to reserve the descrip- 
tion of that country for a third book; and shall therefore 
return to Balashan, intending to pursue from thence the 
straight road to Cathay, and to describe, as has been done 
from the commencement of the work, not only the countries 
through which the route immediately lies, but also those in 
its vicinity, to the right and left. 3 
1 These monks appear to resemble the talapoins of Ava and Siam, and 
gylongs of Tibet, who reside in comrnunities, under the discipline of a 
superibr, termed a sankra in the former countries, and a la1na in the 
latter. Like them also they were evidently Buddhists; and although 
that proscribed sect may have since disappeared from Kashmîr, as from 
most of the other provinces of Hindustan, Abu'lfazl, who wrote in the 
sixteenth century, notices some remains of them in his days. "The 
third tiIne," he says, " that the author followed thè imperial stirrup to 
the delightful territory of Kashmir, he met with some old men of this 
religion." . (Vol. ill. p. 158.) In another place he tells us that" the most 
respectable people of this country are the rishis, who although they do not 
suffer themselves to be fettered with traditions (stories of the Puranas) 
are doubtless true worshippers of God. They revile not any other sect' 
and ask nothing of anyone; they plant the roads with fruit trees t
furnish the traveller with refreshment; they abstain from :flesh; and 
have no intercourse with the other sex. There are near two thousand 
of this sect in Kashmir."-Vol. ii. p. 155. 
2 Abu'lfazl, speaking of the priests of the religion of Buddha in Kashmir 
observes, that aìthough they will not kill an animal, they do not refus
any kind of food that is offered to them; and whatever dies of itself they 
consider to be killed by God, and therefore eat it. (V 01. iii. p. I5 8 .) 
Amongst the Hindus many castes are allowed to eat of certain kinds of 
animal food, who yet are restrained from shedding blood. 
3 Our author here gives a consistent and intelligible account of the 
plan he pursues in his description of the several countries that came 
within the scope of his observation or knowledge; and it is only to be 
regretted that he has not drawn a clearer line of distinction between 
those places 
hich h
 actually saw himself, a.nd 
hose respecting which 
he collected mformatIon from others. I am lnclIned to believe that he 
did not visit the Panjab (or country embraced by the streams which form 
the Indus), and that what he relates of Peshawer and Kashmîr was 
furnished to him during his long residence of Badakhshan, by persons 
who frequented those places for the purposes of trade. 

9 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 



1.EAVING the province of Balashan, and travelling in a direc- 
tion between north-east and east, you pass many castles and 
habitations on the banks of the river, belonging to the brother 
of the king of that place, and after three days' journey, 
reach a province named V okhan; which itself extends in 
length and width to the distance of three days' journey.l 
The people are Mahometans, have a distinct language, are 
civilised in their manners, and accounted valiant in war. 
Their chief holds his territory as a fief dependent upon Bala- 

1 After having traced our author's line of description through countries 
where the writings of other travellers enabled us to recognise his steps, 
if we should now find ourselves in a region of greater uncertainty, the 
change is not to be attributed so much to any additional obscurity on 
his part, as to the want of corresponding information on ours, this tract 
being very imperfectly known to us. With respect, however, to the 
name and situation of Vokhan (the orthography of which differs little in 
the several versions), we are not entirely without lights, both ancient 
and lnodern. It is identified, in the first instance, by its connexion with 
a place named Weishgerd or vVeishkird; concerning which Ibn Haukal 
says: "The river Wekhshab comes out of Turkestan, into the land of 
Wekhsh, near a mountain where there is a bridge between l{hotlan and 
the borders of Weishkird. From that it runs towards Balkh, and faBs 
into the Jihoon at Termed." (P. 239.) In the following passage from 
the work of Edrisi, we find the Vokhan of our text brought into contact 
with the places here mentioned: "De regionibus finitiInis Vachas 
(Wekhsh or Wakhsh) et Gil, sunt Vachan (Vokhan) et Sacqita (Sakîtah), 
in terra Tore. Inter Vachan et Tobbat intercedit iter octodecim dierum. 
In Vachan extant fodines argenti." (P. 141.) Weishgerd here appears 
to be the country intennediate between Badakhshan and Vokhan, which 
our author tells us was governed by a brother of the king of the former. 
What Edrisi states respecting this valley, as well as our author's account 
of it, are fully justified by the l\lemoir explaining the map prefixed to 
the Account of Caubul, where Lieut. Macartney, speaking of the river 
Ammu or Oxus, says: U This river . . . has its source fronl the high 
lands of Pamer. It issues from a narrow valley, two or three hundred 
yards broad, in Wukhan, the southern boundary of Pamer. This valley 
is inclosed on three sides by the high snowy mountain called Pooshtikhur, 
to the south east, and west. The stream is seen coming from under the 
ice." (App
ndix, p. 646.) The mere verification of th
 name and 
position of a district so secluded must be allowed to furnish an unex- 
ceptionable test of the genuineness of our traveller's relation. 

The Province of V okhan 

9 1 

shan. They practise various modes of taking "vild animals. 
Upon leaving this country, and proceeding for three days, 
still in an east-north-east course, ascending mountain after 
mountain, you at length arrive at a point of the road, where 
you might suppose the surrounding summits to be the highest 
lands in the world. Here, between two ranges, you perceive 
a large lake, from which flows a handsome river, that pursues 
its course along an extensive plain, covered with the richest 
verdure. Such indeed is its quality that the leanest cattle 
turned upon it would become fat in the course of ten days. 
In this plain there are wild animals in great numbers, parti- 
cularly sheep of a large size, having horns, three, four, and 
even six palms in length. Of these the shepherds form ladles 
and vessels for holding their victuals; and with the same 
materials they construct fences for enclosing their cattle, and 
securing them against the wolves, with which, they say, the 
country is infested, and which likewise destroy many of these 
wild sheep or goa ts. 1 Their horns and bones being found in 
large quantities, heaps are made of them at the sides of the 
road, for the purpose of guiding travellers at the season when 
it is covered with snow. For twelve days the course is along 
this elevated plain, which is named Pamer; 2 and as during 
all that time you do not meet with any habitations, it is 
necessary to make provision at the outset accordingly. So 
great is the height of the mountains, that no birds are to be 
seen near their summits; and however extraordinary it may 
be thought, it was affirmed, that from the keenness of the air, 
fires when lighted do not give the same heat as in lower situa- 
tions, nor produce the same effect in dressing victuals. 
After having performed this journey of twelve days, you 
have still forty days to travel in the same direction, over 
mountains, and through valleys, in perpetual succession, pass- 

1 From the length of the horns of these animals, and the uses to which 
they were applied, we might suppose them to be a species of ibex or 
mountain goat; and although called Inontoni in the first instance they 
are afterwards spoken of as becchi or boues. In Elphinstone's A
of Caubul, this conjecture is justified, where he says: U Goats are common 
in all the mountainous parts of the country, and are by no means scarce 
in the plains. Some breeds have remarkably long and curiously twisted 
horns." (P. 144.) J. Rh. Forster observes that these animals are 
termed mouflons and mutfioni, by the French and Italian writers. 
I We find the elevated plain of Pamer, Pamire, or Pamîr in all the 
maps of Persia and the neighbouring countries. In that which accom- 
panies l\Iacdonald l{inncir's Geographical 1\1emoir, it occupies a plac
corresponding to the bearings \Vc should infer frorn our author's de" 

9 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

ing many rivers and desert tracts, without seeing any habita.. 
tions or the appearance of verdure. Every article of pro.. 
vision must therefore be carried along with you. This region 
is called Beloro. 1 Even amidst the highest of these moun.. 
tains, there live a tribe of savage, ill-disposed, and idolatrous 
people, who subsist upon the animals they can destroy, and 
clothe themselves with the skins. 



AT length you reach a place called Kashcar, which, it is said, 
was formerly an independent kingdom, but it is now subject 
to the dominion of the grand khan. 2 Its inhabitants are of 
the Mahometan religion. The province is extensive, and 
contains many towns and castles, of which Kashcar is the 
largest and most important. 3 The language of the people 
is peculiar to themselves. They subsist by commerce and 
1 This alpine region, named by eastern geographers Belûr or Belôr, is 
laid down in Strahlenberg's map, from whence, apparently, it has been 
transferred to those of D' Anville; but its position relatively to Pamîr 
and Badakhshan will be found still more conformable to our author's 
account, in the recent constructions of Macdonald Kinneir and Macart- 
ney. With respect to the nature of the country, it is spoken of by Elphin- 
stone, in terms little differing from those employed in the text. "Izzut- 
Hoollah," he says, "gives a frightful picture of the cold and desolation 
of this elevated tract, which extends for three marches on the highest 
part of the country between Yarkund and Ley (or Ladauk)."-Note, 
p. 113. 
a Kashgar, or Kashghar, is a well-known city and emporium for the 
trade carried on between Tartary, India, and China. It is situated in 
that part of Turkistan which Europeans term the Lesser Bucharia, and 
was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It was amongst 
the places overrun by the irresistible arms of J engiz-khan, and upon the 
division of his empire, was included in the patrimony of his son J agataï. 
About a century after our author's time, it was conquered by Tamerlane; 
and, in 1683, by the Kontaish, or great khan of the Kalmucks, from 
whom the eastern part of the Lesser Bucharia was wrested, in 1718, by 
the Chinese. 
3 "AI Bergendi dit," says D'IIerbelot, "qu'elle est fort grande, et 
qu'elle passe pour la capitale de 
out Ie pays;' que ses habitans sont 
Mussulmans, et que beaucoup de scavans-hoffilnes en sont sortis." 
,- Macdonald Kinneir's Itineraries speak of it as being situated on a well- 
cultivated plain, near a fine river, but not navigable, on the southern side 
of a range of mountains called Teeruck Duan. 

rhe City of Samarcan 93 
manufacture, particularly works of cotton. They have hand- 
some gardens, orchards, and vineyards. Abundance of cotton 
is produced there, as well as flax and hemp. l\ierchants from 
this country travel to all parts of the world; but in truth they 
are a covetous, sordid race, 1 eating badly and drinking worse. 
Besides the Mahometans there are amongst the inhabitants 
several N estorian Christians, who are permitted to live under 
their own laws, and to have their churches. The extent of 
the province is five days' journey. 



SAMAR CAN is a noble city, adorned with beautiful gardens, 
and surrounded by a plain, in which are produced all the 
fruits that man can desire. 2 The inhabitants, who are partly 
Christians and par
ly 1Iahometans, are subject to the dominion 
of a nephew of the grand khan, with whom, however, he is 
not upon amicable terms, but on the contrary there is per- 
petual strife and frequent wars between them. 3 This city lies 

1 The people of Bucharia, in the central parts of Asia, appear to re- 
semble, in their commercial habits and parsimony, the Armenians who 
frequent the principal cities of India, and whom Forster, in his Travels} 
describes as being industrious, servile, and dishonest; pursuing the 
different roads of traffic with unremitting ardour, and invariably measur- 
ing their pleasures by the mere extent of their wealth.-Vol. ii. p. 117. 
S It is obvious here, that in order to introduce the description of a 
place so important as Samarkand, which our author had probably visited 
in one of his official journeys, he departs from the course he 'was pur- 
suing towards Kataia, and makes what may be considered as an excursion 
into the Greater Bucharia, or Transoxiana. This celebrated city was 
taken from the Persians by the khalif Walid in the year 704, and from 
the sultan of I{haurizm in 1220, by J engiz-khan, who gave it up to pillage 
and destroyed many of its buildings. From this, however, it might have 
recovered in the course of fifty or sixty years that intervened before the 
period of which we are speaking. By Timur or Tamerlane it was re- 
stored to all its ancient splendour, about the year 1370, and became the 
capital of his vast dominions; but falling subsequently into the hands 
of the Uzbek Tartars, with whon1 it remained at the close of the last 
century, its consequence had much declined. 
3 Kashgar being the place last Inentioned, it might be presumed that 
he speaks of the bearing of Sanlarkand from thence, but as the actual 
direction, instead of being north-west (1naestro), is nearly west-south- 
,vest, we are justified in looking rather to Badakhshan, where he had 


Travels of Marco Polo 

in the direction of north-west. A miracle is said to have taken 
place there, under the following circumstances. Not long 
ago, a prince named Zagatai, who was own brother to the (then 
reigning) grand khan, became a convert to Christianity; 
greatly to the delight of the Christian inhabitants of the place, 
who under the favour and protection of the prince, proceeded 
to build a church, and dedicated it to St. John the Baptist. , 
It was so constructed that all the weight of the roof (being 
circular) should rest upon a column in the centre, and beneath 
this, as a base, they fixed a square stone, which, with the per- 
mission of the prince, they had taken from a temple belonging 
to the Mahometans, who dared not to prevent them from so 
doing. But upon the death of Zagatai, his son who succeeded 
him showing no disposition to become a Christian, the Mussul- 
mans had influence enough to obtain from him an order that 
their opponents should restore to them the stone they had 
appropriated; and although the latter offered to pay them a 
compensation in money, they refused to listen to the proposal, 
because they hoped that its removal would occasion the church 
to tumble down. In this difficulty the aftlicted Christians had 
no other resource than with tears and humility to recommend 
themselves to the protection of the glorious St. J olm the 
Baptist. When the day arrived on which they were to make 
restItution of the stone, it came to pass that through the inter- 
cession of the Saint, the pillar raised itself from its base to the 
height of three palms, in order to facilitate the removal of the 
stone; and in that situation, without any kind of support, it 
remains to the present day.l Enough being said of this, we 
shall now proceed to the province of Karkan. 
long resided, and from whence he professes to begin his account of the 
route to Kataia. The latitude of Samarkand, as taken with the famous 
mural quadrant of Ulug Beig, the grandson of Tamerlane, is 39 0 37' N., 
and its longitude, as estimated by Major Rennell, is about 64 0 IS' E. of 
Greenwich, or 71 0 W. of Kashgar. By Ð'Anville they are placed several 
degrees further to the eastward. 
1 This is one of the stories, in the way of episode, that have tended to 
bring our author's work into disrepute. Zagatai was in fact, as he says, 
the brother of Oktai, who succeeded his father as grand khan of the 
Moghuls; but we have no authority for his having embraced Christianity, 
although the Christians experienced much indulgence under J engiz-khan 
and his immediate successors, and 1Iangu, his grandson, the nephew of 
Zagatai, is said by Rubrllquis and Halton to have been baptized. The 
text frOln which I\larsden translated states that the circumstance referred 
to occurred a hundred and twenty-five years before this book was written, 
upon \\'hich he observes that, doubtful or iInprobable as the circumstance 
of Zagataï's conversion may be, the difficulty it occasions would be more 
easily sunnounted than that of tl;1e a!lachronism; 
or as he began to 
reign about the year 1227, and dIed In 1240, the tlJDe elapsed at the 

The Provillce of Karkan 




DEPARTING from thence you enter the province of Karkan,1 
which continues to the distance of five days' journey. Its 
inhabitants, for the most part Mahometans, with some Nes- 
torian Christians, are subjects of the grand khan. Provisions 
are here in abundance, as is also cotton. The people are 
expert artisans. They are in general afflicted with s\vellings 
in the legs, and turn ours in the throat, occasioned by the 
quali ty of the water they drink. 2 In this coun try there is 
not anything further that is worthy of observation. 

period when Marco Polo's Travels were written could not be more thau 
about seventy years, even if the event took place at the commencement 
of his reign; whereas the space of 125 years, as stated in the text, would 
carry it back to 1173, when his father was only nine years of age, and the 
family obscure. This species of absurd error I can neither account for 
nor palliate, otherwise than by supposing that the date, which does not 
appear in the Latin versions or Italian epitomes, has been an interpolation 
in one of the manuscripts followed by Ramusio. [All the early manu- 
scripts agree in the phrase translated in the present edition-non è gran 
tempo che-non est magnum tempus quod-il fu voir qu'il ne a encore 
granment de tens que.] 
1 The visit to Samarkand being excursive, or out of the line of his 
present route, our author leads us back to a place in the Lesser Bucharia 
which at that time belonged to the kingdom of Kashgar, noticed in the 
preceding chapter. Carchan, or Karkan, was intended for the district, 
or rather its chief town, which is most generally known by the name of 
Yerken; although its orthography has been exposed to as much varia- 
tion amongst the writers of latter times, as in the copies of our author's 
work. By the Portuguese missionary Benjamin Goez the word is written 
Hiarchan; by Du Halde, Yarkian; by Strahlenberg, in his map, J erken, 
Hyarchan, or Gurkan; by D'Anville, Jërken; by De Guignes, Yerken; 
and by our modern travellers from the side of Hindustan, Yarkund. 
" It appears," says Lieut. Macartney, "that after five days' journey 
north-east of Cashmeer, an evident ascent commences, which is very 
great for three or four days' journey, after which it is less on to Leh (or 
Ladâk). The ascent continues even on to the great ridge which separates 
Tibet from Yarkund."-Account of Caubul, p. 646. Appendix. 
2 The permanent ædematous swelling of the leg to a monstrous size is 
a disorder well known in several parts of the East, and vulgarly termed 
in India the" Cochin leg." For an account of this species of eleþhantiasis, 
see Cordiner's Description of Ceylon, vol. i. p. 182. Respecting the 
cause of those glandulous tumours at the throat called goitres, much has 
been written by travellers and medical persons, who in general attribute 
it to the quality of the water, although the notion of its proceding from 
snow-water bas been exploded. I have elsewhere ventured to express 

9 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 



FOLLOWING a course between north-east and east, you next 
come to the province of Kotan, l the extent of which is eight 
days' journey. It is under the dominion of the grand khan, 
and the people are 1\1:ahometans. It contains many cities 
and fortified places, but the principal city, and which gives 
its name to the province, is Kotan. Everything necessary for 
human life is here in the greatest plenty. It yields likewise 
cotton, flax, hemp, grain, wine, and other articles. The in- 
habitants cultivate farms and vineyards, and have numerous 
gardens. 2 They support themselves also by trade and manu- 
factures, but they are not good soldiers. We shall now speak 
of a province named Peyn. 

an opinion that these affections of the glands of the throat are occasioned 
by the dense mists which settle in the valleys between high mountains, 
and are not dispersed until a late hour of the day. (Hist. of Sumatra, 
3d edit., p. 48.) See an ingenious paper on this subject by Dr. Reeves, 
published in the Phil. Trans. for the year 1808, vol. xcviii. p. III. 
I The name of I{otan is indubitably Rhoten (the Yu-tien and Ho-tien 
of the Chinese, who soften the Tartar pronunciation), a place farniliar 
to us, by name at least, as that from whence a great part of Asia is sup- 
plied with musk, which the natives rank amongst the most exquisite 
perfumes, and the Persian poets never cease to extol. Beyond this cir- 
cumstance our information concerning it is very imperfect. "Khoten," 
says Malcolm, "was formerly of some importance, and its chiefs are 
often mentioned. It was conquered, with Kashgar, Yarkund, and other 
provinces in the same quarter, by the Chinese, in 1757, and now forms 
part of that great empire. A respectable inhabitant of Tartary, who 
visited the town of Khoten about twenty years ago, describes it as in a 
flourishing state, though inferior in size to the city of Yarkund, from 
which it is distant about 140 miles. Rhoten is still, according to this 
traveller's account, celebrated for its musk."-Hist. of Persia, vol. i. 
p. 324, note. 
2 Although we do not meet wIth direct authority for the cultivation of 
the vine at Rhoten, there can be little doubt of the fact, as we read of 
vineyards at I-Iami, or Khan1il, to the eastward, as well as at Kashgar, 
to the northward of this place, and within the same canton or district. 

Singular Matrimonial C\lStOI11 9 ï 




PEYN is a province of five days' journey in extent, in the 
direction of east-north-east. 1 It is under the dominion of the 
O"rand khan, and contains many cities and strong places, the 
principal one of which is likewise named Peyn. Through this 
flows a river, and in its bed are found many of those stones 
called chalcedonies and jasper. 2 All kinds of provision are 
obtained here. Cotton also is produced in the country. The 
inhabitants live by manufacture and trade. They have this 
custom, that if a married man goes to a distance from home to 
be absent twenty days, his wife has a right, if she is inclined, 
to take another husband; and the men, on the same principle, 
marry wherever they happen to reside. All the before-men- 
tioned provinces, that is to say, Kashcar, Kotan, Peyn, and as 
far as the desert of Lop, are within the limits of Turkistan. 3 
Next follows the province of Charchan. 
lOur author's course of description now leads us to places situated on 
the eastern side of Khoten, and in the neighbourhood of the great sandy 
desert, where we are left without any guidance excepting the scanty 
notices with which he has furnished us. The situation assigned by 
D' Anville to Peyn or Pe-yn (which in the epitomes is Poim or Poin), 
being seven degrees of longitude from Khoten, seems to be too far to the 
eastward, and to approach too nearly to the frontier of China. In this 
opinion, which applies equally to the intermediate places which are the 
subject of the following chapters, I am warranted by that of Major 
Rennell, who says: "I think that our maps are in a great error with 
respect to the positions of the countries lying between Bucharia and 
China; all of which, in my idea, have been made to recede too much 
from Bucharia towards China."-lVlemoir of a Map of Hindustan, p. 19 1 . 
2 The jasper, or a hard kind of stone resembling jasper, is noticed by 
:;everal writers as the production of this part of Tartary; and Goez speaks 
of its being procured from the bed of the river at Khoten) which may 
probably be the same stream that afterwards runs to Peyn. 
S The eastern limits of Turkistan, or Turquestan, are not well defined. 
but it may be considered generally as extending throughout that tract 
of Central Asia in which dialects of the Turki or Turk 0- Tartarian language 
are spoken; and as the Bukhar or Bucharian, although much mixed 
with Persian words, is one of these dialects, it follows that our author is 
warranted in considering places that belong to what Europeans term the 
Lesser Bucharia, and Eastern writers the kingdom of Kashgar, as fornl- 
ing a part of Turkistan, which consequently reaches to the borders of the 
at de
ert of 
obi. For the convenience of geography, it is distin- 
gUIshed mto ChInese and Independent Turkistan. separated froin each 

9 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 



CHARCHAN is also a province of Turkistan, lying in an east- 
north-east direction (from Peyn). In former times it was 
flourishing and productive, but has been laid waste by the 
Tartars. The people are Mahometans. I ts chief city is like- 
wise named Charchan. 1 Through this province run several 
large streams, in which also are found chalcedonies and jaspers, 
which are carried for sale to Cathay,2 and such is their abun- 
dance that they form a considerable article of commerce. 
The country frorl1 Peyn to this district, as well as throughout 
its whole extent, is an entire sand, 3 in which the water is for 
the most part bitter and unpalatable, although in particular 
places it is sweet and good. When an army of Tartars passes 
through these places, if they are enemies the inhabitants are 
plundered of their goods, and if friends their cattle are killed 
and devoured. For this reason, ,vhen they are a\vare of the 
approach of any body of troops, they flee, with their families 
and cattle, into the sandy desert, to the distance of two days' 
journey, towards son1e spot where they can find fresh water, 

other by the great mountainous range of Belur-tag and .l\1ush-tag or 
Iinaus. Elphinstone refers to this division when he says: "Those 
(caravans from the side oí India) which go to Chinese Toorldstaun, set 
off from Cashmeer and Peshawer: Caubul is the great mart of Inde- 
pe-.ldent Toorkistaun." (Account of Caubul J p. 293.) [The words of 
the early Latin version are, " Sunt de magna Turchia."] 
1 Charchan (in Ramusio, Ciarcian; in the Basle edition and older 
Latin, Ciartiam; and in the Italian epitome, Ciarchian) appears to cor- 
respond with the Schachan of Strahlenberg's map, although its situation 
seems to be rather that of I{arashai. De Guignes speaks of a district 
narrled Chen-chen, to the south of Hami, and near the lake of Lop, which 
can be no other than this. See lIist. gén. des Huns, tom i. part. ii. 
p. II. 
2 The naIne of the place to which these jaspers are said to be carried 
is in RalIlusiù's text Ouchah or Oukah, but evidently by mistake. In 
the Basle edition the w<Jrds are, "quos negotiatores deferunt ad pro- 
vinciaIIl Cathai," and in the manuscripts it is Catay: which is known to 
De the fact. 
3 In the Italian epitomes it is here said, rather more precisely: 
" Ql1esta provincia e tutta piena de sabion per la mazor parte; e da 
Cata (Kataia) infÌno a Poin (Peyn) e moHo sabion." 

The Town of Lop 


and are by that means enabled to subsist. From the same 
apprehension, when they collect their harvest, they deposit the 
grain in caverns amongst the sands; taking monthly from the 
store so much as may be wanted for their consumption; nor 
can any persons besides themselves know the places to which 
they resort for this purpose, because the tracks of their feet are 
presently effaced by the wind. Upon leaving Charchan the 
road lies for five days over sands, where the water is generally, 
but not in all places, bad. Nothing else occurs here that is 
worthy of remark. At the end of these five days you arrive at 
the city of Lop, on the borders of the great desert. 



THE town of Lop is situated towards the north-east, near the 
commencement of the great desert, which is called the Desert 
of Lop.1 It belongs to the don1inions of the grand khan, and 
its inhabitants are of the Mahometan religion. Travellers who 
intend to cross the desert usually halt for a considerable time 
at this place, as well to repose from their fatigues as to make 
the necessary preparations for their further journey. For this 
purpose they load a nun1ber of stout asses and camels with pro- 
visions and with their merchandise. Should the former be 
consumed before they have completed the passage, they kill 
1 The lake of Lop appears ill the Jesuits' and Ð' Anville's maps. In 
the latter we find also a town named "Tantabée on Tankabash, rési- 
dence de l'ancieu khan de Tagazgaz, ville de Lop dans l\Iarc-Paul; "but his 
authority for this supposition does not appear. "Ces deux villes dont 
je viens de parler," says De Guignes, speaking of Ciatiam (or Charchan) 
and Lop, "paroissent être les Inèmes que celles de Kantcheou et de 
Hankiun-tcheou, que les envoyés Chinois trouvèrent dans leur route 
de Cha- tcheou à Khoten, mais il me paroît impossible d' en assigner 
la véritable position." (Po 17.) Instead of the name of Lop, which 
this desert bears in Ramusio's as well as in most of the other versions, 
the word in the early Italian epitomes is Job; and this variation of 
orthography gives rise to the conjecture that it may have been intended 
for Kobi, which is said to be the original Tartar name. " Tout cet espace," 
says Du Halde, " n'est qu'un terrain see et sablonneux, Ie plus stérile qui 
qui soit dans toute la Tartarie. C'est ce que les Chinois appellent ordin- 
airement Charno (Shamo), quelquefois Kan-hai, comme qui diroit 1i;ef de 
sable. Les Tartares Ie nomment Cobi."-Tom. iv. p. 26. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

and eat the cattle of both kinds; but camels are commonly 
here employed in preference to asses, because they carry heavy 
burthens and are fed with a small quantity of provender. The 
stock of provisions should be laid in for a month, that time 
being required for crossing the desert in the narrowest part. 
o travel it in the direction of its length would prove a vain 
attempt, as little less than a year must be consumed, and to 
convey stores for such a period would be found impracticable.! 
During these thirty days the journey is invariably over either 
sandy plains or barren mountains; but at the end of each day's 
march you stop at a place where water is procurable; not in- 
deed in sufficient quantity for large numbers, but enough to 
supply a hundred persons, together wth their beasts of burthen. 
At three or four of these halting-places the water is salt and 
bitter, but at the others, amounting to about twenty, it is 
sweet and good. In this tract neither beasts nor birds are met 
with, because there is no kind of food for them. 2 
It is asserted as a well-known fact that this desert is the 
abode of many evil spirits, which amuse travellers to their 
destruction with most extraordinary illusions. If, during the 
day-time, any persons remain behind on the road, either when 
overtaken by sleep or detained by their natural occasions, until 
the caravan has passed a hill and is no longer in sight, they un- 
expectedly hear themselves called to by their names, and in a 
tone of voice to which they are accustomed. Supposing the 
call to proceed from their companions, they are led away by it 
1 In the Jesuits' map prefixed to Du Halde's" Description de la Chine," 
the desert is to extend, with a partial interruption, from the nleri- 
dian of Peking, westward to the thirty-fifth degree of longitude reckoned 
from that city. The impracticability, therefore, of travelling over it in 
that direction, as observed by our author, is evident. 
2 The general conformity of this description, as it regards the dreary 
aspect of th8 country and the nature of the halting places, with the ac- 
count given by that excellent traveller John Bell of Alltermony, who 
crossed another part of the same desert, in his route irODl Selinginsky 
to Peking, will be found very striking; and it is remarkable that the 
number of days employed was in the one case thirty, and in the other 
twenty-eight. The most material difference between them is, that Bell, 
during several days of his journey, met with sheep, and afterwards herds 
of antelopes, as well as a flock of plovers, whereas our author saw neither 
beasts nor birds in his passage. But it is not improbable that the desert 
rnay be nlore barren and inhospitable towards its western extrernity; 
and it is at the same time reasonable to suppose that the line of road 
taken by the Chinese government for their communication with the 
Russian dominions, should be through that part where there was the 
best chance of finding the means of subsistence. It is also possible that 
saIne changes may have taken place in the course of four hundred and 
fifty years, and that a breed of sheep may have been carried to those 
spots which exhibited symptoms of veeeta tion. 

The Spirits ot the Desert 101 
from the direct road, and not knowing in what"direction to 
advance, are left to perish. In the night-time they are per- 
suaded they hear the march of a large cavalcade on one side or 
the other of the road, and concluding the noise to be that of the 
footsteps of their party, they direct theirs to the quarter from 
whence it seems to proceed; but upon the breaking of day, 
find they have been misled and drawn into a situation of 
danger. Sometimes likewise during the day these spirits 
assume the appearance of their travelling companions, who 
address them by name and endeavour to conduct them out of 
the proper road. It is said also that some persons, in their 
course across the desert, have seen what appeared to them to 
be a body of armed men advancing towards them, and appre- 
hensive of being attacked and plundered have taken to flight. 
Losing by this means the right path, and ignorant of the 
direction they should take to regain it, they have perished 
miserably of hunger. Marvellous indeed and almost passing 
belief are the .stories related of these spirits of the desert, which 
are said at times to fill the air with the sounds of all kinds of 
musical instruments, and also of drums and the clash of arms; 
obliging the travellers to close their line of march and to pro- 
ceed in more compact order. l They find it necessary also to 
take the precaution before they repose for the night, to fix an 
advanced signal, pointing out the course they are afterwards 
to hold, as well as to attach a bell to each of the beasts of 
burthen for the purpose of their being more easily kept from 
straggling. Such are the excessive troubles and dangers that 
must unavoidably be encountered in the passage of this desert. 


WHEN the journey of thirty days across the desert has been 
completed, you arrive at a city called Sachion, 2 which belongs 
1 We find in the works of the Chinese geographers that these idle 
stories are the subject of general belief in the part of Tartary here 
2 Having crossed a narrow part of the great desert, in a direction from 
the towns of the kingdom of Kashgar towards the nearest point of China, 


Travels of Marco Polo 

to the grand khan. The province is named 1"anguth. 1 The 
people are worshippers of idols. 2 There are Turkomans among 
them, \\yith a few Nestorian Christians and Mahometans. 
our author's course naturally leads him to a place named Cha-tcheou 
according to the French, or Sha-cheu according to our orthography: 
" A l'est du lac de Lop," says De Guignes, U on trouve une ville que M. 
Paul appelle Sachion, la Cha-tcheou ou ville de sable des Chinois." (P. 
12.) The corruption of this name from Sha-cheu to Sachion will appear 
to have arisen chiefly from the difficulty of distinguishing the u from n 
in manuscripts; and it will be found that a great proportion of the 
Chinese names for towns, in the subsequent parts of the work, are affected 
by the same error. The place is situated about four degrees to the west- 
ward of So-cheu (an important garrison at the western extremity of the 
province of Shen-si), and commands the entrance of a famous pass or 
gorge of the mountains, named Yang-kuan. In the history of ]engiz- 
khan by Pétis de la Croix it is observed, that his occupation of this strong 
post was of the greatest advantage to his subsequent operations against 
the southern provinces of China. (P. 481.) It may appear an objection 
to this identifying of Sachion with Sha-cheu, which lies in the direct way 
to, and not very distant from the Chinese province of Shen-si, that in 
the next chapter he proceeds to speak of a place not intermediate, but 
on the contrary still further from the borders, and in a different direction. 
But it must be recollected that our author's work is not a simple itinerary, 
and that he professes to describe parts not in the line of his original 
journey, but which he might have visited subsequently whilst in the 
service of the emperor. Here, too, we may remark that he does not 
give any estimation of distance, as if the route were continuous, but 
breaks off in order to speak of other places, U at the head of the desert." 
1 It is not unusual to consider the names of Tangut and Tibet, both of 
which have been adopted by the Persians from the Moghuls, as synony- 
mous; but the former applies to a larger portion of Tartary, bordering 
upon the western provinces of China, and including Tibet in its southern 
division, whilst its northern contains the districts of which our author 
now proceeds to speak. According to Du Halde's definition, however, 
it does not extend quite so far northward as the situation assigned to 
Cha-tcheou in the] esuits' map. 
S The inhabitants of the countries on the western side of the desert of 
Lop or Kobl were described by our author as being chiefly Mahometans; 
but upon crossing that tract and entering the. province of Tangut, or 
Sifan, as it is termed by the Chinese, he properly speaks of the people 
as idolaters. By idolatry is here meant the religion generally known as 
that of the grand lama, or spiritual sovereign, whom his followers believe 
to be immortal, by means of successive regeneration of the same indivi- 
dual in different bodies, but do not worship, as has been supposed. Their 
adoration is paid to a number of images of deities, but principally to one, 
which is often of a colossal size, and is named by them Shakia-muni. 
This is the Buddha of the Hindu mythology, whose doctrines are more 
extensively disseminated throughout the east than even those of Ma- 
homet. In Ava and Pegu the same idol is worshipped by the name of 
Gautama (equally with Shakia an epithet or attribute of Buddha), in 
Siam by that of Samana-kodom, in Cochin-China and Tonkin by that of 
But and Thika-mauni, in Japan by that of Shaka and Anlida Buth, and 
in China where the sanle system prevails amongst the bulk of the popu- 
lation by that of Fo or Fuh. Many of the other objects of worship 
 to belong to the Brahmanic mythology, and some are of a local 
character. It is evident at the same time that with respect to forms and 
cerenlonies of which there will be occasion to say more hereafter, many 
of them ha
e been adopted from the Nestorian Christians. 

Those who are idolaters have a language distinct from the 
others. 1 This city lies towards the east-north-east. They are. 
not a commercial, but an agricultural people, having much 
wheat. There are in this country a number of monasteries and 
abbeys, which are filled with idols of various descriptions. 2 
To these, which they regard with the profoundest reverence, 
they also offer sacrifices; and upon the birth of a son, they 
recommend him to the protection of some one of their idols. 
In honour of this deity the father rears a sheep in his house 
until the expiration of a year, ,vhen, upon the day of the idol's 
peculiar festival, they conduct their son, together with the 
sheep, into its presence, and there sacrifice the animal. The 
flesh they seethe, and then they carry it and lay it before the 
idol, and stand there until they have finished a long prayer, the 
subject of which is to entreat the idol to preserve the health 
of their child; 3 and they believe that during this interval 
it has sucked in all the savoury juices of the meat. The 
remaining substance they then carry home, and, assembling 
all their relations and friends, eat it with much devout 
festivity. They collect the bones, and preserve them in 
handsome urns. The priests of the idol have for their portion 
] This we term tbe language of Tibet, which is monosyllabic in its 
principle, like the Chinese, but in every other respect differs from it. 
The written character bears more commonly the appellation of Tangut 
or Tangutian, ånd in its alphabetic arrangement acknowledges a nagri 
or Sanskrit origin. 
2 Of the numerous and capacious buildings erected in a country where 
every fourth male of a family is devoted to the monastic life, we find fre- 
quent mention in the writings of travellers, and particularly in the ac- 
counts of Bogle's mission in 1774, and Turner's in 1783, to the court of 
the southern grand lama. The plates annexed to the latter will furnish 
the curious reader with a perfect idea of the exterior appearance of these 
monasteries, some of which contain from two to three thousand gylongs 
or monks. An engraving of the same subject appears also amongst the 
plates connected with Lord Macartney's Enlbassy to China: various 
circumstances relative to the interior of the establishment
 will be found 
in Turner's pleasing narrative, and a general description, with a ground 
plan, in the Alphabetum Tibetanum of Georgi, p. 407. In the l'rIém. 
conc. les Chinois, tom. xiv., we find an elaborate account of the great 
miao or abbey of Putala, at Lbassa, which has" 367 pieds quatre pouces 
de hauteur." 
3 The ceremony here described, in which the sacrifice of the sheep 
appears to be intended as a ransom for the child, who, at his birth rnav 
have been devoted rather than recommended to the guardian deity Ís 

nsistent with wh
t is remarked .by the younger De Guignes, of a pr'ac- 
bce amongst the nelghbours of thIS people. "Comule les Chinois " says 
this traveller, "implorent les génies dans toutes les circonsta
ces de 
la vie, il n'est pas surprenant qu'ils les invoquent pour en obtenir la 
conservation de leurs enfans. Lorsqu'ils craignent de les perdre ils les 
consacrent à quelque dieu." (Voyages à Peking, etc., tOlD. Ü. p. 359.) 
A similar custom is said to exist in Bengal: ..., 

The People of Tang11t 

10 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

the head, the feet, the intestines, and the skin, together 
with some parts of the flesh. . In respect to the dead. 
likewise, these idolaters have particular ceremonies. Upo
the decease of a person of rank, whose body it is intended to 
bum,1 the relations call together the astrologers, and make 
them acquainted with the year, the day, and the hour in which 
he was born; whereupon these proceed to examine the horo- 
scope, and having ascertained the constellation or sign, and the 
planet therein presiding, declare the day on which the funeral 
ceremony shall take place. If it should happen that the same 
planet be not then in the ascendant, they order the body to 
be kept a week or more, and sometimes even for the space of 
six months, before they allow the ceremony to be performed. 
In the hope of a propitious aspect, and dreading the effects of 
a contrary influence, the relations do not presume to burn the 
corpse until the astrologers have fixed the proper time. 2 It 
being necessary on this account that, in many cases, the 
body should remain long in the house, in order to guard 
against the consequences of putrefaction, they prepare 
a coffin made of boards a palm in thickness, well fitted 
together and painted, in which they deposit the corpse, and 
along with it a quantity of sweet-scented gums, camphor, and 
other drugs; the joints or seams they smear with a mixture of 
pitch and lime, and the whole is then covered with silk. Dur- 
ing this period the table is spread every day with bread, wine, 
and other provisions, which remain so long as is necessary for a 
convenient meal, as well as for the spirit of the deceased, which 
they suppose to be present on the occasion, to satisfy itself 
with the fumes of the victuals. Sometimes the astrologers 
signify to the relations that the body must not be conveyed 
from the house through the principal door, in consequence of 
their having discovered from the aspect of the heavens, or 
otherwise, that such a course would be unlucky, and it must 
therefore be taken out from a different side of the house. 3 In 
1 It is only on the bodies of personages of the highest rank that the 
honours of the funeral pile are bestowed; those of the inferior orders 
being exposed in unfrequented places, and sometimes on the tops of 
moun tains, to be devoured by birds and other wild animals. 
I The implicit deference paid to the skill of astrologers in determining 
the days and hours proper for the performance of all acts, public and 
domestic solemn or trivial, is general throughout the East. 
3 This 
ustom is found to prevail also amongst the Chinese with whom 
the inhabitants of a country so near to the borders of the empire, as that 
which our author is now describing, must have much in common. "C'est 
parmi eux," adds Du Halde, " t!n usage de faire de nouvelles ouvertures 
à Jcurs maisons, quand on dolt transporter Ie corps de leurs parens 

t""unera] CllStolTIS in Tangut 105 
some instances, indeed, they oblige them to break through the 
wall that happens to stand opposite to the propitious and 
beneficent planet, and to convey the corpse through that aper- 
ture; persuading them that if they should refuse to do so, the 
spirit of the defunct would be incensed against the family and 
cause them some injury. Accordingly, when any misfortune 
befalls a house, or any person belonging to it meets with an 
accident or loss, or with an untimely death, the astrologers do 
not fail to attribute the event to a funeral not having taken 
place during the ascendency of the planet under which the 
deceased relative was born, but, on the contrary, when it was 
exposed to a malign influence, or to its not having been con- 
ducted through the proper door. & the ceremony of burning 
the body must be performed without the city, they erect from 
space to space in the road by which the procession is to pass, 
small wooden buildings, with a portico which they cover with 
silk; and under these, as it arrives at each, the body is set 
down. They place before it meats and liquors, and this is 
repeated until they reach the appointed spot, believing, as 
they do, that the spirit is thereby refreshed and acquires energy 
to attend the funeral pile. Another ceremony also is practised 
on these occasions. They provide a number of pieces of paper, 
made of the bark of a certain tree, upon which are painted the 
figures of men, women, horses, camels, pieces of money, and 
dresses, and these they burn along with the corpse, under the 
persuasion that in the next world the deceased will enjoy the 
services and use of the domestics, cattle, and all the articles 
depicted on the paper. 1 During the whole of these proceed- 
ings, all the musical instruments belonging to the place are 
sounded with an incessant din. 2 Having now spoken of this 
city, others lying towards the north-west, near the head of the 
desert, shaH next be mentioned. 
décédez au lieu de leur sépulture, et de les refermer aussitôt, afin de 
s'épargner la douleur que leur causeroit Ie fréquent souvenir du défunt 
qui se renouvelleroit toutes les fois qu'ils passeroient par la même port
où est passé Ie cercüeil." (P. 128.) Nor is the prejudice here described con- 
fined to the eastern parts of the world; for in a town or village of North 
Holland (as I was informed on the spot) a corpse is never carried out 
through the front or principal door, but from the rear of the house. 
1 Could we suppose the missionaries to have derived their knowledge 
of the customs of these people from the writings of our author, the 
parallel could not be more complete than it will be found in various 
passages of Du Halde. 
:I All accounts of the ceremonies of these people notice the loud 
clangour of their music. 


Travels of Marco Polo 



KAMUL is a district situated within the great province of 
Tanguth, subject to the grand khan, and contains many towns 
and castles, of which the principal city is also named Kamu1. 1 
This district lies in the intermediate space between two deserts; 
that is to say, the great desert already described, and another 
of smaller extent, being only about three days' journey across. 2 
The inhabitants are \vorshippers of idols, and have their 
peculiar language. 3 They subsist on the fruits of the earth, 
which they possess in abundance, and are enabled to supply 
the wants of travellers. 4 The men are addicted to pleasure, 
and attend to little else than playing upon instruments, singing, 
1 Ramul, which the Tartars are said to pronounce Khamil, or Hamil 
with a strong aspiration, is the Hami of the Jesuits' map, softened in the 
Chinese pronunciation, as the title of khan is changed to han. In the 
narrative of B. Goez it is stated, that after leaving a place named Cialis 
(the Juldus of Strahlenberg's map), and passing another named Puciàn, 
also belonging to the, kingdom of Cascàr, they reached Turphan and 
remained there a month. U Après ils parvindrent à Aramuth, et puis à 
Camul, place gamie de bonnes deffences. Hz reposèrent icy avec leurs 
chevaux un autre mois. . . . Estans partis de Camul ilz arrivèrent dans 
neuf jours à ces murs septentrionaux du royaume de la Chine, en un lieu 
nommé Chiaicuon (Kia-yu-kuan). . . . Aians donc enfìn esté reçus dans 
l'enclos de ces murailles, ilz arrivèrent en un jour en la ville de Socieu 
(So-cheu)." (Histoire de l'Expédition Chrestienne, par Trigault, pp. 
482-485.) The distance, however, from Rami to So-cheu, the most 
western town of China, being by the maps about 280 miles, would render 
it a journey, for a caravan, of more than ten days. 
2 This account of the position of Kamul will be found to correspond 
exactly to that of Hami, which together with Turfan occupies a tract of 
cultivable land that seems nearly to divide the great desert of Kobi into 
two parts. See the Jesuits' maps accompanying Du Halde's " Descrip- 
tion de la Chine." 
3 At the period of Shah Rokh's embassy, which was about a century 
and a half later than our author's visit to this place, it was under a 
Mahometan government. 
, " Le pays," says Gerbillon, " est fort chaud en été; il y croît quantité 
de bons fruits." (P. 54.) The Abbé Grosier observes that" the country 
of Rami, though surrounded by deserts, is accounted one of the most 
deligh tful in the world. The soil produces. abundance. of gr a!n , fruits, 
leguminous plants, and pasture of every kInd. The nce whIch grows 
here is particularly esteemed in China. . . . There is no fruit more deli- 
cate or more in request than the melons of Hami, which are carried to 
Peking for the emperor's table . . . but the most useful and most 
esteemed production of the country is its dried raisins."-General 
Description of China, vol. i. p. 333. 

The District of Kamul 

10 7 

dancing, reading, writing, according to the practice of the 
country, and the pursuit, in short, of every kind of amusement. 1 
When strangers arrive, and desire to have lodging and accom- 
modation at their houses, it affords them the highest gratifi- 
cation. They give positive orders to their wives, daughters, 
sisters, and other female relations, to indulge their guests in 
every wish, whilst they themselves leave their homes, and retire 
into the city, and the stranger lives in the house with the 
females as if they were his own wives, and they send \vhatever 
necessaries may be wanted; but for which, it is to be under- 
stood, they expect payment: nor do they return to their houses 
so long as the strangers remain in them. This abandonment 
of the females of their family to accidental guests, who assume 
the same privileges and meet with the same indulgences as if 
they were their own váves, is regarded by these people as doing 
them honour and adding to their reputation; considering the 
hospitable reception of strangers, who (after the perils and 
fatigues of a long journey) stand in need of relaxation, as an 
action agreeable to their deities, calculated to draw down the 
blessing of increase upon their families, to augment their sub- 
stance, and to procure them safety from all dangers, as well as 
a successful issue to all their undertakings. The women are in 
truth very handsome, very sensual, and fully disposed to con- 
form in this respect to the injunction of their husbands. It 
happened at the time when Mangu Khan held his court in this 
province, that the above scandalous custom coming to his 
knowledge, he issued an edict strictly commanding the peoplf 
of Kamul to relinquish a practice so disgracefl J to them, and 
forbidding individuals to furnish lodging to strangers, who 
should be obliged to accommodate themselves at a house of 
public resort -)r caravanserai. In grief and sadness the in- 
habitants obeyed for about three years the command of their 
master; but finding at length that the earth ceased to yield 
the accustomed fruits, and that many unfortunate events 
occurred in their families., they resolved to despatch a deputa- 
1 U Leurs divertissemens," says P. .Amiot, speaking of the inhabitants 
of this part of the country, U consistent en chants et en danses. I1s se 
mettent par bandes de cinq ou six hommes et femmes pêle-mêle, se 
prennent par la main, et tournent ensemble, en faisant de terns en terns 
quelques sauts." (Mém. concern. les Chinois, tom. xiv. p. 152.) \Ve 
should not have expected to find reading and writing classed amongst 
light and effeminate occupations; but allowance must be made for the 
prejudices of a person educated in a Tartar court. A detailed account (,f 
the manner and instruments of writing amongst these people will be 
found in the Alphabetum Tibetanum, pp. 5 61 --5 6 7. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

tion to the grand khan, in their names, to beseech him that he 
should be pleased to suffer them to resume the observance of a 
custom that had been solemnly handed down to them by their 
fathers, from their ancestors in the remotest times; and 
especially as since they had failed in the exercise of these 
offices of hospitality and gratification to strangers, the interest 
of their families had gone progressively to ruin. The grand 
khan, having listened to this application, replied:-" Since you 
appear so anxious to persist in your own shame and ignominy, 
let it be granted as you desire. Go, live according to your 
base customs and manners, and let your wives continue to 
receive the beggarly wages of their prostitution." With this 
ans\ver the deputies returned home, to the great delight of an 
the people, who, to the present day, observe their ancient 
practice. 1 



NEXT to the district of Kamul follows that of Chinchitalas, 
which in its northern part borders on the desert, and is in 
length sixteen days' journey.2 It is subject to the grand khan, 

1 In Elphinstone's account of Caubul he gives a description of manners 
prevailing in the tribes that inhabit the eastern part of the ParopaInisan 
mountains, so nearly similar to what our author nlentions, that I am 
gratified by the occasion of verifying his statement by authority so re- 
spectable. "The women," he says, " are often handsome. . . . I t is 
universally agreed that they are by no means remarkable for chastity; 
but I have heard different accounts of their libertinisln. In the north- 
east, which is the most civilized part of the country, the women would 
prostitute themselves for money, while their husbands were out of the 
way. . . . In other parts of the country there prevails a custom caUed 
Kooroo Bistaun, by which the husband lends his wife to the embraces 
of his guests. This," he adds in a note, U is Moghul: one of the laws of 
the Vasa forbids adultery. The inhabitants of Caiader applied for, and 
received an exemption, on account of their old usage of lending their 
wives to their guests."-P. 483. 
:} Mention is made in L'Hist. générale des Huns of a place named Chen- 
chen, which has been supposed to be the Chinchitalas of our author. 
Tala, it should be observed, signifies in the Moghul- Tartar language, " a 
plain," and talai or dalai, " a sea or extensive lake: " talas may therefore 
be considered as an appellative, distinct from the proper nalne. "Ce 
pays," says De Guignes, " qui dans les historiens Chinois porte les deux 
noms de Leon-Ian et de Chen-chen, est situé au midi de Hami. II formoit 
anciennement un petit royaune dont la capitale étoit Kan-ni-tching 
voisine du lac de Lop. Tout ce pays est stérile, plein de sables, et l'on 

The City of Chinchitalas 

10 9 

and contains cities and several strong places. Its inhabitants 
consist of three religious sects. A few of them confess Christ, 
according to the N estorian doctrine; othets are followers of 
Mahomet; and a third class worship idols. There is in this 
district a mountain where the mines produce steel, and also 
zinc or antimony.1 A substance is likewise found of the nature 
of the salamander, for when woven i
to cloth, and thrown into 
the fire, it remains incombustible. 2 The following mode of 
preparing it I learned from one of my travelling companions, 
named Cumcar, a very intelligent Turkoman, who had the 
direction of the mining operations of the province for three 
years. The fossil substance procured from the mountain con- 
sists of fibres not unlike those of wool. This, after being ex- 
posed to the sun to dry, is pounded in a brass mortar, and is 
then washed until all the earthy particles are separated. The 
fibres thus cleansed and detached from each other, they then 
spin into thread and weave into cloth. In order to render the 
texture white, they put it into the fire, and suffer it to remain 
there about an hour, when they draw it out uninjured by the 
flame, and become white as snow. By the same process they 
afterwards cleanse it, when it happens to contract spots, no 
other abstergent lotion than an igneous one being ever applied 
to it. 3 Of the salamander under the form of a serpent, sup- 
y rencontre peu de bonnes terres. On y comptoit environ quinze cen
families. Ces peuples cherchent les pâturages où ils nourissent des ânes, 
des chevaux et des chameaux. Ils tirent des pays voisins leurs denrées: 
ils ont les mêmes mæurs que les peuples du Tibet qui sont leurs voisins 
au sud-est. . . . J e pense que c' est dans ce canton qu'il faut placer la 
. province que M. Paul appelle Chin-chin-talas, voisine du grand désert, 
et où il y avoit des Nestoriens, des Mahometans, et des idolatres.'" (Tom. 
i. pt. ü. p. xi.) It may, however, be doubted whether Chinchitalas is 
not the Cialis or Chialis of B. Goez, which he describes as a place de- 
pendent upon the king of Kashgar, and not far distant from Turfan and 
1 Respecting this mineral, which in the Latin is andanicum or øu4ani- 
cum, and in the I talian of the epitomes, andranico and andl'onico, see 
notes on pp. 56 and 71. 
:& There can be no doubt that what the texts here call salamander was 
really the asbestos. [The passage in the early Latin text is, U Et in ista 
montana est una alia vena un de fit salamandra. Salamandra autem non 
est bestia sicut dicitur quæ vivat in igne, sed dicam vobis quomodo fit 
a The asbestos is described as " a fossile stone that may be split into 
threads or filaments, from one to ten inches in length, very fine, brittle, 
yet somewhat tractable, silky, and of a greyish colour. It is indis- 
soluble in water, and endued with the wonderful property of remaining 
unconsumed in the fire." "L'asbeste a eu autrefois," says M. Brong- 
þiart, "des usages assez remarquables. Les anciens, qui brdloient les 
corps, l' ont employé comme drap incombustible pour conserver les cendres 
des corps sans mélange. Lorsque les filamens de cette pierre sont assez 

I 10 

Travels of Marco Polo 

posed to exist in fire, I could never discover any traces in the. 
eastern regions. It is said that they preserve at Rome a 
napkin woven from this material, in which was wrapped the 
sudarium of our Lord, sent as a gift from one of the Tartar 
princes to the Roman Pontiff. 



UPON leaving the district last mentioned, and proceeding for 
ten days in the direction of east-north-east, through a country 
where there are few habitations, and little of any kind worthy 
of remark, you arrive at a district named Succuir, in which 
are many towns and castles, the principal one being likewise 
named Succuir. 1 The inhabitants are in general idolaters, 
with some Christians. 2 They are subject to the dominion of 

longs, assez doux, et assez fiexibles, on parvient à les filer, sur-tout si on 
les mêle avec du line On peut en tisser une toile qui a une solidité et une 
flexibilité convenable, lors même qu' eUe a été privée, par Ie moyen du 
feu, du fil végétal qu'elle contenoit. Lorsque cette toile est saHe, Ie feu 
lui rend son premier éclat."-Traité élémentaire de Minéralogie, tom. i. 
p. 4 8 2. 
1 This appears, from all the circumstances mentioned, to be intended 
for So-cheu, a fortified town in the extreme western part of the province of 
Shen-si, or frontier of China in that quarter. Formerly, however, it did not 
belong to the empire, but to an independent Tartar nation. U Les places 
les plus occidentales de 1a province de Chensi," says De Guignes, U ayant 
fait partie de la Tartarie, no us croyons devoir les nommer ici d'autant 
plus que ce que- nous en diront pOWTa servir à éclaircir M. Paul. . . . 
SOllS le règne des Soui, on appella tout cepays So-teheou. . . . 11 passa 
ensuite sous la domination des peuples du Toufan, et quelque terns après, 
les Chinois le reprirent; il fait aujourd'hui partie du Chensi." (Tom. i. 
pt. ii. p. ix.) The first notice we have of this place, after the time of 
our author, is by Shah Rokh's ambassadors, in 1420. "Sekgiou (which 
De Guignes, perhaps from a different translation, writes Sokjou) est une 
vi11e grande et forte, en forme de quarré parfait. . . . cette ville est 
done la prerrlière de Khataï, éloignée de quatre-vingt-dix-neuf journées 
de la ville de Kan-Balik, qui est Ie lieu de la résidence de l'empereur, 
par un pais très-peuplé, car chaque journée on loge dans un gros bourg." 
-Relations de Thevenot, tom. ü. 
I During the long interval of three centuries that had elapsed between 
our author's time and that of Benedict Goez, an entire change appears 
to have taken place with respect to the Christian population, which he 
no longer found to exist; an effect that was produced by the ascendancy 
pf the Mahometans in that quarter. 

The City of Kanlpion 

I I I 

the grand khan. The extensive province, which contains these 
and the t\VO districts which shall be next mentioned, is called 
Tanguth, and throughout all the mountainous parts of it the 
most excellent kind of rhubarb is produced, in large quantities, 
and the merchants who procure loadings of it on the spot con- 
vey it to all parts of the world. 1 It is a fact that when they take 
that road, they cannot venture amongst the mountains with 
any beasts of burthen excepting those accustomed to the 
country, on account of a poisonous.plant groT\'Ving there, which, 
if eaten by them, has the effect of causing the hoofs of the 
animal to drop off; but those of the country, being aware of 
its dangerous quality, take care to avoid it. The people of 
Succuir depend for subsistence upon the fruits of the earth and 
the flesh of their cattle, and do not engage in trade. The 
district is perfectly healthy, and the complexion of the natives 
is bro\vl1. 



KAMPION, the chief city of the province of Tanguth,2 is large 
and magnificent, and has jurisdiction over all the province. 3 
1 The abundant growth of rhubarb in the mountainous region that 
forms the western boundary of China, is noticed by all the writers who 
have treated of these provinces. In the writings of Professor Pallas will 
be found a particular account of the trade in this article, which the Rus- 
sians at Kiakta procure from the country of which we are speaking, 
through the agency of merchants from Bucharia residing on the spot. 
2 If it be admitted that Succuir is intended for So-chell, it will follow 
that Kam-pion, or as it appears in other versions, I{an-pion, Kam-pition, 
and Kam-picion, is the city of Kan-cheu, the Kam-giou of the Persian 
ambassadors, the Kam-chick of Johnson, and Kan-ceu of Goez. J ohn- 
son mentions its being at the distance of five stages from the former. 
3 The relative importance of Kan-cheu, with respect to So-cheu and 
other towns in that part of Shen-si, has continued the same at all periods. 
Shah Rokh's alllbassadors observe, that the governor who resided there 
was superior to all the other governors of bordering places; and Goez 
says, " En l' une de ces villes de la province de Scensi nommée Kanceù, 
demeure Ie viceroy avec les autres principaux magistratz."-P. 486. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

The bulk of the people worship idols, but there are some who 
follow the religion of Mahomet, and some Christians. The 
latter have three large and handsome churches in the. city.1 
The idolaters have many religious houses, or monasteries and 
abbeys, built after the manner of the country, and in these a 
multitude of idols, some of which are of wood, some of stone, 
and some of clay, are covered with gilding. They are carved 
in a masterly style. Among these are some of very large size, 
and others are small. 2 The former are full ten paces in length, 
and lie in a recumbent posture; the small figures stand behind 
them, and have the appearance of disciples in the act of 
reverential salutation. 3 Both great and small are held in 
extreme veneration. Those persons amongst the idolaters who 
are devoted to the services of religion lead more correct lives, 
according to their ideas of morality, than the other classes, 
q.bstaining from the indulgence of carnal and sensual appetites. 4 
L The disappearance in the course of three centuries, or even in a much 
shOLter period, of these churches, which were probably built of wood, is 
no argument against their having existed in our author's time. It was 
not until the end of the sixteenth century that the Jesuits obtained a 
footing in China, and began to investigate the subject of an earlier dis- 
semination of Christianity in that part of the world. During this inter- 
val an entire revolution had taken place in the Chinese government, and 
the Yuen or Moghul- Tartar family, distinguished for its tolerance or in- 
difference in matters of religion, had been succeeded by the native dynasty 
of the Ming, whose princes were influenced by a different policy, and 
proscribed the lamas, as well as the Christian priests, to whom their pre- 
decessors were thought to have been too much attached. About this 
period also the l\lahometans, becoming numerous at Kashgar and other 
places on the borders of the desert, were active and apparently success- 
ful in their endeavours to exterminate their rivals. A strong picture is 
drawn by Goez, of the intolerant insolence of these bigots, in the towns 
through which his route lay, from Hindustan, by the way of Lahore and 
Cabul, to China. 
3 In aU countries where the religion of Buddha prevails, it appears to 
be an object of religious zeal to erect images representing him of an enor- 
mous magnitude, and not unfrequently to cover thern with gilding. 
This we find to be the practice in Japan, Siam, and A va, as well as iu 
Tartar} and China. Shaka-muni is one of the Hindu names of Buddha. 
P. Gerbillon, who accompanied the emperor of China into Tartary, 
speaks also of such gigantic images, one of which being measured with 
a quadrant, was found to be fifty-seven Chinese feet in height. 
3 Although the images of Buddha are usually represented sitting, with 
the legs cro5
cd, some of these monstrous statues are in a recumbent 
posture, and surrounded with 

ures it?- a
 attit u?e of prayer or saluta- 
tion. The arI1bassadors who vIsIted thIS CIty of Ran-cheu In 1420, men- 
tion idols of the same extraordinary kind, and in a striking manner con- 
firm the authenticity of our author's account. "In every complete 
temple," says Cordiner in J1is Descr
ption of Ceylon, " one colossal inlage 
of Buddha is represented In a sleepIng posture, and a great many others 
:>f the same sitting and standing, not larger than the life."-Vol. i. p. 150. 
6 " Their' sole occupation," says Turner, speaking of the religious 
orders of Tibet. "lies in perfonning the duties of their faith. They are 

Manners of Tangut 


The unlicensed intercourse of the sexes is not in general con- 
sidered by these people as a serious offence; and their maxim 
is, that if the advances are made by the female, the connexion 
does not constitute an offence, but it is held to be such when 
the proposal comes from the man. They employ a.n almanac, 
in many respects like our own, according to the rules of which, 
during five, four, or three days in the month, they do not shed 
blood, nor eat flesh or fowl; as is our usage in regard to Friday, 
the Sabbath, and the vigils of the saints.! The laity take to 
themselves as many as thirty wives, some more, some fewer, 
according to their ability to maintain them; for they do not 
receive any dowry with them, but, on the contrary, settle 
dowers upon their wives, in cattle, slaves, and money.2 The 
wife who is first married always maintains the superior rank 
in the family; but if the husband observes that anyone 
amongst them does not conduct herself well to the rest, or if 
exempt from labour; enjoined sobriety and temperance, and interdicted 
all intercourse with the other sex." (P. 170) According to Morrison's 
Chinese Dictionary, the priests of the sect of Fuh or Fo (who are deno- 
minated Ho-shang, Sang, and Shamun,) .. receive the :five precepts: 
Not to kill living creatures; not to steal, or rob; not to practise lewdness; 
not to say what is untrue; not to drink wille."-P. 157. 
1 " The same superstition, It says Turner, ., that influences their view 
of the affairs of the world, pervades equally their general calculations. 
On this principle it is, that they frame their common calendar of time. 
I have one now in my possession; and as far as I can understand it from 
what has been explained to Ine, a recapitulation of lucky and unlucky 
times constitutes the chief m
rit of the work."-P. 320. 
2 Nothing has hitherto occurred in the course of the work, in which 
the direct assertion of our author is so much at variance with modern 
information, as this of the prevalence of the custom of polygamy amongst 
the people of Tangut. Bogle expressly tells us, that in the sense in 
which we commonly receive the word, polygamy is not in use in Tibet; 
but that it exists in a manner still more repugnant to European ideas, in 
the plurality of husbands; and that it is usual for the brothers in the 
family to have a wife in common. (Phil. Trans. vol. lxvü. p. 477, and 
Craufurd's Sketches, vol. Ïi. p. 177.) This is confirmed by Turner, who 
says: U The number of husbands is not, as far as I could learn, defined 
or restricted within any limits; it sometimes happens that in a small 
family there is but one female; and the number may seldom perhaps 
exceed that, which a native of rank, during my residence at Teshoo 
Loomboo, pointed out to me in a family resident in the neighbourhood, 
in which five brothers were then living together very happily, with one 
female, under the same connubial compact. Nor is this sort of league 
confined to the lower ranks of people alone." (P. 349.) To these 
authorities we can only oppose the qualified observation of M. Pallas, 
who tells us that polygamy, though forbidden by their religion, is not 
uncomillon amongst the great. (Neue Norclische Beyträge, b. i. p. 
20 4.) The distance, however, between Lhasa and Khan-cheu is so con- 
siderable (about ten degrees of latitude and eight of longitude) that 

though the inhabitants of each, as well as of the greater part of Tartary, 
tollow the same religious worship, there may yet exist essential differences 
in their domestic manners. 

I 14 

Travels at Marco Polo 

she becomes otherwise disagreeable to him J he can send her 
away. They take to their beds those who are nearly related 
to them by blood, and even espouse their mothers-in-law. 
Many other mortal sins are regarded by them with indifference, 
and they live in this respect like the beasts of the field. In this 
city J\Iarco Polo remained, along with his father and uncle, 
about the space of one year, which the state of their concerns 
rendered necessary. 1 



LEAVING this city of Kampion, and travelling for twelve days 
in a northerly direction, you come to a city named Ezina, 2 at 
the commencement of the sandy desert, and within the pro- 
vince of Tanguth. The inhabitants are idolaters. They have 
camels, and much cattle of various sorts. Here you find 
lanner-falcons and many excellent sakers. The fruits of the 
soil and the flesh of the cattle supply the wañt sof1iïepëop Ie: 
--I-It ísrëïharkable thãt-Goë-z;whLr,"""ãlth ough añïiSSiO nary, trave lled in 
the character of an Armenian merchant, was in like manner detained 
upwards of a year at the neighbouring town of So-cheu. The regula- 
tions of police appear to have required then, as they do at this day, that 
permission should be received from Peking before strangers are suffered 
to advance into the country. 
2 Having reached the borders of northern China, and spoken of two 
places that are within the line of what is termed the Great Wall, (but 
which will hereafter be shown to have consisted on this side of a mound 
of earth only, and not to have been the stupendous work of masonry it 
is described on the northern frontier,) our author Ceases to pursue a 
direct route, and proceeds to the account of places lying to the north 
and south, some of them in the vicinity, and others in distant parts of 
Tartary, according to the information he had acquired of them on various 
occasions. Nor does he in the sequel furnish any distinct idea of the line 
he took upon entering China, in company with his father and uncle, on 
their journey to the emperor's court; although from what occurs in 
chap. ill. there is reason to believe. that he went fro
 Kan-cheu to Si- 
ning (by Professor Pallas called Selm), and there fell In to the great road 
from Tibet to Peking. His description now takes a northerly course to 
a place named Ezina, which stood on a small river which flows by Kan- 
cheu towards the great desert of Kobi, which he had already crossed in 
a more western and narrower part. This town is known to us from the 
operations of J engiz-khan, who took possession of it when he invaded 
Tangut in 1224 according to Pétis de la Croix, or 1226 according to De 
Guignes, and made it for some time the head-quarters of his army. 

The City of Karakoran 


and they do not conc ern themselves with trade. Travellers 
passing-thröugh thiscity lay in a stor eo f provisions for forty 
days, because, upon their leaving it to proceed northwards, 
that space of time is employed in traversing a desert, where 
there is not any appearance of dwelling, nor are there any in- 
habitants excepting a few during the summer, among the 
mountains and in some of the valleys. In these situations, 
frequented by wild asses and other animals equally wild, 1 they 
find water and woods of pine-trees. Having passed this desert, 
you arrive at a city on the northern side of it, named Kara- 
koran. All the districts and cities previously mentioned, that 
is to say, Sakion, Kamul, Chinchitalas, Succuir, Kampion, and 
Ezina, belong to the great province of Tanguth. 



THE city of Karakoran 2 is about three miles in circuit, and is 
the first place in which the Tartars established their residence 
in remote times. It is surrounded with a strong rampart of 
earth, there not being any good supply of stone in that part 
of the country. On the outside of the rampart, but near to it, 
stands a castle of great size, in which is a handsome palace 
occupied by the governor of the place. 
1 The wild ass here mentioned is probably that animal which the 
missionaries, rather unaccountably, call the wild mule, and describe as 
an inhabitant of this desert region. The wild ass or onager is the equus 
asinus of Linn., and the animal denominated the wild mule is the equus 
2 The name of this city is properly written Kara-korum, but often 
Kara-kûm (signifying black sand). By the Chinese it is called Holin 
which answers to Korin in Tartar pronunciation. It was built, or rathe: 
rebuilt, by Oktaï-khan, the son and successor of J engiz-khan, about the 
year 1235; whose nephew, Mangu-khan, made it his principal residence. 
No traces of it have been in existence for some centuries, but its position 
is noted in the tables of Ulig-beig, and also in the Jesuits' and D' Anville's 
maps. It was visited in the year 1254 by William de Rubruquis, a friar 
minor, who together with some other ecclesiastics was sent by Louis IX. 
of France on a general mission to the Tartar princes. The account he 
gives of it conveys no high idea of its importance as a city, nor does his 
description of the court, of the state of civilization to which these con- 
querors had attained: but his whole narrative exhibits the illibecal 
prej udices of a vulgar mind. 

I 16 

Travels of Marco Polo 


THE circumstances under which these Tartars first began to 
exercise dominion shall now be related. They dwelt in the 
northern countries of Jorza and Bargu,l but without fixed 
habitations, that is, without towns or fortified places; where 
there were extensive plains, good pasture, large rivers, and 
plenty of water. They had no sovereign of their own, and were 
tributary to a powerful prince, who (as I have been informed) 
was named in their language, Un-khan,2 by some thought to 
1 What may be considered as the proper, although perhaps not the 
most ancient country of the Moghuls, as they are called by the Persians, 
or 1\1 ungals as the name is pronounced in the northern parts of Asia, in- 
cluding Kalmuks or Eleuts, Burats, and Kalkas, appears to be that tract 
which lies between the upper streams of the Amur river on the east, and 
those of the Yanisei and Irtish rivers, together with the Altai range of 
mountains on the west; having on the north the Baikal lake, and on the 
south the great desert, which separates it from the country of Tangut, 
and the kingdom of China; including within these boundaries the Selinga 
river, near to which, in the former part of the last century, was the u,.ga 
(station or encampment) of the Tush-du-khan or modem prince of the 

lungals. The exact situation of the plains of Giorza, J orza, or J orja, 
and Bargu cannot be determined. In Strahlenberg's map there is a 
district adjoining to the south shore of Baikal, named" Campus Bargu; " 
but circumstances would lead us to suppose the places here spoken of to 
lie further to the north, and in Ð' Anville's map the name of Bargu appears 
on the north-east side of that lake. According to Klaproth the name by 
which the Manchou people (whom he considers tð be the same race with 
the Tungusi) are known to the Tartars, is Chur-chur or J urjur, by Abu'l- 
ghazi written J urjît. These seem to be the J orza tribes of our author; 
and the island of Zorza (to which criminals were banished) mentioned 
in book ill. chap. 2, may be that which lies off the mouth of the Sagalien- 
ula or river Amûr. 
I This celebrated prince, whom our author names Umcan, or, with an 
allowable correction of the orthography of his language, Un-khan, and 
whom the historian Abu'lfaraj names Ung-khan, was chief of the tribe 
of Kera-it or Kerrît, and reigned in Kara-korum, which was afterwards re- 
built by Oktai and became his capital, as well as that of Mangu-khan his 
successor. He appears to have been the moet powerful of the chiefs in that 
part of Tartary, and in the histories of his time is often termed the grand 
khan. By P. Gaubil, however, and those who follow the Chinese authori- 
ties, he is considered as a vassal of the Niu-tche Tartar emperor, Altun- 
khan of the dynasty of Kin, who, besides his kingdoms of Leao-tung 
and Korea ruled over the northern 8 art of China, or Kataia. They 
further ass
rt that his appellation of uang-han, as they write it, is no 
other than the Chinese title of Quang or Vang (,.egulus), bestowed upon 
him by the sovereign for distinguished services, prefixed to his native 

Origin ot the Tartars I I ï 
have the same signification as Prester John in ours. l To him 
these Tartars paid yearly the tenth part of (the increase of) 
their cattle. In process of time the tribe multiplied so exceed- 
ingly that Un-khan, that is to say, Prester John, becoming 
apprehensive of their strength, conceived the plan of separating 
them into different bodies, who should take up their abode in 
distinct tracts of country. With this view also, whenever the 
occasion presented itself, such as a rebellion in any of the pro.- 
vinces subject to him, he drafted three or four in the hundred of 
these people, to be employed on the service of quelling it; and 
thus their power was gradually diminished. He in like manner 
despatched them upon other expeditions, and sent among them 
some of his principal officers to see that his intentions were 
carried into effect. At length the Tartars, becoming sensible 
of the slavery to which he attempted to reduce them, resolved 
to maintain a strict union amongst themselves, and seeing that 
nothing short of their final ruin was in contemplation, they 
adopted the measure of removing from the places which they 
then inhabited, and proceeded in a northerly direction across a 
wide desert, until they felt assured that the distance afforded 
them security, when they refused any longer to pay to Un-khan 
the accustomed tribute. 2 

title of khan, his original name having been Toghrul. According to 
J. R. Forster, following the authority of Fischer's Hist. of Siberia, " he 
reigned over the Karaites, a tribe residing near the river Kallassui 
(Karasibi), which discharges itself into the Abakan, and afterwards into 
the J enisea; and here at this very day live the Kirgises, who have a 
tribe among them which they call Karaites."-Voyages, etc. p. 141. 
1 Whatever absurdity and ridicule may be thought to attach to this 
extraordinary appellation of Prester or Presbyter John, as applied to a 
Tartar prince, it is not to be placed to the account of our author, who 
only repeats, and in terms of particular caution, what had already been 
current throughout Europe and amongst the Christians of Syria and 
Egypt, respecting this imaginary sacerdotal character, but real person- 
age. Nothing is here asserted on his own knowledge; the transactions 
were understood to have taken place nearly a century before the time 
when he wrote, and in speaking of them he employs the guarded ex- 
pression, " come intesi." [The best information on the subject of Prester 
John will be found in the Introduction to the" Relation des Mongols ou 
Tartares; par Ie frère Jean du Plan de Carpin," by M. D'Avezac.] 
S This assertion of independence is attributed by the Persian and 
Arabian historians to the enterprising character and military talents of 
Temujîn (afterwards J engiz-khan), who, when he had passed eighteen 
years in the service of Dng-khan, became the object of his jealousy, and 
was compelled to a precipitate flight in order to save his life. The suc- 
cessful issue of some partial engagements that ensued having increased 
considerably the number of those who were attached to him, he retired, 
with his little army, to the country of the 
Iungals, of which he was a 
native. Being received with open arms, he concerted with them his 
schemes of vengeance against his enemies. 

I 18 

Travels of lVlarco Polo 



SOME time after the migration of the Tartars to this place, and 
about the year of our Lord 1162,1 they proceeded to elect for 
their king a man who was named Chingis-khan, one of approved 
integrity, great wisdon1, commanding eloquence, and eminent 
for his valour. He began his reign with so much justice and 
moderation, that he \vas beloved and revered as their deity 
rather than their sovereign; and the fame of his great and good 
qualities spreading over that part of the world, all the Tartars, 
however dispersed, placed themselves under his command. 
Finding himself thus at the head of so many brave men, he 
became ambitious of emerging from the deserts and wilder- 
nesses by which he was surrounded, and gave them orders to 
equip themselves with bows and such other weapons as they 
were expert at using, from the habits of their pastoral life. 
He then proceeded to render himself master of cities and 
provinces; and such was the effect produced by his character 
for justice and other virtues, that wherever he went, he found 
the people disposed to submit to him, and to esteem them- 
selves happy when admitted to his protection and favour. In 
this manner he acquired the possession of about nine pro- 
vinces. N or is his success surprising, when we consider that 
at this period each town and district was either governed b)T, 
the people themselves, or had its petty king or lord; and as 
there existed amongst them no general confederacy, it was 
impossible for them to resist, separately, so formidable a 
power. Upon the subjugation of these places, he appointed 
governors to them, who were so exelnplary in their conduct 
that the inhabitants did not suffer, either in their persons or 
1 Our author appears in this instance to have mistaken the year of 
J engiz-khan's birth (though some place it in 1155) for that of his eleva- 
tion to the throne. It was not wltil the year 1201 that he is stated 
to have acquired the command of the Mungal armies, nor until 1202 
according to the authorities followed by Pétis de la Croix, or 1206 accord- 
ing to De Guignes, that he was declared grand khan or emperor. About 
the same period it was that he changed his original n
e of Temujîn for 
that by which he was afterwards known. The LatIn and other texts 
give this date as 1187. 

Jengiz-Khan 119 
their properties; and he likewise adopted the policy of taking 
along with him, into other provinces, the principal people, on 
whom he bestowed allowances and gratuities. 1 Seeing how 
prosperously his enterprises succeeded, he resolved upon 
attempting still greater things. With this view he sent am- 
bassadors to Prester John, charged with a specious message, 
which he knew at the same time would not be listened to by 
that prince, demanding his daughter in marriage. 2 Upon 
receiving the application, the monarch indignantly exclaimed: 
" Whence arises this presumption in Chingis-khan, who, know- 
ing himself to be my servant, dares to ask for the hand of my 
child? Depart instantly," he said, " and let him know from 
me, that upon the repetition of such a demand, I shall put him 
to an ignominious death." Enraged at this reply, Chingis- 
khan collected a very large army, at the head of which he 
entered the territory of Prester John, and encamping on a 
great plain called Tenduk, sent a message desiring him to 
defend himself. The latter advanced likewise to the plain with 
a vast army, and took his position at the distance of about ten 
miles from the other. 3 In this conjuncture Chingis-khan 
commanded his astrologers and magicians to declare to him 
which of the two armies, in the approachIng conflIct, should 
obtain the victory. Upon this they took a green reed, and 
dividing it lengthways into two parts, they wrote upon one the 
name of their master, and upon the other the name of Un-khan. 
They then placed them on the ground, at some distance from 
each other, and gave notice to the king that during the time of 

1 It was at the court of the grandson of J engiz-khan that our author 
acquired an idea much too favourable of the virtues, although not per- 
haps of the military talents, of this extraordinary man, who should be 
regarded as one of those scourges of mankind, which, like plague, pestil- 
ence, or famine, is sent from time to time to visit and desolate the world. 
2 According to the writers whom Pétis de Ia Croi
 has followed, Temujîn 
had been already married to the daughter of Ung-khan, when the in- 
trigues of his rivals drove him from the court of his father-in-law, to 
whom he had rendered the most i.Inportô.nt Inilitary services. 
3 The name of this plain, which in the older Latin as well as in Ramu- 
sio's text is Tenduch, and in the Basle edition Tanduc, is Tangut in the 
Italian epitomes. This last may probably be a mistake, and certainly 
this place is not to be con.founded with the Tangut already spoken of as 
connected with Tibet; but there is much reason to suppose that our 
author meant the country of the Tungusi (a name that bears no slight 
resemblance to Tangut), which is about the sources of the Amur, and in 
the vicinity of the Baikal lake. According to DE Guignes and P. Gaubil, 
the meeting of the armies took place between the rivers Toula and KerIon, 
where other great Tartar battles have since been fought, in consequence, 
as may be presumed, of the local circumstances being suited to the opera- 
tions of large bodies of cavalry. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

their pronouncing their incantatiuns, the two pieces of reeds 
through the power of their idols, would advance towards each 
other, and that the victory would fall to the lot of that monarch 
whose piece should be seen to mount upon the other. The 
whole army was assembled to be spectators of this ceremony, 
and whilst the astrologers were employed in reading their books 
of necromancy, they perceived the two pieces begin to move 
and to approach, and after some small interval of time, that 
inscribed with the name of Chingis-khan to place itself upon 
the top of its adversary.1 Upon witnessing this, the king and 
his band of Tartars marched with exultation to the attack of 
the army of Un-khan, broke through its ranks and entirely 
routed it. Un-khan himself was killed, his kingdom fell to the 
conqueror, and Chingis-khan espoused his daughter. After 
this battle he continued during six years to render himself 
master of additional kingdoms and cities; until at length, in 
the siege of a castle named Thaigin,2 he was struck by an arrow 
in the knee, and dying of the wound, was buried in the moun- 
tain of Al taï. 



To Chingis-khan succeeded Cyhn-khan; the third was Bathyn- 
khan, the fourth Esu-khan, the fifth Mongù-khan, the sixth 
Kublai-khan,3 who became greater and more powerful than all 
1 The mode of divination by what the French term boguettes is common 
in the East. Pétis de la Croix upon introducing into his text this story 
of " la canne verte," from our author's work, observes in a note: "Cette 
opération des cannes a été en usage chez les Tartares, et l'est encore à 
présent chez les Africains, chez les Turcs et autres nations Mahométanes." 
-Po 65. 
2 The accident here said to have befallen J engiz-khan is not mentioned 
by any of the historians; nor does it appear what place is intended by 
the name of Thaigin. He is said, on the contrary, to have died of sick- 
ness (in 1226), shortly after the reduction of the city of Lin-tao, in the 
province of Shen-si, from whence he had retired, on account of the bad 
quality of the air where his army was encamped, to a mountain named 
Leou-pan. It is not, however, to be concluded that our author is there- 
fore wrong, or that J engiz did not receive a wound, which in an un- 
wholesome climate might have occasioned or accelerated his death. 
3 This account of the successors of J engiz-khan being so much less 
accurate than might be expected fronl one who was many years in the 

History of the Tartars 
the others, inasmuch as he inherited what his predecessors 
possessed, and afterwards, during a reign of nearly sixty 


service of his grandson, it is not unreasonable to presume that some of 
the barbarous names of the!Se princes may have been omitted and others 
disfigured by the early transcribers. We are the more warranted in this 
supposition, because in the different versions we find the names to vary 
considerably; and instead of the Chyn, Bathyn, and Esu of Ramusio's 
edition, we have in one text Cui, Barchim, and Allaù, and in another, 
Carce, Saim, and Rocon. In the name of Mongu, or Mangu, only they 
are all nearly agreed. As the most effectual way of detecting, and in 
some instances of reconciling the inaccuracies, I shall state the filiation 
according to the authority of historians, and compare with it the con- 
fused lists attributed to our author. 
Jengiz-khan, who died about the end of the year 1226, had four sons, 
whose names were J uji, J agataï, Oktai, and Tuli; of these J uji, the eldest, 
who in other dialects is called Tushi and Dushi, died during the lifetime 
of J engiz, leaving a son named B'ltu, called also, by the Mahometan 
writers, Saien-khan and Sagin-khan. He inherited, in right of his 
father, that portion of the empire which included Kapchak and other 
countries in the neighbourhood of the Wolga and the Don; and his con- 
quests on the side of Russia. Poland, and Hungary, rendered him the 
terror of Europe. He did not succeed to the dignity of grand khan, or 
head of the family, and died in 1256. This was evidently the Bathyn of 
one version of our text, and the Saim of another; but the Barchim of a 
third seems rather to be intended for Barkah, his brother and successor. 
J agatai, or Zagatai, had for his portion of his father's dominions the 
country beyond the Oxus, Turkistan, or, as it has since been termed, the 
country of the Uzbek Tartars. He died in 1240, and also without having 
succeeded to the imperial dignity. His name, although elsewhere men- 
tioned by our author, is here omitted, as would on that account have 
been proper, if the name of Batu had not been introduced. Oktai, or 
U gdai, the third son, was declared by J engiz his successor as grand khan, 
or supreme head of the dynasty, with the new title of kaan. His parti- 
cular share of the empIre was the original country of the Moghuls or 
Mungals, with its dependencies, and the kingdom of the Niu-tché Tartars, 
including so much of Northern China as was then conquered. The total 
omission of his name, who was one of the most distinguished of the 
family, and particularly in the wars of the last-mentioned country, not 
more than thirty-five years Defore the arrival of our author, is quite 
extraordinary, if to be imputed to ignorance or want of recollection on 
his part. Oktai died in 1241, and was succeeded in the imperial station 
(after a female regency of five years) by his SOli Kaiuk, or Gaiuk, who 
reigned only one year, and died in 1248. By PIano Carpini, a friar minor, 
(who was sent by Pope Innocent IV. to the court of Batu, whom he terms 
the Duke Baatu or Bathy, and by him to Gaiuk, his sovereign, then 
newly elected,) he is named Cuyne, by the Chinese Key-yeu, and by our 
author Chyn or Cui, according to different readings. The fourth son of 
J engiz, whose name was Tuli or Tului, died in 1232, during the reign of 
his brother Oktai, leaving four sons, named Mangu, Kublaï, Hulagu, 
and Artigbuga, besides others of less historical fame. Of these, Mangu 
or Mongu was chosen, in 125 I, to succeed his cousin Gaiuk as grand khan, 
and chiefly through the influence of Batu, who had a superior claim, as 
the son of the eldest brother, but seems not to have affected that dignity. 
One of the first acts of Mangu was to send Hulagu (from Kara-korum 
his capital) with a powerful army that enabled him to subdue the coun
tries of Khorasan, Persia, Chaldea, and a great part of Syria. He 
founded the great d
asty of the Moghuls of Persia, which after a few 

enerations threw oft its dependence, more nominal than real, upon the 


Travels of Marco Polo 

years,! acquired, it may be said, the remainder of the world. 
The title of khan or kaan, is equivalent to emperor in our 
language. It has been an invariable custom, that all the grand 
khans, and chiefs of the race of Chingis-khan, should be carried 
for interment to a certain lofty mountain named Altai, and in 
whatever place they may happen to die, although it should be 
at the distance of a hundred days' journey, they are neverthe- 
less conveyed thither. It is likewise the custom, during the 
progress of removing the bodies of these princes, for those ,vho 
form the escort to sacrifice such persons as they chance to meet 
on the road, saying to them, "Depart for the next world, 
and there attend upon your deceased master," being impressed 
with the belief that all whom they thus slay do actually become 
his servants in the next life. They do the same also with 
respect to horses, killing the best of the stud, in order that he 
may have the use of them. When the corpse of Mongù was 
transported to this mountain, the horsemen who accompanied 
it, having this blind and horrible persuasion, slew upwards of 
twenty thousand ?ersons who fell in their way.2 
head of the empire. The name of Hulagu, which in other parts of the 
work is softened to Alaù, seems to be that which is here still further cor- 
rupted to Esu, by the mistake of a letter, for Elu. In the Latin version 
of the same passage it is Allaù. Mangu died in 1259 (or 1256), in the 
province of Se-chuen in China, whilst engaged in the prosecution of the 
war in that country. Respecting his name there is no ambiguity. 
Kublai, who was upon the spot, assumed the command of the army, and 
was soon after chosen grand khan, although with much opposition on 
the part of his brother Artigbuga, who was strongly supported, and ven- 
tured to set up the imperial standard at Kara-korum. Kublaï pro- 
ceeded, in 1268, to subdue the kingdom of Manji, or Southern China, at 
that time ruled by the dynasty of Song, whose capital, named Hong- 
cheu, was taken in 1276, and the whole was annexed to his empire in 
1280; from which year his reign, as emperor of China, is made to com- 
mence in the Chinese annals, where he appears by the title of Yuen-chi- 
tsu. His death is placed in the beginning of 1294, being then in the 
eightieth year of his age. He was the fifth grand khan of this family, and 
after his decease the descendants of their common ancestor, who ruled 
the provinces in the west and south, no longer acknowledged a para- 
mount sovereign. 
1 As Kublai was elected grand khan in 1260, and died in 1294, his 
reign was strictly about thirty-four years; but having been appointed 
viceroy to his brother l\1angu, in China, so early as 125 I, it may be con- 
sidered as having lasted forty-three; and he was probab1y employed 
there in the command of armies at a period still earlier. The assertion, 
however of his having reigned sixty years cannot be justified, and Inust 
have originated in a mistake or transposition of figures, which should 
perhaps have been XL instead of LX. 
I The existence of such an atrocious custom amongst the Monghu1 
Tartars has been questi.oned. But the Chinese annals are not without 
instances of the practice of immolation at funera1s; and we find that, so 
late as the year 1661, the Tartar emperor Shun-chi commanded a human 
sacrifice upon the death of a favourite mistress. "V oluit tmnen," says 

Wandering Life of the Tartars 

12 3 



Now that I have begun speaking of the Tartars, I will tell you 
more about them. The Tarta r s neve r rem ain fix ed, but as the 
winter approaches remove to the plai ns of a warmer region, in 
order to find sufficient pasture for their cattle; and in summer 
they frequent cold situations in the mountains
 where there is 
water and verdure, and their cattle are free from the annoyance 
of horse-flies and other biting insects. During two or three 
months they progressively ascend higher ground, and seek 
fresh pasture, the grass not being adequate in anyone place to 
feed the multitudes of which their herds and flocks consist.! 
Their huts or tents are formed of rods covered with felt, and 

P. Couplet, " triginta hominum spontanea morte pi acari manes concu- 
binæ, ritu apud Sinas execrando, quem barbarum mo,em successor deinde 
sustulit." (Tab. Chronologica Monarchiæ Sinicæ, p. 100.) In the 
account of the conquest of China by the Mantchou Tartars, written by 
the Jesuit l\Iartinius, we are told that the Mantchou king Tien-ming, in- 
vading China to avenge the murder of his father, swore that, in allusion 
to the customs of the Tartars, he would celebrate the funeral of the mur- 
dered king by the slaughter of two hundred thousand Chinese. This 
supports Marco Polo's story in a remarkable manner. The number 
stated to have been sacrificed by those who accompanied the body of 
Mangu-khan varies considerably in the. different versions, and in the epi- 
tomes is made to amount to 300,000. Marsden's text states it at 10,000, 
but the authority of the early manuscripts seems to be in favour of the 
number given in our text. 
1 This periodical migration of the Tartar tribes is matter of so much 
notoriety, that our author's account of it scarcely needs to be corro- 
borated by authorities; but the following passage from Du Halde will 
be found circumstantially applicable: "Tous les Mongous vivent aussi 
de la même manière, errans çà et là avec leurs troupeaux, et demeurans 
campez dans les lieux où ils sont commodément, et où ils trouvent Ie 
meilleur fourage. En été ils sè placent ordinairement dans des lieux 
découverts près de quelque rivière ou de quelque étang, et s'il n'y en a 
point, aux environs de quelque puits: en hyver ils cherchent les montagnes 
et les collines, ou du mains ils s'établissent derrière quelque hauteur où 
ils soient à couvert du vent de Nord, qui est en ce pays-Ià extrême
froid; la niege supplée à l'eau qui leur manque. Chaque souverain 
meure dans son pays, sans qu'll so
t permis, ni à lui, ni à ses sujets, 
d aller dans les terres des autres; malS dans l'etendue des terres qui leur 
appartiennent ils campent où ils voulent." (Tom. iv. p. 38.) " The 
summer station," says Elphinstone, U is called eilauk, and the winter 
station kishlauk, two words which both the Afghauns and Persians have 
borrowed from the Tartars."-Account of Caubul, p. 39 0 . 

12 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

being exactly round, and nicely put together, they can gathet 
them into one bundle, and make them up as packages, which 
they carry along with them in their migrations, upon a sort of 
car with four wheels. 1 When they have occasion to set them 
up again, they always make the entrance front to the south. 2 
Besides these cars they ha ve a superior kind of vehicle upon 
two wheels, covered likewise with black felt, and so effectually 
as to protect those within it from wet, during a whole day of 
rain. These are drawn by oxen and camels, and serve to con- 
vey their wives and children, their utensils, and such provisions 
as they require. 3 The women it is who attend to their trading 
concerns, who buy and sell, and provide everything necessary 
for their husbands and their families; 4 the time of the men 
being entirely devoted to hunting and hawking, and matters 
that relate to the military life. They have the best falcons 
in the world, and also the best dogs. They subsist entirely 

1 The tents are thus described by Bell, as he saw them among the Kal. 
Inuks, encamped near the Wolga: U The Tartars had their tents pitched 
along the river side. These are of a conical figure; there are several 
long poleS' erected inclining to each other, which are fixed at the top into 
something like a hoop, that forms the circumference of an aperture for 
letting out the smoke or admitting the light: across the poles are laid 
some small rods, from four to six feet long, and fastened to them by 
thongs. This frame is covered with pieces of felt, made of coarse wool 
and hair. These tents afford better shelter than any other kind, and 
are so contrived as to be set up, taken down, folded, and packed up, with 
great ease and quickness, and so light that a camel may carry five or six 
of them." (Tom. i. p. 29.) See also Du Haide. 
2 " When they take downe their dwelling houses (from off their carts), 
they turn the doores always to the south." (Purchas, Journal of Rubru- 
quis, vol. üi. p. 3.) This opening of the door-way to the south appears 
to be the universal practice in Tartary, as well with fixed as with nlove- 
able houses, in order to guard as much as possible against the rude effects 
of the northerly wind. It will be seen hereafter that the same custom 
subsists in the northern provinces of China. 
3 " They make certayne four-square baskets of small slender wickers 
as bigge as great chests; and afterward, from one side to another, they 
frame an hollow lidde or cover of such like wickers, and make a doore in 
the fore-side thereof. And then they cover the said chest or little house 
with black felt, rubbed over with tallow or sheep's milk to keep the rain 
from soaking through, which they deck likewise with painting or with 
feathers. And in such chests they put their whole household-stuffe and 
treasure. Also the same chests they do strongly binde upon other carts, 
which are drawne with cameIs."-Purchas, vol. iii. p. 3. 
, This custom of the rnen committing to the females the management 
of their trading concerns, is authenticated by P. Gerbillon, who accom- 
panied the emperor Kanghi in his expeditions. (Du HaIde, tom. iv. p. 
115.) Elphinstone, also, speaking of a tribe in the Afghân country, 
called Hazoureh, and whom he considers as the remnant of a Tartar 
army left there, remarks that" the wife manages the house, takes care 
of the property, does her share of the honours, and is very much con- 
sulted in all her husband's measures!'-Account of CaubuI, p. 483. 

The Tartar Women 

12 5 

upon flesh and milk, eating the produce of their sport, and a 
certain small animal, not unlike a rabbit, called by our people 
Pharaoh's mice, which, during the summer season are found 
in great abundance in the plains. 1 But they likewise eat flesh 
of every description, horses, camels, and even dogs, provided 
they are fat. They drink mares' milk, which they prepare in 
such a manner that it has the qualities and flavour of white 
wine. They term it in their language ke111,Urs. 2 Their women 
are not excelled in the world for chastity and decency of con- 
duct, nor for love and duty to their husbands. Infidelity to 
the marriage bed is regarded by them as a vice not merely dis- 
honourable, but of the most infamous nature; 3 whilst on the 
other hand it is admirable to observe the loyalty of the hus- 
bands towards their wives, amongst whom, although there are 
perhaps ten or twenty, there prevails a degree of quiet and 
union that is highly laudable. No offensive language is ever 
heard, their attention being fully occupied with their traffic 
(as already mentioned) and their several domestic employ- 
ments, such as the provision of necessary food for the family, 

1 U On these hills (near the Selinga river) are a great number of animals 
called marmots, of a brownish colour, having feet like a badger, and 
nearly of the same size. They make deep burrows on the declivities of 
the hills; and it is said that in winter they continue in these holes, for a 
certain time, even without food. At this season, however, they sit or 
lie near their burrows, keeping a strict watch, and at the approach of 
danger rear themselves on their hind feet, giving a loud whistle, and then 
drop into their holes in a moment." (Bell's Travels, vol. i. p. 311.) The 
description given of the animal by Du Halde accords best with our 
author's account: U Cet animal (aussi petit qu'une hermine) est une 
espèce de rat de terre, fort commun dans certains quartiers des Kalkas. 
Les tael-pi se tiennent sous la terre, où ils creusent une suite d'autant de 
petites tanières qu'il y a de mâles dans leur troupe: un d'eux est toujours 
au dehors, qui fait Ie guet, mais qui fuit dès qu'il. apperçoit quelqu'un, 
et se précipite en terre aussitôt qu'on s'approche de luL . . . On en prend 
à la fois un très-grand nombre."-Tom. iv. p. 30. 
I The word here written chemurs or kemurs, and in the Latin edition 
chuinis and chemius, is that which by other travellers is called kimmiz or 
kimmuz, and (vulgarly) cosmos. It is a preparation of mares' milk, put 
into a state of fermentation by heat, beaten in a large skin bag (for the 
purpose, as it would seem, of separating the butter), and by such process 
rendered intoxicating to a certain degree. It will in this state bear keep- 
ing for several months, and is the favourite drink of all the tribes of Tar- 
tars. "The national beverage" of the Uzbeks, Elphinstone observes, 
" is kimmiz, an intoxicating liquor, well known to be prepared from 
tnares' milk." (P. 470.) This (distilled) spirit, although produced from 
the same materials, must be distinguished from the kimmuz, with which, 
however, it is confounded by some writers. Rubruquis furnishes a cir- 
cumstantial account of these preparations of milk in all their stages. 
8 " It must be observed," says Bell, " t.o the honour of their women, 
that they are very honest and sincere, and few of them lewd: adultery 
is a crime scarce pver heard of."-VoJ. i. p. 3 1 . 


Travels of Marco Polo 

the management of the servants, and the care of the children 
which are amongst them a common concern. And the mor
praiseworthy are the virtues of modesty and chastity in the 
wives, because the men are allowed the indulgence of taking as 
many as they choose.! Their expense to the husband is not 
great, and on the other hand the benefit he derives from their 
trading, and from the occupations in which they are constantly 
engaged, is considerable; on which account it is, that when he 
receives a young woman in marriage, he pays a dower to her 
parent. 2 The wife who is the first espoused has the privilege 
of superior attention, and is held to be the most legitimate, 
which extends also to the children borne by her. In conse- 
quence of this unlimited number of wives, the offspring is more 
numerous than amongst any other people. Upon the death of 
the father, the son may take to himself the wives he leaves 
behind, with the exception of his own mother. They cannot 
take their sisters to wife, but upon the death of their brothers 
they can marry their sisters-in-Iaw. 3 Every marriage is 
solemnized with great ceremony. 



THE doctrine and faith of the Tartars are these: They believe 
in a deity whose nature is sublime and heavenly. To him 
1" Ouoique la polygamie," says P. Gerbillon, " ne soit plus défendue 
parmi eux, ils n'ont ordinairement qu'une femme." (Du Halde, tom. 
iv. p. 39.) The practice is described by other writers as more general; 
but in one tribe it may be more prevalent than in others. 
I " lIs ne donnent point de douaire à leurs femmes," says Thevenot, 
"mais les marls font des présens à leur père et à leur frère sans lesquels 
ils ne trouveroient point de femmes." (Relation des Tartares, tom. i. 
p. 19.) "As touching marriages," says Rubruquis, " no man can have 
a wife till he hath bought her."-Purchas, vol. iii. p. 7. 
I " II n'y a que cette différence," adds the translator of Abu'lghazi, 
" entre les Tartares Mahometans et les autres, que les premiers observent 
quelques degrés de parenté dans lesquels illeur est défendu de se marier, 
au lieu que les Callmoucks et Moungales, à l' exception de leurs meres 
naturelles, n'observent aucune proximité du sang dans leurs mariages." 
(P. 3 6 , note.) '.' The sonne,'.' says Rubruquis, "marrieth s?I?etimes 
all his father's wives except his owne mother."-Purchas, vol. ill. p. 7. 

Religion of the Tartars 

12 7 

they burn incense in censers, and offer up prayers for the en- 
joyment of intellectual and bodily health. 1 They worship 
another like,vise, named Natigay, whose image, covered with 
felt or other cloth, every individual preserves in his house. 
To this deity they associate a wife and children, placing the 
former on his left side, and the latter before him, in a posture 
of reverential salutation. Him they consider as the divinity 
who presides over their terrestrial concerns, protects their 
children, and guards their cattle and their grain. 2 They 
show him great respect, and at their meals they never omit to 
take a fat morsel of the flesh, and with it to grease the mouth 
of the idol, and at the same time the mouths of its wife and 
children. They then throw out of the door some of _ the 
liquor in which the meat has been dressed, as an offering to 
the other spirits. 3 This being done, they consider that their 
deity and his family have had their proper share, and proceed 
to eat and drink without further ceremony. The rich amongst 

1 " The religion of the Buraty," says Bell, " seems to be the same with 
that of the Kalmucks, which is downright paganism of the grossest kind. 
They talk, indeed, of an almighty and good Being, who created all things 
whom they call Burchun; but seem bewildered in obscure and fabulou
notions concerning his nature and government. They have two high 
priests, to whom they pay great respect; one is called Delay-lama, the 
other Kutukhtu." (Bell's Travels, vol. i. p. 248.) "The Mongalls 
believe in and worship one almighty Creator of all things. They hold 
that the Kutukhtu is God's vicegerent on earth, and that there will be 
a future state of rewards and punishments." (P.281.) "I am informed 
that the religion of the Tonguts is the same with that of the Mongalls. 
that they hold the same opinions with respect to the transmigration of 
the Delay-lama as the Mongalls do about the Kutnkhtu, and that he is 
elected in the same manner." (P. 283.) The hierarchy of which the 
Dalai or Grand Lama is generally considered as the head, was not es- 
tablished until so late as about the year 1426, according to Gaubil. but 
the lamas simply, as priests of Shakia-muni, appear to have existed' from 
a remote period, and the shamuns, in the northern parts of Tartary to 
be lamas in a ruder state of society. The Kutukhtus stand in the s
relation to the Grand Lama as the cardinals, or perhaps more nearly the 
cardinal-legates, to the pope. 
2 This Tartar idol, whose name is written Natagai in the Latin editions 
and N achigai in the Italian epitomes, is the I toga of Plan de Carpin. bÝ 
whom the superstitious practices of these people are described ir: the 
following manner: "lIs s'adonnent fort aux prédictions, augures vol 
des oiseaux, sorcelleries, et enchantemens. Lorsque Ie diable leu; fait 
quelque réponse, ils croient que cela vient de Dieu même, et Ie nomnlent 
Itoga."-Bergeron, p. 32. 
8 " Then goeth a servant out of the house," says Rubruquis, " with a 
cup full of drinke, sprinkling it thrice towards the south, etc. . . . 
When the master holdeth a cup in his hand to drinke, before he tasteth 
thereof, he I?oureth his part. upon the ground." (Purchas, vol. Hi. p. 4.) 
[The words In the early LatIn text of our author are, " Postea accipiunt 
de brodio et projiciunt super eum per ostium domus suæ cameræ ubi 
stat HIe deus eorum."] 


Travels of Marco Polo 

these people dress in cloth of gold and silks, with skins ot 
the sable, the ermine, and other animals. All their accoutre- 
ments are of an expensive kind. Their arms are bows iron 
maces, and in some instances, spears; but the first is the 
weapon at which they are the most expert, being accustomed 
from children, to employ it in their sports. l They wea; 
defensive armour made of the thick hides of buffaloes and 
other beasts, dried by the fire, and thus rendered extremely 
hard and strong. They are brave in battle, ahnost to des- 
peration, setting little value upon their lives, and exposing 
themselves without hesitation to all manner of danger. Their 
disposition is cruel. They are capable of supporting every 
kind of privation, and when there is a necessity for it, can 
live for a month on the mi]k of their mares, and upon such 
wild animals as they may chance to catch. Their horses are 
fed upon grass alone, and do not require barley or other 
grain. The men are habituated to remain on horseback during 
two days and two nights, without dismounting; sleeping in 
that situation whilst their horses graze. No people upon earth 
can surpass them in fortitude under difficulties, nor show 
greater patience under wants of every kind. They are pre- 
fectly obedient to their chiefs, and are maintained at sman 
expense. From these qualities, so essential to the formation 
of soldiers, it is, that they are fitted to subdue the world, as in 
fact they have done in regard to a considerable portion of it. 


WHEN one of the great Tartar chiefs proceeds on an expedi- 
tion, he puts himself at the head of an army of an hundred 
thousand horse, and organises them in the following manner. 
He appoints an officer to the command of every ten men, and 
others to command an hundred, a thousand, and ten thousand 
men, respectively. Thus ten of the officers commanding ten 

1 U They are armed," says BelJ, "with bows and arrows, a sabre and 
lance which they manage with great dexterity, acquired by constant 
pracÍice from their infancy."-Vol. i. p. 30. 


12 9 

men take their orders from him who commands a hundred; 
of these, each ten, from him who commands a thousand; and 
each ten of these latter, from him who commands ten thou- 
sand. By this arrangement each officer has only to attend to 
the management of ten men or ten bodies of men; and when 
the commander of these hundred thousand men has occasion 
to make a detachment for any particular service, he issues his 
orders to the commanders of ten thousand to furnish him 
with a thousand men each; and these, in like manner, to the 
commanders of a thousand, \vho give their orders to those 
commanding a hundred, until the order reaches those com- 
manding ten, by whom the number required is immediately 
supplied to their superior officers. A hundred men are in 
this manner delivered to every officer commanding a thou- 
sand, and a thousand men to every officer commanding ten 
thousand. 1 The drafting takes place without delay, and all 
are implicitly obedient to their respective superiors. Every 
company of a hundred men is denominated a tUl, and ten of 
these constitute a t01nan. 2 \Vhen the army proceeds on ser- 
. vice, a body of men is sent two days' march in advance, and 
parties are stationed upon each flank and in the rear, in order 
to prevent its being attacked by surprise. When the service 
is distant, they carry but little with them, and that, chiefly 
what is requisite for their encampment, and utensils for cook- 
ing. They subsist for the most part upon milk, as has been 
said. Each man has, on an average, eighteen horses and 
mares, and when that which they ride is fatigued, they change 
it for another. They are provided with small tents made of 
felt, under which they shelter themselves against rain. Should 
circumstances render it necessary, in the execution of a duty 
that requires despatch, they can march for ten days together 
without dressing victuals, during which time they subsist upon 
the blood drawn from their horses, each man opening a vein, 
and drinking from his o\vn cattle. 3 rrhey make provision also 
1 The correctness of our author's account of the constitution of the 
Mungal armies will appear from comparing it with the detailed account 
in the French translation of Abu'lghazi's History of the Tartars. 
I Toman. is the usual Persian term for a body of 10,000 men. The 
word tuc, as signifying U a hundred," is not to be found in the diction- 
aries. It may, perhaps, be an orthographica] corruption of duz, sus, 
yuz, by which that number is exprC$sed in the dialects of different Tartar 
3 The S
ythian or Sarmatian practice of drawing blood from horses, 
as an artIcle of sustenance or luxurioug indulgence, and also that of 
preserving n1Ïlk for nse, in a concrete form. were well known to the 
ancieu ts. 


13 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

of milk, thickened and dried to the state of a hard paste (or 
curd), which is prepared in the following manner. They boil 
the milk, and skimming off the rich or creamy part as it rises 
to the top, put it into a separate vessel as butter; for so long 
as that remains in the milk, it will not become hard. The 
latter is then exposed to the sun until it dries. Upon going on 
service they carry with them about ten pounds for each man, 
and of this, half a pound is put, every morning, into a leathern 
bottle, or small outre, with as much water as is thought neces- 
sary. By their motion in riding the contents are violently 
shaken, and a thin porridge is produced, upon which they make 
their dinner.! When these Tartars come to engage in battle, 
they never mix with the enemy, but keep hovering about him, 
discharging their arrows first from one side and then from the 
other, occasionally pretending to fly, and during their flight 
shooting arrows backwards at their pursuers, killing men and 
horses, as if they were combating face to face. In this sort 
of warfare the adversary imagines he has gained a victory, 
when in fact he has lost the battle; for the Tartars, observing 
the mischief they have done him, wheel about, and renewing 
the :fight, overpower his remaining troops, and make them 
prisoners in spite of their utmost exertions. Their horses are 
so well broken-in to quick changes of movement, that upon the 
signal given, they instantly turn in every direction; and by 
these rapid manæuvres many victories have been obtained. 
All that has been here related is spoken of the original manners 
of the Tartar chiefs; but at the present day they are much con- 
rupted. 2 Those who dwell at Ukaka, forsaking their own 
laws, have adopted the customs of the people who worship 

1 " On long marches," says Bell, " all their provisions consist of cheese, 
or rather dried curd, made up into little balls, which they drink when 
pounded and mixed with water." (Vol. i. p. 34.) "Vie were pre- 
sented," says Turner, " with a profusion of fresh, rich milk, and a pre- 
paration called, in the language of India, dhy, which is n1ilk acidulated 
by Ineans of buttermilk boiled in it, and kept till it is slightly coagulated. 
The kumtnuz of the Tartars is mares' milk, prepared by the same process: 
this is sometÎInes dried in masses till it resembles chalk; and is used to 
give a relish to the water they drink, by solution with it. I have been 
told that the operation of drying it is sornetimes performed by tying the 
dhy tight in bags of cloth, and suspending it under the horses' bellies." 
-Embassy to Tibet, p. 195. 
2 By the corruption of Inanners he may be supposed to allude to 
the effects produced by the conquest of China, which gave to these rude 
and hardy people a taste for the enjoyment of ease and luxuries. So 
enervated did the !\Iungals become, before the expiration of a century, 
that they were ignominiously driven back to their deserts by an insur- 
rection of the Chinese population. 

Administration. of Justice I 3 I 
idols, and those who inhabit the eastern provinces have adopted 
the manners of the Saracens. 1 


JUSTICE is administered by them in the following manner. 
When a person is convicted of a robbery not meriting the 
punishment of death, he is condemned to receive a certain 
number of strokes with a cane,-seven,seventeen, twenty-seven, 
thirty-seven, forty-seven, or as far as one hundred and seven, 
according to the value of the article stolen and circumstances 
of the theft; and many die under this chastisement. 2 When 
for stealing a horse or other article that subjects the offender 
to capital punishment, he is condemned to suffer death, the 
sentence is executed by cutting his body in two with a sword. 3 
But if the thief has the means of paying nine times the value 
of the property stolen, he escapes all further punishment. It 
is usual for every chief of a tribe or other person possessing 
large cattle, such as h
rses, mares, camels, oxen, or cows, to 
distinguish them by his mark, and then to suffer them to graze 
at large, in any part of the plains or mountains, without em- 
ploying herdsmen to look after them; and if any of them should 
happen to mix with the cattle of other proprietors, they are 
restored to the person whose mark they bear. Sheep and goats, 
on the contrary, have people to attend them. Their cattle 
of every kind are well-sized, fat, and exceedingly handsome. 4 
1 As the situation of Ukaha, or Ouchacha, is here placed in opposition 
to that of the eastern provinces, we may presume it to be Okak, or Okaka 
of Abulfeda, on the banks of the Etel or Wolga, not far from Sarai, which 
was visited by the father and uncle of our author, in their first journey. 
The relative term eastern is not, however, intended to apply to those 
provinces which we, in respect to China, call Eastern Tartary, but to 
the country lying eastward of the Caspian. 
2 To this punishment, which is known to be common in China, the 
Portuguese have given the name of bastanado (from basta no, a staff or 
3 In China, where the criminal law of the Tartars may be supposed to 
have had much influence, the punishrnents of decapitation and of cutting 
the bodies into many pieces, are in use for certain great offences. 
, "Their horned cattle," says Bell, "are very large. Their sheep 
have broad tails, and their mutton is excellent. Tbey have also great 
abundance of goats."-Vol. Í. p. 246. 

13 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

When one man has had a son, and another man a daughter, 
although both may have been dead for some years, they have 
a practice of contracting a marriage betvveen their deceased 
children, and of bestowing the girl upon the youth. They at 
the same time paint upon pieces of paper human figures to 
represent attendants ,,,ith horses and other animals, dresses of 
all kinds, money, and every article of furniture; and all these, 
together ,vith the marriage contract, which is regularly drawn 
up, they commit to the flames, in order that through the 
medium of the smoke (as they believe) these things may be 
conveyed to their children in the other world, and that they 
may become husband and ,,,ife in due form. Mter this cere- 
mony, the fathers and mothers consider themselves as mutu- 
ally related, in the same manner as if a real connexion had 
taken place between their living children.! Having thus 
given an account of the manners and customs of the Tartars, 
although not yet of the brilliant acts and enterprises of their 
grand khan, who is lord of all the Tartars, we shall now return 
to our former subject, that is, to the extensive plain which we 
were traversing ,,,hen we stopped to relate the history of this 

1 This custom, however extraordinary, is of the same character as 
many of the grave absurdities to be found in the Chinese institutions. 
We are told by P. Navarette that it exists in one of the northern pro- 
vinces, bordering on the country of the Mungals, and where of course 
we may look for a similarity of practices. "In the province of Shan-si," 
he says, " they have a ridiculous custom, which is, to marry dead folks. 
F. :Michael Trigaucius, a Jesuit, who lived several years in that province, 
told it us whilst we were confined. It falls out that one man's son and 
another's daughter die. Whilst the coffins are in the house (and they 
use to keep them two or three years or longer) the parents agree to marry 
them; they send the usual presen ts as if they were alive, with much 
ceremony and music. After this they put together the two coffins, keep 
the wedding dinner before them, and lastly they lay them together in 
one tomb. The parents from this time are looked upon not only as 
friends but relations, as they would have been had their children been 
married living." (Churchill's Collect. vol. i. p. 69.) "This," says 
Malcolm, " is said to be still an usage in Tartary. They throw the con- 
tract in the fire, and conceive the smoke ascends to the departed children, 
who marry in the other world. Pétit de la Croix, in his life of Chenghiz, 
mentions this fact; and I find it stated in a Persian manuscript written 
by a man of learning and information."-Hist. of Persia. vol. i. p. 4 1 3, 

The Plain of Bargu 





UPON leaving Kara-koran and the mountains of Altai, the 
burial-place, as has been said, of the imperial Tartar family, 
you proceed, in a northern direction, through a country 
termed the plain of Bargu, extending to the distance of about 
forty days' journey.1 The people who dwell there are called 
Ivlekriti,2 a rude tribe, who live upon the flesh of animals, the 
largest of which are of the nature of stags; and these they 
also make use of for the purposes of travelling.3 They feed 
1 The name of Bargu appears in Strahlenberg's map of Tartary, near 
the south-western part of the lake or sea of Baikal, and in D' Anville's 
on the north-east side, but by our author it is applied to the country 
extending from thence, many days' journey towards the Frozen Ocean, 
and seems to correspond to what we term Siberia. This misapplication 
(as he considers it) is noticed by Strahlenberg, who observes, that" the 
name of Bargu is to be found in the old map of Great Tartary, though in 
a very wrong place, viz. towards the Mare Glaciale." (Note 8, p. 14.) 
It may have happened, however, that in the course of four centuries one 
vague appellation may have superseded another; and I believe it ,vili 
not be contended that Siberia is the indigenous name of the region on 
which it has been bestowed. 
2 Of this tribe of Mekriti, which in the epitomes is Meeriit, but in the 
Latin edition Meditæ (Mecaci in the early Latin), frequent mention is 
made in the Tartar histories, by the nalne of Merkit and Markãt, whose 
country was amongst the :first of the conquests made by J engiz-khan, 
being in his immediate vicinity. Its situation is not pointed out with 
any degree of precision, but that it is far northwards may be inferred 
from a passage in L'Histoire générale des Huns, where, speaking of the 
defeat of the Naimans and dispersion of their princes, it is said: "Tous 
prirent la fuite, et se retirèrent vers la rivière d'Irtisch, où ils s'établirent, 
et y formèrent un puissant parti qui étoit soutenu par Toctabegh, khan 
des lVlerkites." (Liv. xv. p. 23.) U Ceux de la tribu des Markãts," 
says Abu'lghazi, U avoient du temps de Zingis-Chan un chan appellé 
Tochtabegi, qui estoit tousjours aux prises avec Zingis-Chan." (Rist. 
généa1. p. 130.) This was probably the most northern tribe with whose 
name our author was acquainted, and although he now proceeds to speak 
(in very general terms) of those extensive regions which lie between the 
rivers Oby and Lena, it may be presumed that he knew nothing of 
them but from the report of others; nor does he attempt to make it 
understood that he had visited them in person. 
3 This is the well-known rein-deer, a large and beautiful species of 
cervus, in size equal to the elk, and in shape not unlike our red deer. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

likewise upon the birds that frequent their numerous lakes 
and marshes, as well as upon fish. It is at the moulting 
season, or during summer, that the birds seek these waters, 
and being then, from want of their feathers, incapable of 
flight, they are taken by the natives without difficulty. This 
plain borders on the ocean at its northern extremity. The 
customs and manners of the people resemble those of the 
Tartars that have been described, and they are subjects of the 
grand khan. They have neither corn nor wine; and although 
in summer they derive subsistence from the chase, yet in 
winter the cold is so excessive that neither birds nor beasts 
can remain there. 1 Upon travelling forty days, as it is said, 
you reach the (northern) ocean. 2 Near to this is a mountain, 
in which, as well as in the neighbouring plain, vultures and 
peregrine falcons have their nests. Neither men nor cattle 
are found there, and of birds there is only a species called 
bargelak, and the falcons to which they serve for food. The 
former are about the size of a partridge, with tails like the 
swallow, claws like those of the parrot kind, and are swift of 
flight. When the grand khan is desirous of having a brood 
of peregrine falcons, he sends to procure them at this place; 
and in an island lying off the coast, gerfalcons are found in 
such numbers that his majesty may be supplied with as many 
of them as he pleases. 3 It must not be supposed that the 
gerfalcons sent from Europe for the use of the Tartars are 
conveyed to the court of the grand khan. They go only to 
some of the Tartar or other chiefs of the Levant, bordering on 
the countries of the Comanians and Armenians. This island is 
situated so far to the north that the polar constellation appears 
to be behind you, and to have in part a southerly bearing. 4 

1 The description of these people and their country corresponds with 
what we read of many of the savage tribes that wander over those in- 
hospitable deserts through which the great northern rivers flow. 
I This distance of forty days' journey must be understood to com- 
mence from the plain or steppe of Bargu. He speaks of it in a qualified 
manner, and not as of a tract that he had himself visited. 
a .. In the province of Dauria," says Strahlenberg, "and near the 
river Amour (the Saghalien oula of the Jesuits) there are a great many 
milk-white falcons, which are sent in great numbers to China." (P. 
3 61 .) .. I could not but admire," says Bell, .. the beauty of these fine 
birds. . . . They are brought from Siberia, or places to the north of the 
river Amoor." (Travels, vol. ii. p. 79.) Among the presents sent by 
the Czar Ivan Basiliewitz, by his ambassador, to Queen Mary, in 1556 
(as mentioned by Hakluyt), was" a large and fair white ierjawcon, for 
the wild swan, crane, goose, and other great fowls." 
4 The Italian words, "la stella tramontana," which in the text is 
translated" the polar constellation," should perhaps be, in strictness, 

The Kingdom of Erginlll I 35 
Having thus spoken of the regions in the vicinity of the 
northern ocean, we shall now describe the provinces lying 
nearer to the residence of the grand khan, and shall return to 
that of Kampion, of which mention has already been made. 



UPON leaving Kampion, and proceeding five days' journey 
towards the east, in the course of which travellers are fre- 
quently terrified in the night-time by the voices of spirits, 
they reach a kingdom named Erginul,1 subject to the grand 
khan, and included in the province of Tangut. Within the 
limits of this kingdom are several principalities, the inhabi- 
tants of which are, in general, idolaters, with some few N es- 
torian Christians and worshippers of Mahomet. Amongst 
many cities and strong places the principal one is Erginul. 
Proceeding from thence in a south-eastern direction, the road 
takes you to Cathay, and in that route you find a city called 
Singui, 2 in a district of the same name, where are many towns 
the" polar star." We must presume his meaning to have been that the 
conspicuous stars in the tail of the lesser bear, or perhaps what are called 
the pointers of the greater, appeared to the south of a person situated 
at the extreme part of the northern continent. In Fra Mauro's map we 
find the words: "Qui la Tramontana roman in mezzodi." 
1 By the corrupted name of Erginul or Ergi-nur, is meant (as may be 
conjectured from the circurnstances) that district of Tangut which is 
called by the Tartars Kokonor, and by the Chinese, Hohonor or Hohon01, 
and is by some considered as Tangut Proper. The distance of its lake 
from the city of Kampion or I{an-cheu is about one hundred and forty 
miles, in a direction nearly south, which could scarcely be travelled in 
five days, through a mountainous tract; but the situation of its principal 
town may have been much nearer to that place, and perhaps to the east- 
ward of its nleridian, on the banks of the Olanmuren. In the Basle 
edition the name is written Erigimul, in the older Latin, Ergimul, and in 
the Italian epitomes, Ergiuul; but none of them, apparently, more cor- 
rect than the Ergi-nul of Ramusio; the latter part of which seems to be 
the word nûr or nôr, signifying a lake. 
i Singui (as the name appears in the texts of Ramusio, of the Basle 
edition, and of the older Latin, but in the manuscripts, Signi and Sigui. 

13 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

and castles, in like manner belonging to Tangut, and undel 
the dominion of the grand khan. 1 The population of this 
country consists chiefly of idolaters; but there are also some 
Mahometans and Christians. Here are found many wild 
cattle that, in point of size, may be compared to elephants. 
Their colour is a mixture of white and black, and they are 
very beautiful to the sight. The hair upon every part of 
their bodies lies down smooth, excepting upon the shoulder, 
where it stands up to the height of about three palms. This 
hair, or rather wool, is white, and more soft and delicate than 
silk. 2 Marco Polo carried some of it to Venice, as a singular 
curiosity, and such it was esteemed by all who sav; it. Many 
of these cattle taken wild have become domesticated, and the 
breed produced between them and the common cow are noble 
animals, and better qualified to undergo fatigue than any other 
kind. They are .accustomed to carry heavier burthens and to 
perform twice the labour in husbandry that could be derived 

and in the epitomes, Sirigai) has been supposed by SOlne to mean the 
city of Si-gnan-fu, the capital of the province of Shen-sÏ. But the latter 
is situated near the eastern border of the province, and in the heart of 
China; whereas it is Tangut that our author is still describing; and al- 
though the western extremity of Shen-si formerly belonged to the Sifan 
or Tufan (people of Tangut), such was not the case with respect to the 
interior part of the province. Singui or Signi, on the contrary, was, I 
have no doubt, intended for the celebrated mart of Si-ning (the Selin of 
Pallas), on the western verge of Shen-si, and distant only a few days' 
journey, in a south-eastern direction, from Hohonor. It has been at 
all periods, and is at this day, the great halting-place for travellers be- 
tween Tibet and Peking, and therefore properly said to lie in the road 
to Cathay. 
1 These numerous castles or forts are likewise noticed by Du Halde, 
who describes the western part of Shen-si as consisting of two great 
valleys, diverging from a point, and advancing, the one in a northern, 
the other in a western direction, into the country of the Sifan. This 
tract formed no original part of the empire, but was a conquered dis- 
trict, taken from Tangut (to which our author considers it as belonging 
in his time) and annexed to Shen-sÏ. 
I This fine species of bos is particularly described by Turner, as \\
in his Embassy to Tibet, as in the Asiatic Researches, vol. iv., by the 
name of the yak of Tartary, or bushy-tailed bull of Tibet. cc Over the 
shoulders," he observes, " rises a thick muscle, covered with a profusion 
of soft hair, which in general is longer and more copious than that along 
the ridge of the back to the setting on of the tail. The tail is composed 
of a prodigious quantity of long flowing, glossy hair. . . . The shoulders, 
rump and upper part of the body are clothed with a sort of soft, thick 
wool.' but the inferior parts with straight, pendent hair, that descends 
 the knee. . . . There is a great variety of colours amongst them, 
but black or white are the most prevalent." (Embassy, p. 186.) With 
respect to its height, whkh our author has magnified, it is said by Turner 
to be about that of the English bull; but, from the profuse quantity of 
hair with which it is covered, it seelllS to be " of great bulk." It is dis- 
tinguished by the name of bos grunniens. 

The Animal Producing IV1 usk 


from the ordinary sort, being both active and powerfu1. 1 In 
this country it is that the finest and most .valuable musk is 
procured. 2 The animal which yields it is not larger than the 
female goat, but in form resembles the antelope. It is called 
in the Tartar language, gudderi. Its coat is like that of the 
larger kind of deer: its feet and tail are those of the antelope, 
but it has not the horns. I t is provided with four projecting 
teeth or tusks, three inches in length, two in the upper jaw 
pointing downwards, and two in the lower jaw pointing up- 
wards; small in proportion to their length, and white as 
ivory. Upon the whole it is a handsome creature. The musk 
is obtained in the following manner. At the time when the 
moon is at the full, a bag or imposthume of coagulated blood 
forms itself about the umbilical region, and those whose 
occupation it is to take the animal avail themselves of the 
moonlight for that purpose, when they cut off the membrane, 
and afterwards dry it, with its contents, in the sun. 3 It 
1 " They (the yaks, Turner adds) are a very valuable property to the 
tribes of itinerant Tartars called Dukba, who live in tents, and tend them 
from place to place; they at the same time afford their herdsmen an 
easy mode of conveyance, a good covering, and wholesome subsistence. 
They are never employed in agriculture," (it is obvious that this may 
not be the case in every district,) " but are extremely useful as beasts of 
burden; for they are strong, sure-footed, and carry a great weight." 
(P.I87.) These qualities are strongly exemplified in Moorcroft's Journey 
to Lake Mánasaróvera.-Asiat. Res. vol. xii. 
2 It is generally asserted that the musk of Tibet, or of the part of Tar- 
tary bordering upon the north-west of China, is superior to that procured 
in the Chinese provinces. 
3 From Turner we have a particular, although unscientific, account of 
what is usually termed the muslí deer, which in the language of Tibet he 
says, is called la, and the vascular covering of the musk, latcha. After 
speaking of the long-haired cattle, he proceeds in the next place (as does 
our author) to say: "The musk-deer too, which produce a valuable 
article of revenue, are in great abundance in the vicinity of these moun- 
tains. This animal is observed to delight in the most intense cold, and 
is always found in places bordering on snow. Two long curved tusks, 
proceeding from the upper jaw, and directed downwards, seem intended 
principally to serve him for the purpose of digging roots, which are said 
to be his usual food; yet it is possible they may also be weapons of 
offence. . . . They are about the height of a moderately-sized hog, 
which they resemble much in the figure of the body; but they are still 
more like the hog-deer, so termed in Bengal, from the same similitude. 
They have a small head, a thick and round hind quarter, no scut, and 
extremely delicate limbs. The greatest singularity in this animal, is 
the sort of hair with which it is covered, which is prodigiously copious, 
and grows erect all over the body, between two and three inches long, 
lying smooth only where it is short, on the head, legs, and ears. . . . The 
colour, at the base, is white, in the middle black, and brown at the points. 
The musk is a secretion formed in a little bag or tumour, resembling a 
wen, situated at the navel; and is found only in the male." (Embassy 
to Tibet, p. 200.) In a work published at Calcutta in 1798, called the 
" Oriental Miscellany," (vol. i. p. 129,) there is a scientific description 

13 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

proves the finest musk that is known. Great numbers are 
caught, and the flesh is esteemed good to eat. 1 Marco Polo 
brought with him to Venice the head and the feet of one of 
them dried. The inhabitants of this country employ them- 
selves in trade and manufactures. They have grain in abun- 
dance. The extent of the province is twenty-five 2 days' 
journey. Pheasants are found in it that are twice the size of 
ours, but something smaller than the peacock. The tail 
feathers are eight or ten palms in length. 3 There are other 
pheasants also, in size and appearance like our own, as well as 
a great variety of other birds, some of which have beautiful 
plumage. The inhabitants are idolaters. 4 In person they are 
inclined to corpulency, and their noses are small. Their hair 
is black, and they have scarcely any beard, or only a few 
scattered hairs on the chin. 6 The women of the superior 
class are in like manner free from superfluous hairs; their 
skins are fair, and they are well formed; but in their manners 
they are dissolute. The men are much devoted to female 
society; and, according to their laws and customs, they may 
have as many wives as they please, provided they are able to 
maintain them. If a young woman, although poor, be hand- 
some, the rich are induced to take her to ,vife, and in order to 
obtain her, make valuable presents to her parents and rela- 
tions, beauty alone being the quality held in estimation. We 
shall no,v take our leave of this district, and proceed to speak 
of another, situated further to the eastward. 

of the U Thibet Musk," by Dr. Fleming, with a plate from an accurate 
drawing of the animal, made by !\tIre Home. See also an engraving of 
the head, in I{irkpatrick's Account of Nepaul. 
1 The circumstance of the flesh serving for food is noticed by severa] 
modern writers. 
2 [The early Latin text reads fifteen.] 
3 This is probably the argus-pheasant (Phasianus argus), which, al- 
though a native of Sumatra, is said to be also found in the northern 
part of China. 

 The religion of the lamas, which is idolatrous, prevails in the neigh- 
bourhood of Si-ning, as well as in all the countries bordering on the pro- 
vinces of Shen-si and Sc-chuen, to the westward. 
i [The early Latin text reads, " non habent barbam nisi in mento."] 

The Province of Egrigaia 139 




DEPARTING from Erginul, and proceeding easterly for eight 
days, you come to a oountry named Egrigaia, still belonging 
to the great province of Tangut, and subject to the grand 
khan, in which there are many cities and castles, the prin- 
cipal one of which is called Kalacha. 1 The inhabitants are in 
general idolaters; but there are three churches of N estorian 
Christians. In this city they manufacture beautiful camelots, 
the finest known in the world, of the hair of camels and like- 
wise of white woo1. 2 These are of a beautiful white. They 
are purchased by the merchants in considerable quantities, 
and carried to many other countries, especially to Cathay. 
Leaving this province, we shall now speak of another situated 
towards the (north-) east, named Tenduk, and shall thus enter 
upon the territory of Prester John. 
t Neither the names of Egrigaya, Eggaya, Egygaia, or Egregia, nor 
those of Kalacha, Calacia, Colatia, or Calatia, appear in any map that 
can be cited as authority. The former, however, has some resemblance 
to Uguria, Iguria, or the country of the Eighurs; and the latter to the 
. name of the town caned by Rubruquis, Cailac, and by B. Goez, Cialis; 
the supposed situation of which will be found in the map prefixed to 
Sherefeddin's History of Timur Bec, translated by Pétis de la Croix, at 
some distance to the westward of Turfan, by the name of Y ulduz or 
Cialis. " We found one great citie there," says Rubruquis, "wherein 
was a mart, and great store of merchants frequenting it. . . . All this 
country was wont to be called Organum; and the people thereof had 
their proper language, and their peculiar kind of writing.". . . . "The 
first sort of these idolaters are caned J ugures, whose land bordereth upon 
the foresaid land of Organum, within the said mountains eastward. . . . 
The citizens of the foresaid citie of Cailac had three idol-temples, and I 
entered into two of them, to behold their foolish superstitions."-Pur- 
chas, vol. iü. p. 20. 
I It has been doubted (since the material used in the manufacture of 
shawls is known to be wool of a particular breed of sheep) whether the 
hair of camels is actually woven into cloth of any kind; but we learn 
from Elphinstone, that" oormuk, a fine cloth made of camels' wool, a 
quantity of cotton, and some lambs' skins are imported (into Caubul) 
from the Bokhara country."-P. 295. 

14 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 



TENDUK,t belonging to the territory of Prester John,2 is an 
eastern province, in which there are many cities and castles, 
subject to the rule of the grand khan; all the princes of that 
family having remained dependent, since Chingis, the first 
emperor, subdued the country. The capital is likewise named 
Tenduk. The king now reigning is a descendant of Prester 
John, and is still Prester John, and named George. He is 
both a Christian and a priest; the greater part of the inhabi- 
tants being also Christians. This king George holds his 
coun try as a fief of the grand khan; not, indeed, the en tire 
possessions of the original Prester John, but a certain portion 
of them; and the khan always bestows upon him, as well as 
upon the other princes of his house, his daughters, and other 
females of the royal family, in marriage. In this province, 
the stone of which the azure colour is made is found in abun- 
dance, and of fine quality. Here likewise they manufacture 
stuffs of camels' hair. The people gain their subsistence by 
agriculture, trade, and mechanical labours. Although sub- 
ject to the dominion of the grand khan, the king being a 
1 The plain of Tenduk has already been mentioned (p. II9, note 3) as 
the scene of a famous battle, in which the army of Dng-khan was de- 
feated and destroyed by Jengiz-khan; and although the name is not to 
be found in the Jesuits' map, its situation is nearly identified by P. 
Gaubil's informing us that the battle was fought in the space between 
the rivers Tula and Kerion, whose sources approximate about the forty- 
eighth or forty-ninth degree of latitude. It was also in this tract, on the 
northern border of the desert, that the Kaldan or chief of the Eluts was 
defeated by the forces of the emperor Kang-hi, in the year 1696. I am 
strongly inclined to believe that the nalne of Tenduk, which Pétis de la 
Croix has confounded with Tangut, is no other than Tungus; as we find 
in the maps, the tribes of the Tungusi inhabiting this region, and parti- 
cularly between the Amur river and Baikal lake. Adelung, indeed. 
remarks that in their language the names of the domesticated animals 
are the same as in that of the Mungals, from whom they received them; 
which is a proof of their ancient proximity and intercourse. 
i See Appendix I. 

Gog a11d Magog 

14 1 

Christian, as has been said, the government of the country is 
in the hands of Christians. Amongst the inhabitants, how- 
ever, there are both worshippers of idols and followers of the 
law of Mahomet. 1 There is likewise a class of people known 
by the appellation of Argon,2 because they are produced from 
a mixture of two races, namely, those natives of Tenduk \vho 
are idolaters, and the 1vlahometans. The men of this country 
are fairer complexioned and better looking than those in the 
other countries of which we have been speaking, and also 
better instructed, and nlore skilful traders. 



IN this province (of Tenduk) was the principal seat of govern- 
ment of the sovereigns styled Prester John, when they ruled 
over the Tartars of this and the neighbouring countries, and 
which their successors occupy to the present hour. George, 
above-mentioned, is the fourth in descent from Prester John, 
of whose family he is regarded as the head. There are two 
regions in which they exercise dominion. These in our part 
of the world are named Gog and Magog, but by the natives 
Ung and Mongul; in each of which there is a distinct race of 
1 Under the dynasty of the Seljuks of Persia, which commenced in the 
eleventh century, the Mahometans established themselves in consider- 
able numbers at Kashgar, and from thence gradually spread over Tartary 
in their character of IIlcrchants. During the reigns of the Moghul or 
Mungal emperors of China, they appeared in a higher capacity, frequently 
commanding armies and presiding at tribunals. Renaudot labours to 
prove that their earliest connexion with that country was by sea; which 
may have been the case with respect to the Arabs, although not to the 
Mahometans of Persia and Khorasan. 
I This name of Argon appears to be the Orgon of the Jesuits and 
Archon of Bell's map. The river so called runs through the part of Tar- 
tary here described, and being joined by the Tula, their united streams 
fall into the Selinga. On the north-western bank of the Orgon we find 
in modern times, the urga, or station of the grand lama of the Mungals: 
In nearly the same latitude, but more towards the east by several degrees, 
appears also another and more considerable river, named in the Jesuits' 
map Ergoné, or Argun, forming the boundary between the dominions of 
China and Russia in that quarter; near to which is a town or city called 

14 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

people. In Ung they are Gog, and in Mongul they are Tar 
tars.! Travelling seven days through this province, in an 
easterly direction, towards Cathay, you pass many towns 
inhabited by idolaters, as ,veIl as by Mahometans and Nes- 
torian Christians. 2 They gain their living by trade and manu- 
factures, weaving, fine-gold tissues, ornamented with mother- 
of-pearl, named nascici, and silks of different textures and 
colours, not unlike those of Europe; together with a variety 
of woollen cloths. These people are all subjects of the grand 
khan. One of the towns, named Sindichin, is celebrated for 
the manufacture of all kinds of arms, and every article neces- 
sary for the equipment of troops. In the mountainous part 
of the province there is a place called Idifa, in which is a rich 
mine of silver, from whence large quantities of that metal are 
obtained. 3 There are also plenty of birds and beasts. 
1 This passage, it must be confessed, is wholly unintelligible as it now 
stands, and we are to presume that the words of our author have been 
misunderstood and perverted, although it may be found impracticable 
to restore them to a consistent sense. His object apparently was to 
explain the distinction between the two races of which the subjects of 
Ungkhan consisted, viz. Mungals and Turkîs or Turks, to whom, in latter 
times, the general name of Tartars or Tatars is exclusively applied: a 
distinction which, notwithstanding the marked diversity of language, is 
rendered obscure from the mixture of tribes under the same government; 
for, in consequence of the splendid reputation acquired by the immediate 
dependants of J engiz-khan, the various auxiliary tribes affected to con- 
sider themselves as l\1ungals; whilst, on the other hand, it is evident that 
the Chinese applied to them indiscriminately the appellation of Tata or 
Tartars. It may be observed with respect to the scriptural names of 
Gog and Magog, that they are here spoken of as being improperly given 
to these people by Europeans, and not as appellations known in the 
country. By the generality of Arabians and Persians, who pronounce 
the names Yajuj and l\1ajuj, they are understood to belong to the in- 
habitants of the mountainous region on the north-western side of the 
Caspian Sea, 0r ancient Scythians, against whose predatory incursions 
the strong rampart of Derbend, together with the line of works extending 
from it, and regarded as supernatural, were constructed at a very remote 
period. Other situations, however, have been assigned to this wandering 
and terrific description of people, by the oriental writers of the middle 
ages, some of whom pl?-ce th.em in the northern part of Tartar
I During the succeSSIve reIgns of the Mungal emperors of ChIna, many 
considerable towns were built in that part of Tartary which lies between 
the river Kerion and the Chinese province of Pe-che-li; but they were 
afterwards destroyed, upon the expulsion of that dynasty by those of 
the Ming, whose object it was to deface every vestige of the power of 
their late masters. 
3 The name of Sindicin or Sindichin, which in the Basle edition is 
Sindacui in the Italian epitomes Sindatoy, in the early Latin Sindatus, 
and whi
h should perhaps be Sindi or Sinda-cheu, (the last syllable 
denoting the word " town, n) is not to be traced in the Jesuits' map, but 
may have belonged to one of the places destroyed by the Ming, as men- 
tioned in the preceding note. Idifa, Idifu, or Idica, has equally eluded 
my research, although the circumstance of a silver nlÌne in its neighbour- 

The City of Changanor 




LEAVING the city and province last mentioned, and travelling 
three days, you arrive at a city named Changa-nor, which 
signifies, the" white lake." 1 At this place the grand khan has 
a great palace, which he is fond of visiting, because it is sur- 
rounded with pieces of water and streams, the resort of many 
swans; and there is a fine plain, where are found in grea t 
numbers cranes, pheasants, partridges, and other birds. He 
derives the highest degree of amusement from sporting with 
gerfalcons and hawks, the game being here in vast abun- 
dance. Of the cranes they reckon five species. 2 The first 
sort are entirely black as coals, and have long wings. The 

hood might have helped to point out its situation. Upon the whole, in- 
deed, and particularly from the description of the manufactures said to 
flourish there, I am inclined to think that a transposition of matter (of 
which some indubitable examples will be hereafter observed) has taken 
place in this instance, and that the passage beginning with the words, 
" Travelling seven days through this province," to the conclusion of the 
chapter, has no proper connexion either with what precedes it, respecting 
the country of the Mungals, or what follows respecting Changanor, but 
must have applied to a more civilized country, nearer to the borders of 
1 The Cianganor or Changanor of Ramusio, Cianiganiorum of the 
Basle edition, Cyagamorum of the older Latin, Cyangamor of the B.M. 
and Berlin manuscripts, and Cyagnuorum of the Italian epitomes, are 
obviously intended for the Tsahan-nor, Chahan-nor, or vVhite lake of 
,the maps; and it is probable that the Changai mountains of Strahlen- 
berg, or Hangai-alin of the Jesuits, derive their appellation from the 
same quality, real or imaginary, of whiteness. In the Kalmuk-Mun- 
galian vocabulary of the former, the word for" white" is zagan, (pro- 
bably a soft pronunciation of ckagan,) and in the Mancheu dictionary of 
Langles it is changuien. 
2 These birds being termed gru in the Italian versions, and grus in the 
Latin, I have called them cranes in the English translation; but it may 
be doubted whether the heron (al'dea), or the stork (ciconia), be not rather 
meant by our author's description of them. "On trouve," says the 
translator, or the commentator of Abu'lghazi, "une grande quantité 
d'oiseaux d'une beauté particulière dans les vastes plaines de la Grande 
Tartarie, et l'oiseau dont il est parlé en cet endroit pourroit bien estre 
une espèce de heron, qu' on trouve dans Ie pays des Moungales vers les 
frontières de la Chine, et qui est tout blanc, excepté le bee, les ailes, et 
la queue, qu'il a d'un fort beau rouge. . . . Peut estre aussi que c'est 
d'une cicogne dont nostre auteur veut parler."-Hist. généal. des Tatares t 
p. 205. This is the Cl'U,S Le'll,cogeranus or Siberian crane of Pennant. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

second sort have wings still longer than the first, but are 
white, and the feathers of the wings are full of eyes, round like 
those of the peacock, but of a gold colour and very bright; 
the head is red and black, and well formed; the neck is black 
and white, and the general appearance of the bird is extremely 
handsome. The third sort are of the size of ours [in Italy]. 
The fourth are small cranes, having the feathers prettily 
streaked with red and azure. The fifth are of a grey colour, 
with the head red and black, and are of a large size.! Nigh 
to this city is a valley frequented by great numbers of part- 
ridges and quails, for whose food the grand khan causes millet, 
panicum, and other grains suitable to such birds, to be sown 
along the sides of it every season, and gives strict command 
tha t no person shall dare to reap the seed; in order that they 
may not be in want of nourishment. Many keeper3, likewise, 
are stationed there for the preservation of the game, that it 
may not be taken or destroyed, as ,veIl as for the purpose of 
throwing the millet to the birds during the winter. So accus- 
tomed are they to be thus fed, that upon the grain being 
scattered and the man's whistling, they immediately assemble 
from every quarter. The grand khan also directs that a number 
of small buildings be prepared for their shelter during the night; 
 in consequence of these attentions, he always finds abun- 
dant sport when he visits this country; and even in the winter, 
at which season, on account of the severity of the cold, he does 
not reside there, he has camel-loads of the birds sent to him, 
wherever his court may happen to be at the time. 2 Leaving 
this place, we shall now direct our course three days' journey 
towards the north-east. 

J [The early Latin text has, IC Quarta generatio sunt parvæ et habent 
ad aures pennas nigras. Quinta generatio est quia sunt omnes grigiæ 
et maxime, et habent caput nigruln et album. "1 
2 Game In large quantities is brought from Tartary to Peking during 
the winter in a frozen state.-Lettres édif. tom. xxii. p. 177. ed. 1781. 

The Khan's Palace at Shandu 




DEPARTING from the city last mentioned, and proceeding 
three days' journey in a north-easterly direction, you arrive at 
a city called Shandu, built by the grand khan Kublai, now 
reigning. 1 In this he caused a palace to be erected, of marble 
and other handsome stones, admirable as well for the elegance 
of its design as for the skill displayed in its execution. The 
halls and chambers are all gilt, ,and very handsome. It 
presents one front towards the interior of the city, and the 
other to\vards the wall; and from each extremity of the build- 
ing runs another wall to such an extent as to enclose sixteen 
miles in circuit of the adjoining plain, to \vhich there is no 
access but through the palace. 2 Within the bounds of this 
royal park there are rich and beautiful meadows, watered by 
many rivulets, where a variety of anÏ111als of the deer and goat 
kind are pastured, to serve as food for the hawks and other 
birds employed in the chase, whose mews are also in the grounds. 
The number of these birds is upwards of two hundred; and the 
1 Shandu is the Chang-tou (Shangtu) of the Jesuits' map, and by P. 
Couplet, in his Notes to the" Observations Chronologiques" of P. Gaubil, 
is spoken of as U Ville détruite; elle étoit dans Ie pais de Kartchin en 
Tartarie." Lat. 40 0 22' NN.E. of Peking. (P. 197.) In the year 16 9 1 
it was thus spoken of by P. Gerbillon: "Nous Hmes encore quarante 
lys dans une plaine qui s'appelle Cabaye, sur Ie bord d'une petite rivière 
nommée Chantou, Ie long de laquelle étoit autrefois bâtie la ville de Chan- 
tou, où les empereurs de la famille des Yuen tenoient leur cour durant 
l'été. On en voit encore les restes." (Du HaIde, tom. iv. p. 258.) If 
the distance between Changa-nor and this place was only three days' 
journey, the former could not have been on the northern side of the 
desert; but the numbers, from inattention in transcribing, are extremely 
incorrect, and the decimals may, in this instance, have been omitted. 
2 "This forest," says Bell, speaking of the hunting-seat of the em- 
peror Kang-hi, " is really a most delightful place; it is well stored with 
a great variety of game, and is of great extent, as will easily be conceived 
from the account I have given of our two days' hunting. It is all en- 
dosed with a high wall of brick."-Travels, vol. ii. p. 84. 

14 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

grand khan goes in person, at least once in the week, to inspect 
them. Frequently, when he rides about this enclosed forest, 
he has one or more small leopards carried on horseback, behind 
their keepers; 1 and when he pleases to give direction for their 
being slipped, they instantly seize a stag, or goat, or fallow 
deer, which he gives to his hawks, and in this manner he amuses 
himself. In the centre of these grounds, where there is a 
beautiful grove of trees, he has built a royal pavilion, supported 
upon a colonnade of handsome pillars, gilt and varnished. 
Round each pillar a dragon, likewise gilt, entwines its tail, 
whilst its head sustains the projection of the roof, and its 
talons or claws are extended to the right and left along the 
entablature. 2 The roof is of bamboo cane, likewise gilt, and 
so well varnished that no wet can injure it. The bamboos 
used for this purpose are three palms in circumference and ten 
fathoms in length, and being cut at the joints, are split into 
two equal parts, so as to form gutters, and with these (laid 
concave and convex) the pavilion is covered; but to secure 
the roof against the effect of wind, each of the bamboos is tied 
at the ends to the frame. 3 The building is supported on every 
side (like a tent) by more than two hundred very strong silken 
cords, and otherwise, from the lightness of the materials, it 
would be liable to oversetting by the force of high winds. The 
whole is constructed with so much ingenuity of contrivance 
that all the parts may be taken asunder, removed, and again 
set up, at his majesty's pleasure. This spot he has selected 

1 This animal, if it be not the ounce, is the .felis jubata or hunting 
leopard, much smaller in size than the common species. In Hindustan 
it is named the chita, and is employed by the native princes in the chase 
of the antelope. See an account of Ie the Manner of Hunting amongst 
the Princes of Hindostan," in the Asiatic Miscellany, vol. ü. p. 68, where 
this animal is called the cheetar or panther. 
a It is well known that the dragon with five claws (instead of four, as 
in the ordinary representations) is the imperial symbol, and forms a con- 
spicuous part of every article of dress, piece of furniture, or ornament 
connected with the court of China. 
8 The mode of covering here described is well known in the eastern 
islands. and is mentioned in the following passage of the History of 
Sumatra: Ie There is another kind of house, erected mostly for a tem- 
porary purpose, the roof of which is flat, and is covered in a very un- 
common, simple, and ingenious manner. Large straight bamboos are 
cut of a length sufficient to lie across the house, and being split exactly in 
two and the joints knocked out, a first layer of them is disposed in close 
r with the inner or hollow sides up; after which a second layer, with 
the o
ter or convex sides up, is placed upon the others in such manner 
that each of the convex falls into the two contiguous concave pieces, 
covering their edges; the latter serving as gutters to carry off the water 
that falls upon the upper or convex layer."-P. 58, third edition. 

The Sacrifice of Mares' Milk 147 
for his recreation on account of the mild temperature and salu- 
brity of the air, and he accordingly makes it his residence 
during three months of the year, nan1ely, June, July, and 
August; and every year, on the twenty-eighth day of the 
moon, in the last of these months, it is his established custom 
to depart from thence, and proceed to an appointed place, in 
order to perform certain sacrifices, in the following manner. 
It is to be understood that his majesty keeps up a stud of 
about ten thousand horses and mares, which are white as 
snow; 1 and of the milk of these mares no person can pre- 
sume to drink who is not of the family descended from J engiz- 
khan, with the exception only of one other family, named 
Boriat, to whom that monarch gave the honourable privilege, 
in reward of valorous achievements in battle, performed in his 
own presence. 2 So great, indeed, is the respect shown to 
these horses that, even when they are at pasture in the royal 
meadows or forests, no one dares to place himself before them, 
or otherwise to impede their movements. The astrologers 
whom he entertains in his service, and who are deeply versed 
in the diabolical art of magic, having pronounced it to be his 
duty, annually, on the twenty-eighth day of the moon in 
August, to scatter in the wind the milk taken from these mares, 
as a libation to all the spirits and idols whom they adore, for 
the purpose of propitiating them and ensuring their protection 
of the people, male and female, of the cattle, the fowls, the 
grain and other fruits of the earth; on this account it is that 
his majesty adheres to the rule that has been mentioned, and 
on that particular day proceeds to the spot where, ,vith his 
own hands, he is to make the offering of milk. On such occa- 
sions these astrologers, or magicians as they may be termed, 
sometimes display their skill in a wonderful manner; for if 
it should happen that the sky becomes cloudy and threatens 
rain, they ascend the roof of the palace where the grand 
khan resides at the time, and by the force of their in- 
cantations they prevent the rain from falling and stay the 
1 Establishments ot brood mares and stallions, on as great a scale 
have been kept up by later emperors. The white colour does not no
appear to be thought so essential as it was by the Mungal- Tartar em- 
2 This family name is variously written Boriat, Horiach, Horiath 
Orati, and Orari. It was no doubt the eminent Tartar family of which 
Malcolm speaks in his History of Persia, where he says: "The powerful 
tribe of Byât came originally from Tartary with Chinghiz-khan. They 
were long settled in Asia Minor, and a number of them fought in the army 
of Bajazet against Timour."-Vol. ü. p. 218, note. 

14 8 

Travels at Marco Pole 

tempest; so that whilst, in the surrounding country, storms 
of rain, wind, and thunder are experienced, the palace itself 
remains unaffected by the elements. l Those who operate 
miracles of this nature are persons of Tebeth and Kesmir, 
two classes of idolaters more profoundly skilled in the 
art of magic than the natives of any other country. 
They persuaded the vulgar that these works are effected 
through the sanctity of their own lives and the merits of their 
penances; and presuming upon the reputation thus acquired, 
they exhibit themselves in a filthy and indecent state, regard- 
less as ,veIl of what they owe to their character as of the respect 
due to those in whose presence they appear. They suffer their 
faces to continue always uncleansed by waslùng and their 
hair uncombed, living altogether in a squalid style. 2 They 
are addicted, moreover, to this beastly and horrible practice, 
that when any culprit is condemned to death, they carry off 
the body, dress it on the fire, and devour it; but of persons 
who die a natural death they do not eat the bodies. 3 Besides 
the appellations before mentioned, by which they are dis- 
tinguished from each other, they are likewise termed baksi, 
which applies to their religious sect or order,-as we should say, 
friars, preachers, or ffilnors. 4 So expert are they in their 
infernal art, they may be said to perform whatever they will; 
and one instance shall be given, although it may be thought 
1 That magical arts were conllnonly resorted to by the princes of the 
family of J engiz-khan appears from other accounts. 
t These appear to have been Indian yogis or goseins, who are known 
to travel by the way of Kashnlir into Tibet, and from thence, frequently, 
to the northern parts of Tartary. Their naked and squalid appearance 
has been the subject of description at all period:;, as well as their extra- 
ordinary penances or mortifications. 
3 The agreement between the account here given of this barbarous 
practice, and what is known of the Batta people of Sumatra, who devour 
the bodies of condemned criminals, is so striking, that a doubt can 
scarcely be entertained of a transposition having taken place in the order 
of our author's notes, by which a remark upon the peculiar manners of 
the latter, amongst whom he resided several months, has been detached 
from its proper place, and introduced into this chapter, where savages 
of a different description, and to whom cannibalisn1 has not been im- 
puted by any traveller since his time, are the subject. 
6 We find in the Ayin Akbari of Abu'lfazel, a confirmation of what is 
here asserted to be the meaning of the term baksi, bakshi, or, according 
to the Bengal pronunciation of Persian, bukshi, which is not furnished 
by the dictionaries. Under the head of the" Doctrine of Boodh," he 
says: "The learned among the Persians and Arabians call the priests of 
this religion Bukshee, and in Tibbet they are stiled Lama." (Vol. iü. 
p. 157.) Klaproth, in his" Abhandlung über die Sprache und Schrift 
der Uiguren," observes that the word Bakschi is of 1vlongol origin, and 
is the usual appellation of the sages (gelehrten) of that country, who ar8 
by the Chinese named Schu (Shu).-P. 77, note. 

Feats of the Magicians 


to exceed the bounds of credibility. When the grand khan 
sits at meals, in his hall of state (as shall be more particularly 
described in the following book), the table which is placed in 
the centre is elevated to the height of about eight cubits, and at 
a distance from it stands a large buffet, where all the drinking 
vessels are arranged. Now, by means of their supernatural 
art, they cause the flagons of wine, milk, or any other beverage, 
to fill the cups spontaneously, \vithout being touched by the 
attendants, and the cups to move through the air the distance 
of ten spaces until they reach the hand of the grand khan. As 
he empties them, they return to the place from whence they 
came; and this is done in the presence of such persons as are 
invited by his majesty to witness the performance. l These 
baksis, when the festival days of their idols draw near, go to 
the palace of the grand khan, and thus address him :-" Sire, 
be it known to your majesty, that if the honours of a holocaust 
are not paid to our deities, they will in their anger afflict us 
with bad seasons, with blight to our grain, pestilence to our 
cattle, and with other plagues. On this account we supplicate 
your majesty to grant us a certain number of sheep with black 
heads,2 together with so many pounds of incense and of 
lignum aloes, in order that we may be enabled to perform the 
customary rites viith due solemnity." Their words, however, 
are not spoken immediately to the grand khan, but to certain 
great officers, by \vhom the comn1unication is made to him. 
Upon receiving it he never fails to comply \vith the whole of 
1 What is here ascribed to sorcery appears to have been nothing more 
than a pantomimical trick, and capable of being effected by no extra- 
ordinary artifice. The elnperor, we may presume, and perhaps also 
such of his confidential servants as had the honour of sitting near his 
elevated table, might be aware of the machinery employed; but the 
guests in general, and even the courtiers or mandarins of inferior rank, 
amongst whom was probably our author's place, might be deceived; 
their distance being such as to render impercëptible the wires by which 
the vessels were made to move, as if spontaneously, from one part of 
the hall of entertainment to the other. The peculiar fancy of these Tar- 
tar princes for having their ìiquor (an object always of the first import- 
ance) served in a manner calculated to raise surprise, is well exemplified 
in the travels of Rubruquis, who describes a curious piece of machinery 
constructed by a French artist, for conveying into the hall a variety of 
liquors, which issued from the mouths of silver lions. 
I " A peculiar species of sheep," says Turner, "seems indigenous to 
this climate, marked almost invariably by black heads and legs. They 
are of a small size, their wool is soft, and their flesh, almost the only 
animal food eaten in Tibet, is, in my opinion, the finest mutton in the 
world." (P. 302.) A similar breed is noticed by Hamilton on the 
coast of Yemen. "Their sheep," he says, " are all white, with jet black 
heads, and small ears, their bodies large, and their flesh delicate."_ 
Vol. i. p. 15. 

15 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

their request; and accordingly, when the day arrives, they 
sacrifice the sheep, and by pouring out the liquor in which 
the meat has been seethed, in the presence of their idols, per- 
form the ceremony of worship. In this country there are 
great monasteries and abbeys, so extensive indeed that they 
might pass for small cities, some of them containing as many 
as two thousand monks, who are devoted to the service of their 
divinities, according to the established religious customs of the 
people.! These are clad in a better style of dress than the 
other inhabitants; they shave their heads and their beards, 2 
and celebrate the festivals of their idols with the utmost pos- 
sible solemnity, having bands of vocal music and burning 
tapers. Some of this class are allowed to take wives. 3 There 
is likewise another religious order, the members of which are 
named sensim, who observe strict abstinence and lead very 
austere lives, having no other food than a kind of pollard, 
which they steep in warm water until the farinaceous part is 
separated from the bran, and in that state they eat it. This 
sect pay adoration to fire, and are considered by the others as 

1 The extensive monasteries in the province of Tangut have been 
spoken of before. A particular description of them will be found in the 
Alphabetum Tibetanum, and an enumeration in the Mémoires concern. 
les Chinois, tom. xiv. p. 219, under the head of " Miao ou temples qui 
sont dans Ie pays des Si-fan," and commencing with that of Pou-ta-Ia, 
near the city of La-sa. There were many likewise in more northern 
parts of Tartary; but these have been mostly destroyed in the wars that 
took place upon the extinction of the Mongal dynasty of China, not only 
between the new dynasty and the adherents of their predecessors, but 
amongst the independent tribes themselves, under the denomination of 
Eluths and Kalkas. With respect to the number of persons here said 
to be contained in these monastic establishments, it is entirely consistent 
with the accounts given by our modern travellers. Turner informs us 
that there were two thousand five hundred gylongs (or monks) in one of 
the monasteries which he visited. 
2 All accounts we have of these people speak of the attention paid to 
uniformity of dress amongst the persons devoted to the offices of religion 
and the monastic life, according to their several classes and ranks; as 
well as of the colours (yellow and red) affected by the two great sects 
into which the lamas are divided. The tonsure also is mentioned by 
different authorities. "The priests of this religion," says the Ayin 
Akbari "shave their heads, and wear dresses of leather [evidently a 
 for the word yellow] and red c1oth." (Vol. iii. p. 158.) Rubru- 
quis also, describing the Tartars of Kara-korum, observes that, "All 
their priests had their heads and beards shaven quite over, and they are 
clad in safiron-coloured garments."-Purchas, vol. iii. p. 21. 
8 Although celibacy appears to be usually enjoined to the priests of 
Buddha Shakia-muni, or Fo, it is not universal. "Ce mandarin," says 
P. Mag
lhanes, " après s'en estre informé avec soin, me dit que dans la 
seule ville et cour de Pe-kim il y avoit 10,668 bonzes non Inariez, et que 
nous appellons ho-xam (ho-shang), et 5,022 mariez."-Nouv. Relat. 
de la Chine, p. 57. 

Religious Orders Among the Tartars I 5 I 
schismatics, not worshipping idols as they do. l There is a 
material difference between them in regard to the rules of 
their orders, and these last described never marry in any 
instance. They shave their heads and beards like the others, 
and wear hempen garments of a black or dull colour; but even 
if the material were silk, the colour would be the same. 2 They 
sleep upon coarse mats, and suffer greater hardships in their 
motle of living than any people in the world. 3 We shall now 
quit this subject, and proceed to speak of the great and wonder- 
ful acts of the supreme lord and emperor, KublaÏ-kaan. 

1 The word sensim or sensin seems to be intended for the Two Chinese 
monosyl1ables s[ng-s
n, the former of which (according to De Guignes) 
signifies bonzes or priests of Fo. In Morrison's dictionary, under the 
word sang, we read: "Priests of the se
t of Fuh, who are otherwise 
called sha-1nun: also denominated sha1
g-iin. There are several other 
names by which they are designated; ho-shang is that most commonly 
given to them." From the account of their diet we are led to conclude 
them Hindu devotees, and perhaps Sannyasîs, who amongst a people 
where the religion of Buddha prevailed would be regarded as schismatics. 
II The circulnstance of the dark-coloured dresses (nere e biave) worn 
by this class, seems to have been mentioned in order to distinguish them 
from the ho-shang and lamas, who are always clad in yellow or red, 
according to their sect, and adds to the probability that they were not 
I The austerities to which, under the name of penances, the Indian 
rogîs, sannyasîs, goseins, and other denominations of ascetics, expose 
theInselves, have been already adverted to. Their pilgrimages often 
lead them to the borders of China and to the remote provinces of Tartary. 




 I. IN this Book it is our design to treat of all the great and 
admirable achievements of the grand khan now reigning, who 
is styled Kublai-kaan; the latter word implying in our lan- 
guage lord of lords, l and with much propriety added to his 
name; for in respect to number of subjects, extent of terri- 
tory, and amount of revenue, he surpasses every sovereign 
that has heretofore been or that now is in the world; nor 
has any other been served váth such implicit obedience by 
those whom he governs. This will so evidently appear in the 
course of our work, as to satisfy every one of the truth of OUf 
Kublaï-kaan, it is to be understood, is the lineal and legiti- 
mate descendant of Jengiz-khan the first emperor, and the 
rightful sovereign of the Tartars. He is the sixth grand khan,2 
and began his reign in the year 1256.3 He obtained the 
sovereignty by his consummate valour, his virtues, and his 
prudence, in opposition to the designs of his brothers, sup- 
ported by many of the great officers and members of his own 
family. But the succession appertained to him of right. 4 
1 Kaan was the title which J engiz directed his son and successor Oktai 
to assume, and which is explained in dictionaries, as it is in our text, by 
the terms khan of khans, or lord of lords. J 
S He was properly the fifth, not the sixth emperor. Our author seems 
to have included Batu in his enumeration, who was the eldest of the 
grandsons of J engiz, but waived his right to the sovereignty in favour 
of Mangu his nephew. 
3 As emperor of China the reign of Kublai is not understood to have 
commenced till 1280, when the conquest of the southern provinces was 
completed, and the anci
nt dynasty destroye
. . 

 The right of succesSJon, accordmg to our Ideas, would have been 1ß 
one of the sons of Mangn, of whom the eldest was named Asutai; but 
amongst the Mungals this hereditary claim was modified by circum- 
15 2 

The Grand I(han Kublai 


It is forty-two years since he began to reign to the present 
year, 1288, and he is fully eighty-five years of age. Previously 
to his ascending the throne he had served as a volunteer in 
the army, and endeavoured to take a share in every enter- 
prise. Not only was he brave and daring in action, but in 
point of judgment and military skill he was considered to be 
the most able and successful commander that ever led the 
Tartars to battle. From that period, however, he ceased to 
take the field in person, l and entrusted the conduct of expedi- 
tions to his sons and his captains; excepting in one instance, 
the occasion of wlùch was as follows. A certain chief named 
Nayan, who, although only thirty years of age, was kinsman 
to Kublaï,2 had succeeded to the dominion of many cities and 
provinces, which enabled him to bring into the field an army 
of four hundred thousand horse. His predecessors, however, 
had been v
ssals of the grand khan. 3 Actuated by youthful 
vanity upon finding himself at the head of so great a force, he 
formed, in the year 1286, the design of throwing off his alle- 
giance, and usurping the sovereignty. With this view he 

stances, and the dying sovereign generally nominated that person of the 
family who was best qualified, from his age and talents, to hold the 
reins of government, or rather to cOlnmand the armies; an appointment 
which was, however, to be subject to the approval or rejection of the 
chiefs of tribes, in a grand assembly or diet, termed Kurultai. Accord- 
ingly we find that whilst the succession was for a time disputed between 
Kublaï and his younger brother, the sons of l\tIangu, instead of asserting 
their own rights, took part with him who eventually proved to be the 
weaker of their uncles. 
1 That is, from the period of his becoming emperor of China, in 1280, 
or, what is more to the point, subsequently to our author's arrival at 
his court; for in 1262 he proceeded in person against his brother Artig- 
2 In the Latin version the relationship of N ayan to I{ublai is expressed 
by the word patruus, in the Italian epitomes by at/a, and in Ramusio's 
text by barba, which the dictionaries inform us is the Lombard tern1 for 
zio, or uncle; but as he was the younger person by thirty or forty years 
(according to what is here stated), it is nearly impossible that he could 
have stood in that degree of consanguinity, and it is reasonable to sup- 
pose that the original phrase Inust have been misunderstood by the 
translators. With more plausibility he might have been called his 
nephew; but the actual relationship was much more distant, their 
common ancestor being the father of J engiz-khan. Kublai was the 
grandson of that monarch, and Nayan the great-grandson of Belgatai 
his brother. Con!equently they were second cousins once removed, 
according to the English mode of expression. 
S The dominions which this prince inherited from his ancestor, the 
fourth brother of J engiz-khan, lay in eastern Tartary; as those of Kaidu 
comprehended generally the country westward from the great desert and 
Altai mountains, towards Kashgar. These chiefs were bound, of course, 
to do homage to the .person who was considered as the head of the family, 

nd are therefore said to have been the vassals of Rublai. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

privately despatched messengers to Kaidu, another powerful 
chief, \vhose territories lay towards the greater Turkey/ and 
who, although a nephew of the grand khan, was in rebellion 
against him, and bore him determined ill-,vill, proceeding 
from the apprehension of punishment for former offences. To 
Kaidu, therefore, the propositions made by Nayan were highly 
satisfactory, and he accordingly promised to bring to his 
assistance an army of a hundred thousand horse. Both 
princes immediately began to assemble their forces, but it 
c0uld not be effected so secretly as not to come to the know- 
ledge of I(ublaï, who upon hearing of their preparations lost 
no time in occupying all the passes leading to the countries of 
Nayan and of Kaidu, in order to prevent them from having 
any information respecting the measures he was himself 
taking. He then gave orders for collecting, with the utmost 
celerity, the whole of the troops stationed within ten days' 
march of the city of Kambalù. These amounted to three 
hundred and sixty thousand horse, to wlùch was added a 
body of a hundred thousand foot, consisting of those who 
\vere usually about his person, and principally lùs falconers 
and domestic servants. 2 In the course of twenty days they 
were all in readiness. Had he asselnbled the armies kept up 
for the constant protection of the different provinces of Cathay, 
it must necessarily have required tlùrty or forty days; in 
which time the enemy would have gained information of his 
arrangements, and been enabled to effect their junction, and to 
occupy such strong positions as would best suit with their 
designs. His object was, by promptitude, which is ever the 
companion of victory, to anticipate the preparations of Nayan, 
and by falling upon him whilst single, destroy his power with 
more certainty and effect than after he should have been 
joined by Kaidu. 
It may be proper here to observe, whilst on the subject of the 
armies of the grand khan, that in every province of Cathay and 
of 1Vlanji,3 as well as in other parts of his dominions, there were 
1 Turkistan, or the country possessed by the Turkî tribes, to whom 
the name of Tartars or Tatars has of late been exclusively applied. 
I The employment of troops of this description (corresponding to the 
bostangis, or gardeners of the Turkish seraglio), marks the already per- 
ceptible decline of that vigorous system which enabled the Tartars to 
subdue their civilized and luxurious neighbours, but which inevitably 
became relaxed from inactivity and indulgence in the manners of the 
conq uered. 
3 By these we are to understand Northern and Southern China, sepa- 
rated by the great river Hoang-
o on the eastern, and by the southern 
limits of Shen-si on the western sIde. 

Insurrection of N ayan 


many disloyal and seditious persons, who at all times were dis- 
posed to break out in rebellion against their sovereign,1 and 
on this account it became necessary to keep armies in such of 
the provinces as contained large cities and an extensive popu- 
lation, which are stationed at the distance of four or five miles 
from those cities, and can enter them at their pleasure. These 
armies the grand khan makes it a practice to change every 
second year, and the same with respect to the officers who 
command them. By means of such precautions the people are 
kept in quiet subjection, and no movement nor innovation of 
any kind can be attempted. The troops are maintained not 
only from the pay they receive out of the imperial revenues 
of the province, but also from the cattle and their milk, which 
belong to them individually, and which they send into the cities 
for sale, furnishing themselves from thence, in return, with 
those articles of which they stand in need. 2 In this manner 
they are distributed over the country, in various places, to the 
distance of thirty, forty, and even sixty days' journey. If 
even the half of these corps were to be collected in one place, 
the statement of their number would appear marvellous and 
scarcely entitled to belief. 

 2. Having formed his army in the manner above described, 
the grand khan proceeded towards the territory of Nayan, and 
by forced marches, continued day and night, he reached it at 
the expiration of twenty-five days. So prudently, at the same 
time, was the expedition managed, that neither that prince 
himself nor any of his dependents were aware of it, all the 
roads being guarded in such a manner that no persons who 
attempted to pass could escape being made prisoners. Upon 
arriving at a certain range of hills, on the other side of which 
was the plain where Nayan's army lay encamped, Kublai 
halted his troops, and allowed them two days of rest. During 
this interval he called upon his astrologers to ascertain by 
virtue of their art, and to declare in presence of the whole army, 
1 Not only a great part of the population, especially of Southern China 
must have been loyally attached to the ancient race of their kings but 
also there were in all the western provinces numerous partisans of the 
rival branches of Kublai's own family, who were eager to seize all oppor- 
tunities of fomenting disturbance. 
2 These details, so probable in themselves, are not, I believe, to be 
found in any other original writer. It must have been the policy of 
l{ublai to keep his Tartarian troops as distinct as possible from the 
Chinese, and therefore, instead of quartering them in the great towns 
they were encamped at the distance of some miles from them and th
semblance at ]east of their former pastoral life was preserv
d whilst 
they were surrounded with their herds and flocks. ' 

15 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

to which side the victory would incline. They pronounced 
that it would fall to the lot of KublaÏ. It has ever been the 
practice of the grand khans to have recourse to divination for 
the purpose of inspiriting their men. Confident therefore of 
success, they ascended the hill with alacrity the next morning, 
and presented then1selves before the army of Nayan, which 
they found neg1igently posted, without advanced parties or 
scouts, whilst the chief himself was asleep in his tent, accom- 
panied by one of his ,vives. Upon a,vaking, he hastened to 
fonn his troops in the best manner that circumstances would 
allow, lamenting that his junction with Kaidu had not been 
sooner effected. Kublai took his station in a large wooden 
castle, borne on the backs of four elephants, l whose bodies were 
protected with coverings of thick leather hardened by fire, over 
which were housings of cloth of gold. The castle contained 
many cross-bo,v-men and archers, and on the top of it was 
hoisted the imperial standard, adorned with representations 
of the sun and moon. His army, which consisted of thirty 
battalions of horse, each battalion containing ten thousand 
men, armed with bows, he disposed in three grand divisions; 
and those which formed the left and right wings he extended 
in such a manner as to out-flank the army of Nayan. In 
front of each battalion of horse were placed five hundred 
infantry, armed with short lances and swords, who, whenever 
the cavalry made a show of flight, were practised to mount 
behind the riders and accompany them, alighting again when 
they returned to the charge, and killing with their lances the 
horses of the enemy. As soon as the order of battle was 
arranged, an infinite number of wind instruments of various 
kinds were sounded, and these were succeeded by songs, 
according to the custom of the Tartars before they engage in 
fight, which commences upon the signal given by the cymbals 
and drums, and there was such a beating of the cymbals and 
drums, and such singing, that it was wonderful to hear. This 
signal, by the orders of the grand khan, was first given to the 
1 Elephants have never been commonly used in China, either for war 
or parade; but during the operations carried on by Kublai (whilst acting 
as hi
 brother's lieutenant) in the province of Yunnan, bordering on Ava 
and other countries where these noble animals abound, he must have 
become well acquainted with the uses to which they might be rendered 
subservient; and it appears in a subsequent chapter, that only three 
years before the period of which we are speaking, he had taken a number 
of elephants from the king of Mien or Ava (whom his generals defeated 
in 1283), and employed them in his a
mies. This consistency of cir- 
cumstances is not unworthy of observatIon. 

The Great Battle \vith Nayan 157 
right and left wings; and then a fierce and bloody conflict 
began. The air was instantly filled with a cloud of arrows that 
poured do"vn on every side, and vast numbers of men and 
horses were seen to fall to the ground. The loud cries and 
shouts of the men, together with the noise of the horses and the 
weapons, were such as to inspire terror into those who heard 
them. When their arrows had been discharged, the hostile 
parties engaged in close combat with their lances, swords, and 
maces shod with iron; and such was the slaughter, and so 
large were the heaps of the carcases of men, and more especially 
. of horses, on the field, that it became impossible for the one 
party to advance upon the other. Thus the fortune of the day 
remained for a long time undecided, and victory wavered 
between the contending parties from morning until noon; for 
so zealous was the devotion of N a yan' s people to the cause of 
their master, who was most liberal and indulgent towards 
them, that they ,vere all ready to meet death rather than turn 
their backs to the enemy. At length, however, Nayan, per- 
ceiving that he was nearly surrounded, attempted to save him- 
self by flight, but was presently made prisoner, and conducted 
to the presence of Kublaï, who gave orders for his being put to 
death. 1 This was carried into execution by enclosing him 
between two carpets, which were violently shaken until the 
spirit had departed from the body; the motive for this peculiar 
sen tence being, that the sun and the air should not witness the 
shedding of the blood of one who belonged to the imperial 
family. 2 Those of his troops which survived the battle came 
to make their submission, and s"vear allegiance to Kublaï. 
They were inhabitants of the four noble provinces of Chorza, 
Karli, Barskol, and Sitingui. 3 
Nayan, who had privately undergone the ceremony of 
baptism, but never made open profession of Christianity, 
thought proper, on this occasion, to bear the sign of the cross 
1 The particulars of the combat, as given in the text, do not well agree 
wIth the acco,!nt furnished by De Guignes; but this is not surprising 
when we consIder how rarely two descriptions of any great battle are 
found to correspond. It may be remarked that l\1arco Polo seems to 
have been present. 
2 This affectation of avoiding to shed blood in the act of depriving of life 
a pers
n of high rank, is observable in luany instances, and m:lY perhaps 
have gIven occasion to the use of the bow-string in the Turkish seraglio. 
3 It is not possible to identify in any modern nlap or account of Northern 
Tartary the names of these tribes, which may have ìong ceased to exist 
under the same denominations. The difficulty is further increased by 
the extraordinary corruption of the words in different versions and 
edi tions. 

15 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

in his banners, and he had in his army a vast number of Chris- 
tians, who were left amongst the slain. When the Jews l and 
the Saracens perceived that the banner of the cross was over- 
thrown, they taunted the Christian inhabitants with it, saying, 
"Behold the state to which your (vaunted) banners, and those 
who followed them, are reduced!" On account of these 
derisions the Christians were compelled to lay their complaints 
before the grand khan, who ordered the former to appear 
before him, and sharply rebuked them. "If the Cross of 
Christ," he said, " has not proved advantageous to the party 
of N ayan, the effect has been consistent with reason and 
justice, inasmuch as he was a rebel and a traitor to his lord, 
and to such wretches it could not afford its protection. Let 
none therefore presume to charge with injustice the God of 
the Christians, who is Himself the perfection of goodness and 
of justice." 


THE grand khan, having obtained this signal victory, returned 
with great pomp and triumph to the capital city of Kanbalu. 
This took place in the month of November, and he continued 
to reside there during the months of February and March, in 
which latter was our festival of Easter. Being aware that this 
was one of our principal solemnities, he comman d ed 
ll_ the 
Çhris tians to attend him , a
 bri ng with them their Book, 
which con tains the fou r Gosp els of th e _ Evangelis ts-:-Af ter 
causi ng it to be r e pea tedly per!u
d with inc
e, in a ce re- 
mOñious manner, he devoutly kissed it, and directed tha t the 
så me s ho uld b e done by all his nobles who were present. This 
was his usual practice up n h l the principal Christian 
1 This is the first occasion on which our author speaks of Jews in 
Tartary or China. Of their existence in the latter country, at an early 
period, there is no room to doubt. In the relations of the Mahometan 
travellers of the ninth century, we are told that in the massacre which 
took place at the city of Canfu, when taken by a rebel leader after an 
obstinate siege, many of that race perished. 

The Christians in Tartary I 59 
festivals, such as Easter and Christmas; and he observed the 
s-ame-attlle-festivals of the Sara cens
 Jews, and idolaters. 1 
opãn being as këd hi s mo ti ve for thiSëonduct, he said: There 
are four great Prophets who are reverenced and worshipped 
by the different classes of mankind. The Christians regard 
Jesus Christ as their divinity; the Saracens, Mahomet; the 
Jews, Moses; 2 and the idolaters, Sogomombar-kan,3 the most 
eminent amongst their idols. I do honour and show respect to 
all the four, and invoke to my aid whichever amongst them is 
in truth supreme in heaven." But from the manner in which 
his majesty acted towards them, it is evident that he regarded 
the faith of the Christians as the truest and the best; nothing, 
as he observed, being enjoined to its professors that was not 
replete with virtue and holiness. By no means, however, 
would he permit them to bear the cross before them in their 
processions, because upon it so exalted a personage as Christ 
had been scourged and (ignominiously) put to death. It may 
perhaps be asked by some, why, if he showed such a preference 
to the faith of Christ, he did not conform to it, and become a 
Christian? His reason for not so doing, he assigned to Nicolo 
and Maffio Polo, when, upon the occasion of his sending them 
as his ambassadors to the Pope, they ventured to address a 
few words to him on the subject of Christianity. "Where- 
fore," he said, "should I become a Christian ? You your- 
selves must perceive that the Christians of these countries are 
ignorant, inefficient persons, who do not possess the faculty of 
performing anything (miraculous); whereas you see that the 
idolaters can do whatever they will. When I sit at table the 
cups that were in the middle of the hall come to me filled with 
wine and other beverage, spontaneously and without being 
touched by human hand, and I drink from them. They have 
1 This conduct towards the professors of the several systems of faith 
is perfectly consistent 'with the character of Kublai, in which policy was 
the leading feature. It was his object to keep in good humour all classes 
c: f his 
nd especially those of. the capital or abot;It the cou;-t, by 
IndulgIng them In the liberty of followIng unmolested thelr own religious 
tenets, and by flattering each with the idea of possessing his special 
protection. Many of the highest offices, both civil and military, were 
held by Mahometans. 
2 Neither do those who profess the !tlussulman faith regard l\lahonlet 
as a divinity, nor do the Jews so regard l\'1oses; but it is not to be ex- 
pected that a Tartar enlperor should make very accurate theological 
3 This word, probably much corrupted by transcribers, must be in- 
tended for one of the nUInerous titles of Buddha or Fo, who, 
the l'vlungals, as in India also. is commonly termed Shakia-muni andoin 
Siam, Sommona- kodom. J 

160 Travels of Marco Polo 

the power of controlling bad weather and obliging it to retire to 
any quarter of the heavens, with many other wonderful gifts of 
that nature. You are witnesses that their idols have the 
faculty of speech, and predict to them whatever is required. 
Should I become a convert to the faith of Christ, and profess 
myself a Christian, the nobles of my court and other persons 
who do not incline to that religion will ask me what sufficient 
motives have caused me to receive baptism, and to embrace 
Christianity. 'What extraordinary powers,' they will say, 
, what miracles have been displayed by its ministers? Where- 
as the idolaters declare that what they exhibit is performed 
through their own sanctity, and the influence of their idols.' 
To this I shall not know what ans\ver to make, and I shall be 
considered by them as labouring under a grievous error; 
\vhilst the idolaters, who by means of t
eir profound art can 
effect such wonders, may without difficulty compass my death. 
But return you to your pontiff, and request of him, in my 
name, to send hither a hundred persons well skilled in your 
law, who being confronted with the idolaters shall have power 
to coerce them, and showing that they themselves are endowed 
with similar art, but which they refrain from exercising, 
because it is derived from the agency of evil spirits, shall com- 
pel them to desist from practices of such a nature in their 
presence. When I am witness of this, I shall place them and 
their religion under an interdict, and shall allow myself to be 
baptized. Following my example, all my nobility \vill then in 
like manner receive baptism, and this will be imitated by my 
subjects in general; so that the Christians of these parts will 
exceed in number those who inhabit your own country." 
From this discourse it must be evident that if the Pope had 
sent out persons duly qualified to preach the gospel, the grand 
khan ",
ould have embraced Christianity, for which, it is cer- 
tainly known, he had a strong predilection. But, to return 
to our subject, we shan novv speak of the re\tvards and honours 
he bestows on such as distinguish thenlselves by their valour 
in battle. 

Military Rewards 



THE grand khan appoints twelve of the most intelligent 
amongst his nobles, whose duty it is to make themselves 
acquainted with the conduct of the officers and men of his 
army, particularly upon expeditions and in battles, and to 
present their reports to him,! and he, upon being apprised of 
their respective merits, advances them in his service, raising 
those who con1manded an hundred men to the command of a 
thousand, and presenting many with vessels of silver, as well 
as the custon1ary tablets or \varrants of command and of 
govemment. 2 The tablets given to those commanding a 
hundred men are of silver; to those commanding a thousand, 
of gold or of silver gilt; and those who command ten thousand 
receive tablets of gold, bearing the head of a lion; 3 the former 
being of the weight of a hundred and twenty saggi,4 and these 
with the lion's head, two hundred and twenty. At the top of 
the inscription on the tablet is a sentence to this effect: "By 
the po\ver and might of the great God, and through the grace 

1 In the establishment of a board of this nature it is probable that 
Kublai only confonned to the system of the former or ancient Chinese 
governn1en t, which placed the various concerns of the state under the 
lnanagement of distinct tribunals named pû, to eacb of which another 
word, expressive of the particular nature of the department, is prefixed. 
" La quatrième cour souveraine," says Du HaIde, " se nomme Ping-pou, 
c'est-à-dire, Ie tribunal des armes. La milice de tout l'empire est de son 
ressort. C'est de ce tribunal que dépendent les officiers de guerre géné- 
raux et particuliers," etc. (Tom. ii. p. 24.) Under a warlike monarch, 
who owed the empire of China to his sword, it migbt well have been con- 
sidered as the first in consequence, aJthough now inferior in rank to three 
2 See note 1, p. 16, where some account is given of these tablets or letters 
patent, called tchi-kou,l'i, according to the French orthography. 
3 The Chinese representation of a lion, like the singa of the Hindu 
lnythology, from whence it seems to have been borrowed, is a grotesque 
figure, extremely unlike the real animal. An engraving of it will be 
found in Staunton's Account of Lord l\lacartney's Embassy, (vol. ii. p. 
31 I;) and the figure is not uncomlnon in our porcelain collections. Oc- 
casion will be taken hereafter to show that where the lion is spoken of 
by our author as a living animal, and an object of hunting sport, the 
tiger n1ust be understood. 
'The saggio of Venice being equal to the sixth part of an ounce, these 
consequently weighed twenty ounces, and the others in proportion up 
to fifty ounces. 



Travels of Marco 1)010 

which he vouchsafes to our empire, be the name of the kaan 
blessed; and let all such as disobey (what is herein directed) 
suffer death and be utterly destroyed." The officers who hold 
these tablets have privileges attached to them, and in the in- 
scription is specified \vhat are the duties and the powers of 
their respective commands. He who is at the head of a hun- 
dred thousand men, or the commander in chief of a grand army, 
Ìlas a golden tablet weighing three hundred saggi, with the 
sentence above mentioned, and at the bottom is engraved the 
figure of a lion, together with representations of the sun and 
moon. He exercises also the privileges of his high command, 
as set forth in this magnificent tablet. Whenever he rides in 
public, an umbrella is carried over his head, denoting the rank 
and authority he holds; 1 and when he is seated, it is always 
upon a silver chair. The grand khan confers likewise upon 
certain of his nobles tablets on which are represented figures of 
the gerfalcon,2 in virtue of which they are authorized to take 
with them as their guard of honour the \vhole army of any 
great prince. They can also make use of the horses of the im- 
perial stud at their pleasure, and can appropriate the horses 
of any officers inferior to themselves in rank. 


KUBLAI, who is styled grand khan, or lord of lords, is of the 
middle stature, that is, neither tall nor short; his limbs are 
well formed, and in his whole figure there is a just proportion. 
His complexion is fair, and occasionally suffused with red, 
like the bright tint of the rose, \vhich adds much grace to his 
countenance. His eyes are black and handsome, his nose is 
well shaped and prominent. He has four wives of the first 
1 In lllany parts of the East, the parasol or Ulnbrella with a long 
handle, borne by an attendant, is a mark of high distinction, and even 
denotes sovereignty when of a particular colour. Du Halde, in describ- 
ing the parade of a tsong-tû or viceroy of a province, enumerates amongst 
the insignia" un parasol de soye jaune à triple étage." 
;! Amongst the eIllblematical ornaments worn by great officers, the 
r-agle is mentioned by Du Halde, but it may probably have been intended 
for the gerfalcon, a bird Illore prized as the instrulnent of royal sport. 

The Harem of the Grand Khan 

16 3 

rank, who are esteemed legitimate, l and the eldest born son of 
anyone of these succeeds to the empire, upon the decease of 
the grand khan. 2 They bear equally the title of empress, and 
have their separate çourts. None of them have fewer than 
three hundred young female attendants of great beauty, to- 
gether with a multitude of youths as pages, and other eunuchs, 
as well as ladies of the bedchamber; so that the number of 
persons belonging to each of their respective courts amounts 
to ten thousand. 3 When his majesty is desirous of the com- 
pany of one of his empresses, he either sends for her, or goes 
himself to her palace. Besides these, he has many concu- 
bines provided for his use, from a province of Tartary named 
Ungut, having a city of the same name, the inhabitants of 
which are distinguished for beauty of features and fairness of 
complexion. 4 Thither the grand khan sends his officers every 
second year, or oftener, as it may happen to be his pleasure, 

1 " II avoit épousé plusieurs femmes," says De Guignes, "dont cinq 
portoient Ie titre d'impératrices; " but it is probable that not more than 
four of these (if so many) were contemporaneous; and the legitimacy of 
the latter number, which does not appear to be sanctioned by the ancient 
Chinese institutions, may have been suggested by the l\1ahometan usage. 
Three queens are mentioned by P. l\lagalhanes as belonging to the 
emperor Rang-hi, and the establishment of the late emperor I{ien Lông 
consisted, in like manner, of one female with the rank of empress, two 
queens of the second order, and six of the third. 
1& According to the laws of China, as we are told by Du HaIde, the 
eldest son (or son of the superior wife), though he may have a preferable 
claim, has not an indefeasible right to the succession. Amongst the 
predecessors of I{ublai, also, in the lVloghul empire, we have instances of 
the hereditary claim being set aside, and Oktaï himself was named grand 
khan by his father, in preference to J agatai, the eldest son. Our author 
must therefore be understood to say, that the son first born to anyone 
of the four empresses ,vas considered as the presumptive heir; and this 
in fact having been the case with respect to the eldest son of I{ublaï, 
whose succession, had he outlived his father, was undoubted, the pre- 
vailing sentiment of the court might naturally be mistaken for the estab- 
lished custom of the empire. 
3 This number appears excessive, but we are not to measure the extra- 
vagancies of enormous and uncontrolled power by any standard of our own 
ideas. Perhaps besides the establishment of female attendants and of 
eunuchs, old and young, a numerous nlilitary guard of honour might be 
attached to the court of each of the empresses. The early Venice edition, 
however, states the number much lower: "Ciascuna de queste quatro 
regine hanno in sua corte piu de quatro millia persone infra homini e 
donne." P. Martini speaks of numerous females, below the rank of con- 
cubines, for the service of the palace. 
4. The country here named Ungut is in other versions called Origiach, 
Origiathe, and Ungrac. There is little doubt of its being intended for 
that of the Ighurs, Eighur", or Uighurs, who in the time of J engiz-khan 
possessed th(> countries of Tllrfan and Rami or Ramil, and were alwavi 
considered as superior, in respect both of person and acquirements, tc 
the other nations of Tartary. 

16 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

\vho collect for him, to the number of four or five hundred, 01 
more, of the handsomest of the young women, according to the 
estimation of beauty communicated to them in their instruc- 
tions. The mode of their appreciation is as follows. Upon 
the arrival of these commissioners, they give orders for assem- 
bling all the young women of the province, and appoint quali- 
fied persons to examine them, who, upon careful inspection of 
each of them separately, that is to say, of the hair, the coun- 
tenance, the eyebrows, the mouth, the lips, and other features, 
as ,veIl as the symmetry of these with each other, estimate 
their value at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, or twenty, or more 
carats, according to the greater or less degree of beauty.! The 
number required by the grand khan, at the rates, perhaps, of 
twenty or twenty-one carats, to which their commission was 
limited, is then selected from the rest, and they are con- 
veyed to his court. Upon their arrival in his presence, he 
causes a new examination to be made by a different set of 
inspectors, and from amongst them .a further selection takes 
place, when thirty or forty are retained for his own chamber 
at a higher valuation. These, in the first instance, are com- 
mitted separately to the care of the wives of certain of the 
nobles, whose duty it is to observe them attentively during the 
course of the night, in order to ascertain that they have not 
any concealed imperfections, that they sleep tranquilly, do not 
snore, have sweet breath, and are free from unpleasant scent 
in any part of the body. Having undergone this rigorous 
scrutiny, they are divided into parties of five, one of which 
parties attends during three days and three nights, in his 
majesty's interior apartment, where they are to perform every 
service that is required of them, and he does with them as 
he likes. When this term is completed, they are relieved by 
another party, and in this manner successively, until the whole 
number have taken their turn; when the first five recom- 
mence their attendance. But whilst the one party officiates 
in the inner chamber, another is stationed in the outer apart- 
ment adjoining; in order that if his majesty should have occa- 

1 If by this gold weight is meant the carat consisting of four grains, 
the estimated value of beauty must have been very low in that age and 
country, as twenty carats or eighty grains of gold, at four pounds sterling 
the ounce, amount to no more than thirteen shillings and fourpence. 
But the probability is that -our author's words expressed some Chinese 
weight (the täel, perhaps, or the mace, which latter would bring it to 
about eight or nine pounds sterling), and the foreign term he employed 
may have been inaccurately rendered by carala. 

Kublai's Children 

16 5 

sion for anything, such as drink or victuals, the former may 
signify his commands to the latter, by whom the article re- 
quired is immediately procured: and thus the duty of waiting 
upon his majesty's person is exclusively performed by these 
young females. 1 The remainder of them, whose value had 
been estimated at an inferior rate, are assigned to the different 
lords of the household; under whom they are instructed in 
cookery, in dressmaking, and other suitable works; and upon 
any person belonging to the court expressing an inclination to 
take a wife, the grand khan bestows upon him one of these 
damsels, with a handsome portion. In this manner he provides 
for them all amongst his nobility. It may be asked whether 
the people of the province do not feel themselves aggrieved in 
having their daughters thus forcibly taken from them by the 
sovereign? Certainly not; but, on the contrary, they regard 
it as a favour and an honour done to them; and those who are 
the fathers of handsome children feel highly gratified by his 
condescending to make choice of their daughters. "If," say 
they, " my daughter is born under an auspicious planet and to 
good fortune, his majesty can best fulfil her destinies, by 
matching her nobly; which it would not be in my power to 
do." If, on the other hand, the daughter misconducts herself, 
or any mischance befalls her (by which she becomes disquali- 
fied), the father attributes the disappointment to the malign 
influence of her stars. 


THE grand khan has had twenty-two sons by his four legiti- 
mate wives, the eldest of whom, named Chingis, 2 was designed 
L It would appear from hence that Kublai, although he adopted the 
Chinese custom of employing eunuchs as the attendants or guards of his 
females, did not so far forget his original manly habits as to admit them 
near his own person. 
S Gaubil and De Guignes name this prince Tchingkin and Tchenkin 
and such may perhaps have been the manner in which it was pronounced 
by the Chinese, who terminate all their monosyllables either with a vowel 
or a nasal; but the name as found in most of the versions of our author 
is apparently more correct, being that of the great ancestor of the family; 


Travels of Marco Polo 

to inherit the dignity of grand khan, with the government of 
the empire; and this nomination was confirmed to him during 
the lifc-tilne of his father. It was not, however, his fate to 
survive him; but leaving a son, whose name is Themur, he, 
as the representative of his father, is to succeed to the 
dominion.} The disposition of this prince is good, and he is 
cndo\ved with wisdom and valour; of the latter he has given 
proofs in several successful battles. Besides these, his majesty 
has twenty-five sons by his concubines, all of them brave 
soldiers, having been continually employed in the military 
profession. These he has placed in the rank of nobles. Of his 
legitimate sons, seven are at the head of extensiye provinces 
and kingdoms, 2 which they govern \vith ,visdom and prudence, 
as might be expected of the children of one whose great quali- 
ties have not been surpassed, in the general estimation, by any 
person of the Tartar race. 


THE grand khan usually resides during three months of the 
year, namely, December, January, and February, in the great 
city of Kanbalu, situated towards the north-eastern extremity 
of the province of Cathay; 3 and here, on the southern side of 
the new city, is the site of his vast palace, the form and dimen- 
sions of which are as follows. In the first place is a square 
enclosed with a wan and deep ditch; each side of the square 
being eight miles in length,4 and having at an equal distance 
and in the early Venice epitome it is expressly said: "So prÜno hebbe 
nome Chinchis chan per amor de Chinchis. tt 
1 The name here written Themur, and in other versions Temur, iâ 
evidently the well-known Tartar name of Timur, although the great 
conqueror so called did not acquire his celebrity until a century after. 
2 De Guignes enumerates ten of his sons, born of five empresses, and 
mentions the provinces of Shensi, Sechuen, and Tibet as being governed 
by J\Iangkola,. the third son. P. 
ag:alhanes noti
es the. custom. of 
sending the pnnces of the royal famIly Into the provInces ,.nth the tItle 
of kings; but in the reign of Kang-hi their authority \ Inerely nomi
3 Relatively to the vast extent of the whole empIre at that penod, 
Cathay, or Northern.China, is terme
 by our author a province, although 
it contained the capItal of that emprre, and the seat of government. 
C These dimensions, as applicable to a palace, even for an emperor of 
China appear at first view to be extravagant; but the seeming difficulty 
arises' from the Inisapplication of a term, in calling that a palace which 
was, in fact, the enclosure of a royal park and encampment. 

The Imperial Palace of Kanbalu 16í' 

from each extremity an entrance-gate, for the concourse ()1 
people resorting thither from all quarters. Within this en- 
closure there is, on the four sides, an open space one D1ile in 
breadth, \vhere the troops are stationed; 1 and this is bounded 
by a second wall, enclosing a square of six miles,2 having three 
gates on the south side, and three on the north, the middle 
portal of each being larger than the other two, and ahvays 
kept shut, excepting on the occasions of the emperor's entrance 
or departure. Those on each side always remain open for the 
use of common passengers. 3 In the Iniddle of each division of 
these walls is a handsome and spacious building, and conse- 
quently within the enclosure there are eight such buildings, in 
which are deposited the royal military stores; one building 
being appropriated to the reception of each class of stores. 
Thus, for instance, the bridles, saddles, stirrups, and other 
furniture serving for the equipment of cavalry, occupy one 
storehouse; the bows, strings, quivers, arro\vs, and other 
articles belonging to archery, occupy another; cuirasses, corse- 
lets, and other armour formed of leather, a third storehouse; 
and so of the rest. \\Tithin this walled enclosure there is still 
another, of great thickness, and its height is full twenty-five 
feet. The battlements or crenated parapets are all white. 
This also forms a square four miles in extent, each side being 
one mile, and it has six gates, disposed like those of the former 
enclosure. 4 I t contains in like manner eight large buildings, 
1 The area aUotted to the troops upon this plain would be twenty-eight 
square miles. Their number was, of course, very great, and being chiefly 
cavalry, the barracks or sheds for their accommodation would necessarily 
occupy a vast range. In the early part of the last century, the cavalry 
stationed in and about Peking was reckoned at 80,000. Supposing it 
to have been about 112,000 in the days of Kublaï, this would allow only 
a square mile for 4,000 horse. 
2 As this second encl05ure not only contained the roya1 arsenals, eight 
in number, for every description of military store, but formed also a park 
for deer, there is nothing ren1arkable in its extent. It is not easy, how- 
ever, to reconcile its position in respect to the city with some of the 
circumstances here mentioned; but we must suppose that the interior 
enclosure (afterwards described), which contained the palace properly 
so called, was situated towards the northern side of this park, and was 
at the saIne time contiguous to the southern wall of the city. 
3 The custom of reserving particular gates for the exclusive use of the 
emperor is still observed. 
4 To this last enclosure it is that the appellation of the Palace should 
be restricted; and when we read the description of the Meidar"l of Ispahan 
or of the Escurial with its twenty-two courts, we shall not deem the are
of a square mile any extraordinary space to be occupied by the various 
buildings required for such an establishment as that of Kublaï. It is at 
the same time to be remarked that there is a striking agreement between 
the n1easnre here stated and that assigned to the modern palace in the 
descriptions we have from the Jesuits. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

similarly arranged, which are appropriated to the wardrobe of 
the emperor. 1 The spaces between the one wall and the other 
are ornamented with many handsome trees, and contain 
meadows in which are kept various kinds of beasts, such as 
stags, the animals that yield the n1usk, roe-bucks, fallow-deer, 
and others of the same class. Every interval between the 
walls} not occupied by buildings, is stocked in this manner. 
The pastures have abundant herbage. The roads across them 
being raised three feet above their level, and paved, no mud 
collects upon them, nor rain-water settles, but on the con- 
trary runs off, and contributes to improve the vegetation. 
Within these walls, which constitute the boundary of four 
miles, stands the palace of the grand khan, the most extensive 
that has ever yet been known. It reaches from the northern 
to the southern wall, leaving only a vacant space (or court), 
where persons of rank and the military guards pass and repass. 
It has no upper floor, but the roof is very lofty.2 The paved 
foundation or platform on which it stands is raised ten spans 
above the level of the ground, and a wall of marble, two paces 
wide, is built on all sides, to the level of this pavement, within 
the line of which the palace is erected; so that the wall, ex- 
tending beyond the ground plan of the building, and encom- 
passing the whole, serves as a terrace, where those who walk on 
it are visible from \vithout. Along the exterior edge of the 
wall is a handsome balustrade, with pillars, which the people 
are allowed to approach. 8 The sides of the great halls and the 

1 It is well known to have been the practice of Eastern monarchs, from 
the earliest ages, to deliver changes of raiment to those whom they 
meant to distinguish by their favour. The Persian term khilàt is gener- 
ally applied to these vestments, which consist of pelisses in the northern 
parts of Asia, and of dresses of cloth, silk, or rnuslin, in the temperate 
and warmer climates. We read of vast numbers of them being dis- 
tributed on the occasion of great victories, or the dismissal of important 
embassies; and this may account for the bulk of the wardrobes or 
buildings for what are here termed the paratnenti of the emperor, which 
may also include the regalia carried in their splendid processions. 
:& It will be seen in the plates accompanying the accounts of various 
embassies to Peking, that although the flooring of the palaces is elevated 
from the ground, they consist of but a single story. The height of the 
ornamented roofs is a striking feature in the architecture of these people. 
3 The height of the terrace is said, in Ramusio's text, to be diec'i palmi, 
or about seven feet; but in the epitomes it is doi brazza e mezo, or about 
twice that elevation; and this accords best with modern descriptions. 
AU the accounts of missionaries and travellers serve to show that, in 
point of structure, materials, and style <?f 
t, there .has 
existed a perfect resemblance between the buildIngs of Kublal, as descrIbed 
hv our atlthor, and those of J{ang-hi and Kkn-long, in the seventeenth 
aÙd eighteenth centuries. 

The Imperial Palace of Kanbalu 169 
apartments are ornamented with dragons in carved work and 
gilt, figures of warriors, of birds, and of beasts, with represen- 
tations of battles. The inside of the roof is contrived in such 
a manner that nothing besides gilding and painting presents 
itself to the eye. I On each of the four sides of the palace 
there is a grand flight of marble steps, by which you ascend 
from the level of the ground to the wall of marble which 
surrounds the building, and which constitute the approach to 
the palace itself. The grand hall is extremely long and wide, 
and admits of dinners being there served to great multitudes 
of people. The palace contains a nr mber of separate cham- 
bers, all highly beautiful, and so adnlirably disposed that it 
seems impossible to suggest any improvement to the system 
of their arrangement. The exterior of the roof is adorned 
\vith a variety of colours, red, green, azure, and violet, and 
the sort of covering is so strong as to last for many years. 2 
The glazing of the windows is so well wrought and so delicate 
as to have the transparency of crystal. 3 In the rear of the 
body of the palace there are large buildings containing several 
apartments, where is deposited the private property of the 
monarch, or his treasure in gold and silver bullion, precious 
stones, and pearls, and also his vessels of gold and silver plate. 4 

1 "Cette salle," adds Du Halde, "a environ cent trente pieds de 
longueur, et est presque quarrée. Le lambris est tout en sculpture 
vemissé de verd, et chargé de dragons dorez: les colonnes qui soutien- 
nent Ie toit en dedans sont de six à sept pieds de circonférence par Ie 
bas: elles sont incrustées d'une espèce de pâte enduite d'un vernis rouge." 
-Tom. i. p. 117. 
2 The roofs are invariably covered with baked tiles, which, for the 
principal buildings, have a vitrified glazing of a bright colour. Such as 
are used for the palaces at the present day are exclusively yellow; but 
this etiquette may not have been so strictly adhered to under the dynasty 
of the Yuen. "Le tout est couvert de tuiles vernissées d'un si beau 
jaune, que de loin eUes ne paroissent guères mains éc1atantes, que si eUes 
étoient dorées."-Du Halde, tom. i. p. 116. 
3 Ramusio e
ploys the word vitreate, which I have translated glazing, 
although there IS no reason to suppose that glass was used for windows 
in China at that period. The meaning may be, that the pellucid sub- 
stance employed for glazing (perhaps talc or laminæ of shells) was so 
delicately wrought (cosi ben fatte e cosi sotUl1nente) as to have nearly the 
transparency of crystal. "Les fenêtres des maisons," says De Guignes, 
" sont garnies avec des coquilles minces et assez transparentes, ou avec 
du papier." (Tom. ii. p. 178.) Staunton mentions that the windows 
of some of the yachts or barges had glass panes, but the manufacture 
was probably European. 
, In the modern palace, the buildings for this purpose are described as 
being (less appropriately) round the court, in front of the great hall of 
audience; but we ought not to be surprised at any variation with respect 
to the arrangement of these buildings, when we learn that the whole 01 
the palace has been repeatedly destroyed by fire 

17 0 

Travels of l\IIarco Polo 

Here are likewise the apartments of his wives and concu- 
bines; and in this retired situation he despatches businrss 
with convenience, being free from every kind of interrup- 
tion. On the other side of the grand palace, and opposite 
to that in \vhich the emperor resides, is another palace, in 
every respect similar, appropriated to the residence of Chingis, 
his eldest son, at whose court are observed all the ceremonials 
belonging to that of his father, as the prince who is to succeed 
to the government of the empire. 1 Not far from the palace
on the northern side, and ahout a bow-shot distance from the 
surrounding wall, is an artificial mount of earth, the height of 
which is full a hundred paces, and the circuit at the base about 
a mile. It is clothed with the most beautiful evergreen trees; 
for whenever his majesty receives inforn1ation of a handsome 
tree gro\ving in any place, he causes it to be dug up, with all its 
roots and the earth about them, and however large and heavy 
it may be, he has it transported by means of elephants to this 
mount, and adds it to the verdant collection. From this per- 
petual verdure it has acquired the appellation of the Green 
l\tIount. On its summit is erected an ornamental pavilion, 
which is likewise entirely green. The view of this altogether,- 
the mount itself, the trees, and the building, form a delightful 
and at the same time a wonderful scene. In the northern 
quarter also, and equally within the precincts of the city, there 
is a large and deep excavation, judiciously forn1ed, the earth 
from \vhich supplied the material for raising the mount. 2 It 
is furnished with water by a small rivulet, and has the appear- 
ance of a fish-pond, but its use is for \vatering the cattle. The 
stream passing from thence along an aqueduct, at the foot of 
the Green 1\Iount, proceeds to fill another great and very deep 
excavation formed between the private palace of the emperor 
and that of his son Chingis; and the earth from hence equally 

1 " A l'est de la même cour est un autre palais, habité par Ie prin
héritier, lorsqu'il y en a un de déclaré." (De L'isle, Dcscr. de la Ville 
de Peking, p. 16.) It will not escape the observation of the reader that, 
in a previous page, our author noticed the untimely death of this prince, 
(see pp. 165, 166,) who, notwithstanding, is here mentioned as a living 
person. This is obviously to be accounted for from the circumstance of 
the work being composed, not from recollection merely, but from notes 
made at different periods, alllongst which a description of the palaces 
might have been one of the earliest. Kub1ai also, the event of whose 
death is related in the course of the returning journey, is spoken of 
throughout the work as the ernperor aotuaJ1y reigning. 
2 This artificial hin exists at the present day, and retains its original 
namc of K iIlg-shan, or the Green l\fountain; but it would seem, from 
ulodcrn relations, that four others of inferior size have since been adùed. 

The City of Tai-du 

17 1 

served to increase the elevation of the mount. In this latter 
basin there is great store and variety of fish, from which the 
table of his Inajesty is supplied with any quantity that may 
be wanted. The stream discharges itself at the opposite ex- 
tremity of the piece of water, and precautions are taken to 
prevent the escape of the fish by placing gratings of copper or 
iron at the places of its entrance and exit. It is stocked also 
with swans and other aquatic birds. From the one palace to 
the other there is a communication by means of a bridge 
thrown across the water. Such is the description of this great 
palace. We shall now speak of the situation and circum- 
stances of the city of Taidu. 


THE city of Kanbalu is situated near a large river in the pro- 
vince of Cathay, and was in ancient times eminently magnifi- 
cent and royal. The name itself implies "the city of the 
sovereign; "1 but his majesty having imbibed an opinion 
from the astrologers, that it was destined to become rebellious 
1 The name of this celebrated city, which our author writes Cambalu 
(for Canbalu, the m being substituted for n at the end of a syllable, in 
the old Italian, as well as in the Portuguese orthography), is by the 
Arabians and Persians written Khan-balik and I{han-baligh, signifying, 
in one of the dialects of Tartary, the" city of the khan or sovereign." 
This terminating appellative is not uncommon, as we find it in Kabaligh 
and Bish-baligh, cities of Turkistan; in Ordu-baligh, one of the names 
of Kara-korum; and in Mu-baUgh, or the" city of desolation," a name 
given to Bamian, in the territory of Balkh, upon the occasion of its 
destruction by J engiz-khan. With respect to the particular situation 
of the city, it is said, in the words of Ramusio, to have been " sopra 
un gran fiulne," but in the Latin version, "juxta magnum fluvium," 
which affords more latitude. By this river must be understood the 
Pe-ho, which is navigable for loaded vessels up to Tong-cheu, within 
twelve miles of the capital; but in the higher part of its course it seems 
to approximate nearer. Our knowledge of the country that surrounds 
Pe-king is, however, extremely imperfect; nor do the different maps 
accord with respect to the number or course of the streams that, coming 
from the neighbouring mountains of Tartary, appear to unite at or above 
TO:lç;-cheu. It should be observed, also, that the old city of Yen-king, 
t'f Khan-balig, might have stood srune miles nearer to the Pe-ho than 
the ::;ite of t hp more modern city of Peking. 

17 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

to his authority, resolved upon the measure of building another 
capital, upon the opposite side of the river, where stand the 
palaces just described: so that the new and the old cities are 
separated from each other only by the stream that runs 
between them.! The new-built city received the name of 
Tai-du, 2 and all the Cathaians, that is, all those of the inhabi- 
tants who were natives of the province of Cathay, were com- 
pelled to evacuate the ancient city, and to take up their abode 
in the new. Some of the inhabitants, however, of whose 
loyalty he did not entertain suspicion, were suffered to remain, 
especially because the latter, although of the dimensions that 
shall presently be described, was not capable of containing 
the same number as the former, which was of vast extent. 3 
This new city is of a form perfectly square, and twenty- 

1 This would seem to imply a relnoval of the capital to a different side 
of the Pe-ho, or larger river just mentioned; but it may be thought more 
probable that our author here speaks only of the rivulet which at the 
present day passes between what are denominated the Chinese and the 
Tartar cities, over which (however insignificant the stream) there is a 
handsome bridge of communication. Martini, in his U Atlas Sinensis," 
distinguishes two streams as contributing to supply the city with water. 
2 The name of Tai-du (more correctly written Ta-tû) signifies the 
" great court," and was the Chinese appellation for the new city, which 
the Tartars, and the western people in general, continued to name Khan- 
baligh. A doubt filay be entertained whether the city of Yen-king, 
which Kublaï, from motives of superstition or of policy, abandoned, 
occupied the site of that now called the ancient or Chinese city, which 
is separated from the other only by a rivulet, and by the wall of the 
latter. But there is evidence of a positive kind of their being the same; 
for Yong-Io, the rebuilder of Peking, after it had been nearly destroyed 
in the preceding wars, erected within the bounds of what was equally in 
his time denominated the old city, and which could be no other than 
that depopulated by Kublai a century and a half before, two remarkable 
temples, one of them dedicated to the Heavens and the other to the 
Earth, which temples are to be found in Du Halde's and De Lisle's plates, 
and exist in the Chinese city at the present day. All the works of this 
great monarch, the third of the dynasty by which the Mungals were 
driven out, and who sat on the throne at the period of Shah Rokh's 
elnbassy, were begun about the year 1406, and completed about 1421. 
I In the" Mémoires concernant les Chinois,Jt we find the following 
account of the extent of its walls at different periods: "Sous Ie Kin 
(the dynasty overturned by J engiz-khan) dont il fut aussi la capitale, il 
eut soixante-quinze li de tour, ou sept lieues et demie. Les Yuen qui 
Ie nommèrent d'abord la caþitale du, milieu., puis 1a grande capitale, ne 
lui donnèrent que six lieues de tour et onze portes, lorsqu'i1s en réparèrent 
les ruines en 1274. Le fondateur de la dynastie des l\Iing rasa deux de 
ces portes du côté du l\lidi pour Ie dégrader; et Yong-Io, qui en rebâtit 
les murailles en 1409, ne leur donna que quatre lieues de tour: c'est leur 
mesure d'aujourd'hui, étant restées les mêlnes. Quant à la ville Chinoise, 
ce fut Chin-tsong, de la dynastie précédente, qui en fit faire l'enceinte en 
murs de terre ran 1524. . . . Ce ne fut qu'en 1564 qu'elle obtint l'honneur 
d'être incorporée à l'ancienne ville, avec ce1ui d'avoir des murailles et 
des portes en briques."-Tom. ii. p. 553. 

The City of Tai-du 


four miles in extent, each of its sides being neither more nor 
less than six miles. 1 It is enclosed with walls of earth, that 
at the base are about ten paces thick, but gradually diminish 
to the top, where the thickness is not more than three paces. 2 
In an parts the battlements are white. 3 The whole plan of 
the city was regularly laid out by line, and the streets in 
general are consequently so straight, that when a person 
ascends the wall over one of the gates, and looks right forward, 
he can see the gate opposite to him on the other side of the 
city.4 In the public streets there are, on each side, booths 
and shops of every description. 5 All the allotments of ground 
upon which the habitations throughout the city were con- 
structed are square, and exactly on a line with each other; 
each allotment being sufficiently spacious for handsome build- 
ings, with corresponding courts and gardens. One of these 
was assigned to each head of a family; that is to say, such 
person of such a tribe had one square allotted to him, and so of 
the rest. Afterwards the property passed from hand to hand. 

1 The square form prevails much amongst the cities and towns of 
China, wherever the nature of the ground and the course of the waters 
admit of it. This probably had its origin in the principles of castra- 
metation. The dimensions of the present Tartar city, according to De 
Lisle, are eleven li in the length from north to south, by nine in w'idtb 
from east to west, making forty li or fifteen nliles in the whole extent. 
He adds, that in the time of Kublaï the extent was sixty li, or twenty- 
two miles and a half, which does not differ nlaterially from the measure- 
ment in the text. It appears, therefore, that when Yong-Io rebuilt the 
walls of the ruined city, he contracted its limits, as it was natural for 
him to do. 
I When it is said that the walls of the capital were of earth (di terra) 
I am inclined to think that terra cotta or bricks should be understood 
as they were in general use amongst the Chinese from the earliest ages' 
and employed in the construction of the great wall. I t may be prope; 
to observe, that the distinguishing appellations of Tartar and Chinese 
cities did not take place under the Yuen, or Mungal dynasty, nor until 
the subjugation of the empire by the Tsing or present race of Manchu 
Tartars, who succeeded to the l\Iing or Chinese dynasty, and drove the 
native inhabitants from what is con1illonly termed the new or northern 
city into the old or southern, to ffinke room for their Tartar followers. 
8 These battlements or merli must have been of solid materials (whether 
of white bricks or stone); which seelns to be inconsistent with the sup- 
position of a mud or turf rampart, unless there was at least a revêtemcnt 
of masonry. "The parapet," says Staunton, "was deeply crenated 
but had no regular embrazures."-Vol. ii. p. rr6. ' 
'The straightness of the streets of Peking is apparent from De Lisle's 
plan, and corroborated by the accounts of all who have visited that city. 
i " In front of most of the houses in this rnain street," says Staunton 
" were shops painted, gilt, and decorated like those of Tong-choo-foo' 
but in a grander style. Over some of them were broad terraces covered 
with shrubs and flowers. . . . Outside the shops, as well as within them, 
was displayed a variety of goods for sale."-Vol. ii. p. rrB. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

In this manner the whole interior of the city is disposed in 
squares, so as to resemble a chess-board, and planned out with 
a degree of precision and beauty impossible to describe. The 
wall of the city has twelve gates, three on each side of the 
square, and over each gate and compartment of the \vall ther
is a handsome building; so that on each side of the square 
there are five such buildings, containing large rooms, in which 
are disposed the arnlS of those \vho form the garrison of the 
city,! every gate being guarded by a thousand men. 2 It is not 
to be understood that such a force is stationed there in conse- 
quence of the apprehension of danger from any hostile power 
whatever, but as a guard suitable to the honour and dignity of 
the sovereign. Yet it must be allowed that the declaration 
of the astrologers has excited in his mind a degree of suspicion 
with regard to the Cathaians. In the centre of the city there is 
a great bell suspended in a lofty building, which is sounded 
every night, and after the third stroke no person dares to be 
found in the streets,3 unless upon some urgent occasion, such 
as to call assistance to a woman in labour, or a man attacked 
\vith sickness; and even in such necessary cases the person is 
required to carry a light. 4 
Withoutside of each of the gates is a suburb so wide that it 
reaches to and unites with those of the other nearest gates on 
both sides, and in length extends to the distance of three or 
1 The practice of erecting places of arms over gates subsists at th(; 
presen t day. 
2 This would seem to be the number that usually constitutes the guard 
of important gates in that country. "I-Iaving travelled about six 01 
eight miles," says John Bell, " we arrived at the famous wall of China. 
We entered at a great gate, which is shut every night, and always guarded 
by a thousand men."-Tom. i. p. 336. 
3 " 11 y a dans chaque ville," says Du Halde, " de grosses cloches, ou un 
tambour d'une grandeur extraordinaire, qui servent à marquer les veilles 
de la nuit. Chaque veille est de deux heures: la première commence 
vers les huit heures du soir. Pendant les deux heures que dure cette 
première veille, on frappe de tenlS en terns un coup, ou sur la cloche, ou 
sur Ie tanlbour. Quand elle est finie, et que Ia seconde veille commence. 
on frappe deux coups taut qu'elle dure: on en frappe trois à la troisième. 
et ainsi de toutes 1es autres." (Tom. ii. p. 50.) To this third or mid- 
night watch it is that our author alludes, when a treble stroke is given. 
Staunton also speaks of " the great fabric, of considerable height, which 
includes a bell of prodigious size and cylindric fornl, that, struck on the 
ùutside with a wooden mallet, en1Ïts a sound distinctly heard throughout 
the capital."-Tom. ii. p. 122. 
, " Les petites rues qui aboutissent aux gran des, ont des portes faites 
de treillis de bois, qui n'ernpêchent pa5 de voir ceux qui y marchent. . . . 
Les portes à treillis sont fennées la nuit par Ie corps de garde, et il ne la 
fait ouvrir que rarement, à gens connus, qui ont une lanterne à la main, 
et qui sortent pour nne bonne raison, comme seroit celle d'appeller un 
nlédecin."-Du Halde, tOlD. i. p. I I 5. 

Suburbs of Tai-du 


four miles, so that the number of inhabitants in these suburbs 
exceeds that of the city itself. vVithin each suburb there are, 
at intervals, as far perhaps as a mile from the city, many 
hotels, or caravanserais, in which the merchants arriving from 
various parts take up their abode; 1 and to each description 
of people a separate building is assigned, as we should say, 
one to the Lon1bards, another to the Germans, and a third to 
the French. The number of public women who prostitute 
themselves for money, reckoning those in the ne\v city as well 
as those in the suburbs of the old, is twenty-five thousand. 2 
To each hundred and to each thousand of these there are 
superintending officers appointed, who are under the orders 
of a captain-general. The motive for placing them under 
such command is this: \vhen ambassadors arrive charged with 
any business in which the interests of the grand khan are con- 
cerned, it is customary to maintain them at his majesty's 
expense, and in order that they may be treated in the most 
honourable manner, the captain is ordered to furnish nightly 
to each individual of the embassy one of these courtezans, 
\vho is likewise to be changed every night, for which service, 
as it is considered in the light of a tribute they owe to the 
sovereign, they do not receive any remuneration. Guards, 
in parties of thirty or forty, continually patrol the streets 
during the course of the night, and make diligent search for 

1 These establishnlents for the accolIlIllodation of persons arriving 
from distant countries are incidentally noticed by Trigault (Histoire du 
Royaume de la Chine), who speaks of "Ie palais des estrangers" at 
Peking. It would seenl, however, that they are now situated within 
the walls of the Chinese town, rather than in the suburbs. 
2 It is evident that there is here a mistake in Ramusio's text, as not 
only all the modern authorities agree In the fact of the public women 
being excluded from the city and confined to the suburbs, but it is ex- 
pressly so stated in the other versions of our author. This regulation of 
police appears to have been equally enforced under later dynasties. 
" 11 y a," says Du Halde, "des femmes publiques et prostituées à la 
Chine comme ailleurs. mais comme ces sortes de personnes son t orùil1aire- 
llient la cause de quelques désordres, il ne leur est pas perrnis de demeurer 
dans l' encein te des villes: leur logelnen t doit être hors des murs; encore 
ne peuvent-elles pas avoir des maisons particu1ières; elles logent plusieurs 
ensem hle et souvent sous la conduite d'un homme, qui est responsable 
du désordre, s'H en arrivoit; au reste ces femmes libertines ne sont que 
tolérées, et on les regarde comme infâmes." (Tom. ti. p. 5 I.) Respect- 
ing their nUlnbers, under the reign of Rang-hi, the missionaries do n0t 
furnish us with any infonnation. [In the early Latin text of l\Iarco 
Polo, printed by the Paris Geographical Society, we here read: "Et 
istæ mulieres quæ fallunt pro pecuniâ sunt bene viginti rnillia; et omnes 
habellt satisfacere, propter multam gelltem quæ illuc concurrit de merC2- 
toribus et aliis foreBsibus. Et sic potestis videre si in ista civitate est 
1naxima gens, si malæ mulieres sunt tot."] 

17 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

persons who may be from their homes at an unseasonable 
hour, that is, after the third stroke of the great bell. When 
any are met with under such circumstances, they in1medi- 
ately apprehend and confine them, and take them in the morn- 
ing for examination before officers appointed for that purpose, l 
who, upon the proof of any delinquency, sentence them, 
according to the nature of the offence, to a severer or lighter 
infliction of the bastinade, which sometimes, however, occa- 
sions their death. It is in this manner that crimes are usually 
punished amongst these people, from a disinclination to the 
shedding of blood, which their baksis or learned astrologers 
instruct them to avoid. 2 l-Iaving thus described the interior 
of the city of Tai-du, we shall no"\v speak of the disposition to 
rebellion sho,vn by its Cathaian inhabit


P ARTICULAR mention will hereafter be made of the establish- 
ment of a council of twelve persons, who had the power of 
disposing, at their pleasure, of the lands, the governments, 
and everything belonging to the state. Amongst these was 
a Saracen, named Achmac,3 a crafty and bold man, whose 
influence with the grand khan surpassed that of the other 
members. To such a degree was his master infatuated with 
him that he indulged him in every liberty. It was discovered, 
indeed, after his death, that he had by means of spells so 
fascinated his majesty as to oblige him to give ear and credit 
1 " Ils ne permettent à petsonne de marcher la nuit, et ils interrogent 
même ceux que l'empereur auroit envoyé pour quelques affaires. Si 
leur réponse donne lieu au moindre soupçon, on les met en arrêt au corps 
de garde. . . . C'est par ce bel ordre, qui s'observe avec la dernière 
exactitude, que la paix, Ie silence, et la sûreté règnent dans toute la ville." 
-Du Halde, tom. i. p. 115. 
2 It has been already observed, that the priests ot Buddha, who in 
Tibet are called lamas, are by the Arabians and Persians named bakshi ; 
and it is well known, that to abstain from shedding of blood, and parti- 
cularly from bloody sacrifices, is the characteristic precept of that sect, 
in which, say the Brahmans, his disciples make virtue and religion to 
a The name of this powerful and corrupt Arabian minister, whom the 
Chinese call Ahama, was doubtless Ahmed. the Achmet of our Turkish 

Treasons of Achmac 


to whatever he represented, and by these means was enabled to 
act in all matters according to his own arbitrary will. He 
gave away all the governments and public offices, pronounced 
judgment upon all offenders, and when he \-vas disposed to 
sacrifice any man to whom he bore ill-,vill, he had only to go to 
the emperor and say to him, " Such a person has committed 
an offence against your majesty, and is deserving of death," 
when the emperor was accustomed to reply, " Do as you judge 
best; " upon which he caused him to be immediately executed. 
So evident were the proofs of the authority he possessed, and 
of his majesty's implicit faith in his representations, that none 
had the hardiness to contradict him in any matter; nor was 
there a person, however high in rank or office, who did not 
stand in awe of hin1. If anyone was accused by him of 
capital crime, however anxious he might be to exculpate him- 
self, he had not the means of refuting the charge, because he 
could not procure an advocate, none daring to oppose the will 
of Achmac. By these means he occasioned many to die un- 
justly. Besides this, there ,vas no handsome female who 
became an object of his sensuality that he did not contrive to 
possess, taking her as a wife if she was unmarried, or other- 
wise compelling her to yield to his desires. When he obtained 
information of any man having a beautiful daughter, he de- 
spatched his emissaries to the father of the girl, with instruc- 
tions to say to him: "What are your views váth regard to 
this handsome daughter of yours ? You cannot do better 
than give her in marriage to the Lord Deputy or Vicegerent" 1 
(that is, to Achmac, for so they termed him, as implying that 
he was his majesty's representative). "We shall prevail upon 
him to appoint you to such a government or to such an office 
for three years." Thus tempted, he is prevailed upon to part 
with his child; and the matter being so far arranged, Achmac 
repairs to the emperor and informs his majesty that a certain 
government is vacant, or that the period for \vhich it is held 
will expire on such a day, and recommends the father as a 
person well qualified to perforn1 the duties. To this his 

1 The ternl employed by Ramusio is Bailo, which particularly belonged 
to the person who represented, at Constantinople, the republic of Venice; 
not as ambassador ('\\hcn the appointment first took place), but as joint 
sovereign with the Latin emperor. It is not easy to find an equivalent 
term in our language; nor does the Chinese title of Colao convey the idea 
intended to be given, of his inordinate power. The Arabs indeed might 
have styled him Khalifah, which signifies a substitute, deputy, (lr ,ice- 
geren t. 

17 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

majesty gives his consent, and the appointment is ìmmedi
ately carried into effect. By such means as these, either from 
the ambition of holding high offices or the apprehension of his 
power, he obtained the sacrifice of all the most beautiful young 
women, either under the denomination of wives, or as the 
slaves of his pleasure. He had sons to the number of twenty- 
five, who held the highest offices of the state, and some of them. 
availing themselves of the authority of their father, formed 
adulterous connexions, and committed many other unlawful 
and atrocious acts. Achmac had likewise accumulated great 
wealth, for every person who obtained an appointment found it 
necessary to make him a considerable present. 
During a period of twenty-two years he exercised this un- 
controlled sway.! At length the natives of the country, 
that is, the Cathaians, no longer able to endure his multiplied 
acts of injustice or the flagrant wickedness committed against 
their families, held meetings in order to devise means of 
putting him to death and raising a rebellion against the 
government. Amongst the persons principally concerned in 
this plot was a Cathaian, named Chen-ku, a chief of six thou- 
sand men, who, burning with resentment on account of the 
violation of his mother, his wife, and his daughter, proposed 
the measure to one of his countrymen, named Van-ku, who 
was at the head of ten thousand men,2 and recommended its 
being carried into execution at the time when the grand khan, 
having completed his three months' residence in Kanbalu, had 
departed for his palace of Shan-du,3 and when his son Chingis 
also had retired to the place he was accustomed to visit at that 
season; because the charge of the city was then entrusted to 
Achmac, who communicated to his master whatever 11latters 
occurred during his absence, and received in return the signi- 
fication of his pleasure. Van-ku and Chen-ku, having held 

1 His death took place in 1281, and his functions of 1Iinister of Finance 
are first noticed by De Guignes (Histoire des l\Iogols de la Chine) in 1262; 
which inc1udes a space of nineteen years: but he might have been in 
office sonle time before his extortions gave notoriety to his nanle. 
2 I apprehend that these were not military comnlands, but that the 
_ civil jurisdiction of the country was established on a footing analogous 
to that of the army. At the present day every tenth Chinese inhabitant 
is responsible for the conduct (so far as the public peace is concerned) 
of nine of his neighbours. Such was also the principle of our English 
tithings and hundreds. These conspirators were evidently citizens, 
not soldiers. 
3 It win appear that, according to the Chinese authorities, this oppor
tunity of the enlperor's periodical absence was actually seized by the 
conspira tors. 

Conspiracy against Achmac 179 
this consultation together, imparted their designs to some of 
the leading persons of the Cathaians, and through them to their 
friends in many other cities. It \vas accordinily determined 
amongst them that, on a certâin day, immediately upon their 
perceiving the signal of a fire, they should rise and put to death 
all those who wore beards; and should extend the signal to 
other places, in order that the sanle might be carried into effect 
throughout the country. The meaning of the distinction 
with regard to beards \vas this; that whereas the Cathaians 
themselves are naturally beardless, the Tartars, the Saracens, 
and the Christians wear beards. 1 I t should be understood that 
the grand khan not having obtained the sovereignty of Cathay 
by any legal right, but only by force of arms, had no con- 
fidence in the inhabitants, and therefore bestowed all the 
provincial governnlents and magistracies upon Tartars, Sara- 
cens, Christians, and other foreigners, who belonged to his 
household, and in \vhom he could trust. In consequence of 
this, his government was universally hated by the natives, 
\vho found themselves treated as slaves by these Tartars, and 
still worse by the Saracens. 2 
Their plans being thus arranged, Van-ku and Chen-ku con- 
trived to enter the palace at night, where the former, taking 
his place on one of the royal seats, caused the apartment to be 
lighted up, and sent a messenger to Achmac, \vho resided in 
the old city, requiring his immediate attendance upon Chingis, 
the emperor's son, who (he should say) had unexpectedly 
arrived that night. Achmac was much astonished at the in- 
telligence, but, being greatly in awe of the prince, instantly 
obeyed. 3 Upon passing the gate of the (new) city, he met a 
Tartar officer named Kogatai, the commandant of the guard 
of twelve thousand men, who asked him whither he was going 
at that late hour. He replied that he was proceeding to wait 
upon Chingis, of whose arrival he had just heard. "How is 
it possible," said the ofncer, " that he can have arrived in so 
secret a manner, that I should not have been aware of his 
1 It is not in strictness a fact that the Chinese are naturally beardless. 
but, like the Malays, their beards are slight, and the growth of them i
discouraged, excepting in particular cases. 
:I " Les historiens Chinois," says P. Gaubil, " exagèrent les défauts de 
Houpilié (Kublaï), et ne parlent guères de ses vertus. Ils lui reprochent 
beaucùup d'entêtc1l1ent pour les superstitions et les enchanteulens des 
lamas, et ils se plaignent qu'il a donné trup d'alltorité aux gens d'Occi- 
dent."-Observ. Chronol. p. 201. 
3 The jealuusy with which this prince regarded the conduct of the 

ter is rppt",:,t(';Pv noticed. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

approach in time to order a party of his guards to attend 
him? "1 In the meanwhile the two Cathaians felt assured 
that if they could but succeed in despatching Achmac they had 
nothing further to apprehend. Upon his entering the palace 
and seeing so many lights burning, he made his prostrations 
before Van-ku, supposing him to be the prince, when Chen-ku, 
'who stood there provided with a sword, severed his head from 
his body. Kogatai had stopped at the door, but upon observ- 
ing what had taken place, exclaimed that there was treason 
going forward, and instantly let fly an arrow at Van-ku as he 
sat upon the throne, which slew him. He then called to his 
men, who seized Chen-ku, and despatched an order into the 
city, that every person found out of doors should be put to 
death. The Cathaians perceiving, however, that the Tartars 
had discovered the conspiracy, and being deprived of their 
leaders, one of whom was killed and the other a prisoner, kept 
within their houses, and were unable to make the signals to 
the other towns, as had been concerted. Kogatai immediately 
sent messengers to the grand khan, with a circumstantial 
relation of all that had passed, who, in return, directed him to 
make a diligent investigation of the treason, and to punish, 
according to the degree of their guilt, those whom he should 
find to have been concerned. On the following day, Kogatai 
examined all the Cathaians, and upon such as were principals 
in the conspiracy he inflicted capital punishment. The same 
was done with respect to the other cities that were known to 
have participated in the guilt. 
When the grand khan returned to Kanbalu, he was de- 
sirous of knowing the causes of ,vhat had happened, and then 
learned that the infamous Achmac and seven of his sons (for 
all were not equally culpable) had committed those enorlnities 
which have been described. lIe gave orders for removing the 
treasure which had been accumulated by the deceased to an 
incredible amount, from the place of his residence in the old 
city to the ne,v, where it was deposited in his own treasury. 
1 It must have been at the southern gate that the minister, on his way 
from the old city, was challenged by the officer comnlanding the g üard, 
whilst the prince, had he arrived as was pretended, would have entered 
by the northern or the western gates, being those which opened towards 
the country palaces. The words of the latter nlust therefore be under- 
stood as expressive only of surprise that he should not have had an im- 
mediate report from the proper officer, and not as implying a direct con- 
tradiction of the fact. From the sequel it appears that this officer as 
weB as Ahama proceeded on the supposition of the prince being actually 
in the palace. 

The Guard of the Grand !<'}1an I 8 I 

He 1ike,vise directed tha t his body should be taken from the 
tomb, and thrown into the street to be torn . n pieces by the 
dogs. l The sons who had followed the steps of their father 
in his iniquities he caused to be flayed alive. Reflecting also 
upon the principles of the accursed sect of the Saracens, 
which indulge them in the commission of every crime, and 
allow them to murder those who differ from them on points 
of faith, so that even the nefarious Achmac and his sons might 
have supposed then1selves guiltless, he held them in contempt 
and abomination. Summoning, therefore, these people to 
his presence, he forbade them to continue many practices en- 
joined to them by their law, 2 commanding that in future their 
marriages should be regulated by the custom of the Tartars, 
and that instead of the mode of killing animals for food, by 
cutting their throats, they should be obliged to open the belly. 
At the time that these events took place Marco Polo was on 
the spot. We shall now proceed to what relates to the estab- 
lishment of the court kept by the grand khan. 


THE body-guard of the grand khan consists, as is well known 
to everyone, of twelve thousand horseman, who are termed 
kasitan, which signifies" soldiers devoted to their master. "3 
It is not, however, froIn any apprehensions entertained by 
him that he is surrounded by this guard, but as matter of state. 
These t,velve thousand men are commanded by four superior 
officers, each of whom is at the head of three thousand; and 
each three thousand does constant duty in the palace during 
1 " Kublai n'ouvrit les yeux sur ..a conduite d' Ahalna qu après l'exé- 
cution; il fit déterrer, mettre en pièces Ie corps du ministre Ahama, et 
livra tous scs biens au pillage." (P. 174.) The manner in which our 
author states the wealth to have been disposed of, is more consistent 
both with the particular character of Kublaï and with the general prac- 
tice of the country than the giving it up to plunder. 
i Interdicts of this nature, regarding only foreigners, the Chinese 
annals were not likely to notice, and we have 110 other authority than 
that of our author for this humiliation of the l\1ahometans. Many of 
them were subsequently employed in the higher ranks of the army. 
8 I cannot trace this word (probably much corrupted) in any Mungal 
vocabulary, and dare not trust myself in the dubious paths of Chinese 
he sound only is to be the guide. [In the early Latin 
text It IS qUfes


Travels of Marco Polo 

three successive days and nights, at the expiration of which 
they are relieved by another division. \Vhen all the four have 
completed their period of duty, it comes again to the turn of the 
first. During the day-time, the nine thousand who are off 
guard do not, however, quit the palace, unless when employed 
upon the service of his majesty, or when the individuals are 
called away for their domestic concerns, in which case they 
must obtain leave of absence through their commanding officer; 
and if, in consequence of any serious occurrence, such as that 
of a father, a brother, or any near relation being at the point of 
death, their immediate return should be prevented, they must 
apply to his majesty for an extension of their leave. But in 
the night-time these nine. thousand retire to treir quarters. 


\VHEN his majesty holds a grand and public court, those \vho 
attend it are seated in the following order. The table of the 
sovereign is placed before his elevated throne, and he takes his 
seat on the northern side, with his face turned towards the 
sou th; and next to him, on his left hand, sits the empress. On 
his right hand, upon seats somewhat lower, are placed his sons, 
grandsons, and other persons connected with him by blood, 
that is to say, who are descended from the imperial stock. 
The seat, however, of Chingis, his eldest son, is raised a little 
above those of his other sons, whose heads are nearly on a 
level with the feet of the grand khan. The other princes and 
the nobility have their places at still lower tables; and the 
same rules are observed with respect to the females, the \vives 
of the sons, grandsons, and other relatives of the grand khan 
being seated on the left hand, at tables in like manner gradu- 
ally lower; 1 then follow the wives of the nobility and military 

1 At the lllodern Chinese festivals no wornen, of any class whatever, 
make their appearance; but during the reign of Kublai, the Tartar 
customs were blended with the Chinese at the imperial court; and a('- 

The Court of the Grand Khan 

18 3 

officers: so that all are seated according to their respective 
ranks and dignities, in the places assigned to them, and to 
which they are entitled. The tables are arranged in such a 
manner that the grand khan, sitting on his elevated throne, 
can overlook the whole. I t is not, however, to be understood 
that all who assen1ble on such occasions can be accommodated 
at tables. The greater part of the officers, and even of the 
nobles, on the contrary, eat, sitting upon carpets, in the hall; 
and on the outside stand a great multitude of persons who 
come from different countries, and bring with them many rare 
and curious articles. Some of these are feudatories, who 
desire to be reinstated in possessions that have been taken 
from them, and who always make their appearance upon the 
appointed days of public festivity, or occasions of royal 
marriages. 1 
In the mIddle of the hall, where the grand khan sits at table, 
there is a magnificent piece of furniture, made in the form of 
a square coffer, each side of which is three paces in length, 
exquisitely carved in figures of animals, and gilt. It is hollow 
within, for the purpose of receiving a capacious vase, shaped 
like a jar, and of precious materials, calculated to hold about 
a tun, and filled with wine. 2 On each of its four sides stands 

cording to those, the females were regarded as efficient members of 
society. Even at the present day the Tartar wonlen (who are distin- 
guished as such, although descended of families who have been settled 
in China for many generations) enjoy a degree of liberty to which the 
Chinese WOlllen are strangers. Under the dynasty which succeeded 
that of the Yuen or l\lungals, the females of rank were spectators of the 
festival, although thelllseives unseen. 
1 It seems to have always been the policy of the Chinese court to defer 
the reception of ambassadors and their presents, until the occasion of 
some public festival; by which the double purpose is answered, of giving 
additional splendour to the business of the day, and at the same time of 
impressing the strangers with the magnificence of the ceremony attend- 
ing the delivery of their credentials. It may likewise be observed in the 
accounts of all European embassies, that their presentations are accom- 
panied by those of the envoys or deputies of the neighbouring or de- 
pendent states. 
a Although the juice of the grape is expressed in some parts of China, 
what is usually ternled Chinese wine is a fermented liquor from grain. 
" This conversation being finished," says John Bell, " the emperor gave 
the ambassador, with his own hand, a gold cup, full of warm tarassun 
(written dirasoun in the journal of Shah Rokh's embassy), a sweet, fer- 
mented liquor, lnaùe of various sorts of grain, as pure and strong as 
canary wine, of a disagreeable smell, elthough not unpleasant to the 
taste." (Vol. ii. p. 8.) "During the repast," says Staunton, " he sent 
them (the English) several dishes frolH his own table; and, when it was 
over, he sent for them, and presented with his own hands to them a 
goblet of warm Chinese wine, not unlike l\Iadeira of an inferior quality." 
(V 01. ii. p. 237.) Pallas says that the tarassun may be compared to a 

18 4 

Travels of lVlarco Polo 

a smaller vessel, containing about a hogshead, one of \vhich is 
filled with mare's milk, another with that of the camel, and 
so of the others, according to the kinds of beverage in use. l 
Within this buffet are also the cups or flagons belonging to his 
majesty, for serving the liquors. Some of them are of beauti- 
ful gilt plate. 2 Their size is such that, when filled with wine 
or other liquor, the quantity would be sufficient for eight or 
ten men. Before every two persons who have seats at the 
tables, one of these flagons is placed,3 together with a kind of 
ladle, in the form of a cup with a handle, also of plate; to be 
used not only for taking the wine out of the flagon, but for 
lifting it to the head. This is observed as well with respect to 
the women as the men. The quantity and richness of the 
plate belonging to his majesty is quite incredible. 4 Officers of 
rank are likewise appointed, whose duty it is to see that all 
strangers who happen to arrive at the time of the festival, and 
are unacquainted with the etiquette of the court, are suitably 
accommodated with places; and these stewards are continu- 
ally visiting every part of the hall, inquiring of the guests if 
there is anything with which they are unprovided, or whether 
any of them wish for wine, milk, meat, or other articles, in 

mixture of brandy with English beer. (Reise, dritter Theil, p. 131.) 
" Ils ne laissent pas de boire souvent du vin," says Du Halde: "ils Ie 
font d'une espèce particulière de ris, différent de celui dont ils se nour- 
rissent."-Tom. ü. p. 118. 
1 That rnilk is the favourite beverage of the Tartars is well known; 
and as the court and the army were, at the period in question, almost ex- 
clusively of that nation, we must not be surprised to find it introduced 
at a festival in the capital of China. With respect to the probability of 
camels' milk being found there, Staunton notices the employment of 
camels or dromedaries in great numbers, for the conveyance of goods, 
in the parts of Tartary bordering 011 the northern provinces of that 
country, and Du Halde enumerates "les charneaux à deux bosses It 
amongst the Chinese animals. 
a Ramusio's expression is, " Sonvi alcuni d'oro bellissimi, che si chia- 
mano vernique," and he again uses verniqua as the name of the vessel. 
I suspect, however, some confusion. Verl'licato d'oro (from verl1ice, 
varnish,) signifies gilt or washed with gold, and vern'z"qua seems to be con- 
nected with this meaning. Besides, it is obvious that vessels capable of 
containing liquor for eight or ten persons, would, if formed of massive 
gold, be much too ponderous for use. 
3 The tables at Chinese feasts are small, and generally calculated for 
two persons only. 
· After plundering a great part of the world, it is not surprising that 
the family of J engiz-khan should be possessed of a quantity of the pre- 
cious metals enormously large in proportion to what circulated in Europe 
or Asia before the discovery of the l\fexican and-Peruvian mines. Frequent 
mention is Iuade of golden cups vr goblets, and E
ll speaks of large dishes 
of massive gold sent by the emperor to their lodgings. 

I\1anner of Feasting at Court 185 
which case it is immediately brought to them by the atten- 
dants. I 
At each door of the grand hall, or of whatever part the grand 
khan happens to be in, stand two officers, of a gigantic figure, 
one on each side, with staves in their hands, for the purpose of 
preventing persons from touching the threshold \vith their 
feet, and obliging them to step beyond it. If by chance any 
one is guilty of this offence, these janitors take from him his 
p'arment, which he must redeem for money; or, when they do 

ot take the garment, they inflict on him such number of blows 
as they have authority for doing. But, as strangers may be 
unacquainted with the prohibition, officers are appointed to 
introduce them, by whom they are warned of it; and this 
precaution is used because touching the threshold is there re- 
garded as a bad omen. 2 In departing from the hall, as some 
of the company may be affected by the liquor, it is impossible 
to guard against the accident, and the order is not then 
strictly enforced. 3 The numerous persons who attend at 
the sideboard of his majesty, and who serve him with 
victuals and drink, are all obliged to cover their noses and 
mouths with handsome veils or cloths of worked silk, in 
order that his victuals or his \vine may not be affected by their 
breath. When drink is called for by him, and the page in 
waiting has presented it, he retires three paces and kneels 
down, upon which the courtiers, and all who are present, in 
like manner make their prostration. At the same moment all 
the musical instruments, of which there is a numerous band, 
begin to play, and continue to do so until he has ceased drink- 
ing, when all the company recover their posture; and this 
reverential salutation is made so often as his majesty drinks. 4 
It is unnecessary to say anything of the victuals, because it 

1 For the degree of civilization which these attentions imply, we should 
give credit to the long-established usages of the conquered people, rather 
than to any regulations introduced by the family then on the throne. 
All our travellers concur i.n their descriptio
 of the ?rder and propriety 
observed at these entertainments, where a sIlence reigns approaching tù 
2 This superstition is noticed both by Plan de Carpin and Rubruquis 
as existing amongst the Tartars. 
I This is one of the innumerable instances of naiveté or honest simplicity 
in our author's relations and remarks. Inebriety was the favourite vice 
of the Tartars, and at tbis period it had been but partially corrected by 
the more sober example of the Chinese. 
· l\lusic invariably accompanies these festivities. "The music," says 
John Bell, " played all the tÏ1ne of dinner. The chief instruments \"en: 
flutes. harps, and lutes, all tuned to thf> Chinese taste."-Vol. ii. p. I


Travels of Marco Polo 

may well be imagined that their abundance is excessive. 
When the repast is finished, and the tables have been removed, 
persons of various descriptions enter the hall, and aInongst 
these a troop of comedians and performers on different instru- 
ments, as also tumblers and jugglers, who exhibit their skill in 
the presence of the grand khan, to the high amusement and 
gra tifica tion of all the specta tors. l When these sports are con- 
cluded, the people separate, and each returns to hj(;: o,,,n house. 


ALL the Tartar and other subjects of the grand khan celebrate 
as a festival the day of his majesty's birth, which took place 
on the twenty-eighth day of the month of September; 2 and 
this is their greatest festival, excepting only that kept on the 
first day of the year, which shall be hereafter described. Upon 
this anniversary the grand khan appears in a superb dress of 
cloth of gold, and on the same occasion full twenty thousand 
nobles and military officers are clad by him in dresses similar 
to his own in point of colour and form; but the materials are 
not equally rich. They are, however, of silk, and of the colour 
of gold; 3 and along with the vest they like,vise receive a girdle 
1 These histrionic, athletic, and juggling exhibitions, which at all 
periods have very much resembled each other, will be found circum- 
stantially described in the accounts of the several embassies to Pekin, 
from that of Shah Rokh, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, to 
those of the English and Dutch, in the latter part of the eighteenth. 

 According to the U Histoire générale de la Chine" (p. 282), Kublaï 
or Hupilai (as the Chinese pronounce the name), was born in the eighth 
moon of the year corresponding to 1216; which, as will be seen in a sub- 
sequent note respecting the commencement of the Kataian year, answers 
satisfactorily to the month of September, as stated by our author. 
3 Although yellow has long been the imperial colour in China, it is not to have been such at all periods, some of the early dynasties 
having affected red and other colours. It may be conjectured that the 
attachment to it has proceeded from its being worn by the predominant 
sect of lalnas in Tibet, to whose superstitions the emperors of China 
have been zealously addicted; although, on the other hand, it is possible 
that this sect of lalnas lnay have adopted the imperial colour. To 
Kublaï, indeed, the establishment of the lama hierarchy, on its present 
footing, is by some attributed, and the first Dalai larna is said to have 
bren nominated by him. Others, however, suppose that the titles of 
Dalai lama and Panchan lama were not conferred before the reign of 

Festival of tIle Grand Khan's Nativity 

18 7 

of chamois leather, curiously worked with gold and silver 
thread, and also a pair of boots.! Some of the dresses are 
ornamented with precious stones and pearls to the value of a 
thousand bezants of gold, and are given to those nobles who, 
from their confidential employments, are nearest to his 
majesty's person, and are termed quiécitari. 2 These dresses 
are appointed to be worn on the thiiteen solemn festivals cele- 
brated in the thirteen (lunar) months of the year,3 when those 
,vho are clad in them make an appearance that is truly royal. 
'Vhen his majesty assumes any particular dress, the noblfs of 
his court wear corresponding, but less costly, dresses, which 
are always in readiness. 4 They are not annually renewed, but 
on the contrary are made to last about ten years. From this 
parade an idea may be fom1ed of the ffi.1gnificence of the grand 
khan, which is unequalled by that of any monarch in the 
On the occasion of this festival of the grand khan's nativity, 
all his Tartar subjects, and likevvise the people of every king- 
dom and province throughout his dominions, send him valu- 
able presents, according to established usage. Many persons 
who repair to court in order to solicit principalities to which 
they have pretensions, also bring presents, and his majesty 
accordingly gives direction to the tribunal of twelve, who have 
cognisance of such matters, to assign to them such territories 
and governments as may be proper.5 Upon this day likewise 
all the Christians, idolaters, and Saracens, together with every 
Iliuen-te, :fifth emperor of the l\'Iing. Both dynasties appear to have 
been assiduous in their encouragement of these ecclesiastics, through 
whose influence they were enabled to govern the western provinces with 
more facility. 
1 " People of condition," says the Abbé Grosier, "never go abroad 
but in boots, which are generally of satin." This article of dress is again 
mentioned in chap. xxvi. 
2 This word appears to be bastard I talian, a noun of agency formed 
from the verb" quiescere," and may be thought to denote those persons 
who, throughout the East, are employed, in various modes, to lull great 
personages to rest. 
3 " Le calendrier ordinaire," observes the younger De Guignes "divise 
l'année par mois lunaires."-Voy. à Peking, tom. ii. p. 4 18 . ' 
"This uniformity of court-dress is not the practice in modern times. 
on th
 contrary, the irnperial colour is confined to the faIuily of th
6 It may be inferred from hence that all the feudal principalities 
governnlents, and public offices, were bestowed upon those who brouaht 
the richest presents, or, in other words, were sold to the highest bidd
The boundless expenditure of this monarch, on the one hand and the 
avaricious propensity with which he is reproached, appear to have pro- 
duced a system of general rapacity. It is probable, however that the 
avance may have been only inferred froln the extortion. ' 


Travels of Marco Polo 

other description of people, offer up devout prayers to their 
respective gods and idols, that they may bless and preserve 
the sovereign, and bestow upon him long life, health, and 
prosperity. Such, and so extensive, are the rejoicings on the 
return of his majesty's birth-day. We shall now speak of 
another festival, termed the White Feast, celebrated at the 
commencement of the year. 


IT is well ascertained that the Tartars date the commence- 
ment of their year from the month of February,! and on that 
occasion it is customary for the grand khan, as well as all ,vho 
are subject to him, in their several countries, to clothe them- 
selves in white garments, which, according to their ideas, are 
the emblem of good fortune; 2 and they assume this dress at 
1 In this assertion our author presents a most unexceptionable test 
of his authenticity. It must be observed that, in stating the comlnence- 
ment of the year to be reckoned from the Inonth of February (del mese 
di Febraio), he does not fix it to any precise day of our calendar; which, 
in fact, he could not have done with correctness; and although Ramusio, 
in his title to the chapter, mentions the first day of the month, and the 
Latin version implies the same by the phrase of " in die calendarum 
Februarii," it is otherwise in the I talian epitomes, and their reading is 
justified by the actual circumstances. In the " Epochæ celebriores " of 
Ulugh Beig (the son of Shah Rokh), translated by the learned Greaves, 
we are informed that the solar year of the I{ataians and Igurians com- 
mences on that day in which the sun attains the middle point of the con- 
stellation of Aquarius; and this we find from the Ephemeris fluctuates 
between the third and the fifth of February, according to our bissextile. 
With respect to their civil year, which must be that of which our author 
speaks, we have a satisfactcry account of it in the" Voyage de Ia Chine" 
of P. Trigault, cOlnpiled Ire-m the writings of the eminent Matt. Ricci, 
who says: U A chasque nouvelle an, qui COInmence à la nouvelle lune 
qui précède ou suit prochainement Ie cinquiesme de Février, duquel les 
Cbinois content Ie commencelnent du printemps, on envoye de chasque 
province un ambassadeur pour visiter officieusement Ie roy" (p. 60): 
by which we should understand, the new moon that falls the nearest to 
(either before or after) the time o
 th,e sun's reaching t.he middle point C?t 
Aquarius; and consequently the teshval cannot be assIgned to auy parÌl- 

ular day of the European calendar. 

 The superstition of considering white, which is naturally the emblem 
of purity, as having an influence in producing good fortune, has been 

The White Feast 

18 9 

the beginning of the year, in the hope that, during the whole 
course of it, nothing but what is fortunate may happen to them, 
and that they may enjoy pleasure and cOqlfort. Upon this 
day the inhabitants of all the provinces and kingdoms ,vho hold 
lands or rights of jurisdiction under the grand khan, send him 
valuable presents of gold, silver, and precious stones, together 
with many pieces of white cloth, \vhÏch they add, with the 
intent that his majesty may experience throughout the year 
uninterrupted felicity, and possess treasures adequate to all 
his expenses. With the same view the nobles, princes, and all 
ranks of the community, make reciprocal presents, at their 
respective houses, of white articles; en1bracing each other 
with demonstrations of joy and festivity, and saying (as we 
ourselves are accustomed to do), "May good fortune attend 
you through the coming year, and may everything you under- 
take succeed to your \vish." 1 On this occasion great numbers 
of beautiful white horses are presented to the grand khan; or 
if not perfectly white, it is at least the prevailing colour. In 
this country white horses are not uncommon. 
I t is moreover the custom in making presents to the grand 
khan, for those who have it in their power to furnish nine 
times nine of the article of which the present consists. Thus, 
very prevalent throughout the world; as black, on the contrary, from 
its connexion with impurity, darkness, and the grave, has been thought 
the foreboder of ill-luck, and become the type of sadness. The Chinese, 
however, whose customs, in many respects, run counter to those of 
other nations, have judged proper to establish the former, instead of the 
latter, as their mourning dress; but Kublaï, although he adopted most 
of the civil institutions of his new and more civilized subjects, did not 
and possibly could not, even if he had wished it, oblige his own peopl
to change their ancient superstitions. It accordingly appears that 
during his reign at least, and probably so long as his dynasty held th
throne, the festival of the new year was celebrated in white dresses, and 
white horses \vere amongst the most acceptable presents to the emperor. 
When the dynasty of the Ming, which was native Chinese, succeeded to 
that of the Mungals, the use of white on this occasion was again pro- 
1 " The first day of the new year, and a few succeeding days," Barrow 
observes, " are the only holidays, properly speaking, that are observed 
by the working part of the community. On these days the poorest 
peasant makes a point of procuring new clothing for himself and his 
family; they pay their visits to friends and relations, interchange civili- 
ties and con1pliments, make and receive presents; and the officers of 
government, and the higher ranks, give feasts and entertainments." 
(Trav. in China, p. 155.) "Their whole tirne," says L' Abbé Grosier, " is 
employed in plays, diversions, and feasting. The shops are everywhere 
shut; and all the people, dressed out in their richest attire, go to visit 
their parents, friends, and patrons. Nothing in this respect can have a 
greater resemblance to our visits on the first day of the new year."- 
Vol. Ü. p. 323. 

19 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

for instance, if a province sends a present of horses, there are 
nine times nine, or eighty-one head in the drove; so also of 
gold, or of cloth, nine tirnes nine pieces. l By such means his 
majesty receives at this festival no fewer than a hundred 
thousand horses. On this day it is that all his elephants, 
alTIounting to five thousand, are exhibited in procession, 
covered with housings of cloth, fancifully and richly worked 
with gold and silk, in figures of birds and beasts. 2 Each of 
these supports upon its shoulders two coffers filled with vessels 
of plate and other apparatus for the use of the court. Then 
follows a train of camels, in like manner laden with various 
necessary articles of furniture. 3 When the whole are properly 
arranged, they pass in review before his majesty, and form a 
pleasing spectacle. 
On the morning of the festival, before the tables are spread, 
all the princes, the nobility of various ranks,4 the cavaliers, 
1 The superstitious ideas prevailing an10ngst the nations of Tartary 
pecting the properties of this number are circu1l1stantially detailed 
by Strahlenberg, from whose well-known work the following passage, 
which win be found abundantly sufficient to justify our author's asser- 
tion, is extracted: "I shall therefore proceed to relate," says this 
observing traveller and laborious investigator, "what I myself have 
observed in those North-eastern parts, as also what I have relnarked in 
other writers, who have treated of thi
 part of the world, concerning 
this subject, and particularly with regard to the number Nine, what 
yet relnains among the inhabitants of these parts. L'l-listoire du grand 
Ghenghizcan, par 1V1. Pétis de la Croix, p. 79, informs us, that when Temu- 
gin was elected Great Chan, and named Ghenghiz-can, all the people 
bowed their knees to hiru nine times, to wish him a prosperous continua- 
tion of his reign: and this is yet a custom with the Chinese- Tartarian 
emperors, before whom ambassadors, when they are admitted to audi- 
ence, are obliged to make their obeisances kneeling, nine times at th
entrance, and just as often at their departure. The S:lme ceremony is 
yet in use with the Usbeck Tartars; for when a person has anything of 
importance to ask of, or to treat with, their chan, he must not only offer 
Ja present, consisting of nine particular things or curiosities, but when 
he approaches hirn to deliver it, must bow nine times; which ceremony 
these Tartars call the Zagataian audience."-Introduction, p. 86. 
2 As Kublai had subdued A va, and other southern provinces, where 
elephants are found in great nUlllber, and where they had been opposed 
to his armies in battle, it is natural that he Sh011ld be inclined to add 
these powerful anhnals to his establislll11ent, if not for military purposes, 
at least for parade or as beasts of burden; and they were accordingly 
delivered to him in tribute from the conquered princes. A few are kept 
by the emperors of the dynasty now reigning, but, as it- would seem, 
n1erely for state. 
3 It has already been mentioned that caJnels or dromedaries, especially 
those with two bunches, are common in China. 
4 Amongst the Chinese or Tartars there is n.o hereditary nobility, and 
the tern1 is here, and elsewhere, employed, in de1ault of a better, to 
express that class or rank of pers(\ns who hold the f C
L offices of stat(', 
and :ire in Persia and Hindustan styled AmÎrs. '{he reader lllust be 
well aware that in the modern intercourse of Europeans with China. 

Court Ceremol1ial in China I 9 I 
astrologers, physicians, and falconers, with many others hold- 
ing public offices, the prefects of the people and of the lands, 1 
together with the officers of the army, make their entry into 
the grand hall, in front of the emperor. Those who cannot 
find room within, stand on the outside of the building, in such 
a situation as to be within sight of their sovereign. The as- 
semblage is marshalled in the following order. The first places 
are assigned to the sons and grandsons of his majesty and all 
the imperial family. N ext to these are the provincial kings 2 
and the nobility of the empire, according to their several 
degrees, in regular succession. When all have been àisposed 
in the places appointed for them, a person of high dignity, or 
as we should express it, a great prelate,3 rises and says with a 
loud voice: "Bow down and do reverence; " when instantly 
all bend their bodies until their foreheads touch the floor. 
Again the prelate cries: "God bless our lord, and long preserve 
him in the enjoyment of felicity." To which the people 
answer: "God grant it." Once more the prelate says: 
" May God increase the grandeur and prosperity of his empire.; 
may he preserve all those who are his subjects in the blessings 
of peace and contentment; and in all their lands may abun- 
dance prevail." The people again reply: "God grant it." 
They then make their prostrations four times. 4 This being 
ofiìcers of all degrees, civil and military, fron1 those who manage the 
great concerns of the empire down to the persons stationed in boats to 
prevent (or connive at) smuggling, are indiscriminately called mandarins; 
but of this title, although it might often be convenient in translating, 
I do not avail myself, not only on account of the vagueness of its appli- 
cation, but because, as it was not known in our author's time, its intro- 
duction into his text would be a species of anachronism. 
1 With a view not only to political security, but to the lnore ready 
collection of the capitation and other taxes, the people were numbered, 
and divided into c1asses, on a progressive decimal scale
 from ten to ten 
thousand, over each of which a responsible officer presided; and as the 
revenue from the lands was collected in kind, officers, not unlike the 
zemindars of the Ivloghnl government in I-lindustan, were appointed by 
the elnperor to watch over and transmit the produce to the royal granaries 
near Pekin. 

 The Chinese title of vang, which the Portuguese render by the word 
regulo, and the French Jesuits by roitclet and roi, was usually conferred 
on the tributary princes throughout Tartary. 
3 The tenn prelato, which has nothing corresponding to it in the other 
versions, seems to be gratuitons on the part of Raillusio. In the Basle 
edition the words are, "surgit unus in medio," and in the epitomes 
" el se leva uno huomo in lnezo." [In the best Italian text, that pub
lished by Boni, the words are, " si leva un grande parlato."] 
4. " Le maître des cérémonies," says the younger De Guignes, " qui est 
nn des premiers mandarins du Ly-pou, ou tribunal des rites, s'étant placé 
près de la porte Oll-lnen. crie d'une voix haute et perçante: 'IVTettez- 
 en ordre' tournf'z-VOUS; mettez-vous:ì genoux; frappez 13 tète 

19 2 

Travels of I\1arco Polo 

done, the prelate advances to an altar, richly adorned, upon 
which is placed a red tablet inscribed with the name of the 
grand khan. Near to this stands a censer of burning incense, 
with which the prelate, on the behalf of all who are assembled, 
perfumes the tablet and the altar, in a reverential manner; 
when everyone present humbly prostrates himself before the 
tablet. 1 This ceremony being concluded, they return to 
their places, and then make the presentation of their respective 
gifts; such as have been mentioned. When a display has 
been made of these, and the grand khan has cast his eyes upon 
them, the tables are prepared for the feast, and the company, 
as well women as men, arrange themselves there in the manner 
and order described in a former chapter. Upon the removal 
of the victuals, the musicians and theatrical performers ex- 
hibit for the amusement of the court, as has been already 
related. But on this occasion a lion is conducted into the 
presence of his majesty, so tame, that it is taught to lay itself 
down at his feet. 2 The sports being finished, everyone re- 
turns to his own home. 

contre terre; frappez encore; frappez de nouveau; levez-vous.' On se 
remet encore à genoux, et l'on recommence deux fois Ie salut; ainsi 
l'hommage consiste à faire trois fois trois saluts. Après Ie dernier, Ie 
mandarin crie: 'Levez-vous; tournez-vous; mettez-vous en ordre:' 
puis il se met à genoux lui-n1ême devant la porte, et dit: 'Seigneur, les 
cérélnonies sont lerminées.'" (Voy. à Peking, etc. tom. ili. p. 44.) An 
account agreeing precisely in substance with the above, but more cir- 
cumstantial in the detail, will be found in the Nouv. Relat. of P. Magal- 
hanes, p. 304. "The master of the cerelnonies," says John Bell, 
" brought back the ambassador, and then ordered all the company to 
kneel, and make obeisance nine thnes to the emperor. At every third 
tÍ1ne we stood up and kneeled again. Great pains were taken to avoid 
this piece of homage, but without success. The master of the cere- 
monies stood by, and delivered his orders in the Tartar language, by 
pronouncing the words morgu and boss; the first meaning to bow, and 
the other to stand; two words which I cannot soon forget. " (Vol. Ïi. 
p. 7.) All the editions of our author's work agree in stating that this 
ceremony was repeated four times; whereas it is well known that the 
repetitions are three and nine. Either his memory must have failed 
him, or, which is more probable, the numeral figures of an early manu- 
script n1ay have been n1istaken by the copyists. 
1 The ceremony of Inaking prostrations before the empty throne, or 
before a tablet on which is written the nalne of the emperor, appears 
to belong rather to the festival of his nativity, than to that of the new 
ye:rPrequent mention is made of lions (which are not found either in 
China or Chinese Tartary) being sent as presents from the western 

Grand Khanjs Hllnting l
stal)lisJ1ment 193 


AT the season \vhen the grand khan resides in the capital of 
Cathay, or during the months of December, January, and 
February, at which time the cold is excessive, he gives orders 
for general hunting parties to take place in all the countries 
wi thin forty stages of the court; and the governors of dis- 
tricts are required to send thither all sorts of game of the 
larger kind, such as wild boars, stags, fallow deer, roebucks, 
and bears, which are taken in the following manner:-All 
persons possessed of land in the province repair to the places 
where these animals are to be found, and proceed to enclose 
them \vithin a circle, \vhen they are killed, partly \vith dogs, 
but chiefly by shoJting them ,vith arrows. 1 Such of them as 
are intended for his majesty's use are first paunched for that 
purpose, and then forwarded on carriages, in large quantities, 
by those who reside 'within thirty stages of the capital. Those, 
in fact, who are at the distance of forty stages, do not, on 
account of the length of the journey, send the carcases, but 
only the skins, son1e dressed and others raw, to be made use 
of for the service of the army as his majesty may judge proper. 


THE grand khan has many leopards and lynxes kept for the 
purpose of chasing deer, and also many lions, \vhich are larger 
than the Babylonian lions, have good skins and of a handsome 
colour-being streaked lengthways, ,vith white, b1ack, and red 
stripes. rrhey are active in seizing boars, wild oxen and asses, 
bears, stags, roebucks, and other beasts that are the objects of 
sport. It is an admirable sight, when the lion is let loose in 
pursuit of the animal, to observe the savage eagerness and 
1 This mùde of hunting by surrounding the game within ('
lines) gradually C'.ontractpd. has been often df'scribed by travellers. 


Travels of Marc0 P010 

speed with which he overtakes it. His majesty has them con- 
veyed for this purpose, in cages placed upon cars,! and along 
with them is confined a little dog, 'Nith \vhich they become 
familiarised. The reason for thus shutting them up is, that 
they would otherwise be so keen and furious at the sight of the 
game that it would be impossible to keep them under the 
necessary constraint. It is proper that they should be led in a 
direction opposite to the wind, in order that they may not be 
scented by the game, ,vhich would immediately run off, and 
afford no chance of sport. His majesty has eagles also., which 
are trained to stoop at wolves, and such is their size and 
strength that none, ho,vever large, can escape from their talons. 


HIS majesty has in his service two persons, brothers both by 
the father and mother, one of then1 named Bayan 2 and 
the other Mingan, who are, what in the language of the Tartars 
are called, chivichi,3 that is to say, "masters of the chase," 
1 It has already been observed that the 110ghuls of Hilldustan keep 
small leopards, to be employed in hunting. It would seem, however, 
that the largest anin1.als of this genns were also taTTled for the imperial 
sport. The former are described as being carried on horseback, behind 
their keepers; but these in cages on a sort of car. By some other of 
the old Italian writers they are termed H leonze domestice da cacciare." 
It is evident frOln this description, as well as from the whole context, 
that the beast here spoken of as the lion is in fact no other than the 
tiger, and ought to have been so nan1.ed; but whether the mistake is tu 
be attributed to our author hiIIlself, who might have forgotten some of 
the terms of his native language) or to his first translators, we have not 
the means of determining. The lion is known to be of a tawny colour, 
nearly uniform, whereas the tiger is marked with the colours mentioned 
above, if only for red we substitute a reddish yellow. It will not be 
thought an improbable supposition that the confounding of these appella- 
tions mav have proceeded from our author's intercourse with Persians 
and other lVlahonletans, in his journey from China to Europe, as it is 
well known to oriental scholars that with these people the same terms 
are almost indiscrhninately applied to both species of anirnal. 
2 This may have been the person of the same nanle who so eminently 
distinguished hirnself as commander-in-chief of Kublaï's armies, and 
who is mentioned in a subsequent chapter as the conqueror of Southern 
China. In the earlv Italian epitomes the names of the two brothers are 
written Baxam and lVIitigam. 
3 Our vocabularies of the Mungal language are so imperfect, that 
even if the words occurriug in the text had been correctly written and 
preserved, we might fail in our endeavours to identify them; but cor. 

Grand Khan's Hunting Establishment 195 
having charge of the hounds fleet and slow, and of the mastiffs. 
Each of these has under his orders a body of ten thousand 
chasseurs; those under the one brother wearing a red uniform, 
and those under the other, a sky-blue, whenever they are upon 
duty. The dogs of different descriptions which accompany 
them to the field are not fewer than five thousand. 1 The one 
brother, with his division, takes the ground to the right hand 
of the emperor, and the other to the left, with his division, 
and each advances in regular order, until they have enclosed 
a tract of country to the extent of a day's march. By this 
means no beast can escape them. It is a beautiful and an ex- 
lùlarating sight to watch the exertions of the huntsmen and the 
sagacity of the dogs, when the emperor is within the circle, 
engaged in the sport, and they are seen pursuing the stags, 
bears, and other animals, in every direction. The two 
brothers are under an engagement to furnish the court daily, 
from the commencement of October to the end of J\1:arch, with 
a thousand pieces of game, quails being excepted; and also 
with fish, of which as large a quantity as possible is to be sup- 
plied, estimating the fish that three men can eat at a meal as 
equivalent to one piece of game. 


WHEN his majesty has resided the usual time in the metro- 
polis, and leaves it in the month of March, he proceeds in a 
rupted as they are by transcription, the attelnpt is vain. This, which 
in Ramusio's version is civ'Z:ci, (or chivichi according to our orthography,) 
is, in the Italian epitome of 1496, written civitri, in the earliest Latin 
edition cynici, and in the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts canici,. from 
which latter, if the spelling has not been perverted by the fancy of copy- 
ists, we lnight be led to suppose the word a derivative from the Italian 
cane, a dog. [In the Latin text published by the French Geographical 
Society, it is cinuchi.] 
1 It is not common to find any mention of sporting dogs amongst the 
Chinese or Chinese Tartars; but of their existence Bell furnishes us with 
direct proof. "After this entertainment," he says, "the Aleggada 
(colao) carried us first to see his dogs, of which he had great variety. I 
formerly observed that this gentleman ,vas a great sportsman. He 
took greater pleasure in talking of hounds than of politics; though at 
the same time he had the character of a very able minister and an honest 
man."-Vol. ü. p. 22. 

19 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

north-easterly direction, to within two days' journey of the 
ocean,! attended by full ten thousand falconers, who carry 
vvith them a vast number of gerfalcons, peregrine falcons, and 
sakers, as well as many vultures, in order to pursue the game 
along the banks of the river. 2 It must be understood that he 
does not keep all this body of men together in one place, but 
{}ivides them into several parties of one or two hundred or 
more, who follow the sport in various directions, and the 
greater part of what they take is brought to his majesty. He 
has Iikevvise with him ten thousand men of those who are 
termed taskaoZ,3 implying that their business is to be upon the 
watch, and, who, for this purpose, are detached in small parties 
of two or three to stations not far distant from each other, in 
such a manner as to encompass a considerable tract of country. 
Each of them is provided with a call and a hood, by which they 
are enabled, when necessary, to call in and to secure the birds. 
Upon the command being given for flying the hawks, those who 
let them loose are not under the necessity of following them, 
because the others, whose duty it is, look out so attentively 
that the birds cannot direct their flight to any quarter where 
they are not secured, or promptly assisted if there should be 
occasion. Every bird belonging to his majesty, or to any of 
his nobles, has a small silver label fastened to its leg, on which 
is engraved the name of the owner and also the name of the 
keeper. In consequence of this precaution, as soon as the 
hawk is secured, it is imlnediately known to whom it belongs, 
1 The si1nple construction of the words in Ramusio's text, " indi par- 
tendosi il mese di Marzo, va verso Greco al mare oceano, il quale da li 
è discosta per due giornate," would imply that he proceeded from the 
capital to the ocean, which was distant from thence two days' journey: 
but either the author's sense must have been misunderstood, when he 
meant to say that the route was to a country situated within two days' 
journey of the ocean, or there must be a gross error in the number of days, 
which should rather be read, months; for the whole context shows that 
he is speaking of one of the emperor's distant progresses, through the 
Manchu country, into the wilds of Eastern Tartary, and by no Ineans of 
a petty excursion to the shore of the Yellow Sea, which is only a few 
stages from Pekin. 
2 The river here spoken of may be either the Songari, which was the 
limit of Kang-hi's expedition, or it may be the Usuri, to which latter I 
incline as it is the most eastern, and consequently the nearest to the 
)cean, 'of the great strealllS that unite with the Sagalien ûla, and contri- 
bute to form the Anlûr: the boundary between the Russian and Chinese 
dominions in that quarter. 
3 The word, which in different versions takes the forms of toscaol, 
toscaor, roscanor, roschaor, 1'estaur, and, in the early Italian epitome, 
tastori, I am unable to refer to any known language. In the Basle 
edition it is translated" custodes; " by Ramusio, " huomini che stauno 
alla custodia." 

Precautions Relating to Lost Property 197 
and restored accordingly. If it happens that, although the 
name appears, the owner, not being personally known to the 
finder, cannot be ascertained in the first instance, the bird is, 
in that case, carried to an officer termed bulangazi,l whose title 
imports that he is the" guardian of unclaimed property." If 
a horse, therefore, a sword, a bird, or any other article is found, 
and it does not appear to whom it belongs, the finder carries it 
directly to this officer, by whom it is received in charge and 
carefully preserved. If, on the other hand, a person finds any 
article that has been lost, and fails to carry it to the proper 
depositary, he is accounted a thief. Those by whom any pro- 
perty has been lost make their application to this officer, by 
whonl it is restored to them. His situation is always in the 
most elevated part of the camp, and distinguished by a par- 
ticular flag, in order that he may be the more readily found by 
such as have occasion to apply to him. The effect of this 
regulation is, that no articles are ultimately lost. 
When his majesty makes his progress in this manner, 
towards the shores of the ocean, many interesting occurrences 
attend the sport, and it may truly be said that it is unrivalled 
by any other amusement in the world. 2 On account of the 
narrowness of the passes in some parts of the country where 
the grand khan follows the chase, he is borne upon two ele- 
phants only, or sometimes a single one, being more con- 
venient than a greater number; but under other circumstances 
he makes use of four, upon the backs of which is placed a 
pavilion of wood, handsomely carved,3 the inside being lined 
1 All endeavours to ascertain by any probable etymology the true 
orthography of this word, also, have been unsuccessful. It is written 
in the different versions, bulangazi balangugi, bularguci, bugtami, and 
bugrim. The first two may be presumed the more nearly correct, 
because all the nouns in the Kalmuk-Mungalian language that denote 
employments terminate in izchi, according to the German of Strahlen- 
berg, which is equivalent to the Italian zi or cia The estahlishment of 
such an office does credit to the police of a Tartar camp. 
a Our author, who, from this and many other expressions in the 
course of his work, appears to have been passionately fond of the sports 
of the :field, must have recommended himself to the favour of his master 
by this congenial taste. 
3 It does not appear that any of the nlodern elnperors of China have 
made use of these grand anirnals for their personal conveyance. "He" 
(the emperor Kang-hi), says Bell, " was seated, cross-legged, in an open 
machine, carried by four men, with long poles rested on their 
shoulders. Before him lay a fowling-piece, a bow, and sheaf of arrows. 
This has been his hunting equipage for some years, since he left off riding- 
but in his youth he went usually, every summer, several days' journey 
without the long wall, and carried with him all the princes his sons 
and many persons of distinctioll, to the number frequently of sonl

19 H 

Travels of Marco Polo 

vvith cloth of gold, and the outside covered with the skins of 
lions, l a mode of conveyance which is rendered necessary to 
him during his hunting excursions, in consequence of the gout, 
with which he is trouhled. In the pavilion he always carries 
with him twelve of his best gerfalcons, with twelve officers, 
from amongst his favourites, to bear him company and amuse 
him. Those who are on horseback by his side give him notice 
of the approach of cranes or other birds, upon wmch he raises 
the curtain of the pavilion, and when he espies the game, 
gives direction for letting fly the gerfalcons, which seize the 
cranes and overpower them after a long struggle. The vie\v 
of this sport, as he lies upon his couch, affords extreme satis- 
faction to his majesty, as well as to the officers who attend him, 
and to the horsemen by whom he is surrounded. After having 
thus enjoyed the amusement for some hours, he repairs to a 
place named Kakzarmodin,2 where are pitched the pavilions 
and tents of his sons, and also of the nobles, the life-guards,3 
and the falconers; exceeding ten thousand in number, and 
making a handsome appearance. The tent of his majesty, in 
which he gives his audiences, is so long and wide that under it 
ten thousand soldiers might be dra"tn up, leaving room for the 
superior officers and other persons of rank. 4 Its entrance 
fronts the south, and on the eastern side it has another tent 
thousands, in order to hunt in the woods and deserts, where he con- 
tinued for the space of two or three months."-Travels, vol. ii. p. 76. 
] That is, of tigers or leopards, the skins of ,vhich are known to be in 
comn10n use for covering seats, and other similar purposes, an10ngst 
persons of rank in China; as the animal itself abounds in Tartary, and 
is the subject of royal sport; whereas all travellers agree in assuring us 
that the lion is not a native of that region. See p. 19 t, note 1. 
2 This name of Kakzar-modin, which in the Latin manuscript of the 
British Museum, and early I talian epitome, is written Cacia-mordin, has 
some resemblance to Chakiri-mondou, situated, according to the Jesuits' 
map, at the head of the Usuri river (which falls into the Amûr), and 
about midway between a considerable lake amongst the mountains and 
the sea. [In the Latin text of the Société de Géographie, it is written 
Caccbiatriodum, and in the Italian of Boni, Tarcarmodu.] 
a The caval'ieri here mentioned appear to be that military class which 
Van Braam describes under the name of chiouais, and especially those of 
the third order. The chiaoux of the Turkish or Ottoman court perform 
duties analogous to those of the huiss'z"ers in France. 
4 This number appears large, but it is no more than a body of one 
hundred men in rank, and as many in file, who might also, by narrowing 
their front, be drawn up under an awning of fifty yards by two hundred 
in depth. The armies of the Tartars, as well as of the Persians, are 
commonly reckoned by tomans, or brigades of ten thousand. It is re- 
corded of Timur, that he was accustomed to estinlate the strengtb of his 
armies, not by individual nun1eration, but by the qua1ltity of men who 
could stand within a given space, which was occupied in successiun, until 
the whole were measured. 

The Tent of the Grand Khan 199 

connected with it, forming a capacious saloon, which the 
emperor usually occupies, ,vith a few of his nobility, and when 
he thinks proper to speak to any other persons, they are intro- 
duced to him in that apartment. In the rear of this there is 
a large and handsome chamber, where he sleeps; and there are 
many other tents and apartments (for the different branches 
of the household), but which are not immediately connected 
with the great tent. These hans and chambers are all con- 
structed and fitted up in the follo\ving manner. Each of them 
is supported by three pillars of \vood, richly carved and gilt. 
l'he tents are covered on the outside with the skins of lions, 
streaked white, black, and red, and so well joined together that 
neither wind nor rain can penetrate. Withinside they are 
lined with the skins of ermines and sables, \vhich are the most 
costly of all furs; for the latter, if of a size to trim a dress, is 
valued at two thousands besants of gold, pro\Tided it be perfect; 
but if otherwise, only one thousand. It is esteemed by Tar- 
tars the queen of furs. 1 l'he animal, which in their language 
is named ron.des,2 is about the size of a polecat. 'Vith these 
two kinds of skin, the halls as well as the sleeping-rooms are 
handsomely fitted up in compartments, arranged with much 
taste and skill. The tent-ropes, or cords by which they stretch 
the tents, are all of silk. Near to the grand tent of his majesty 
are situated those of his ladies, also very handsome and splen- 
did. They have in like n1anner their gerfalcons, their hawks, 
and other birds and beasts, with which they partake in the 
amusement. 3 The number of persons collected in these en- 
campments is quite incredible, and a spectator might conceive 
himself to be in the midst of a populous city, so great is the 
assemblage from every part of the empire. The grand khan 
is attended on the occasion by the whole of his family and 

1 The northern Chinese are curious and expensive in furs, and the 
first of the sea-otter skins brought from the north-west coast of .America 
were purchased at extravagant prices, although not so high as the sum 
mentioned in the text. The besant is supposed to have been equivalent 
to the sequin, the ducat, and the Arabian dinar, or about nine shillings 
of our money. 
2 The word rondes (probably corrupted) is not to be traced in Strah- 
lenberg's or other l\Iungalian vocabularies, but it evidently means the 
sable. The animal is rnore particularly rnentioned in book iii. chap. 
xliv. [The early Italian text reads leroÙie, and the Latin, lelloidæ 
pellonæ. ] 
3 It has been before observed that the Tartar customs impose no parti- 
cular restraint upon the women, who, on the contrary, in their camps 
are said to be the principal dealers in cattle and other 3rtic1e
. r 


Travels of Marco Polo 

household; that is to say, his physicians, astronon1ers) fal 
coners, and every other description of officer. 1 
In these parts of the country he remains until the first vio-j] 
of our Easter,2 during which period he never ceases to freque
the lakes and rivers, where he takes storks, swans, herons, and 
a variety of other birds. His people also being detached to 
several different places, procure for him a large quantity of 
game. In this manner, during the season of his diversion, he 
enjoys himself to a degree that no person who is not an eye.. 
witness can conceive; the excellence and the extent of the 
sport being greater than it is possible to express. It is strictly 
forbidden to every tradesman, mechanic, or husbandma
throughout his majesty's dominions, to keep a vulture, hawk, 
or any other bird used for the pursuit of game, or any sportinQ 
dog; nor is a nobleman or cavalier to presume to chase beast 
or bird in the neighbourhood of the place where his nlajesty 
takes up his residence, (the distance being limited to five miles, 
for example, on one side, ten on another, and perhaps fifteen in 
a third direction,) unless his name be inscribed in a list kept 
by the grand falconer, or he has a special privilege to that 
effect. Beyond those limits it is permitted. There is an 
order, however, which prohibits every person throughout a11 
the countries subject to the grand khan, whether prince, 
nobleman, or peasant, from daring to kill hares, roebucks, 
fallow deer, stags, or other animals of that kind, or any large 
birds, between the months of March and October; to the 
intent that they may increase and multiply; and as the breach 
of this order is attended with punishment, game of every 
description increases prodigiously. When the usual time is 
elapsed, his majesty returns to the capital by the road he went; 
continuing his sport during the \vhole of the journey. 

1 This was rather an extraordinary assemblage for a hunting expedi- 
tion; hut, on similar occasions, Kang-hi wa
 accustomed to bave in his 
suite some of the European missionaries who were astronomers and 
mathematicians, and alnused hin1self in observing with them the cul- 
mination of the stars, and in taldng with a quadrant the altitude of 
mountains, buildings, and even of a gigantic statue of the idol Fo. It 
may be suspected, however, that Kublaï's astronomers were no other 
than astrologers, or sha1nans. 
i The Kataian festivals being regulated, as ours are, by the new and 
fun moons before or after the snn's reaching certain fixed points of the 
heavens, it is not surprising that the enlperor's nlovements should seem 
to be regulated by our calendar. In the diaries of Plan de Carpin and 
Rubruquis, all the events of their journeys are noted according to the 
feasts, fasts, or Saints' Jays of their rl.?bfic? inste
4 of the days of thf" 
month. . 
C ,. . 

KaIlbalu and Its SUbUIOS 20 I 


UPON the return of the grand khan to his capital, he holds a 
great and splendid court, which lasts three days, in the course 
of which he gives feasts and otherwise entertains those by 
,vhom he is surrounded. The amusements of these three days 
are indeed admirable. The multitude of inhabitants, and the 
number of houses in the city, as also in the suburbs wi thou t 
the city (of which there are twelve, corresponding to the twelve 
gates), is greater than the mind can comr;rehend. The suburbs 
are even more populous than the city, and it is there that the 
merchants and others whose business leads them to the capital, 
and who, on account of its being the residence of the court, 
resort thither in great numbers, take up their abode. Wher- 
ever, indeed, his majesty holds his court, thither these people 
flock from all quarters, in pursuit of their several objects. In 
the suburbs there are also as handsome houses and stately 
buildings as in the city, with the exception only of the palace 
of the grand khan. No corpse is suffered to be in terred 
within the precincts of the city; 1 and those of the idolaters, 
wiln whom it is customary to burn their dead, are carried 
to the usual spot beyond the suburbs. 2 There likewise all 
public executions take place. Women who live by prostituting 
themselves for money dare not, unless it be secretly, to exercise 
their profession in the city) but must confine themselves to the 
suburbs, where, as has already been stated, there reside above 
five-and-twenty thousand; nor is this number greater than is 
necessary for the vast concourse of merchants and other 
strangers, who, drawn thither by the court, are continually 
arriving and departing. To this city everything that is most 
rare and valuable in all parts of the world finds its way; and 
more especially does this apply to India, which furnishes 
precious stones, pearls, and various drugs 
nd spices. From 
1 "II est défendu aux Chinois" says Du Halde "d'enterrer leurs 
morts dans l'enccinte des viHes, 'et dans les qu'on 'habite."-Tom. ii. 
p. 125. 
2 The gen.eral practice <?í the Chinese is to bury, and not to burn their 
dead; but It was otherWIse v.-itb the Tartars so long as they preserved 
their original habits. ' 


Travels of Marco 1'>0]0 

the provinces of Cathay itself, as wen as from the other pro- 
vinces of the empire: whatever there is of value is carried 
thither, to supply the demands of those multitudes who are 
induced to establish their residence in the vicinity of the court. 
The quantity of merchandise sold there exceeds also the traffic 
of any other place; for no fewer than a thousand carriages and 
pack-horses, loaded with raw silk, make their daily entry; and 
gold tissues and silks of various kinds are manufactured to an 
immense extent. 1 In the vicinity of the capital are many 
walled and other towns, whose inhabitants live chiefly by the 
court, selling the articles which they produce in the markets 
of the former, and procuring from thence in return such as 
their own occasions require. 


IN this city of Kanbalu is the mint of the grand khan, who may 
truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he has 
the art of producing money by the following process. 2 He 
causes the bark to be stripped from those mulberry-trees the 
leaves of which are used for feeding silk-worms, and takes from 
it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser bark and 
the wood of the tree. This being steeped, and after\vards 
pounded in a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into 
paper,3 resembling (in substance) that ,vhich is manufactured 
from cotton, but quite black. When ready for use, he has it 
cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but 
1 The prodigious quantity of silk produced in China is matter of 
I This is, perhaps, the only instance in which our author relaxes from 
the general gravity of his style, and condescends to be witty. It is not 
in the earlier texts. 
I The accounts given by travellers of the vegetable and other sub- 
stances from which paper is manufactured in China vary considerably, 
and it would appear that in different provinces different materials are 
employed. The most common, and at the same time the least probable 
assertion is, that it is made from the soft inner bark of the bamboo cane 
(a1'undo bambos); but Du Halde informs us that it is not from the bark, 
but from the substance, that paper is made. Du Halde quotes the 
authority of a Chinese book, which relates that a certain ancient emperor 
" fit faire un excel1ent papier du chanvre . . . que dans la province 
de Fokien il se fait de tendres barnbous; (et) que dans les provinces du 
nord, on y emploie l'éco1'ce des muriers."-P. 24 0 . 

Paper Money of the Tartar Princes 

20 3 

somewhat longer than they are wide. Of these, the smallest 
pass for a denier tournois; the next size for a Venetian silver 
groat; others for two, five, and ten groats; others for one, two, 
three, and as far as ten besants of gold.! The coinage of this 
paper money is authenticated with as much form and ceremony 
as if it were actually of pure gold or silver; for to each note a 
number of officers, specially appointed, not only subscribe 
their names, but affix their signets also; and when this has 
been regularly done by the whole of them, the principal officer, 
deputed by his majesty, having dipped into vermilion the 
royal seal committed to his custody, stanlps with it the piece 
of paper, so that the form of the seal tinged with the vermilion 
remains impressed upon it,2 by which it receives full authen- 
ticity as current money, and the act of counterfeiting it is 
punished as a capital offence. 3 When thus coined in large 
quantities, this paper currency is circulated in every part of 
the grand khan's dominions; nor dares any person, at the 
peril of his life, refuse to accept it in payment. All his subjects 
receive it without hesitation, because, wherever their business 
may call them, they can dispose of it again in the purchase of 
merchandise they may have occasion for; such as pearls, 
jewels, gold, or silver. With it, in short, every article may be 
procured. 4 
1 The grosso or gros is the drachma or dra1n, being the eighth part of 
an ounce of silver, and the coin should, if of full weight, be equivalent 
to about eightpence of our money. The picciolo tornese is the denier or 
tenth part of the dram of silver, and consequently equal to four-fifths of 
our penny. As the former is the tsien or 11Jas, so the latter is the fen or 
candorin, of the Chinese reckoning. Upon the same principle, ten grossi 
or tsien constitute the leang or taël, which is valued at six shillings and 
eightpence. It may be necessary to observe, that the French missionaries 
apply the term of denier to the small Chinese coin of base metal, named 
caxa by the Portuguese and cash by the English, of which a thousand are 
equal to the taël. The besant, a gold coin of the Greek empire, is equiva- 
lent, as has already been observed, to the Venetian sequin. 
a" La matière dont on se sert," says De Guignes fils, " pour imprimer 
avec les cachets, est composée de couleur rouge, mêlée avec de l'huile; 
on la tient renfermée dans un vase de porcelaine destiné à cet usage, et 
couvert avec soin de peur qu'elle ne se dessèche."-Voy. à Peking, etc. 
tom. ü. p. 230. 
a" Ceux qui en feront de fausse," (says the inscription on paper money 
issued by the Ming,) " auront la teste coupée."-Du Halde, tom. ii. p. 
168, planche. 
'According to P. Gaubil, paper money had already been current at 
Pekin, under the grand khan Oktai, who himself only imitated what had 
been practised by the dynasty that preceded the Yuen or family of 
J engi.z-khan. ., C'
st cette année (1234) qu'on fit la 
onnoie de papier; 
les bIllets s'appellolent tchao. Le sceau du pou-tch
n-se, ou trésorier- 
général de la province, étoit empreint dessus, et il y en avoit de tout 
valeur. Cette rnunnoie avoit déjà couru SOllS les princes de Kin." 

20 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

Several times in the course of the year, large caravans of 
merchants arrive with such articles as have just been men- 
tioned, together with gold tissues, which they lay before 
the grand khan. He thereupon calls together twelve experi- 
enced and skilful persons, selected for this purpose, whom he 
commands to examine the articles with great care, and to fix 
the value at ,vhich they should be purchased. Upon t.he sum 
at which they have been thus conscientiously appraised he 
allows a reasonable profit, and immediately pays for them with 
this paper; to which the owners can have no objection, because, 
as has been observed, it answers the purpose of their own dis- 
bursements; and even though they should be inhabitants of 
a country \vhere this kind of money is not current, they invest 
the amount in other articles 'Of merchandise suited to their 
own markets.! When any persons happen to be possessed of 
paper money which from long use has become damaged, they 
carry it to the mint, where, upon the payment of only three 
per cent., they may receive fresh notes in exchange. 2 Should 
(Observ. Chronol. p. 192.) By Du Halde we are infonned that its estab- 
lishment was attempted also by the first prince of the dynasty that suc- 
ceeded the Mungals; and he has given an engraving of the billets, from 
specimens still preserved by the Chinese with superstitious care, as relics 
of a monarch who relieved them from a foreign yoke. When he adds, 
" On l'avoit employé avec aussi peu de succès sous la dynastie de Yuen," 
the assertion may be doubted; because the success of Kublai's financial 
measures, oppressive as they were, would not, if at all noticed in the 
Chinese records, be impartially stated. It will be seen, on reference to 
note', p. 
9, that an attempt was made by a Moghul ruler of Persia, 
the grand-nephew of Kublai, to introduce a system of paper currency 
in his dominions, at the period when the Polo family, returning from 
China, resided at his court; and that, upon a revolution which deprived 
him of the throne, this measure constituted one of the criminal charges 
against him. In Malcolm's History of Persia (vol. i. p. 430), the reader 
will find several curious facts and judicious observations connected with 
this subject, which strongly tend to confirm the statements of our author; 
and it there appears indubitably, from the native historians, that a 
minister on the part of the emperor of China and Tartary had arrived 
at the court of Persia about this period, and been consulted respecting 
the currency. 
1 In most states the issue of government paper is the resource of an 
exhausted treasury; but Kublai's plan seems not to have been confined 
to the substitution of paper for cash in the public disbursements, but to 
have gone the length of endeavouring, by the operation of a forced cur- 
rency, to draw all the specie and bullion or the country into his exchequer; 
for. a1though it is not expressly asserted, it is not iInprobable that the 
merchandise which he monopolized in the manner described, and paid 
for with his notes, was by him disposed of for gold and silver. In Siam, 
and many other countries of the further East, the king is the principal 
merchant of his dominions; and no individual can purchase a cargo, 
until his majesty's agent has exercised the right of pre-emption. 
2 Our author seems to consider this charge of three per cent. for renew- 
ing the decayed notes as no more than what was I:easonable, and ttJ 

The Council of Twelve 

20 5 

any be desirous of procuring gold or silver for the purposes of 
manufacture, 5uch as of drinking-cups, girdles, or other articles 
wrought of these metals, they in like manner apply at the mint, 
and for their paper obtain the bullion they require. 1 All his 
majesty's armies are paId with this currency, which is to them 
of the same value as If it were gold or silver. Upon these 
grounds, it may certainly be affirmed that the grand khan has 
a more extensive comn1and of treasure than any other sovereign 
in the universe. 


THE grand khan selects twelve noblemen of high rank and 
consequence (as has been mentioned), '\vhose duty it is to 
decide upon every point respecting the army; such as the 
removal of troops from one station to another j the change of 
officers commanding them; the employment of a force where 
it may be judged necessary; and the nUlnbers which it nlay be 
proper to detach upon any particular service, according to the 
degree of its importance. Besides these objects, it is their 
business to distinguish between ofncers who have given proofs 
of valour in combat, and those who have shown themselves 
base and cowardly, in order to advance the former and to de- 
grade the latter. Thus, if the commander of a thousand has 
been found to conduct himself in an unbecoming manner, this 
tribunal, considering him to be un'\vorthy of the rank he held, 
explain the whole system of extortion with complacency, as affording 
a proof of the conSUlInnate policy and grand resources of his master. 
It appears that the dynasty of the l\ling was less exorbitant, and de- 
manded only two per cent. J osaphat Barbaro, when he was at Asof in 
the Crirnea, about the year I450, was informed by an intelligent Tartar 
who had been on an embassy to Cataio or China, that, " in quelluogo si 
spende moneta di carta; laquale ogni anno è n:utata con nuova stampa 
et la moneta vecchia in capo dell' anno si porta aHa zecca, ove à chi 
laporta è data altrettanta dell a nuova e bella; pagando tutta via due 
per cento di moneta d'argE'nto buona, et la 1110neta vecchia si butta nel 
fuoco."-Viaggio alia Persia, etc. p. 44, I2ffiO. 
1 This scheme of finance having the tendency of depriving the manu- 
factures in gold and silver of the rnaterials of their trade, which were 
drawn out of the market by its vortex, a remedy becaIne necessary for 
so serious an inconvenience, and the delnands were accordingly supplied 
from the treasury. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

reduce him to the command of an hundred men; or, on the 
contrary, if he has displayed such qualities as give claim to 
promotion, they appoint him commander of ten thousand. 
All this, however, is done with the knowledge and subject to 
the approval of his majesty, to whom they report their opinion 
of the officer's merit or demerit, and who, upon confirming 
their decision, grants to him who is promoted to the command 
of ten thousand men (for example) the tablet or warrant 
belonging to his rank, as before described; and also confers on 
him large presents, in order to excite others to merit the same 
The tribunal composed of these twelve nobles is named 
Thai, denoting a supreme court, as being responsible to no 
other than the sovereign. 1 Besides this, there is another 
tribunal, likewise of twelve nobles, appointed for the super- 
intendence of everything that respects the government of the 
thirty-four provinces of the empire.' These have in Kanbalu 
a large and handsome palace or court, containing many 
chambers and hans. For the business of each province there 
is a presiding 1a\v-officer, together \vith several clerks, who 
have their respective apartments in the court, and there 
transact whatever business is necessary to be done for the 
province to which they belong, according to the directions 
they receive from the tribunal of twelve. These have authority 
to make choice of persons for the governnlents of the several 
provinces, whose names are presented to the grand khan for 
confirmation of their appointments and delivery of the tablets 
of gold or of silver appropriated to their ranks. They have also 
the superintendence of every matter that regards the collec- 
tion of the revenue, both from land and customs, together with 
its disposal, and have the control of every other department of 
the state; with the exception only of what relates to the army.2 

A Thai is evidently the tay (No. 1121) of De Guignes' Chinese Diction- 
ary which he renders by U eminens, altus." The usual Chinese term 
for'this tribunal denotes its military functions, but the name in the text 
is expressly said to refer to its supremacy as a court, which the word 
thai or lay directly implies. 
=- This grand tribunal for the civil administration of the enlpire appears 
to bave united in Kublai's time the objects of two of those six which now 
constitute the official government. "La fonction de la première de ces 
cours souveraines qui s'appellent Lif PO'it, est de fournir des mandarins 
pour tontes les provinces d
, de v
il1er sur leur conduÍt,e, d'exam- 
iner leurs bonnes ou mauvalses quahtez, d en rendre compte à I empereur, 
etc." "La seconde cour souveraine, appellée hou pou, c'est-à-dire, 
grand trésorier du roy, a la surintendance des finances, et a Ie soin du 
domaine, des trésors, de la dépense, et des revenus de l'empereur l etc. 

The In1perial Roads a11d Stations 

20 7 

This tribunal is named Sing, implying that it is a second high 
court, l and, like the other, responsible only to the grand khan. 
But the former tribunal, named Thai, \vhich has the adminis- 
tration of military affairs, is regarded as superior in rank and 
dignity to the latter. 2 


FROM the city of Kanbalu there are many roads leading to 
the different provinces, and upon each of these, that is to say, 
upon every great high road, at the distance of twenty-five or 
thirty miles, accordingly as the tovvns happen to be situated, 
there are stations, with houses of accomnlodation for travellers, 
called yamb or post-houses. 3 These are large and handsome 

Pour l'aider dans ce prodigieux détail, eUe a quatorze tribunaux subal- 
ternes pour les affaires des quatorze provinces dont est composé l'empire; 
car la province de Pe-tche-li étant la province de la cour, . . . jouit en 
beaucoup de chases des prérogatives de la c.our et de la maison de l'em- 
pereur." (Du I-Ialde, tom. ii. p. 23.) Besides these fifteen provinces 
. of the modern elnpire (or sixteen including the island of Hainan), l{ublaï 
had under his government all the kingdoms possessed by his family 
before their conquest of China. In this sense it is that our author speaks 
of thirty-four provinces as under the jurisdiction of this tribunal. 
1 The Chinese tenns that present themselves as corresponding in sound 
to this of singh, and having at the same tÍ1ne an appropriate signification, 
are sing (No. 2938 of the Dictionary), which is rendered by " advertere, 
cognoscere," and sing (6606), by "exarninare, consider are ;" both of 
which, if they can be said to differ in sense, are completely applicable to 
the nature of a high court of justice; more so, perhaps, than tsing (3947), 
"c1aritas, splendor," or tsing (7698), "rectum, bonum, perfectum." 
That it should have received its appellation, according to the phrase in 
Ramusio's text, from the circunlstance of its being second to any other 
tribunal, is not probable in itself, nor justified by any analogy of sound. 
2 In modern times, on the contrary, precedence is given to the civil 
departments, and the Ping-pû or war tr.ibunal ranks only as fourth of 
the six high courts. That it should have been otherwise under the 
government of a monarch who held the empire of China by the sword 
and that in his estimation the department of the army should be para
1ll0unt to all others, is what Inight be expected. 
3 This worò, which in Ramusio's text is printed lalnb, we find to be 
ianli in the Basle edition, ianbi in the older Latin, and iamb, or, as we 
should write it, yamb, in the B.M. manuscript; and there explained by 
the term of " mansiones equorum." It is evident therefore that the 1 
for i, in the Italian, is a mistake of transcription, and we may conclude 
the word to be the Persian yâ1n or ïâ1n which 
ieninski translates, " sta- 
tionarius, veredus seu veredarius equus," but which, in the journal of 


'fravels of LVlarco Polo 

buildings, having several well-furnished apartments, hung 
with silk, and provided with everything suitable to persons 
of rank. Even kings may be lodged at these stations in a 
becoming manner,! as every article required may be obtained 
from the towns and strong places in the vicinity; and for 
some of them the court makes regular provision. At each 
station four hundred good horses are kept in constant readi- 
ness, in order that all messengers going and coming upon the 
business of the grand khan, and all ambassadors, may have 
relays, and, leaving their jaded horses, be supplied with fresh 
ones. 2 Even in mountainous districts, remote from the great 
roads, where there were no villages, and the towns are far 
distant from each other, his majesty has equally caused build- 
ings of the same kind to be erected, furnished with every- 
thing necessary, and provided with the usual establishment of 
horses. He sends people to dwell upon the spot, in order to 
cultivate the land, and attend to the service of the post; by 
which means large villages are fornled. In consequence of 
these regulations, ambassadors to the court, and the royal 
messengers, go and return through every province and king- 
dom of the empire with the greatest convenience and facility; 3 
Shah Rokh's ambassadors, is made to denote the inn or post-house (agree- 
ably to our author's use of it), and not the post-horses. l\leninski 
rernarks that it belongs to the dialect spoken in Korasmia, which at the 
period of its conquest by J engiz-khan and his SOIlS was aluongst the most 
civilized countries of Asia, and the most likely to have had establish- 
ments of that nature. By the Chinese their post-houses are termed 
Lehan or ehan, and twenty-five or thirty Iuiles is said to be their distance 
fronl each other. The Persian n
arkileh and n
anzil equally signify, 
" a stage or halting-place, after a day's journey (of about thirty luiles)." 
The C1TaOp.ðs, statio, mansio, of the Greeks, was of the same nature. 
1 By kings are here meant persons of that rank which the Chinese 
term Yang, and the Portuguese Regulo. They may be compared to the 
Princes of the German empire, or to the Hindu Rajas under the Moghul 
2 To those who form their judgment of the ancient establishments of 
the Chinese empire fronl lnodern descriptions, this number of horses at 
each station, or the end of each day's ordinary journey, may appear im- 
probable; but the assertion is justified by the authority of the same 
journal that has so often served to throw light upon our author's rela- 
tions, although written subsequently to his time by about a century 
and a half. 
3 By anlbassadors, in Chinese history and accounts of China, we are 
to understand not only the representatives of foreign princes, to whom 
we confine the term) but every petty vassal of the empire, or deputy of 
such vassal who repairs to the court, invested with a public character. 
Those of the first mentioned class were in the practice of taking under 
their protection as a part of their suite, large bodies of traders, who by that 
means had an 
pportunity of introducing their goods into the country, 
in C0ntravention of the established regulations, but obviously with the 
COil.ùÎVallCC of the governors of frontier towns, and perhaps of the court 

Great I)opulatioI1 of the Country 

20 9 

in all which the grand khan exhibits a superiority over every 
other emperor, king, or human being. In his dominions no 
fe,ver than two hundred thousand horses are thus employed 
in the department of the post, and ten thousand buildings, 
with suitable furniture, are kept Up.l It is indeed so wonder- 
ful a system, and so effective in its operation, as it is scarcely 
possible to describe. If it be questioned how the population 
of the country can supply sufficient numbers for these duties, 
and by what means they can be victualled, we may answer, 
that all the idolaters, and likewise the Saracens, keep six, 
eight, or ten women, according to their circumstances, by 
\vhom they have a prodigious number of children; 2 some of 
them as many as thirty sons capable of following their fathers 
in arms; whereas with us a man has only one wife, and even 
although she should prove barren, he is obliged to pass his life 
with her, and is by that lneans deprived of the chance of raising 
a family. Hence it is that our population is so much inferior 
to theirs. vVith regard to food, there is no deficiency of it, 
for these people, especially the Tartars, Cathaians, and inhabi- 
tants of the province of Manji (or Southern China), subsist, for 
the most part, upon rice, panicum, and millet; \\,hich tbree 
grains yield, in their soil, an hundred measures for one. 
\Vheat, indeed, does not yield a similar increase, and bread not 
being in use with then1, it is eaten only in the form of vermi- 
celli or of pastry. The former grains they boil in milk or stew 
wi th their meat. Wi th them no spot of earth is suffered to 
lie idle, that can possibly be cultivated; and their cattle of 
different kinds multiply exceedingly, insomuch that when 
they take the field, there is scarcely an individual that does 
itself. This is avowed by Shah Rokh's ambassadors, and particularly 
described by Benedict Goez, who himself travelled in the capacity of a 
1 An inconsistency in the numbers, not easy to reconcile, presents 
itself in this place; for if by ten thousand buildings are meant so many 
post-houses, the total number of horses, instead of being two hundred 
thousand, should amount to four millions. It is probable that a cipher 
should be cut off from the former, and that, for ten, we should read one 
thousand, which would bring the error within Inoderate bounds; or it 
may be intended to include in that number the stations, at short inter- 
vals, for couriers on foot. 
I The modern .ac
ounts of Chinese polygamy or concubinage lead us 
to suppose that 1t 15 not common amongst the lower classes of society. 
I In Sumatra the rate of produce of up-land rice is reckoned at eighty, 
and of low-land, at an hundred and twenty for one. This increase so 
disproportionate to what is known in Europe, I have ventured to attri- 
C? the sav:ing of gra
 in the mode of sowing, than to any 
supenor fertility of soil.-See fIlst. of Surr
 a tra, third edit. p. 77. See 
also Voy. à Peking, etc. par De Guignes fils, toro.. iii. p. 33


Travels of Marco Polo 

not carry with him six, eight, or more horses, for his own 
personal use. From all this may be seen the causes of so 
large a population, and the circumstances that enable them 
to provide so abundantly for their subsistence. 
In the intermediate space between the post-houses, there 
are small villages settled at the distance of every three miles, 
\vhich may contain, one with another, about forty cottages. 
In these are stationed the foot messengers, likewise employed 
in the service of his majesty.! They wear girdles round their 
waists, to which several small bells are a ttached, in order 
that their coming may be perceived at a distance; and as 
they run only three n1iles, that is, from one of these foot- 
stations to another next adjoining, the noise serves to give 
notice of their approach, and preparation is accordingly made 
by a fresh courier to proceed with the packet instantly upon 
the arrival of the former. 2 Thus it is so expeditiously con- 
veyed from station to station, that in the course of two daYE 
and two nights his majesty receives distant intelligence that 
in the ordinary n10de could not be obtained in less than ten 
days; 3 and it often happens that in the fruit season, what 
is gathered in the morning at Kanbalu is conveyed to the 
grand khan, at Shan-du, by the evening of the following day; 
although the distance is generally considered as ten days' 
journey. At each of these three-mile stations there is a clerk, 
whose business it is to note the day and hour at \vhich the 
one courier arrives and the other departs; \vhich is likewise 
done at all the post-houses. Besides this, officers are directed 
to pay monthly visits to every station, in order to examine 
into the Inanagement of them, and to punish those couriers 

1 " Upon the road," says Bell, "we Inet with many turrets, called 
post-houses, erected at certain distances from one another. . . . These 
places are guarded by a few soldiers, who run a-foot, froin one post to 
another, with great speed, carrying letters or despatches that concern 
the emperor. . . . The distance of one post-house from another is 
usually five Chinese li or miles. . . . I cOlnpute five of their lniles to be 
about two and a half English."-Vol. i. p. 340. 
2 The use of bells for this purpose would seem, {rom what is stated by 
De Guignes, to be now confined to the Inessengers on horseback. (Tom. 
ü. p. 223.) It is likely, however, that the foot-messengers have some 
similar mode of making known their approach. 
3 An active n1an nlay, with perfect ease, run three miles at the rate of 
eight miles in the hour, and consequ
nt1y on
dred and 
miles n1Ïght be perfonned by succeSSIve couners In twenty-four hours, 
or nearly four hundred miles in two days and nights: but if by the 
II ordinary mode" is to be understood ten stages of thirty miles, it is 
only necessary that three h
iles should be performed in that 
tunc, which is at the rate of SIX miles ill the hour. 

Service of the Public Roads 2 I I 

who have neglected to use proper diligence. _1\.11 these couriers 
are not only exempt from the (capitation) tf\x, but also receive 
from his majesty good allowances. The horses employed in 
this service are not attended with any (direct) expense; the 
cities, towns, and villages in the neighbourhood being obliged 
to furnish, and also to maintain them. By his majesty's 
command the governors of the cities cause examination to be 
made by well informed persons, as to the number of horses 
the inhabitants, individually, are capable of supplying. The 
same is done with respect to the towns and villages; and ac- 
cording to their means the requisition is enforced; those on 
each side of the station contributing their due proportion. 
The charge of the maintenance of the horses is afterwards 
deducted by the cities out of the revenue payable to the grand 
khan; inasmuch as the sum for which each inhabitant would 
be liable is commuted for an equivalent of horses or share of 
horses, which he maintains at the nearest adjoining station. l 
It must be understood, however, that of the four hundred 
horses the whole are not constantly on service at the station, 
but only two hundred, which are kept there for the space of 
a month, during which period the other half are at pasture; 
and at the beginning of the month, these in their turn take 
the duty, whilst the former have time to recover their flesh; 
each alternately relieving the other. Where it happens that 
there is a river or a lake which the couriers on foot, or the 
horsemen, are under the necessity of passing, the neighbour- 
ing cities are obliged to keep three or four boats in continual 
readiness for that purpose; and where there is a desert of 
several days' journey, that does not admit of any habitation, 
the city on its borders is obliged to furnish horses to such 
persons as ambassadors to and from the court, that they may 
be enabled to pass the desert, and also to supply provisions 
to them and their suite; but cities so circumstanced have a 
remuneration from his majesty. Where the post stations lie 
at a distance from the great road, the horses are partly those 
of his majesty, and are only in part furnished by the cities 
and towns of the district. 
When it is necessary that the messengers should proceed 
1 It is not easy to cornprehend to whom it is meant that this establish- 
ment was not attended with expense. If deducted from the amount of 
taxes to which the inhabitants were otherwise liable, it was ultÜnately 
a charge upon the revenue of the rnonarch. The whole is far from being 
clear, but the probable meaning is, that it was without expense ulti- 
mately, to the individuals who pcrforrned the duty. ' 


Travels of Marco Polo 

with extraordinary despatch, as in the cases of giving informa- 
tion of disturbance in any part of the country, the rebellion 
of a chief, or other important matter, they ride two hundred, 
or sometimes two hundred and fifty miles in the course of a 
day. .On such occasions they carry with them the tablet of 
the gerfalcon as a signal of the urgency of their business and 
the necessity for despatch. And when there are two mes- 
sengers, they take their departure together from the same place, 
mounted upon good fleet horses; and they gird their bodies 
tight, bind a cloth round their heads, and push their horses 
to the greatest speed. They continue thus till they come to 
the next post-house, at twenty-five miles distant,! where they 
find two other horses, fresh and in a state for work; they 
spring upon them without taking any repose, and changing 
in the same manner at every stage, until the day closes, they 
perform a journey of two hundred and fifty miles. In cases 
of great emergency they continue their course during the 
night, and if there should be no n1oon, they are accompanied 
to the next station by persons on foot, who run before them 
with lights; when of course they do not make the same ex- 
pedition as in the day-time, the light-bearers not being able 
to exceed a certain pace. Messengers qualified to undergo this 
extraordinary degree of fatigue are held in high estimation. 
Now we will leave this subject, and I will tell you of a great 
act of benevolence which the grand khan perf Of IllS t\vice 


THE grand khan send
 ever.y year his comlnis
 to ascer- 
tain whether any of hIS subjects have suffered In theIr crops of 
corn from un favourable weather, from storms of wind or 
violent rains, or by locusts, worms, or any other plague; and 
in such cases he not only refrains from exacting the usual 
tribute of that year, but furnishes them from his granaries 
with so much corn as is necessary for their subsistence, as \vell 
as for so\ving their land. \Vith this vievv, in times of great 
1 fin other l\1SS it Îc:> thirtv..five mÏip3.1 

Benevolence of the Grand Khan 

21 3 

plenty, he causes large purchases to be made of such kinds of 
grain as are most serviceable to them, which is stored in 
granaries provided for the purpose in the several provinces, 
and managed with such care as to ensure its keeping for three 
or four years without damage. l It is his command, that these 
granaries be always kept full, in order to provide against times 
of scarcity; and when, in such seasons, he disposes of the grain 
for money, he requires for four measures no more than the 
purchaser would pay for one measure in the market. In like 
manner where there has been a mortality of cattle in any dis- 
trict, he makes good the loss to the sufferers from those belong- 
ing to himself, which he has received as his tenth of produce in 
other provinces. All his thoughts, indeed, are directed to the 
important object of assisting the people whom he governs, 
that they may be enabled to live by their labour and improve 
their substance. 2 We must not omit to notice a peculiarity of 
the grand khan, that where an accident has happened by 
lightning to any herd of cattle, flock of sheep, or other domestic 
animals, whether the property of one or more persons, and 
however large the herd nlay be, he does not demand the tenth 
of the increase of such cattle during three years; and so also 
if a ship laden with merchandise has been struck by lightning, 
he does not collect from her any custom or share of her cargo, 
considering the accident as an ill omen. God;. he says, has 
shown himself to be displeased \vith the owner of the goods, 
and he is unwilling that property bearing the Inark of divine 
wrath should enter his treasury.3 
1 " In such times (of scarcity) the emperor of China," says Staunton 
. . . "orders the granaries to be opened; he relnits the taxes to thos
who are visited by misfortunes; he affords assistance to enable theln to 
retrieve their affairs." (Vol. ii. p. 89.) "In China," says Barrow 
" there are no great farmers who store their grain to throw into the mar: 
ket in seasons of scarcity. In such seasons the only resource is that of 
the government opening its magazines, and restoring to the people that 
portion of their crop which it had demanded from them as the price 
of its protection." The same circumstance is noticed by other travellers. 
2 The edicts of the Chinese emperors, even of such as were kept by 
their eunuchs and other favourites in profound ignorance of the affairs 
of their empire, are filled with sentiments expressive of the most tender 
 anx.ious concern for !.!le we.Hare of their people, whom they term 
theIr children. In Kublm s actIons there was probably no affectation 
of philanthropy; þut fr
m his general char3cter it mã y be suspected 
that a regard for hIS own Interest was the motive that actuated his bene- 
volence to his Chinese subjects, of whose loyalty he always showed him- 
self suspicious. 
a No direct proof of the existence of this superstition in China has 
presented i
se]f. That t
r and. lightning 
re regarded with feelings 
of extraordInary terror, IS eVIdent from the fnghtful representations of 
e. deity who presides over, and is supposed to wield this engine of 
c1!vlne wrath. 

21 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 


THERE is another regulation adopted by the grand khan, 
equaIly ornamental and useful. At both sides of the public 
roads he causes trees to be planted, of a kind that become 
large and tall, and being only two paces asunder, they serve 
(besides the advantage of their shade in summer) to point out 
the road (when the ground is covered with snow); which is of 
great assistance and affords much comfort to travellers. l This 
is done along all the high roads, where the nature of the soil 
admits of plantation; but when the way lies through sandy 
deserts or over rocky mountains, where it is impossible to have 
trees, he orders stones to be placed and columns to be erected, 
as marks for guidance. He also appoints officers of rank, 
whose duty it is to see that all these are properly arranged and 
the roads constantly kept in good order. Besides the motives 
that have been assigned for these plantations, it may be added 
that the grand khan is the more disposed to make them, from 
the circumstance of his diviners and astrologers having declared 
that those who plant trees are rewarded with long life. 


THE greater part of the inhabitants of the province of Cathay 
drink a sort of wine made from rice mixed with a variety of 
1" 11 Y a de certaines provinces," says Du Halde, "où 1es grandes 
chemins sont comme autant de grandes allées, bordées d'arbres fort 
hauts." (Tom. ii. p. 52.) De Guignes describes the high roads of the 
provinces through which he travelled, as generally planted with trees. 
(Tom. ii. pp. 215, 216.) The paces by which the distance of the trees 
is estimated by our author, must be understood as geometric or Roman 
paces of five feet; and even on that scale the interval is too small. It 
is not improbable that he may in this instance, as well as in other parts 
of the work, have expressed himself in the measures of the country, 
which are rendered by Italian terms not strictly corresponding; or the 
passage may have been corrupted. The explanatory words betweelJ 
brackets are added in the transla tiOD. 

StOIICS U sed for Burl1il1g 

21 5 

spices and drugs. This beverage, or wine as it may be termed, 
is so good and well flavoured that they do not ,vish for better. 
It is clear, bright, and pleasant to the taste, and being (made) 
very hot, has the quality of inebriating sooner than any other. 
Throughou t this province there is found a sort of black 
stone, which they dig out of the mountains, where it runs in 
veins. When lighted, it burns like charcoal, and retains the 
fire much better than wood; insomuch that it may be pre- 
served during the night, and in the morning be found still burn-. 
ing. These stones do not flame, excepting a little when first 
lighted, but during their ignition give out a considerable heat. 
It is true there is no scarcity of wood in the country, but the 
multitude of inhabitants is so immense, and their stoves and 
baths, which they are continually heating, so numerous, that 
the quantity could not supply the demand; for there is no 
person who does not frequent the warm bath at least three 
times in the week, and during the winter daily, if it is in their 
power. Every man of rank or wealth has one in his house for 
his own use; and the stock of ,vood must soon prove inadequate 
to such consumption; whereas these stones may be had in the 
greatest abundance, and at a cheap rate. l 


IT has been already stated that the grand khan distributes 
large quantities of grain to his subjects (in the provinces). vVe 
1 This circumstantial account of the use nlade by the Chinese of pH 
or fossil coal, at a period when its properties were so little known ill 
Europe, will deservedly be thought an interesting record of the fact, as 
well as a proof of undoubted genuineness and originality on the part of 
our author. "Les mines de charbon de pierre sont en si grande quantit{. 
dans les provinces," says Dll HaIde, " qu'il n'y a apparemment aucun 
royaume au monde, OÙ il y en ait tant, et de si abondantes. 11 s'en 
trouve sans nombre dans les montagnes des provinces de Chen-si, de 
Chan-si, et de Pe-che-li: aussi s'en sert-on pour tous les fourneaux des 
ouvriers, dans les cuisines de toutes les maisons, et dans les hypocaustes 
des chambres qu'on allume tout l'hyver. Sans un pareil secours, ccs 
peupies auroient peine à vivre dans des pays si froids, où Ie bois de 
chauffage est rare, et par conséquent très-cher." (1'0111. i. p. 29.) 
"Stoves," says Staunton, " are common in large buildings. They are 
fed from without with fossil coal, found plentifully in the neighbourhood." 
-Vol. ii. p. 338. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

shall now speak of his great charity to and provident care of 
the poor in the city of Kanbalu. Upon his being apprised of 
any respectable family, that had lived in easy circumstances, 
being by misfortunes reduced to poverty, or who, in conse- 
quence of infirmities, are unable to work for their living or to 
raise a supply of any kind of grain: to a family in that situa- 
tion he gives what is necessary for their year's consumption, 
and at the customary period they present themselves before 
the officers who manage the department of his majesty's 
expenses and who reside in a palace ,vhere that business is 
transacted, to whom they deliver a statement in ,vriting of the 
quantity furnished to them in the preceding year, according 
to which they receive also for the present. He provides in 
like manner for their clothing, which he has the means of doing 
from his tenths of wool, silk, and hemp. These materials he 
has woven into the different sorts of cloth, in a house erected 
for that purpose, where every artisan is obliged to work one 
day in the week for his majesty's service. Garments made of 
stuffs thus manufactured he orders to be given to the poor 
!amilies above described, as they are wanted for their winter 
and their summer dresses. He also has clothing prepared for 
his armies, and in every city has a quantity of wool1en cloth 
woven, ,vhich is paid for from the amount of the tenths levied 
at the place. l 
It should be known that the Tartars, when they followed 
their original customs, and had not yet adopted the religion of 
the idolaters, were not in the practice of bestowing alms, and 
\vhen a necessitous man applied to them, they drove him away 
with injurious expressions, saying, " Begone with your com- 
plaint of a bad season which God has sent you; had he loved 
you, as it appears he loves me, you would have prospered as I 
do." But since the wise men of the idolaters, and especially 
the baksis, already mentioned, have represented to his majesty 
that providing for the poor is a good work and highly accept- 
able to their deities, he has relieved their wants in the manner 
slated, and at his court none are denied food who come to ask 
it. Not a day passes in which there are not distributed, by the 
regular officers, t\venty thousand vessels of rice, millet, and 

1 At the present day the manufacture of woollen cloth or stuffs in 
China is very inconsiderable, but it lnay have been affected in the course 
of several centuries by the irnportations from Europe, which are known 
to have progressively increased. For its existence in the seventecnth 
century we have the au thority of the luissiunaries. 

The Astrologers of Kanbalu 


panicum. 1 By reason of this admi
able and astonishirlg 
liberality \vhich the grand khan exerCIses towards the poor; 
the people all adore him as a divinity.2 


THERE are in the city of Kanbalu, amongst Christians, 
Saracens, and Cathaians, about five thousand astrologers and 
prognosticators, 3 for whose food and clothing the grand khan 
provides in the same n1anner as he does for the poor families 
above mentioned, and ,vho are in the constant exercise of 
their art. They have their astrolabes, upon which are de- 
scribed the planetary signs, the hours (at which they pass the 
meridian), and their several aspects for the whole year. The 
astrologers (or almanac-makers) of each distinct sect annually 
proceed to the examination of their respective tables, in order 
to ascertain from thence the course of the heavenly bodies., 
and their relative positions for every lunation. They dis- 
cover therein what the state of the weather shall be, from the 
paths and configurations of the planets in the different signs, 
and thence foretell the peculiar phenomena of each month: 
that in such a month, for instance, there shall be thunder and 
stonns; in such another, earthquakes; in another, strokes of 
lightning and violent rains; in another, diseases, mortality, 
wars, discords, conspiracies. As they find the matter in their 
astrolabes, so they declare it ,viII COlne to pass; adding, how- 
ever, that God, according to his good pleasure, may do more 
or less than they have set down. They write their predic- 
tions for the year upon certain small squares, which are called 
takuini, and these they sell, for a groat apiece, to all persons 
who are desirous of peeping into futurity. Those whose pre- 
1 Purchas translates scudelle IJy " crowns" (écus), and supposes that 
grain to the amount of twenty thousand of that coin was distributed 
daily; but the dictionaries tell us that the Italian scudella is the Frencl' 
écuelle, a pipkin or porringer; and this n1eaning is the more simple and 
natural of the two. [Instead of this, the early Latin and French texts 
published by the French Geographical Society, say simply that thirty 
thousand peoPle were thus fed at court, and the Italian text of Boni 
makes the number of persons to be three hundred thousand.] 
2 " He appears to his subjects," says Staunton, " as standing almost 
in the place of Providence in their favour."-Vol. ii. p. go. 
I To account for this extraordinary number of astrologers, we must 
suppose that the priests of every description were adepts in tbe occult art. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

dictions are found to be the more generally correct are esteemed 
the most perfect masters of their art, and are consequently the 
most honoured. l When any person forms the design of exe- 
cuting some great work, of performing a distant journey in the 
\vay of commerce, or of commencing any other undertaking, 
and is desirous of knowing ,vhat success may be likely to attend 
it, he has recourse to one of these astrologers, and, informing 
him that he is about to proceed on such an expedition, inquires 
in what disposition the heavens appear to be at the time. 
The latter thereupon tells him, that before he can answer, it is 
necessary he should be informed of the year, the month, and 
the hour in which he was born; and that, having learned these 
particulars, he will then proceed to ascertain in what respects 
the constellation that ,vas in the ascendant at his nativity 
corresponds with the aspect of the celestial bodies at the time 
of making the inquiry. Upon this comparison he grounds his 
prediction of the favourable or unfavourable termination of 
the adventure. 2 
It should be observed that the rrartars compute their time 
by a cycle of twelve years; to the first of which they give the 
name of the lion; to the second year, that of the ox; to the 
third, the dragon; to the fourth, the dog; and so of the rest, 
until the whole of the twelve have elapsed. When a person, 
therefore, is asked in what year he was born, he replies, In the 
course of the year of the lion, upon such a day, at such an hour 
and minute; all of \vhich has been carefully noted by his 
parents in a book. Upon the completion of the twelve years 
of the cycle, they return to the first, and continually repeat 
the same series. 3 
1 In later times the publication of the Chinese almanac has been an 
affair of government, and none is circulated but under the sanction of 
the enlperor; the astronornical part being conlputed by Europeans, and 
the astrological part invented by the Chinese. 
2 It appears that the astrologers of Pekin were not exempt tronl the 
suspicion of sornetilnes using flagitious rneans to make the events tally 
with their prophecies, of which the journal of Shah Rokh's ambassadors 
affords a remarkable instance. "Les astrologues du I{hatai," they 
observe, U avoient pronostiqué que cette année Ie palais de l'empereur 
seroit endommagé du feu, et cette prédiction fut Ie sujet de cette illu- 
mination. Les émirs (Inandarins) s'étant assernblés, l'empereur leur fit 
un festin et les régala." Three nlonths afterwards we find the follow- 
ing pass
ge: "La nuit suivante, par un décrct de Dieu, Ie feu prit au 
nouveau palais de l'empereur, non sans quelque soupçon de quelque 
fourberie des astrologue
. L'appartement principal qui avoit quatre- 
vingt coudées de long et trente de large. . . . fut entièrement brûlé." 
-Pp.9- 12 . 
3 " Les Tartares," says De Guignes, pèrp, " ont aussi un cycle de ùouze 
ans. Les dénominations de cbaque année S\1nt prises de;; nonlS de 

Religion of the Tartars 

21 9 


As has already been observed, these people are idolaters, and 
for deities, each person has a tablet fixed up against a high 
part of the wall of his chamber, upon ,vhich is written a name, 
that serves to denote the high, celestial, and sublime God; and 
to this they pay daily adoration, with incense burning.1 Lift- 
ing up their hands and then striking their faces against the 
floor three times,2 they implore from him the blessings of sound 
intellect and health of body; without any further petition. 
Belo,v this, on the floor, they have a statue which they name 
Natigai, which they consider as the God of all terrestrial things 
or whatever is produced from the earth. They give him a ,vife 
and children,3 and worship him in a similar manner, burning 
incense, raising their hands, and bending to the floor. To him 

différens aniIl1aux; ainsi l'on disoit l'année de la so uris, du bæuf, etc., 
pour dire la première ou la seconde année; et à la fin des douze années 
on recommençoit de la même façon. Les Chinois ont quelquefois fait 
usage de ce cycle." (Hist. des Huns, tom. i. p. xlvii.) In the names of 
the years, as furnished by different writers, there is some variation, but 
according to the most modern of the authorities they are as follows: 
" the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, 
dog, and hog;" from whence it appears that our author's account of 
the cycle is not merely imperfect, but incorrect, if he really placed thE 
names in the order in \vhich they are given in the text. By the lion 
(as has already been shown in note 1, p. 194) is meant the tiger; but 
this anima], instead of being the first of the series, is only the third, and 
should follow, instead of preceding the ox; nor does the dragon or the 
dog belong to those n umericül years to which they are assigned. What 
he has said is fully sufficient to evince a general acquaintance with the 
Tartar calendar, and probably what he wrote or dictated amounted to 
this,-that each of the twelve years bore the name of an animal, such as 
the lion, ox, dog, etc., \vithout any intention of furnishing an exact list. 
1 The custoln of paying adoration to a written tablet instead of the 
image or representation of a deity was properly Kataian rather than 
Tartar, but it might have been adopted by the latter people along with 
other Chinese practices, and especially by the emperor. The words 
inscribed are tien, heaven, hoang-lien, supreme heaven, shang-ti, sovereign 
It Sbatfere i denti is literally to gnash the teeth or strike thern against 
each other; but this is obviously a misapprehension of what was meant 
to express the act of prostration and striking the ground with the fore- 
head. The prostrations before the throne or tablet of the emperor are 
th ree tiIn es three. 
a Staunton speaks of the worship of Fo's wife and child in the Putala 
or ten1ple of Zhehol (J ehol) in Tartary, \"01. ii. p. 258. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

they pray for seasonable weather, abundant crops, increase of 
family, and the like. They believe the soul to be immortal, in 
this sense, that immediately upon the death of a man, it enters 
into another body, and that accordingly as he has acted vir- 
tuously or wickedly during his life, his future state will become, 
progressively, better or ,vorse.! If he be a poor man, and has 
conducted himself worthily and decently, he will be re-born, 
in the first instance, from the womb of a gentle,voman, and 
become, himself, a gentleman; next, from the womb of a lady 
of rank, and become a nobleman; thus continually ascending 
in the scale of existence until he be united to the divinity. 
But if, on the contrary, being the son of a gentleman, he has 
behaved unworthily, he \vill, in his next state, be a clo,vn, and 
at length a dog, continually descending to a condition more 
vile than the preceding. 2 
Their style of conversation is courteous; they salute each 
other politely, with countenances expressive of satisfaction,3 
have an air of good breeding, and eat their victuals with par- 
ticular cleanliness. To their parents they show the utmost 
reverence j but should it happen that a child acts disrespect- 
fully to or neglects to assist his parents in their necessity, there 
is a public tribunal, whose especial duty it is to punish with 
severity the crime of filial ingratitude, when the circumstance 
is known. 4 Malefactors guilty of various crimes, who are 
apprehended and thrown into prison, are executed by strang- 
ling; but such as remain till the expiration of three years, 
being the time appointed by his majesty for a general gaol 
delivery, and are then liberated, have a mark imprinted upon 
one of their cheeks, that they may be recognised. 5 
1 This is the Hindu doctrine of the rnetempsychosis, which, along with 
the schismatic religion of Buddha, was introduced into China (as the 
annals of that country inform us) about the year 65 of our era. It had 
not, however, (according to the elder De Guignes,) made any consider- 
able, progress until the year 335, when the emperor then reigning took it 
under his protection. 
:a According to the Hindu belief the souls of men reanimate new bodies, 
" until by repeated regenerations all their sins are done away, and they 
attain such a degree of perfection as will entitle them to what is called 
mttkti, eternal salvation, by which is understood a release from future 
transmigration, and an absorption in the nature of the Godhead." Wil- 
kins, Notes to Bhagvat Gita, p. 140. 
3 It is evidently of the Kataians, and not of the rude Tartars, that our 
author here speaks. 
, "Un tìls/' says De Guignes, "qui accuse son père ou sa mère, 
Inême avec raison, est puni par l'exil."-Tom. iii. p. 117. 
5 The distincti.on ill the degree üf punishment between executing 
a crirninal soon after condenìnation, or at the regulated period, is fre- 
quently adverted to in the Lettr"es édifiantes. 

Some Tartar Customs 


The present grand khan has prohibited all species of gam.. 
bling and other modes of cheating, to which the people of this 
country are addicted more than any others upon earth; and 
as an argument for deterring them from the practice, he says 
to them (in his edict), "I subdued you by the power of my 
s,vord, and consequently ,vhatever you possess belongs of 
right to me: if you gamble, therefore, you are sporting with 
my property." He does not, however, take anything arbi- 
trarily in virtue of this right. The order and regularity ob- 
served by all ranks of people, ,vhen they present themselves 
before his majesty, ought not to pass unnoticed. When they 
approach within half a mile of the place where he happens to 
be, they sho,v their respect for his exalted character by assum- 
ing a humble, placid, and quiet demeanour, insomuch that not 
the least noise, nor the voice of any person calling out, or even 
speaking aloud, is heard. l Every man of rank carries with him 
a small vessel, into ,vhich he spits, so long as he continues in 
the hall of audience, no one daring to spit on the floor; 2 and 
this being done, he replaces the cover, and makes a salutation. 
They are accustomed likewise to take with them handsoIne 
buskins made of white leather, and when they reach the court, 
but before they enter the hall (for which they ,vait a summons 
fron1 the grand khan), they put on these white buskins, and give 
those in which they had ,valked to the care of the servants. 
This practice is observed that they may not soil the beautiful 
carpets, ,vhich are curiously wrought with silk and gold, and 
exhibit a variety of colours. 3 

1 This perfect silence at the court of Pekin is particularly noticed by 
Bell, who says: "As we advanced we found all the ministers of state, 
and officers belonging to the court, seated upon fur-cushions, cross-legged, 
before the hall in the open air; among these, places were appointed for 
the ambassador and his retinue, and in this situation we remained. . . 
till the emperor came into the hall. During this interval . . . not the 
least noise was heard from any quarter." (Vol. ii. p. s.) Again he ob- 
serves: "By this time the hall was pretty full, and, what is surprising, 
there "vas not the least noise, hurry, or confusion. . . . In short, the 
characteristic of the court of Pekin is order and decency, rather than 
grandeur and magnificence."-P. 9. 

 k.ind of utensil is COlnmon in man y parts of the East Indies, 
ere It IS commonly tenned, fronl the Portuguese, a cusPidór. It 
nught be inferred from hence that the practice then prevailed of masti- 
cating something of the nature of betel. 
3 In the modern descriptions of Chinese furniture we do not find any 
?otice taken of carpets, for which mats appear to be substituted; but 
It does not .follow that they were equally disused in the palaces of Kublai, 
whose farnily were the conquerors of Persia and other countries of Asia, 
where the nlanufacture of this article of luxury was in perfection. Du 
IIalde, however, in describing the capital city of the province of Shan-sit 


Travels of Marco Polo 


I-IA VING thus completed the account of the government and 
police of the province of Cathay and city of Kanbalu, as weU 
as of the magnificence of the grand khan, we shall now proceed 
to speak of other parts of the empire. You must know then 
that the grand khan sent Marco as his ambassador to the 
,vest; and leaving Kanbalu, he travelled ,vestward during full 
four. months; we shall no,v tell you all he saw going and 
Upon leaving the capital and travelling ten miles,! you 
come to a river named Pulisangan, which discharges itself 
into the ocean, and is navigated by many vessels entering 
from thence, with considerable quantities of merchandise. 2 
Over this river there is a very handsome bridge of stone, 
perhaps unequalled by another in the world. Its length is 
three hundred paces, and its width eight paces; so that ten 
men can, ,vithout inconvenience, ride abreast. 3 It has 
twenty-four arches, supported by twenty-five piers erected in 

says: "Outre différentes étoffes qui se fabriquent en cette vIDe, comme 
ailleurs, on y fait en particulier des tapis façon de Turquie, de quelque 
grandeur qu'on les commande."-Tom. i. p. 204. 
1 In the epitome of 1496 and subsequent Venice editions the words 
are, mesi x., ten 1110nths, instead of dieci 1n1:glia, ten miles; in which 
latter consistent sense the Basle edition agrees with Ramusio. The 
period also of our author's journey is extended from four to fourteen 
months, the one error having evidently given birth to the other. 
2 This river, the name of which is variously written Pulisangan, 
Pulisangium, Pulisachniz, Pulsanchirnz, and Paluisanguis, appears from 
the circumstances stated to be the Hoen-ho of the Jesuits' map, which, 
uniting with another stream from the north-west, forms the Pe-ho or 
White River. This, in the lower part of its course, and to the distance 
of many miles from the Yellow Sea, into which it dlsembogues, is navig- 
able for vessels of considerable burthen, although too rapid for that pur- 
pose at the part where it crossed our author's route to the south-west. 
It may be remarked that in the Persian language the words puli-san,gi 
signify the" stone bridge," and it is not improbable that the western 
people in the service of the eInperor may have given this appellation to 
the place where a bridge of great celebrity was thrown over the river, 
which is here applied to the river itself. J t will be found to occur in 
Elphinstone's Account of Caubul, p. 429, and in Ouselcy's Ibn IIauku], 
p. 277. 
3 Ten horsemen could not draw up abreast in a less space than thirty 
feet and might probably require forty when in motion. The paces 
 spoken of IIlust therefore be geometric; and upon this calculation 
the bridge would be five hWldred yards in length. 

River of Pll1isangan 


the water, all of serpentine stone,l and built with great skill. 
On each side, and from one extremity to the other, there is a 
handsome parapet, formed of marble slabs and pillars arranged 
in a masterly style. At the commencement of the ascent 
the bridge is something wider than at the summit, but from 
the part ,vhere the ascent terminates, the sides run in straight 
lines and parallel to each other. 2 Upon 
he upper level there 
is a massive and lofty column, resting upon a tortoise of 
marble, and having near its base a large figure of a lion, with 
a lion also on the top. 3 Towards the slope of the bridge 
there is another handsome column or pillar, with its lion, at 
the distance of a pace and a half froln the former; and all 
the spaces between one pillar and another, throughout the 
whole length of the bridge, are filled up with slabs of marble, 
curiously sculptured, and mortised into the next adjoining 
pillars, ,vhich are, in like manner, a pace and a half asunder, 
and equally surmounted \vith lions,4 forming altogether a 
beautiful spectacle. These parapets serve to prevent accidents 
1 The serpent-stone, or serpentinsteÙt of the Gerrl1ans, is a well-known 
species, and considered as an inferior kind of jade. 
2 By P. lVlagalhanes, who particularly this description, our 
author is understood to speak here of the perfect level of the surface, 
and not of the straightness of the sides: "Aux deux extremités," he 
translates, " il est plus large qu'au haut de la montée: mais quand on a 
achevé de monter, on Ie trOl1ve plat et de niveau comme s'i! avoit esté tiré 
à la ligne." (Nollv. Relat. p. 14.) But the words, "uguale per longo 
corne se fosse tirato per linea," seem rather to refer to the general paral- 
lelism of the sides, although at the ends they diverged, as is the case 
with almost all bridges. 
I It has been observed before, that when our author speaks of lions in 
China, as living animals, he undoubtedly means tigers; but it is other- 
wise with respect to the irnaginary and grotesque representations of the 
lion, in marble, bronze, and porcelain, employed as ornaments in the 
pub1ic buildings and gardens of these people. The ideas of the symbolic 
lion and of the tortoise are borrowed from the singa and the kÛrma of 
l-Iinrln mythology. 
· 1 t is difficult to understand from the words of the text (the obscurity 
of which is likely to have been increased by successive transcripts) the 
position of these larger colulnns with regard to the other parts of the 
bridge; but it seems to be meant, that in the line of the parapet or balus- 
trade, which was formed of al ternate slabs of marble and pillars, there 
was in the nliddle (or ove:c the centre arch or pier) a column of a size 
much larger than the rest, having a tortoise for its base or pedestal; and 
it rnay be presumed, although not so expressed, that there was a similar 
rolumn in the balustrade on the opposite side. Our author seems, 
indeed, to have been sensible of this kind of deficiency in his description, 
when he says at the conclusion of the chapter, "Et nelle discesa del 
ponte è come nell' ascesa." One of the Jesuit missionaries who mentions 
a bridge which he had crossed in this part of the province says, " Les 
gardefous en sont de marbre; on conte de chaque côté cent quarante- 
huit poteaux avec des lionceaux au-dessus . . . et aux deux bouts du 
pont quatre éléphans accroupis."-Lett. édif. tom. xvii. p. 26 3. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

that might other\vise happen to passengers. What has been 
said applies to the descent as weB as to the ascent of thp 
bridge. 1 


AFTER having passed this bridge, proceeding thirty miles in 
a westerly direction, through a country abounding with fine 
buildings, amongst vineyards and much cultivated and fertile 
grounds, you arrive at a handsome and considerable city, 
named Gouza,2 where there are many convents of the idolaters. 
The inhabitants in general live by commerce and manual arts. 
They have manufactures of gold tissues and the finest kind 
of gauze. The inns for accommodating travellers are there 
numerous. 3 At the distance of a mile beyond this place, the 
roads divide; the one going in a westerly, and the other in a 
south-easterly direction, the former through the province of 
Cathay, and the latter towards the province of Manji. 4 From 
1 Notwithstanding any partial difficulties In the description, or seen1- 
ing objections to the credibility of the account given of this magnificent 
bridge, there is unquestionable authority for the existence of one similar 
to it in all the essential circumstances, anrl as nearly about the situation 
mentioned as can be ascertained from the conciseness of the itinerary, 
so lately as the seventeenth century. It may well, however, be supposed 
that in the lapse of four hundred years material changes must have 
taken place, in consequence of accidents, repairs, and perhaps renewals. 
2 From the relative situation and other circumstances mentioned of 
this place, I do not hestitate to consider it as intended for Tso-cheu, a 
city of the second class, spoken of in the preceding note; and this will 
appear the more probable when it is understood, that, although cor- 
ruptly v{ritten Gou-za in Ranlusio's text, it is Gio-gu in the early Venice 

pitomes, [Gio-guy in the Paris Latin text,] Geo-gui in that of BasIe, 
and Cvongium in the B."M. and Berlin manuscripts, in all ùf which the 
first lëtter is meant to be soft, and evidently to represent the Chinese 
sound which 'VE' more aptly express by Ts. It has already been observed, 
and the instances will again frequently occur, of the Chinese appellative 
term cheu or tcheou (for a city of the second order) being corrupted to 
gui apparently an orthographical mistake for giu, which nearly ap- 
pro'aches to the true sound. Tso-cheu, according to the journals both 
of Van Braam and De Guignes, is twelve French leagues distant from 
Pekin but as the former adds that it was a hundred and hVE'nty Chinese 
Ii and as this is more likely to be the true distance (for certainly those 
llt1elnen did not rneasure it), we are justified in considering it as up- 
wards of lorty Italian lniles, [the earlie3t and best 1\155. have thirty, as 
given in our text,] at which number our author states it. 
a Vall Braam observes, that at Tso-cheu they foùnd an excellent COtf- 
q14an (kong-kuan), or inn. 
'The road by which the persons who í'oInposf'd the Dutch embassy 

The City of Acl1baluch 


the city of Gouza it is a journey of ten days through Cathay to 
the kingdom of Ta-in-fu; 1 in the course of which you pass 
many fine cities and strong places, in \vhich manufactures and 
commerce flourish, and where you see many vineyards and 
much cultivated land. From hence grapes are carried into the 
interior of Cathay, where the vine does not grow. Mulberry- 
trees also abound, the leaves of which enable the inhabitants 
to produce large quantities of silk. A degree of civilization 
prevails amongst all the people of this country, in conse- 
quence of their frequent intercourse with the towns, which are 
numerous and but little distant from each other. To these 
the merchants continually resort, carrying their goods from 
one city to another, as the fairs are successively held at each. 
At the end of five days' journey beyond the ten that have 
been mentioned, it is said there is another city still larger 
and more handsome (than Ta-in-fu), named Achbaluch,2 to 
which the limits of his majesty's hunting grounds extend, 
and within which no persons dare to sport, excepting the 
princes of his own family, and those whose names are inscribed 
on the grand falconer's list; but beyond these limits, aU 
persons qualified by their rank are at liberty to pursue game. 
It happens, ho\vever, that the grand khan scarcely ever takes 
the amusement of the chase on this side of the country; 3 and 
the consequence is, that the wild animals, especially hares; 
multiply to such a degree as to occasion the destruction of an 
the growing corn of the province. When this came to the 

of 1795 travelled from Canton to Pekin was this latter, which is here 
described as leading through Tso-cheu to Manji or Southern China. 
The western road diverges at this point, and is that which was taken, in 
1668, by P. Fontaney, who particularly describes it in his journal, pub- 
lished by Du Haide. 
1 Ta-in-fu, or Tainfu, ï.s obviously Tai-yuen-fu, the capital of the 
modern province of Shan-si, which was frequently, in ancient times, the 
seat of an independent governrnent. I t5 direction is about west-south- 
west from Tso-cheu, and the distance appears to be about ten eas: 

 The circu
stances stated do not supply the means of identifying 
thIS place, WhICh was known to our author only by report. Its situation 
was probably to the. north-west, as he afterwards proceeds to speak of 
places lnore remot
, In a south-western direction; and it may have been 
mtended for the cIty of Tai-tong-fu, which lies in that direction. The 
name of Ach-baluch is evidently Tartar, and serves to show that the 
f the final .g
ttural in Kanbalu, 'which the Persians give t.o it, is 
an accIdental OInISSlon. No mention of this city is found in the Latin 
3 \Ve have. seen that the usual hunting expeditions of the grand khan 
took place eIther at Shang-tu, which lies northward of Pekin or in the 
direction of Eastern Tartary and the river Alnûr. ' 


Travels of Marco Polo 

knowledge of the grand khan, he repaired thither, ,vith the 
whole of his court, and innumerable multitudes of these 
animals were taken. 


AT the end of ten days' journey from the city of Gouza, you 
arrive (as has been said) at the kingdom of Ta-in-fu, whose 
chief city, the capital of the province, bears the sarrle name. 
I t is of the largest size, and very beautiful. 1 A considerable 
trade is carried on here, and a variety of articles are manu- 
factured, particularly arms and other military stores, which 
are at this place conveniently situated for the use of the grand 
khan's armies. Vineyards are numerous, from which grapes 
in vast abundance are gathered; and although within all the 
jurisdiction of Ta-in-fu no other vines are found than those 
produced in the district immediately surrounding the capital, 
there is yet a sufficient supply for the whole of the province. 2 
1 " La ville capitale de Tai-yuen," says P. Martini, whom Du Halde 
copies, " a toujours esté mise au rang des plus considérables, ancienne, 
magnifique, et bien bastie: eUe a de très-fortes murailles, environ de 
trois lieues de circuit, fort peuplée; au reste, est située dans un lieu fort 
agréable et fort sain. . . . 11 ne faut pas s'estonner s'il s'y trouve si 
gran de quantité de bastimens et si magnifiques, puis que ç'a esté la 
demeure de tant de roys." (Thevenot, tom. H. p. 48.) It may be neces- 
sary here to remark, that what appears to be the concluding syilable in 
the names of Chinese towns (but which is a distinct monosyllable), serves 
to indicate their size or rank, and municipal jurisdiction or dependence: 
thus fû or Iou denotes a city of the first class, having under its super- 
intendence a certain nUlnber of those belonging to the inferior dasses; 
cheu or tcheu denotes a city of the second c1ass, subject to the jurisdiction 
of its 111; and hien a city or town of the third class, subject to its cheu. 
It also appears that each greater city contains these subordinate juris- 
dictions within itself. 
2 In this instance I have ventured to correct the text of Ramusio, by 
substituting " grapes" for "wine," although it is in confùnnity with 
the Venice epitome and the Latin version; because I am persuaded that, 
from ignorance of the facts, the expression of the original has been n1Ïs- 
understood, and our author is made to assert of the liquor what was 
only intended to apply to the fruit. "La Chine," says De Guignes, 
"produit du raisin, mais Ie pays n'est pas vignoble: Ie raisin même 
paroH peu propre à faire du vin, et ce n'est qu'avec peine que les mis- 
sionnaires à Peking réussissent à en faire." (Tom. iii. p. 348.) That 
these dried grapes, or raisins, as they are termed in English, were the 
article of trade that our author meant to describe, 'will, I trust, be con- 
sidered as at least highly probable, inasmuch as the correction renders 
him consistent with himself, and his information, with the knowledge 
we have since acquired. 

Fortress of Thai-gin 


Other fruits also grow here in plenty, as does the mulberry- 
tree, together \ the ,vorms that yield the silk. 


LEAVING Ta-in-fu, and travelling westward, seven days' 
journey, through a fine country in which there are many cities 
and strong places, where commerce and manufactures prevail, 
and whose merchants, travelling over various parts of the 
country, obtain considerable profits, you reach a city named 
Pi-an-fu, which is of a large size and much celebrated. 1 It 
like\vise contains numerous merchants and artisans. Silk is 
produced here also in great quantity. We shall not say any- 
thing further of these places, but proceed to speak of the 
distinguished city of Ka-chan-fu; first noticing, however, a 
noble fortress named Thai-gin. 


IN a western direction from Pi-an-fu there is a large and hand- 
some fortress named Thai-gin, 2 which is said to have been 
1 This is the city of Pin-yang-fu, situated in the direction of south- 
south-west from the former, upon the same river; the banks of which, 
in its whole course, appear to be covered with towns. From its situation 
with respect to the Hoang-ho, or Yellow River, we are enabled to ascer- 
tain it to be the city visited by Shah Rokh's ambassadors, when they 
had crossed the famous bridge of boats, and of which, after describing 
the magnificence of its great temple, it is said: "Us y remarquèrent 
trois bordels publics, où il y avoit des fiUes de joye d'une grande beauté. 
Quoique les fiUes du Khatai soient belles communément, néanmoins 
elles sont là plus belles qu'ailleurs, et la ville pour ce sujet s'appelle la 
ville de la beauté." (Thevenot, iv. partie, p. s.) This \ve may con- 
jecture to be the kind of celebrity to which our author so modestly 
2 The place here called Thai-gin and Tai-gin is in the Latin versions 
Chin-cui and Cay-cui, and in the Italian epitomes Chai-cui, [in the Paris 
Latin Cay-tuiJ: names so unlike that it may well be thought difficult to 
identify it froln the orthography; but its situation between Pin-yang 
and the great YeUow River points it out with some probability, as the 
Kiai-tcheou of the Jesuits' lnap; nor will the sound of the word Kiai, 
which is the essential part of the name, be found to differ lnaterially 
from the Cay and Chai of the Latin and early Italian versions. With 


Travels of Marco f)olo 

built, at a remote period, by a king who was called Dor. 1 
Within the wans of the fort stands a spacious and highly- 
ornamented palace, the hall of which contains paintings of all 
the renowned princes who, from ancient times, have reigned 
at this place, forming together a superb exhibition. A remark- 
able circumstance in the history of this king Dor shall now be 
related. He was a powerful prince, assumed much state, 
and was always waited upon by young women of extraordinary 
beauty, a vast number of whom he entertained at his court. 
""Then, for recreation, he went about the fortress, he was drawn 
in his carriage by these damsels, which .
they could do with 
facility, as it was of a small size. They were devoted to his 
service, and performed every office that adn1inistered to his 
convenience or amusement. In his government he was not 
wanting in vigour, and he ruled with dignity and justice. 
The works of his castle, according to the report of the people 
of the country, were beyond example str()ng. He was, how- 
ever, a vassal of Un-khan, who, as we have already stated, 
was known by the appellation of Prester John; but, influ- 
enced by pride, he rebelled against him. When this came to 
the knowledge of Prester John, he was exceedingly grieved, 

respect to the latter monosyllable, whether it be corruptly written gin, 
(for giu,) or cu,i (for ciu), it is indubitably meant for the term cheu, tcheou, 
gÙt, or cÙt, (according to the mode of writing it with the different Euro- 
pean alphabets), which denotes (as already observed) a city of the second 
1 The name of this prince, which in Ramusio's text, as well as in the 
I talian epitome, is written Dor, is in some Latin editions absurdly trans- 
formed to Darius. The fonner, it must be confessed, bears no resem- 
blance to a Chinese, and but little to a Tartar word; yet, even on the 
supposition of the story being merely a popular legend with which our 
author was amused in the course of his travels through the country, the 
names of the actors ought not to be the less in harmony with the language 
of its inhabitants. I am therefore disposed to hazard a conjecture respect- 
ing it, that by some may be thought too bold, but which I am persuaded 
will appear most probable to those readers who are best acquainted with 
the histories of these people. It is known that, previously to the invasion 
of J engiz-khan, the northern provinces of China were held in subjection 
by a race frOlli Eastern Tartary, called Niuche, but whose dynasty 
received the appellation of Kin, from a term signifying" gold" in the 
Chinese language. U L'an 1118," says the historian of the Huns, " O-ko- 
ta fut proclanlé empereur, et donna à sa dynastie Ie nom de Kin en 
Chinois, et d' Alto un dans la langue de ces peuples, c'est-à-dire, Or; c'est 
de-Ià que les Arabes les ont appellés Altoun-khans." (Tom. i. p. 208.) 
May not the prince here spoken of have belonged to this family of the 
Kin who were the contemporaries of Un-khan; and may not the D'Or, 
or Doro, of our author be intended for a translation of the Chinese term? 
The word enters into the composition of many proper names, and is 
often rendered by its equivalent in European languages; as in the 
instance of " Kin-chan ou Ivlontagne d'or." 

History of King Dol'" 


being sensible that, from the strong situation of the castle, it 
would be in vain to march against it, or even to proceed to any 
act of hostility. Matters had remained some time in this state, 
when seven cavaliers belonging to his retinue presented them- 
selves before him, and declared their resolution to attempt 
the seizure of king (Dor's person, and to bring him alive to 
his majesty. To this they were encouraged by the promise 
of a large reward. They accordingly took their departure 
for the place of his residence, and feigning to have arrived 
from a distant country, made him an offer of their services. 
In his employment they so ably and diligently performed their 
duties that they gained the esteem of their new master, who 
sho\ved them distinguished favour, insomuch that when he 
took the diversion of hunting, he always had them near his 
person. One day when the king was engaged in the chase, and 
had crossed a river which separated him from the rest of his 
party, who remained on the opposite side, these cavaliers per- 
ceived that the opportunity now presented itself of executing 
their design. They drew their swords, surrounded the king, 
and led him away by force towards the territory of Prester John, 
without its being possible for him to receive assistance from his 
own people. When they reached the court of that monarch, 
he gave orders for clothing his prisoner in the meanest apparel, 
and, with the view of humiliating him by the indignity, com- 
mi tted to him the charge of his herds. In this wretched con- 
dition he remained for two years, strict care being taken that 
he should not effect his escape. At the expiration of that 
period,Prester John caused him to be again brought before him, 
trembling from apprehension that they were going to put him to 
death. But on the contrary, Prester John, after a sharp and 
severe admonition, in which he warned him against suffering 
pride and arrogance to make him swerve from his allegiance in 
future, granted him a pardon, directed that he should be 
dressed in royal apparel, and sent him back to his principality 
with an honourable escort. From that time forward he always 
preserved his loyalty, and lived on amicable terms with Prester 
John. The foregoing is what was related to me on the subject 
of king Dor. 1 
1 It will be observed that our author docs not express himself with any 
degree of confidence as to the authenticity of this romantic adventure. 
If it was only an idle tale irnposed upon him for an historical fact, it 
nlust have been the invention of Tartars rather than of Chinese, who 
\vould not have made a prince of Shan-si the vassal of a Tartar sovereign. 
On the contrary, it is asserted by Gaubil that their annals describe Un- 

23 0 

Tra\rels of Marco l


UPON leaving the fortress of Thai-gin, and travelling about 
twenty miles, you come to a river called the Kara-moran, l 
which is of such magnitude, both in respect to width and 
depth, that no solid bridge can be erected upon it. Its waters 
are discharged into the ocean, as shall hereafter be more 
particularly mentioned. 2 On its banks are many cities and 
castles, in which a number of trading people reside, who carry 
on an extensive commerce. The country bordering upon it 
produces ginger, and silk also in large quantities. Of birds 
the multitude is incredible, especially of pheasants, 3 which are 
sold at the rate of three for the value of a Venetian groat. 
Here likewise grows a species of large cane, in infinite abun- 
dance, some of a foot, and others a foot and a half (in circum- 
ference), which are employed by the inhabitants for a variety of 
useful purposes. 4 
khan himself as tributary to the sovereigns of the dynasty of Kin; and 
that the Chinese title of vang, or prince, was prefixed to his original title 
of khan, forming together Yang-khan, of which the Arabs made Ung- 
khan or Un-khan. [The account of his reception by Prester John is 
told with {"ather more detail in the Latin text published by the Paris 
l Society.] 
1 This name (written Caromoran in the Latin, Carmoro in the early 
epitomes, and Cathametam in the Paris Latin), which signifies the Black 
River, is wen known to be the Tartar appellation of that vast stream 
which, with a very winding course, traverses the whole of China, under 
the name of the Hoang-ho, or Yellow River; so called from the colour 
of its waters, impregnated as they are with yellow clay. It is at the same 
time not improbable that in the upper part of its course, through a differ- 
ent and perhaps mossy soil, its hue may equally justify the epithet of 
:I Some of the rivers of Tartary discharge themselves into lakes, whilst 
others are lost in the sandy deserts. 
a Frequent mention is made of these birds, at places in the vicinity of 
the Yellow River. 
'The bamboo cane (arun-do bambos), one of the most useful materials 
with which nature has furnished the inhabitants of warm climates, is 
known to be common in China. In the Mém. concern. les Chinois, tom. 
ii. p. 532, it is observed that the greater part of the h
uses in the pro- 
vince of Se-chuen are constructed of bamboos. The latItude of the part 
of the I{ara-muran or Hoang-ho here spoken of is about 35 0 . Further 
northward the bamboo is not likely to flourish. 

City of Ka-chan-fu 

23 1 


HAVING crossed this river and travelled three days' journey, 
you arrive at a city named Ka-chan-fu,t whose inhabitants are 
idolaters. They carry on a considerable traffic, and work at 
a variety of manufactures. The country produces in great 
abundance, silk, ginger, galangal,2 spikenard, and many drugs 
that are nearly unknown in our part of the world. Here 
they weave gold tissues, as well as every other kind of silken 
cloth. We shall speak in the next place of the noble and 
celebrated city of Ken-zan-fu, in the kingdom of the same 


DEPARTING from Ka-chan-fu, and proceeding eight days' 
journey in a westerly direction, you continually meet with 
cities and commercial towns, and pass many gardens and 
cultivated grounds, with abundance of the mulberry or tree 
that contributes to the production of silk. The inhabitants in 
general worship idols, but there are also found here Nestorian 
Christians,3 Turkomans,4 and Saracens. The wild beasts of 
the country afford excellent sport, and a variety of birds also 

1 The name of Cacianfu, or Ka-chan-fu, which in the early Venice 
epitome is Canciallfu, and in the Basle, Cianfu (but which does not occur 
in the B.M. manuscript, nor in the early Latin edition), canI1nt be traced 
in Du Halde's map; nor does there appear any city of the first class 
(implied by the adjunct ju) between that part of the Hoang-ho and the 
capital of the province of Shen-si, towards which our author's route is 
here directed. 
2 Galanga, or galangal, well known in the materia 11tedica, is the root 
of the Kæmpferia. By the I t ali an sPica I suppose is mean t spikenard 
(N ardus Indica). 
3 The province of Shen-si is understood to have been the principal 
seat of Christianity, when preached in this country, at an early period, 
by the Nestorians. Being the most western of the provinces that com- 
pose the empire of China, it was the easiest of access to those who travelle(l 
by land from Syria, and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean. 
, By Turkonlans we are not to understand th(> Tartars of the Desert 
but merchants either from Turkomania of Asia lVIinor (the kingdom of 
the Seljuks of RÙm), or from Bokhâra, formerly the capital of Turkistan 
a place of considerable traffic and civi1izatioIl-. · 

23 2 

Travels of lVlarco Polo 

are taken. At the end of those eight stages you arrive at the 
city of Ken-zan-fu,1 which \vas anciently the capital of an 
extensive, noble, and powerful kingdom, the seat of many 
kings, highly descended and distinguished in arms. 2 At the 
present day it is governed by a son of the grand khan, named 
Mangalu, upon whom his father has conferred the sovereignty.3 
It is a country of great commerce, and eminent for its manu- 
factures. Raw silk is produced in large quantities, and 
tissues of gold and every other kind of silk are woven there. 
At this place likewise they prepare every article necessary for 
the equipment of an arn1Y. All species of provisions are in 
abundance, and to be procured at a moderate price. 1'he 
inhabitants in general worship idols, but there are some Chris- 
tians, Turkomans, and Saracens. 4 In a plain, about five miles 
from the city, stands a beautiful palace bclonging to king 
Mangalu, embellished with many fountains and rivulets, both 
within and on the outside of the buildings. There is also a 
fine park, surrounded by a high walJ, \vith battlements, enclos- 
ing an extent of five miles, where all kinds of \vild aninlals, both 
beasts and birds, are kept for sport. In its centre is this 
spacious palace, which, for symmetry and beauty, cannot be 
surpassed. It contains many halls and chambers, ornamented 
with paintings in gold and the finest azure, as well as with 
great profusion of marble. Mangalu, pursuing the footsteps 
of his father, governs his principality with strict equity, and 
is beloved by his people. He also takes much delight in hunt- 
ing and hawking. 

I However different the name of Ken-zan-fu Inay be from Si-ngan-fu, 
or Si-gan-fu (as it is more c01nmonly written), circumstances show that 
the eminent city described in the text is Incant for the capital of the 
province of Shen-si, which appears to be distant about nine stages frOIrI 
the passage of the Hoang-ho. The practice of changing the appellations 
(always significant) of important pJaces. upon the accession of a new 
family is matter of notoriety; and accordingly the several naInes of 
Kan-chug, Yun-ghing, Chang-gan, and Nga
-si, which under the dYlla
of the Ming (1370) was reversed and made SI-ngan, are recorded as having 
at different periods belonged to this city. 
It See Appendix II. 
3 In a list of the sons of Kublai, given by De Guignes (Hist. gén. des 
Huns lÏv. xvi. p. 189), we find the third, there named Mal1gkola, to have 
been 'governor of Shen-si, Se-chuen, and Tibet. 
, " Les Mogols ou Yuen," says the younger De Guignes, " qui s'em- 
parèrent du trône en 1279 et chassèrent les Song, amenèrent un grand 
nombre de l\fussulmans. Ceux-ci furent très-nombreux jusqu'à la 
dynastic des Ming, qui commença à régner en 1368, après avoir détruit 
s T

The BOUIldarie3 of Cathay and Ma11ji 233 


TRAVELLING vvestvvard three days from the residence of Man- 
galu, you still find tovvns and castles, whose inhabitants subsist 
by commerce and manufactures, and where there is an abun- 
dance of silk; but at the end of these three stages you enter 
upon a region of mountains and valleys, which lie within the 
province of Kun-kin.! This tract, hovvever, has no want of 
inhabitants, who are worshippers of idols, and cultivate the 
earth. They live also by the chase, the land being much 
covered with woods. In these are found many wild beasts, 
such as lions (tigers), bears, lynxes, fallow deer, antelopes, 
stags, and many other animals, which are made to turn to 
good account. This region extends to the distance of twenty 
clays' journey, during ,vhich the way lies entirely over moun- 
tains and through valleys and woods, but still interspersed 
with tovvns vvhere travellers may find convenient accommoda- 
tion. This journey of twenty days towards the west being 
performed, you arrive at a place called Ach-baluch Manji, 
\vhich signifies, the white city 2 on the confines of Manji, where 
 country becomes level, and is very populous. The in- 
habitants live by trade and manual arts. Large quantities of 
ginger are produced here, which is conveyed through all the 
province of Cathay, with great advantage to the merchants. 3 
'fhe country yields wheat, rice, and other grain plentifully, 
and at a reasonable rate. This plain, thickly covered with 
1 The country to which our author's description here applies is evi- 
dently the province of Se-chuen, which lies south-westward from Si-ngan- 
fu, and is a mountainous region. 
I It has been already noticed that baligh is a term used in Tartary 
for" city," and ak, in the dialects of Turkistan, is known to signify 
"white," which justifies our author's interpretation of the name; but 
why he should express it in the Tartar language, unless on the supposi- 
tion of his having forgotten the Chinese appellation, does not appear. 
I c?nfess, also, that with such imperfect lights I am unable to make any 
satIsfactory conjecture with regard to its position. and this is the more 
to be regretted, as it would have enabled us to asce;tain the north-western 
limits of Manji, or Southern China. 
3 It 
ay be doubted whether the root here called ginger was not 
rather Intended for that which we call China-root and the Chinese 
lu-lit& (smilax), produced in its greatest perfection ir:. this province, and 
for WhICh, as it was at that period little if at all known in European 
pharinacy, it might be found necessary to substitute a familiar term. 
" La vraye racine de Sina," says P. Martini, " se trouve seulernent dans 
cette province; pour la sauvage, on la trouve par tout."--P. 79. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

habitations, continues for two stages, after which you again 
come to high mountains, valleys, and forests. Travelling 
twenty days still further to the west, you continue to find the 
country inhabited, by people who worship idols, and subsist 
upon the produce of their soil, as well as that of the chase. 
Here also, besides the wild animals above enumerated, there 
are great numbers of that species which produces the musk. 


HAVING travelled those t,venty stages through a mountainous 
country, you reach a plain on the confines of J\1:anji, where 
there is a district named Sin-din-fu, by which name also the 
large and noble city, its capital, formerly the seat of many 
rich and powerful kings, is called. 1 The circumference of the 
city is twenty miles; but at the present day it is divided in 
consequence of the following circumstances. The late old 
king had three sons; and it being his \vish that each of them 
should reign after his death, he made a partition of the city 
amongst them, separating one part from the other by walls, 
although the whole continued to be surrounded by one general 
enclosure. These three brothers accordingly became kings, 
and each had for his portion a considerable tract of country, 
the territory of their father having been extensive and rich. 
But, upon its conquest by the grand khan, he destroyed these 
three princes, and possessed himself of their inheritance. 2 
The city is watered by many considerable streams, which, 
descending from the distant mountains, surround and pass 
1 This city, which in the Basle edition as well as in that of Ramusio 
is named Sin-din-fu, in the older Latin Syn-dy-fu, and in the early epi- 
tomes, Sindirifa, appears from the circumstances mentioned to be that 
now called Ching-tu-fu, situated on the western side of the province of 
Se-chuen, of which it is the capital. The western boundary of IVlanji, 
as has been observed, is not well known, but it is evident from the mili- 
tary operations of 1236 and 1238, that the Song, who then ruled it, were 
masters of this city of Ching-tu. When taken by the I\1:ungals it is said 
(with no little exaggeration) that one million four hundred thousand 
persons were put to the sword.-Hist. gén. de la Chine, tom. ix. p. 219. 
2 The king here spoken of must have been a tributary either of the 
Song or of the 1\1ungals, and might be one of those who received the 
Chinese title of Vang, and were more or less independent, according to 
the energy of the general government. 

The Province of Sin-din-fu 


through it in a variety of directions. Some of these rivers are 
half a mile in width, others are two hundred paces, and very 
deep, over which are built several large and handsome stone 
bridges, eight paces in breadth, their length being greater or 
less according to the size of the stream. From one extremity 
to the other there is a row of marble pillars on each side, which 
support the roof; for here the bridges have very handsome 
roofs, constructed of wood, ornamented with paintings of a 
red colour, and covered with tiles. Throughout the whole 
length also there are neat apartments and shops, where all 
sorts of trades are carried on. 1 One of the buildings, larger 
than the rest, is occupied by the officers who collect the duties 
upon provisions and merchandise, and a toll from persons 
who pass the bridge. In this way, it is said, his majesty re- 
ceives daily the sum of a hundred besants of gold. 2 These 
rivers, uniting their streams below the city, contribute to form 
the mighty river called the Kian,3 whose course, before it dis- 
charges itself into the ocean, is equal to a hundred days' 
journey; 4 but of its properties occasion will be taken to speak 
in a subsequent part of this book. 
On these rivers and in the parts adjacent are many. towns 
and fortified places, and the vessels are numerous, in \vhich 
large quantities of merchandise are transported to and from 
the city. The people of the province are idolaters. Depart- 
ing from thence you travel five stages, partly along a plain, 
and partly through valleys, where you see many respectable 
1 This peculiarity of the bridges in Se-chuen is not noticed in the 
meagre accounts we have of that province, which all resolve thelnselves 
into the original information given by P. Martini, in his Atlas Sinensis 
(1655). The Latin edition of our author states, that the shops or booths 
were set up in the morning, and removed from the bridge at night. 
i In the other versions, instead of a hundred, it is stated at a thousand 
be.san ts (or sequins). 
3 The numerous streams by which the city of Ching-tu is surrounded, 
form their junction successively, and discharge their united waters into 
the great river Kiang, as is here described, but its distance from the 
latter is more considerable than the words of the text would lead us to 
suppose. In the Basle edition, indeed, the Kiang is said to pass through 
the city; "per medium hujus civitatis transit fluvius qui dicitur Quian- 
fu (Kiang-su); " [in the Paris Latin text the name of the river is Quingia- 
fu;] but besides that the nature of the river disproves the fact, the mis- 
take is explained by the Italian reading of the same passage, in the early 
epitomes, where the expression is, "per mezo questa terra passa uno 
grande fiume," by which is to be understood, as te-rf'a is here distinguished 
from cittlt, that it flowed through the district. 
, In the Latin it is said to be ninety, and in the early Italian, seventy 
stages or days' journey. The distance from the city of Su-cheu-fu, which 
stands at the junction of the river that runs from Ching-tu, with the 
Kiang, is equal to about four-fifths of the breadth of China. 

23 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

mansions, castles, and small towns. The inhabitants subsist 
by agriculture. In the city there are manufactures, particu- 
larly of very fine cloths and of crapes or gauzes. 1 This country 
like the districts already mentioned, is infested \vith lion
(tigers), bears, and other wild animals. At the end of these 
five days' journey you reach the desolated country of Thebeth. 


THE province named Thebeth 2 was laid entirely waste at the 
time that Mangu-khan carried his arms into that country. 
rro the distance of twenty days' journey you see numberless 
towns and castles in a state of ruin; and in consequence of 
the want of inhabitants, wild beasts, and especially tigers, 
have multiplied to such a degree that merchants and other 
travellers are exposed there to great danger during the night. 
They are not only under the necessity of carrying their pro- 
visions along with them, but are obliged, upon arriving at 
their halting places, to employ the utmost circumspection, 
and to take the follo,ving precautions, that their horses may 
not be devoured. In this region, and particularly in the 
neighbourhood of rivers, are found canes (bamboos) of the 
length of ten paces, three palms in circumference, and three 
palms also in the space between each knot or joint. Several 
of these, in their green state, the traveHers tie together, and 
place them, ,vhen evening approaches, at a certain distance 
from their quarters, with a fire lighted around them, when, 
by the action of the heat, they burst with a tremendous 
explosion. 3 The noise is so loud as to be heard at the dis- 
1 This sentence is a continuation of the account of Sin-din-fu, and 
ought to have had place in an earlier part of the chapter. It shows 
the inartificial manner in which the work was composed. 
2 The name of Thebcth, Thibet, or Tibet, is sometimes confined to 
that country, on the northern side of the Himalaya mountains, which 
is under the immediate government of the Dalai lama and Panchin 
lama, and sometimes is made to ernbrace the whole of what is other- 
wise called Tangut, including the nations bordering on the provinces of 
Se-chuen and Shen-si, whom the Chinese term the Si-fan or Tu-fan. It 
appears to be of this eastern part, commencing at about five days' 
journey from the city of Ching-tu, that our author proceeds to speak. 
3 The very loud explosion of burning bamboos is well known to those 
who have witnessed the conflagration of a vil]age or a bazaar, in coun- 
tries where the buildings are of that material. What most reselnbles it 
is the irregular but incessant firing of arms of all descriptions during a 
night of public rejoicing, in Eng]and. 

Immoral Customs of Thebeth 


tance of two miles, which has the effect of terrifying the wild 
beasts and making them fly from the neighbourhood. The 
merchants also provide themselves with iron shackles, in order 
to fasten the legs of their horses, which would otherwise, when 
alarmed by the noise, break their halters and run away; and, 
from the neglect of this precaution, it has happened that many 
owners have lost their cattle. Thus you travel for twenty 
days through a desolated country, finding neither inns nor 
provisions, unless perhaps once in three or four days, when 
you take the opportunity of replenishing your stock of neces- 
saries. At the end of that period you begin to discover a few 
castles and strong towns, built upon rocky heights, or upon the 
summits of mountains, and gradually enter an inhabited and 
cultivated district, where there is no longer any danger from 
beasts of prey. 
A scandalous custom, which could only proceed from the 
blindness of idolatry, prevails amongst the people of these 
parts, who are disinclined to marry young women so long as 
they are in their virgin state, but require, on the contrary, 
that they should have had previous commerce with many of 
the other sex; and this, they assert, is pleasing to their deities, 
and that a woman who has not had the company of men is 
worthless. 1 Accordingly, upon the arrival of a caravan 2 of 
merchants, and as soon as they have set up their tents for the 
night, those mothers who have marriageable daughters con- 
duct them to the place, and each, contending for a preference, 
entreats the strangers to accept of her daughter and enjoy her 
society so long as they remain in the neighbourhood. 3 
as have most beauty to recommend them are of course chosen, 
and the others return home disappointed and chagrined, whilst 
the former continue with the travel1ers until the period of their 
1 P. Martini, speaking of the province of Yun-nan, which adjoins to 
that of Tibet; says of its inhabitants: "Personne n'epousoit de flUe 
parmi eux, qu'un autre n'eust eu premièrement sa compagnie: ce sont 
les paroles de nostre auteur Chinois."-P. 196. 
:I This is the second instance in the course of the work of the employ- 
ment of the word" caravan," taken from the Persian karwân and 
adopted into most European languages. (See book ii. chap. xviii.)' The 
Arabic term, which we might have thought more likely to have been 
introduced by the Crusaders, is kÛ/ìlah. 
3 Such is the depravity of human nature, that not only the moral but 
the instinctive principle may be subdued by the thirst of gain or the 
cravings of appetite. In his journey through Cooch Bahar on the road 
to Tibet, Turner observes that " nothing is more common than to see a 
mother dr
ss up her child, and .it to market, with no other hope, 
no other VIew than to enhance the prIce she may procure for it."-Ew- 
bassy to Tibet, p. 1 I. 

23 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

departure. They then restore them to their mothers, and 
never attempt to carry them R\Vay. It is expected, however, 
that the merchants should make them presents of trinkets, 
rings, or other cOJnplimentary tokens of regard, which the 
young women take home with them. When, afterwards, they 
are designed for marriage, they wear an these ornaments about 
the neck or other part of the body, and she who exhibits the 
greatest number of them is considered to have attracted the 
attention of the gieatest number of men, and is on that ac- 
count in the higher estimation with the young men who are 
looking out for wives; nor can she bring to her husband a more 
acceptable portion than a quantity of such gifts. At the 
solemnization of her nuptials, she accordingly makes a display 
of them to the assembly, and he regards them as a proof that 
their idols have rendered her lovely in the eyes of men. From 
thenceforward no person can dare to meddle with her who has 
become the wife of another, and this rule is never infringed. 
These idolatrous people are treacherous and cruel, and holding 
it no crime or turpitude to rob, are the greatest thieves in the 
world.! They subsist by the chase and by fowling, as well 
as upon the fruits of the earth. 
Here are found the animals that produce the musk, and 
such is the quantity, that the scent of it is diffused over the 
whole country. Once in every month the secretion takes 
place, and it forms itself, as has already been said, into a sort 
of imposthume, or boil full of blood, near the navel; and the 
blood thus issuing, in consequence of excessive repletion, be- 
comes the musk. 2 Throughout every part of this region the 
animal abounds, and the odour generally prevails. They are 
called gudderi in the language of the natives,3 and are taken 
1 This thievish character may have belonged to the Si-fan, who border 
on the Chinese provinces (as it has belonged to most borderers), but 
travellers describe the manners of the people of Tibet Proper as particu- 
larly ingenuous and honest. 
J With respect to the supposed lunar influence on the secretIon of 
musk, Strahlenberg informs us that it is not at all times of the same 
strength, but " is best in summer, in rutting time, and at the full of 
the moon."-P. 34 0 . 
8 The word gudderi, or any other approaching to it, is not to be found 
in the vocabularies we have of the languages of Tartary. In the northern 
parts according to Bell, the animal is named kaberda, or kabard'yn accord- 
ing t
 Strahlenberg; and Kirkpatrick, in his account of Nepaul, names 
it kastoora. I t is not indeed improbable that fW-dderi or gadderi (as it 
is written in the Latin text) may be a corruption of the Persian word 
kastÛri, which is the common term for the drug ill every part of the East, 
and would be used by the Mahornetan merchants even on the borders 
of China. 

Manners of the Tibetans 


\vith dogs. These people use no coined money, nor even the 
paper money of the grand khan, but for their currency employ 
co ral. 1 Their dress is homely, being of leather, undressed 
skins, or of canvas. They have a language peculiar to the 
province of Thebeth, which borders on Manji. This was 
formerly a country of so much importance as to be divided 
into eight kingdoms, containing many cities and castles. Its 
rivers, lakes, and mountains are numerous. In the rivers gold- 
dust is found in very large quantities. 2 Not only is the coral, 
before mentioned, used for money, but the women also wear it 
about their necks, and ,vith it ornament their idols. 3 There 
are lnanufactures of camlet and of gold cloth, and many drugs 
are produced in the country that have not been brought to 
ours. These people are necromancers, and by their infernal 
art perform the most extraordinary and delusive enchant- 
ments that were ever seen or heard of. They cause tempests to 
arise, accompanied with flashes of lightning and thunderbolts, 
and produce many other miraculous effects. They are alto- 
gether an ill-conditioned race. They have dogs of the size of 
asses, 4 strong enough to hunt all sorts of wild beasts, par.. 
I It may not appear likely that the valuable red coral produced in the 
l\Iediterranean should have been carried to the borders of China in suffi- 
cient quantity to be there made use of as currency; nor is it a substance 
so readily divisible as to be convenient for the purpose; but of its general 
use in the way of ornament ample proof is furnished/by Tavernier. It 
is remarkable that to the present day the people of Tibet have no coinage 
of their own, but are supplied with a currency by their neighbours of 
N epâl. 
2 Several of the streams which take their rise in the eastern parts of 
Tibet, and by their junctions form the great rivers of China, yield much 
gold, which is collected from their beds in grains or smallluHlps. This 
is principally relnarked of the Kin-sha-kiang. "De tant de rivières 
qu'on voit sur la carte," says Du I-Ialde, " on ne peut dire quelles sont 
celles qui fouruissent tout Por qui se transporte à la Chine. . . . Il faut 
qu'on en trouve dans les sables de plusieurs de ces rivières: il est certain 
que la grande rivière Kin-cha-kianr; qui entre dans la province d'Yun- 
nan, en charie beaucoup dans son s1.ble, car son 110m signifìe, fieuve à 
sable d'or." (Tom. iv. p. 470.) .. Les Tou-fan, appellés Nan-mo, ont 
une rivière qui porte Ie nom de Ly-nieou, dans laquelle il se trouve beau- 
coup d'or."-Mém. conc. les Chinois, tom. xiv. p. 183. 
3 In describing the manners of a certain people in the A va or Birmah 
country, Dr. F. Buchanan observes that "some of the women wore 
rich strings of coral round their necks."-Syme's Ell1bassy, p. 4 6 5. 
, This may appear to be an exaggeration, but other travellers describe 
the dogs of Tibet as of an uncommon size. "On the left," says Turner, 
" was a row of wooden cages, containing a nunlber of huge dogs, tre- 
mendously fierce, strong, and noisy. They were natives of Tibet; and 
whether savage by nature, or soured by confinement, they were so im- 
petuously furious, that it was unsafe, unless the keepers were near, even 
to approach their deils." And in another place, " The instant I entered 
the gate, to my astonishment, up started a huge dog, big enough, if his 

24 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

tlcularly the wild oxen, which are called beyamini, 1 and are 
extremely large and fierce. Some of the best laner falcons are 
bred here, and also sakers, very swift of flight, and the natives 
have good sport with them. This province of Thebeth is 
subject to the grand khan, as well as all the other kingdoms 
and provinces that have been mentioned. Next to this is the 
province of Kaindu. 


KAIN-DU is a western province, \vhich was formerly subject 
to its own princes; but, since it has been brought under the 
dominion of the grand khan, it is ruled by the governors 
whom he appoints. We are not to understand, however, that 
it is situated in the western part (of Asia), but only that it 
lies west\vard with respect to our course from the north- 
eastern quarter. Its inhabitants are idolaters. It contains 
many cities and castles, and the capital city, standing at the 
commencement of the province, is likewise named Kain-du. 2 
Near to it there is a large lake of salt water, in which are 
found abundance of pearls, of a white colour, but not round.3 
courage had been equal to his size, to fight a lion." (Embassy to Tibet. 
pp. 155-215.) Under this sanction our author must stand excused of 
hyperbole, although SOIne other accounts do not convey an idea of the 
same magnitude. "One of them," says Captain Raper, "was a re- 
markably fine animal, as large as a good-sized Newfoundland dog, with 
very long hair and a head resembling a mastiff's. His tail was of an 
amazing length, like the brush of a fox, and curled half-way over his back. 
He was however so fierce that he would allow no stranger to approach 
him."-Asiat. Res. vol. xi. p. 529. 
1 For an account of this aninla], the bos grunniens, see before, p. 136, 
note 2, p. 137, note 1. Of the ,vord beyamini (which does not occur either 
in the Latin or the Italian epitomes) I can discover no trace. It may be 
a corruption of brahmini. The animal is said to be called yak in Tar- 
tary, chowri in Tibet, and suragâi in Hindustan. 
2 The city that in point of situation and other circumstances appears 
to answer best to this description of Kain-du, is Yung-ning-tu, which 
-.tands on the 'western side of the Ya-long-kiang, in about latitude 28 0 ; 
although from some resemblance of sound we might rather suppose it 
to be Li-kiang-tu, a city at no great distance from the former, but 
standing on the western side of the Kin-sha-kiang, above its junction 
with the fornler river. 
. a I do not find it elsewhere asserted that the lake near Yung-ning-tu 
yields pearls, but they are enulnerated by :Martini amongst the valuable 
productions of that part of China: "On tire encore de cette province 
des rubis, des saphirs, des agathes . . . avec plusieurs picrres précieuses, 
et des pedes." (P. 194.) The fishery of pearls in a river of Eastern 
Tartary is noticed by many writers. 

Money Made of Salt 

24 1 

So great Indeed is the quantity, that, if his majesty permitted 
every individual to search for them, their value would become 
trifling; but the fishery is prohibited to all who do not obtain 
his licence. A mountain in the neighbourhood yields the 
turquoise stone, the mines of which cannot be worked without 
the same permission. 
The inhabitants of this district are in the shameful and 
odious habit of considering it no mark of disgrace that those 
who travel through the country should have connexion with 
their wives, daughters, or sisters; but, on the contrary, when 
strangers arrive, each householder endeavours to conduct one 
of them home with him, and, giving up all the females of the 
family to him, leaves him in the situation of master of the 
house, and takes his departure. And while the stranger is 
in the house, he places a signal at the window, as his hat or 
some other thing; and as long as this signal is seen in the 
house, the husband remains absent. And this custom pre- 
vails throughout that province. This they do in honour of 
their idols, believing that by such acts of kindness and hospi- 
tality to travellers a blessing is obtained, and that they shall 
be rewarded with a plentiful supply of the fruits of the earth. 
The money or currency they make use of is thus prepared. 
Their gold is formed into small rods, and (being cut into cer- 
tain lengths) passes according to its weight, without any 
stamp.l This is their greater money: the smaller is of the 
following description. In this country there are salt-springs, 
from which they manufacture salt by boiling it in small pans. 2 
When the water has boiled for an hour, it becomes a kind of 
paste, which is formed into cakes of the value of twopence 
each. These, which are flat on the lower, and convex on the 
upper side, are placed upon hot tiles, near a fire, in order to 
dry and harden. On this latter species of money the stamp 
of the grand khan is impressed, and it cannot be prepared by 
1 This substitute for coin resembles the Larin of the Gulf of Persia, 
but with the difference, that the latter bears an imperfect stamp. In 
those districts of Sumatra where gold-dust is procured, comulodities of 
all kinds, even so low as the value of a single grain, are purchased with 
it. The forming the metal into rods, and cutting off pieces as they are 
wanted for currency, may be considered as one step towards a coinage. 
The Chinese of Can ton cu t the Spanish dollar in the sarne manner to 
make up their fractional payments. 
2 P. Martini, in describing the town of Yao-gan, in the same prOVInce, 
says: "Près de la ville il y a un puits d'eau salée; on en puise pour 
faire du sel, qui est très-blanc, dont on se sert dans tout Ie pays et 
s'appelle Pe-yen-cing, c'est-à-dire Ie puits du sel blanc." (P. 2
The name of Pe-yen-cing appears in Du Halde's map of Y un-n

24 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

any other than his own officers. Eighty of the cakes are made 
to pass for a saggio of gold. 1 But when these are carried by\ 
the traders amongst the inhabitants of the mountains and 
other parts little frequented, they obtain a saggio of gold for 
sixty, fifty, or even forty of the salt cakes, in proportion as they 
find the natives less civilized, further removed from the towns, 
and more accustomed to remain on the san1e spot; inasmuch 
as people so circurnstanced cannot always have a market for 
their gold, musk, and other conlmodities. And yet even at 
this rate it ans,vers well to them who collect the gold-dust from 
the beds of the rivers, as has been mentioned. The same 
merchants travel in like manner through the mountainous and 
other parts of the province of Thebeth, last spoken of, where 
the money of salt has equal currency. Their profits are con- 
siderable, because these country people consume the salt with 
their food, and regard it as an indispensable necessary j whereas 
the inhabitants of the cities use for the same purpose only the 
broken fragments of the cakes, putting the ,vhole cakes into 
circulation as money. Here also the animals caIled gudderi, 
which yield the musk, are taken in great numbers, and the 
article is proportionably abundant. 2 l\1any fish, of good kinds, 
are caught in the lake. In the country are found tigers, bears, 
deer, stags, and antelopes. There are numerous birds also, of 
various sorts. The wine is not made from grapes, but from 
wheat and rice, with a mixture of spices, which is an excellent 
This province likewise produces cloves. The tree is small; 
the branches and leaves resemble those of the laurel, but are 
somewhat longer and narrower. Its flowers are white and 
small, as are the cloves themselves, but as they ripen they 
become dark-coloured. Ginger grows there and also cassia in 
abundance, besides many other drugs, of which no quantity is 
ever brought to Europe. 3 Upon leaving the city of Kain-du, 
1 The saggio of Venice was the sixth part of an ounce, and conse- 
quently the cake of salt was in value the four hundred and eightieth part 
of an ounce of gold, which, at the price of four pounds sterling, is exactly 
twopence for the value of each cake: a coincidence that could hardly 
have been expected. Its precision, however, must depend on a com- 
parison between the English pence and Venetian denari of that day. 
2 The western parts of China and eastern of Tibet, or the country of 
the Si-fan, are those in which the best musk is found. Martini, in his 
Atlas Sinensis, speaks of it as the production of various places in Yun- 
3 This appears to be the most unqualified error that has hitherto 
occurred in the course of the work, as cloves (garotali) and cassia or 
cinnamon (canella) certainly do not grow in that part of the world, nor 

The Provil1ce of Karaian 


the journey is fifteen 1 days to the opposite boundary of the 
province; in the course of \vhich you meet with respectable 
habitations, many fortified posts, and also places adapted to 
hunting and fowling. The inhabitants follo\v the customs and 
manners that have already been described. At the end of 
these fifteen days, you come to the great river Brius, which 
bounds the province, and in which are found large quantities 
of gold-dust. 2 It discharges itself into the ocean. We shall 
now leave this river, as nothing further that is worthy of obser- 
vation presents itself, and shall proceed to speak of the pro- 
vince of Karaian. 



HAVING passed the river above mentioned, you enter the pro- 
vince of Karaian, \vhich is of such extent as to be divided 
into seven governments. 3 It is situated tovvards the west; the 
anywhere beyond the tropics. The only manner in which it is possible 
to account for an assertion so contrary to fact, is by supposing that a 
detached n1emorandum of what our author had observed in the spice 
islands (which there is great probability of his having visited whilst in 
the service of the emperor) has been introduced in a description where 
it is entirely irrelevant. 
1 [Some of the early texts have ten instead of fifteen.] 
2 However unlike a Chinese or Tartar word, most of the editions agree 
in the orthography of the name of Brius given to this river, which seems 
to be intended for the Kin-sha-kiang, or " river with the golden sands." 
But if, on the other band, Li-kiang-tu, which is situated on its south- 
western side, should be considered as the Kain-du of the text, it will 
follow that the Brius is either the Lan-tsan-kiang, or the Nû-kiang, pre- 
sumed to be the Irabatty of the kingdom of A va. "The river N ou- 
kian," says Major Rennel1, "little if at all inferior to the Ganges, runs 
to the south, through that angle of Yunan which approaches nearest to 
Bengal." (rvlemoir, 3 d edit. p. 295.) [In the Paris Latin text it is 
Ligays; and in the early Italian, Brunis.] 
3 Karaian is generally understood to be the province of Yun-nan or 
rather its north-western part, which is bounded, in great measure,' by 
the Kin-sha-kiang. In the" Account of an Elnbassy to Ava," we find 
mention made of a race of people whose name corresponds with that of 
Karaian, and who may have been prisoners of war brought from the 
neighbouring country of Yun-nan, with which the people of A va were 
often in hostility, and distributed in the latter as colonists. "He told 
me," says Colonel Symes, speaking of a respectable Italian missionary 
" of a singular description of people called Carayners, or Carianers, that 
inhabit different parts of the country. . . . lIe represen
ed them as a 
simple, innocent race, speaking a language distinct from that of t]lp 


Travels of Marco Polo 

inhabitants are idolaters; and it is subject to the dominion of 
the grand khan, who has constituted as its king his son named 
Cen- Temur, a rich, magnificent, and powerful prince, endowed 
with consummate wisdom and virtue, and by whom the king- 
dom is ruled with great justice. 1 In travelling from this river 
five days' journey, in a westerly direction, you pass through a 
country fully inhabited, and see many castles. The inhabi- 
tants live upon flesh meat and upon the fruits of the earth. 
'rheir language is peculiar to themselves, and is difficult to be 
acquired. The best horses are bred in this province. 2 At the 
end of these five days you arrive at its capital city, which is 
named Yachi, and is large and noble. 3 In it are found mer- 
chants and artisans, with a mixed population, consisting of 
(the native) idolaters, N estorian Christians, and Saracens or 
Mahometans; but the first is the most nUlnerous class. The 
land is fertile in rice and wheat. The people, however, do not 
use wheaten bread, \vhich they esteem unwholesome, but eat 
rice; and of the other grain, with the addition of spices, they 
make wine, which is clear, light-coloured, and most pleasant 
to the taste. 4 For money they employ the white porcelain 
Birmans, and ente[taining rude notions of religion. They lead quite a 
pastoral life, and are the most industrious subjects of the state. . . . 
Agriculture, the care of cattle, and rearing pouìtry is almost their only 
occupation. A great part of the provisions used in the country is raised 
by the Carianers, and they particularly excel in gardening." (Pp.207- 
4 6 7.) By Dr. F. Buchanan the name is written Karayn; and he speaks 
also of the Ka-kiayn, "a wild people on the frontiers of China."- 
Asiat. Res. vol. vi. p. 228. 
1 This prince is named in the B.l\L and Berlin manuscripts, Gusen- 
temur; in the Basle edition, Esen-temur; and in the Italian epitomes, 
I-Iensen-temur. In the Tables Chronologiques of De Guignes he is 
simply called Timour-khan; but one of his successors (a nephew) appears 
in the same list by the name of ):Yeson-thnour, which, whether nlore or 
less correct in its orthography than any of the preceding, is evidently 
intended for the same appellation. He was, however, the grandson, not 
the son of Kublaï, whom he suc.ceeded in consequence of the premature 
death of his father Chingis. 
:l " Ce pays," says P. :Martini, "produit de très-bons chevaux, de 
basse taille pour la pluspart, mais forts et hardis." (P. 196.) This is 
probably the same breed as the tangun or tanyan horses of Lower Tibet, 
carried from thence for sale to Hindustan. The people of Bûtan in- 
formed Major Rennell that they brought their ta.nyans thirty-five days' 
journey to the frontier. 
3 The present capital of the province of Yun-nan is a city of the same 
name; but there appears reason to conclude that, although the Karaian 
of our author be a part of that province, its city of J ad, or Yachi, was 
not Yun-nan-fu, but Tali-fu, now considered as the second in rank. 
This, as we are informed by P. 1\1artini, was named Ye-chu by the prince 
who founded it, and Yao-cheu ùy a subsequent dynasty; whilst the 
uarne of Tali was given to it by one of the Yuen or family of Kublai. 
. Our author, who seems to have been of a sociable disposition, misses 

The Province of Karaian 


shell, found in the sea, and these they also wear as ornaments 
about their necks. 1 Eighty of the shells are equal in value to 
a saggio of silver or two Venetian groats, and eight saggi of 
good silver, to one of pure gold. 2 In this country also there 
are salt-springs, from which all the salt used by the inhabi- 
tants is procured. The duty levied on this salt produces a 
large revenue to the king. 
The natives do not consider it as an injury done to them, 
\vhen others have connexion with their ,vives, provided the 
act be voluntary on the woman's part. Here there is a lake 
nearly a hundred miles in circuit, in which great quantities 
of various kinds of fish are caught; some of them being of a 
large size. The people are accustomed to eat the undressed 
flesh of fowls, she.ep, oxen, and buffaloes, but cured in the 
following manner. They cut the meat into very small par- 
ticles, and then put it into a pickle of salt, with the addition of 

no opportunity of praising the good qualities of this liquor; but modern 
travellers, from prejudices perhaps, do not speak of it in such advan- 
tageous terms. It is a kind of beer rather than of wine. 
I These are the well-known cowries (kari) of Bengal, called by our 
naturalists Cyprææ monetæ, which in former times may have found their 
way, through the province of Silhet, to the countries bordering on China 
and were probably current in Yun-nan before its mountaineers wer
brought under regular subjection, and incorporated with the elnpire 
which was a difficult and tedious measure of policy, chiefly effected by 
transplanting colonies of Chinese from the interior. "In I764," says 
l\1ajor Rennell, " I was told that Silhet (an inland province to the north- 
east of Bengal) produced cowries, and that they were dug up. This, of 
course, I disbelieved; but when I was there in 1767 and I768, I found 
no other currency of any kind in the country; and upon an occasion when 
an increase in the revenue of the province was enforced, several boat- 
loads (not less than fifty tons each) were collected and sent down the 
Burrampooter, to Dacca. Their accumulation was probably the conse- 
quence of Silhet being, at that period, the most remote district in which 
they passed current, and from whence they could not find a way out but 
by returning to Bengal." It is not uncommon to suppose that this 
genus of shells, called porcellana, derives its appellation from the varie- 
gated appearance of its polished coat, resembling the glazed earthen- 
ware or porcelain of China; but the early use of the word by our author 
renders it more likely that the shell having already obtained the name 
of porcellana (a diminutive of porco), on account of the gibbous form of 
its back, the foreign ware was subsequently called porcelain in Europe 
from its possessing some of the most beautiful qualities of the shell. ' 
2 According to this estinlation, if the numbers be correct, the value of 
the cowries must have been enormously increased by their carriage 
from Bengal to the frontiers of China. Their average price in the 
bazaar of Calcutta is said to be about fì ve thousand for a rupee, which 
may be considered as equal to three saggi of silver; and if sold at eighty 
for the saggio, the profit would consequently be at the rate of five thou- 
sand for two hundred and forty, or more than twenty for one. Perhaps 
therefore, instead of eighty, we should read eight hundred cowries to th
saggio, which would still leave a profit of cent. per cent. 

24 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

several of their spices. I t is thus prepared for persons of the 
higher class, but the poorer sort only steep it, after mincing, in 
a sauce of garlic, and then eat it as if it were dressed. 


LEAVING the city of Yachi, and travelling ten days in a 
westerly direction, you reach the province of Karazan, which 
is also the name of its chief city.1 The inhabitants are idol- 
aters. The country belongs to the dominion of the grand 
khan, and the royal functions are exercised by his son, named 
I(oga tin. 2 Gold is found in the rivers, both in small particles 
and in lumps; and there are also veins of it in the mountains. 
In consequence of the large quantity obtained, they give a 
saggio of gold for six saggi of silver. They likewise use the 
before-mentioned porcelain shells in currency; which, how- 
ever, are not found in this part of the world, but are brought 
from India. As I have said before, these people never take 
virgins for their wives. 
Here are seen huge serpents, ten paces in length, and ten 
spans in the girt of the body. At the fore part, near the head, 
they have two short legs, having three claws like those of a 
tiger, with eyes larger than a fourpenny loaf (pane da quattro 
denari) and very glaring. The jaws are wide enough to swallow 
a man, the teeth are large and sharp, and their whole appear- 
ance is so formidable, that neither man, nor any kind of animal, 
can approach them without terror. 3 Others are met with of a 
1 This name of Karazan, which a Chinese might be supposed to pro- 
nounce Ka-Ia-shan, seems to be only that of another portion of the pro- 
vince of Yun-nan; as the places mentioned in the subsequent chapter 
unquestionably are: but so imperfect is our information respecting this 
part of the country
 that the means are wanting by which its particular 
situation might be a.scertained. It should be remarked, at the same 
time, that the name of Karazan, as distinct from that of Karaian, does 
not occur either in the Latin or in the early epitomes; all the circum- 
stances related in this chapter being there considered as applying to the 
last-mentioned province or district. 
2 The name of Kogatin does not appear in the list of the legitimate 
sons of Kublaï; but he had many others. The orthography, however, is 
more than usually uncertain. In the B.M. and Berlin manuscripts the 
name is written Cogaam; in the old Latin edition it is Cogatuy; in the 
Basle, Cogracam (Cogra-khan); and in the early Italian epitomes, 
8 This distorted account of the alligator or crocodile is less creditable 
to our author's fidelity than any other of his natural history descriptions, 
although generally more or less defective. 

Great Serpel1ts of I(arazan 


smaller size, beIng eight, six, or five paces long; and the follow- 
ing method is used for taking them. In the day-time, by 
reason of the great heat, they lurk in caverns, from whence, 
at night, they issue to seek their food, and whatever beast they 
meet with and can lay hold of, whether tiger, wolf, or any other, 
they devour; after which they drag themselves towards some 
lake, spring of water, or river, in order to drink. By their 
motion in this way along the shore, and their vast \veight, they 
make a deep impression, as if a heavy beam had been drawn 
along the sands. Those whose elnployment it is to hunt them 
observe the track by which they are most frequently accus- 
tomed to go, and fix into the ground several pieces of wood, 
armed with sharp iron spikes, ,vhich they cover with the sand 
in such a manner as not to be perceptible. When therefore 
the animals make their way to,vards the places they usually 
haunt, they are wounded by these instruments, and speedily 
killed. 1 The crows, as soon as they perceive them to be dead, 
set up their scream; and this serves as a signal to the hunters, 
who advance to the spot, and proceed to separate the skin 
from the flesh, taking care immediately to secure the gall, 
which is most highly esteemed in medicine. In cases of the 
bite of a mad dog, a pennyweight of it, dissolved in wine, is 
administered. It is also useful in accelerating parturition, 
,vhen the labour pains of women have CaIne on. A small 
quantity of it being applied to carbuncles, pustules, or other 
eruptions on the body, they are presently dispersed; and it is 
efficacious in many other complaints. The flesh also of the 
animal is sold at a dear rate, being thought to have a higher 
flavour than other kinds of mea t, and by all persons it is 
esteemed a delicacy. 2 In this province the horses are of a 
large size, and whilst young, are carried for sale to India. It 
is the practice to deprive them of one joint of the tail, in order 
to prevent theIll frOIll lashing it from side to side, and to occa- 
sion its remaining pendent; as the whisking it about, in riding, 

1 The natives of India are particularly ingenious in their contrivances 
for destroying beasts of prey, particularly the tiger, which is sometimes 
made to fall upon sharp-pointed stakes, after walking up an inclined 
plane; but the alligator is most commonly taken in the water, with a 
large hook. 
2 The flesh of the guana or inguana, an animal intermediate in size 
ween the 
zard and the alligator, I have known to be eaten both by 
se and Europeans, and by the former at least to be considered as 
a delIcacy. I cannot assert the same of the alligator, but in a book of 
Natural History I read that" the Africans and Indians eat its flesh 
WhIch is white, and of a kind of perfumed (musky) flavour." , 

24 8 

Travels ot Marco Polo 

appears to them a vile habit. 1 These people ride with long 
stirrups, as the French do in our part of the world; whereas 
the Tartars, and almost all other people, wear them short, for 
the more conveniently using the bow; as they rise in their 
stirrups above the horse, when they shoot their arrows. They 
have complete armour of buffalo-leather, and carry lances, 
shields, and cross-bows. All their arrows are poisoned. I was 
assured, as a certain fact, that many persons, and especially 
those who harbour bad designs, always carry poison about 
them, with the intention of swallowing it, in the event of their 
being apprehended for any delinquency, and exposed to the 
torture, that, rather than suffer it, they may effect their own 
destruction. But their rulers, who are aware of this practice, 
are always provided with the dung of dogs, which they oblige 
the accused to swallow immediately after, as it occasions their 
vomiting up the poison,2 and thus an antidote is ready against 
the arts of these wretches. Before the time of their becoming 
subject to the dominion of the grand khan, these people were 
addicted to the following brutal custom. When any stranger 
of superior quality, who united personal beauty with distin- 
guished valour, happened to take up his abode at the house of 
one of them, he was murdered during the night; not for the 
sake of his money, but in order that the spirit of the deceased, 
endowed with his accomplishments and intelligence, might 
remain with the family, and that through the efficacy of such 
an acquisition, all their concerns might prosper. Accordingly 
the individual was accounted fortunate who possessed in this 
manner the soul of any noble personage; and lnany lost their 
lives in consequence. But from the time of his majesty's 
beginning to rule the country, he has taken n1easures for sup- 
pressing the horrid practice, and from the effect of severe 
punishments that have been inflicted, it has ceased to exist. 
1 It appears from hence that the practice of docking the tails of horses, 
by separating one or more of the vertebræ, which has become so common 
in England, existed many hundred years ago amongst the people of Yun- 
nan in the reillotest part of China. 

 Such might have been the vulgar belief respecting the subátance 
employed as an emetic on these occasions, although perhaps with as 
little foundation as the idea entertained by the COlllmon people in Eng- 
land that ipecacuanha is the powder of human bones. 

The I)roviIlce of KardaIldan 



PROCEEDING five days' journey in a \vesterly direction from 
Karazan, you enter the province of Kardandan, belonging to 
the dominion of the grand khan, and of \vhich the principal 
city is named Vochang. 1 The currency of this country is gold 
by weight, and also the porcelain shells. A.n ounce of gold 
is exchanged for five ounces of silver, and a saggio of gold for 
five saggi of silver; there being no silver mines in this country, 
but much gold; and consequently the merchants ,vho import 
silver obtain a large profit. Both the men and the women of 
this province have the custom of covering their teeth with thin 
plates of gold, which are fitted with great nicety to the shape 
of the teeth, and remain on them continually. The men also 
form dark stripes or bands round their arms and legs, by 
puncturing them in the following lnanner. They have five 
needles joined together, \vhich they press into the flesh until 
blood is drawn; and they then rub the punctures with a black 
colouring matter, which leaves an indelible mark. To bear 
these dark stripes is considered as an ornamental and honour- 
able distinction. 2 They pay little attention to anything but 
horsemanship, the sports of the chase, and whatever belongs to 
1 What is here named the province of Kardandan, is in the B.M. and 
Berlin manuscripts, and old Latin edition, written Ardandam, in the 
Basle, Arcladam, and in the epitomes Caridi; none of which can be dis- 
covered in Du l-lalde's map; but fron1 the nanle of the chief city, which 
immediately follows, it is evident that the places spoken of are still 
within the limits of the modern province of Yun-nan. The natTIe, indeed, 
of Vochang (or Vociam in the old Italian orthography), would have been 
equally unascertainable. with that of the province, but that we are assisted 
in this instance by the readings of some of the other versions. In the 
early Latin edition the word in Uncian, in the Basle, Unchiam, and in 
the early edition of Venice, Nocian, which point out the place to be the 
city of Yung-chang, in the western part of Yun-nan. 
2 " D'autres se marquent diverses figures sur leur visage," says Martini 
speaking of the inhabitants of Yung-chang, " Ie perçant avec une aiguille' 
et appliquant du noir, comme plusieurs Indiens ont accoustumé d
faire." Accounts of this practice of tatooing have been rendered familiar 
to us by the voyages to the South Sea islands; but it prevails also 
amongst the Birmah people of the kingdom of Ava, immediately con- 
tiguous to Yun-nan. The custom is noticed by the old writers, and 
confirmed by the testimony of Colonel Symes, who says: "They (the 
Birmans) tatoo their thighs and arms into various fantastic shapes and 
figures, which they believe operate as a charm against the weapons of 
their eneJnies,"-Embassy to Ava, p. 312. 

25 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

the use of arms and a military life; leaving the entire manage- 
ment of their domestic concerns to their wives, who are assisted 
in their duties by slaves, either purchased or made prisoners in 
These people have the following singular usage. As soon 
as a woman has been delivered of a child, and, rising from her 
bed, has washed and swathed the infant, her husband im- 
mediately takes the place she has left, has the child laid beside 
him, and nurses it for forty days. In the meantime, the 
friends and relations of the family pay to him their visits of 
congratulation; whilst the woman attends to the business of 
the house, carries victuals and drink to the husband in his bed, 
and suckles the infant at his side. These people eat their meat 
raw, or prepared in the manner that has been described, and 
along with it eat rice. Their wine is manufactured from rice, 
with a mixture of spices, and is a good beverage. 
In this district they have neither temples nor idols, but pay 
their worship to the elder or ancestor of the family, from 
whom, they say, as they derive their existence, so to him they 
are indebted for all that they possess. 1 They have no know- 
ledge of any kind of writing, nor is this to be wondered at, con- 
sidering the rude nature of the country, which is a mountainous 
tract, covered with the thickest forests. During the summer 
season, the atn10sphere is so gloomy and unwholesome, that 
nlerchants and other strangers are obliged to leave the dis- 
trict, in order to escape from death. 2 When the natives have 

1 This appears to have reference to the extraordinary respect known 
to be paid by the Chinese to their parents, or to the veneration, approach- 
ing to an idolatrous worship, in 'which they hold the manes of their an- 
cestors-a superstition not only unconnected with the doctrines of the 
two prevailing sects, but religiously observed by those who hold the 
adoration of images in abhorrence. It seems probable that instead of 
" il piu vecchio di casa," or according to the epitOIne, " 10 mazor de la 
casa," " the eldest person of the family," our author meant U the common 
ancestor; " for although the several descendants might subsist upon the 
patriarchal bounty of the fornler, they cannot be understood to have 
derived their possessions from him during his lifetime. 
2 Districts lying near the base of great ranges of mountains, and 
especially within the tropical latitudes, are always found to be unhealthy. 
" At the foot of the Bootan mountains," says Turner, U a plain extends 
lor about thirty miles in breadth, choked, rather than clothed, with the 
most luxuriant vegetation. The exhalations necessarily arising from 
the multitude of springs which the vicinity of the mountains produces, 
are collected and confined by these almost impervious woods, and gene- 
rate an atmosphere through which no traveller ever passed with im- 
punity." (Embassy, p. 21.) This pestilential quality of the air extends 
westward, through what is called the l\'Iorung country, and by analogy 
may be supposed to prevail on the eastern side also, the Yun-nall moun.- 

Practices of the Sorcerers of Kardandan 2 5 I 
transactions of business with each other, which require them 
to execute any obligation for the amount of a debt or credit, 
their chief takes a square piece of wood, and divides it in two. 
Notches are then cut on it, denoting the sum in question, and 
each party receives one of the corresponding pieces, as is 
practised in respect to our tallies. Upon the expiration of the 
term, and payment made by the debtor, the creditor delivers 
up his counterpart, and both remain satisfied. 
N either in this province, nor in the cities of Kaindu, 
V o chang, or Yachi, are to be found persons professing the art 
of physic. When a person of consequence is attacked with a 
disorder, his family send for those sorcerers who offer sacrifices 
to the idols, to whom the sick person gives an account of the 
nature of his complaint. The sorcerers thereupon give direc- 
tions for the attendance of persons who perform on a variety 
of loud instruments, in order that they may dance and sing 
hymns in honour and praise of their idols; and which they 
continue to do, until the evil spirit has taken possession of one 
of them, ,vhen their musical exertions cease. They then 
inquire of the person so possessed the cause of the man's indis- 
position, and the means that should be used for effecting his 
cure. The evil spirit answers by the mouth of him into whose 
body he has entered, that the sickness has been occasioned by 
an offence given to a certain deity. Upon \vhich the sorcerers 
address their prayers to that deity, beseeching him to pardon 
the sinner, on the condition that when cured he shall offer a 
sacrifice of his own blood. But if the demon perceives that 
there is no prospect of a recovery, he pronounces the deity to 
be so grievously offended that no sacrifice can appease him. 
If, on the contrary, he judges that a cure is likely to take place, 
he requires that an offering be made of so many sheep with 
black heads; that so many sorcerers, with their wives, be 
assembled, and that the sacrifice be performed by their hands; 
by which means, he says, the favour of the deity may be con- 
ciliated. The relations comply immediately with all that has 
been demanded, the sheep are slain, their blood is sprinkled 
towards the heavens, the sorcerers (male and female) light up 
and perfume with incense the whole house of the sick person, 
making a smoke with wood of aloes. They cast into the air the 
water in which the flesh has been seethed, together with some 
tains being of great height, whilst the great Nu-kiang, said to be navigable 
between that province and Ava, rnust flow chiefly through a plain and 
comparatively low country. 

25 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

of the liquor brewed with spices; and then laugh, sing, and 
dance about, with the idea of doing honour to their idol or 
divinity. They next inquire of the demoniac whether, by the 
sacrifice that has been made, the idol is satisfied, or if it is his 
command that another be yet performed. When the ans,ver 
is, that the propitiation has been satisfactory, the sorcerers of 
both sexes, who had not ceased their songs, thereupon seat 
themselves at the table, and proceed to feast on the meat that 
had been offered in sacrifice, and to drink the spiced liquor, of 
which a libation had been made, with signs of great hilarity. 
Having finished their meal, and received their fees, they return 
to their homes; and if, through God's providence, the patient 
recovers, they attribute his cure to the idol for whom the sacri- 
fice was performed; but if he happens to die, they then declare 
that the rites had been rendered ineffective by those who 
dressed the victuals having presumed to taste them before the 
deity's portion had been presented to him. It must be under- 
stood that ceremonies of this kind are not practised upon the 
illness of every individual, but only perhaps once or twice in the 
course of a month, for noble or wealthy personages. They are 
common, ho,vever, to all the idolatrous inhabitants of the whole 
provinces of Cathay and Manji, anlongst whom a physician is 
a rare character. And thus do the demons sport with the 
blindness of these deluded and wretched people.! 


BEFORE we proceed further (in describing the country), we 
shall speak of a memorable battle that was fought in this 
kingdom of Vochang (Unchang, or Yun-chang). It happened 
that in the year 1272 the grand khan sent an army into the 
coun tries of V ochang and Karazan, for their protection and 
defence against any attack that foreigners might attempt to 
make; 2 {or at this period he had not as yet appointed his own 
1 The sorcerers or wizards here spol{en of are evidently the sha1nans 
or juggling priests of Fo, who are rnet with 
hief1y. in the less civi]ized 
regions of Tartary, but who probably find theIr way Into all parts of the 
Chinese empire. 
2 This date of 1272 appears not on.
y in Ranlusio's text, but in that of 
the Berlin manuscript and of the older Latin edition; whilst in the Basle 
copy (followed by l\lüller) it 
. S,ome counte!1ance is &iven to the 
latter date by a passage In L Histoire gen. de la Chme, tom. IX. p. 41 I. 

Great Battle of V ochang 


sons to the governments, which it was afterwards his policy to 
do; as in the instance of Cen-temur, for whom those places 
were erected into a principality. When the king of Mien 1 
and Bangala,2 in India, who was powerful in the number of 
his subjects, in extent of territory, and in wealth, heard that 
an army of Tartars had arrived at Vochang, he took the resolu- 
tion of advancing immediately to attack it, in order that by 
its destruction the grand khan should be deterred from again 
attempting to station a force upon the borders of his dominions. 
For this purpose he assembled a very large army, including a 
multitude of elephants (an animal with which his country 
abounds), upon whose backs were placed battlements or castles, 
of wood, capable of containing to the number of twelve or 
sixteen in each. With these, and a numerous army of horse 
and foot, he took the road to V ochang, where the grand khan's 
army lay, and encamping at no great distance from it, intended 
to give his troops a few days of rest. .IlS soon as the approach 
of the king of Mien, with so great a force, was kno\vn to 
Nestardín,3 who commanded the troops of the grand khan, 
although a brave and able officer, he felt much alarmed, not 
having under his orders more than twelve thousand men 
(veterans, indeed, and valiant soldiers); whereas the enemy 
had sixty thousand, besides the elephants armed as has been 
described. He did not, however, betray any sign of appre- 
hension, but descending into the plain of Vochang,4 took a 
position in which his flank was covered by a thick wood of 
large trees, whither, in case of a furious charge by the elephants, 
which his troops might not be able to sustain, they could retire, 
1 By P. Gaubil (or his commentator, P. Souciet), De Guignes, Grosier 
and D' Anville, l\Iien has been considered as the name of the country of 
Pegu, but it is plainly meant for the Birmah country, or, as we usually 
term it, the kingdom of Ava, which nearly borders on the province of 
Yun-nan, \vhilst the other lies far to the southward, and is unconnected 
with any part of the Chinese territory. The name by which the Birmahs 
call their own country is lY1yal1t-'J1ta,. by the Chinese writers it is named 
N1 ien-tien. 
i In the Basle edition the words are, " rex l\Hen et rex Bangala," imply- 
ing two confederated sovereigns, but the whole context shows that only 
one personage is intended, who might at that period have styled himseÍf 
king of Bangala as well as of Mien, from the circurllstance of his havina 
conquered SOlne eastern district belonging to Bengal, fron1 which th
country of Ava is separated unly by forests. 
a This narne, which in Ramusio's version is Ne::;tardin, is elsev,rhere 
written Neschardyn, Noscardyn, and Nastardyu; which are all corrup- 
tions of the cornmon l\1ahometan narne of N asr-eddîn. 
4. Thi
ay presume to be the pla
 through which the Irabatty, 
se wntten Irawaddy,) or great river of Ava runs, in the upper 
part of Its course. 


11ravels of Marco Polo 

and from thence, in security, annoy them with their arrows. 
Calling tog.ether the principal officers of his army, he exhorted 
them not to display less valour on the present occasion than 
they had done in all their preceding engagements, reminding 
them that victory did not depend upon the number of men, 
but upon courage and discipline. He represented to them that 
the troops of the king of Mien and Bangala were raw and un- 
practised in the art of war, not having had the opportunities of 
acquiring experience that had fallen to their lot; that instead 
of being discouraged by the superior number of their foes, they 
ought to feel confidence in their o\vn valour so often put to 
the test; that their very name was a subject of terror, not 
merely to the enemy before them, but to the \yhole world; 
and he concluded by promising to lead them to certain victory. 
Upon the king of Mien's learning that the Tartars had de- 
scended into the plain, he immediately put his army in motion, 
took up his ground at the distance of about a mile from the 
enemy, and made a disposition of his force, placing the 
elephants in the front, and the cavalry and infantry, in two 
extended \vings, in their rear, but leaving between them a con- 
siderable interval. Here he took his own station, and proceeded 
to anÌInate his men and encourage them to fight valiantly, 
assuring them of victory, as ,veIl from the superiority of their 
numbers, being four to one, as from their formidable body of 
armed elephants, whose shock the enemy, who had never be- 
fore been engaged with such combatants, could by no means 
resist. Then giving orders for sounding a prodigious number 
of warlike instruments, he advanced boldly with his whole 
army to,vards that of the Tartars, which remained firm, 
making no movement, but suffering them to approach their 
entrenchillents. They then rushed out with great spirit and 
the utmost eagerness to engage; but it was soon found that the 
rrartar horses, unused to the sight of such huge animals, with 
their castles, were terrified, and wheeling about endeavoured 
to fly; nor could their riders by any exertions restrain them, 
whilst the king, with the whole of his forces, was every moment 
<raining ground. As soon as the prudent commander per- 

eived this unexpected disorder, without losing his presence of 
mind, he instantly adopted the lneasure of ordering his men to 
dismount and their horses to be taken into the wood, where 
they ,vere fasteneà to the trees. \Vhen dismounted, the men, 
without loss of time, advanced on foot towards the line of 
elephants, and commenced a brisk discharge of arrows; whilst, 

Great Battle of V ochang 255 

on the other side, those ,vho were stationed in the castles, and 
the rest of the king's army, shot volleys in return with great 
activity; but their arrovvs did not make the same impression 
as those of the Tartars, whose bows 'yere drawn with a stronger 
arm. So incessant were the discharges of the latter, and an 
their weapons (according to the instructions of their com- 
mander) being directed against the elephants, these were 
soon covered with arrows, and, suddenly giving way, fell back 
upon their ?wn people in the rear! who 
ere thereby th
into confusIon. I t soon became ImpossIble for theIr dnvers 
to manage them, either by force or address. Smarting under 
the pain of their wounds, and terrified by the shouting of the 
assailants, they were no longer governable, but without guid- 
ance or control ran about in all directions, until at length, im- 
pelled by rage and fear, they rushed into a part of the wood not 
occupied by the Tartars. The consequence of this was, that 
from the closeness of the branches of large trees, they broke, 
with loud crashes, the battlements or castles that were upon 
their backs, and involved in the destruction those who sat upon 
them. Upon seeing the rout of the elephants the Tartars 
acquired fresh courage, and filing off by detachments, with 
perfect order and regularity, they remounted their horses, and 
joined their several divisions, when a sanguinary and dreadful 
com bat was rene\ved. On the part of the king's troops there 
was no \\
ant of valour, and he himself went amongst the ranks 
entreating them to stand firm, and not to be alarmed by the 
accident that had befallen the elephants. But the Tartars, 
by their consummate skill in archery, were too powerful for 
them, and galled them the more exceedingly, from their not 
being provided with such armour as was worn by the former, 
The arrows having been expended on both sides, the men 
grasped their sword
 and iron maces, and violently encoun- 
tered each other. Then in an instant were to be seen many 
horrible wounds, limbs disn1embered, and multitudes faIJin
to the ground, mained and dying; with such effusion of blood 
as \vas dreadful to behold. So great also was the c]anaour 
of arms, and such the shoutings and the shrieks, that the 
seemed to asc
nd to !he skies. The king of Mien, acting as 
became a valIant chIef, was present wherever the greatest 
danger appeared, animating his soldiers, and beseeching them 
to maintain their ground \vith resolution. He ordered fresh 
squadrons from the reserve to advance to the support of those 
that were exhausted; but perceiving at length that it was 

25 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

impossible any longer to sustain the conflict or to withstand the 
impetuosity of the Tartars, the greater part of his troops being 
either killed or wounded, and all the field covered with the 
carcases of men and horses, whilst those who survived were 
beginning to give way, he also found himself compelled to take 
to flight with the wreck of his army, numbers of whom were 
afterwards slain in the pursuit. 
The losses in this battle, which lasted from the morning till 
noon, were severely felt on both sides; but the Tartars were 
finally victorious; a result that was materially to be attributed 
to the troops of the king of Mien and Bangala not wearing 
armour as the Tartars did, and to their elephants, especially 
those of the foremost line, being equally without that kind of 
defence, which, by enabling thcn1 to sustain the first discharges 
of the enemy's arrows, would have allowed them to break his 
ranks and throw him into disorder. A point perhaps of still 
greater importance is, that the king ought not to have made 
his attack on the Tartars in a position \vhere their flank was 
supported by a wood, but should have endeavoured to draw 
them into the open country, where they could not have re- 
sisted the first impetuous onset of the armed elephants, and 
where, by extending the cavalry of his two wings, he might 
have surrounded them. The Tartars having collected their 
force after the slaughter of the enemy, returned towards the 
wood into which the elephants had :fled for shelter, in order to 
take possession of them, where they found that the men who 
had escaped from the overthrow were employed in cutting 
down trees and barricading the passages, with the intent of 
defending themselves. But their ramparts were soon de- 
molished by the Tartars, who slew many of them, and with the 
assistance of the persons accustomed to the rnanagement of 
the elephants, they possessed themselves of these to the number 
of two hundred or more. From the period of this battle the 
grand khan has always chosen to employ elephants in his 
armies, which before that time he had not done. The conse- 
quences of the victory were, that he acquired possession of the 
whole of the territories of the king of Bangala and lVlien, and 
annexed them to his dominions. 

An Uninhabited Region 



LEAVING the province of Kardandan, you enter upon a vast 
descent, which you travel without variation for t\VO days and 
a half, in the course of which no habitations are to be found. 
You then reach a spacious plain, 1 whereon, three days in every 
week, a number of trading people assemble, many of whom 
come down from the neighbouring mountains, bringing their 
gold to be exchanged for silver, which the merchants who 
repair thither from distant countries carry with them for this 
purpose; 2 and one saggio of gold is given for five of silver. 
The inhabitants are not allo\ved to be the exporters of their 
own gold, but must dispose of it to the merchants, who furnish 
them with such articles as they require; and as none but the 
natives themselves can gain access to the places of their resi.. 
dence, so high and strong are the situations, and so difficult of 
approach, it is on this account that the transactions of business 
are conducted in the plain. Beyond this, in a southerly 
direction, to\vards the confines of India, lies the city of l\.fien. 3 
1 This must be understood of the plain at the foot of the Yun-nan 
rllountains, already spoken of, from whence the river is said to be navi- 
gable to Ava. 
2 In consequence of the strict regulations of the Chinese with respect 
to the admission of strangers within the bounds of the empire, it becomes 
necessary for the purposes of trade or exchange of comlnodities, that 
fairs or markets should be held on the frontiers, where the merchants 
arrive at stated times with their goods. "The principal article of export 
from Ava," says Symes, "is cotton. This commodity is transported 
up the Irrawaddy in large boats, as far as Bamoo, where it is bartered at 
the common jee or mart, with Chinese merchants, and conveyed by the 
latter, partly by land and partly by water, into the Chinese dominions." 
(P. 325.) Thus also at the village of Topa, near Sining, on the borders 
of Shen-si; "On y trouve," says Du HaIde, " presque tout ce qu'on pen 
souhaiter de marchandises étrangères et de la Chine, diverses drogues, 
du saffran, des dattes, du caffé, etc."-Tom. i. p. 40. 
3 In this place there is a remarkable variation in the early Italian 
epitome from all the other versions, and being of some importance in a 
geographical point of view, I shall give the passage in its O"Wll words: 
" Quando l'huomo se parti de la provincia de Caraian ello trova una 
grande desmontada par laquale ello va doe zornade pur descendendÛ) in 
laqual non è habitatione alchuna ma sige (gliè) uno logo in loqual se fa 
festa tre di a la setemena. I vi se da uno sazo doro per v. dargen to. 
E quando l'homo è and ado queUe v. zornade ello trova la provincia de 

rïchai laquale confina can l'India et è verso 10 mezo di. L'homo va ben 
xv. zl)rnade per salvazi paesi. Ivi se trova molti elephanti e unicorni 
e InoIte bestie salvazc e non ge (gliè) niuna habitation. Quando 

25 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

The journey occupies fifteen days, through a country much 
depopulated, and forests abounding with elephants, rhino- 
ceroses, and other \vild beasts, ,vhere there is not the appear- 
ance of any habitation. 


r\FTER the journey of fifteen days that has been mentioned, 
you reach the city of :Nlien, which is large, magnificent, and 
the capital of the kingdom.! The inhabitants are idolaters, 
and have a language peculiar to themselves. It is related 
that there formerly reigned in this country a rich and power- 
ful monarch, \vho, when his death was drawing near, gave 
orders for erecting on the place of his interment, at the head 
and foot of the sepulchre, two pyramidal towers, entirely of 
marble, ten paces in height, of a proportionate bulk, and each 
terminating with a ball. 2 One of these pyramids was covereù 
with a plate of gold an inch in thickness, so that nothing 
l'homo e andado xv. zornade eUo trova una cita la qual ha nome l\Iien." 
(Capitoli xc. et xci.) From hence it is to be understood that upon de- 
scending from the heights of Karaian or Yun-nan, you do not imme- 
diately enter the country of l\Hen or Ava Proper, but after a journey of 
five days reach the province of l\lichai, which we may reasonably suppose 
to be the l\Ieckley of our maps; and from thence, after travel1ing fifteen 
days through forests, arrive at the capital. "The space between Bengal 
and China," says Major Rennell, " is occupied by the province of :rvleckley, 
and other districts, subject to the king of Burmah or Ava: " and again; 
" The king of Burmah, whose reputed capital is Ava, and from whence 
the whole kingdom, though erroneously, is often denominated, is said 
to possess not only the country of lVleckley, in addition to those of Pegu 
and Burmah, but also the whole tract which lies on the north of it, be- 
tween China, Thibet, and Assam."-1\fem. 3d edit. pp. 295-297. The 
mention of this intermediate province adds much to the consistency of 
the narrative. 
1 The present capital, called Ulnmerapoora or Amrapura, is a city of 
modern date. This of !'v1ien must therefore either have been the old 
city of Ava, now in ruins, or some one of earlier times, the seat of govern- 
ment having been often changed. "Pagahln," says Symes, " is said to 
have been the residence of forty-five successive monarchs, and was aban- 
doned 500 years ago, in consequence of a divine admonition: whatever 
may be its true history, it certainly was once a place of no ordinary 
splendour." (P. 269.) The coincidence of dates is here remarkable, as 
the elapsed period of five centuries would place the ruin of Pagahm in 
1295, or just about the time of the l\Iungal conquest. 
S Temples of a pyramidal form, both with square and circular bases, 
are found wherever the religion of Buddha prevails. 'Many of these, on 
a magnificent sCr\le, are described by Colonel Symes, in the course of his 
journey to A va. 

The City of Mien 


besides the gold was visible; and the other with a plate of 
silver, of the same thickness. Around the balls '.vere sus- 
pended small bells of gold and of silver, which sounded when 
put in motion by the wind. 1 1'he whole forn1ed a splendid 
object. The tomb was in like manner covered with a plate, 
partly of gold and partly of silver. This the king commanded 
to be prepared for the honour of his soul, and in order that 
his memory might not perish. The grand khan, having re- 
solved upon taking possession of this city, sent thither a 
valiant officer to effect it, and the army, at its own desire, 
was accompanied by some of the jugglers or sorcerers, of 
whom there were always a great number about the court. 2 
When these entered the city, they observed the two pyramids 
so richly ornamented, but would not meddle with then1 until 
his majesty's pleasure respecting then1 should be known. 
The grand khan, upon being informed that they had been 
erected in pious memory of a former king, would not suffer 
them to be violated nor injured in the smallest degree; the 
Tartal"s being accuston1ed to consider as a heinous sin the 
removal of any article appertaining to the dead. 3 In this 
country were found many elephants, large and handsome 
wild oxen,4 ,vith stags, fallow deer, and other animals in great 

1 " Round the lower limb of the tee," says Symes, " are appended a 
number of bells, which, agitated by the wind, make a continual jingling." 
-Po 18 9. 
2 In Rarnusio's text these persons who accompanied the army are 
styled" giocolari overo buOoni," but in that of the early epitome, " zugo- 
lari e i1tcantadori," which gives an intelligible sense; as we know, both 
from preceding passages of the work, and from general information of 
the manners of these countries, that diviners or religious jugglers have 
always formed a part of the staff of a military chief, who is either in- 
fluenced by their prognostications, or makes them subservient to his 
designs. Purchas in his version calls them " jesters," but in Harris's 
collection of voyages, edited by Campbell, and in some modern publi- 
cations, the word " cavalry" is discreetly substituted, as being more 
appropriate. There appears, however, to be something defective in the 
story, and that a sentence has been omitted, which should follow that 
in which the appointment of a valiant officer is Inentioned. [In the 
Paris Latin text they are called histriones and iocu..latores.] 
3 This laudable respect shown by the Tartar tribes to the sanctity of 
the gra ve, has been the occasion of the Russians discovering in the 
burial places of these people a great nunlber and variety of undisturbed 
articles, as well as large deposits of the pl-ecious metals, which former 
conquerors had not presumed to violate. 
4 This is not the chowry-tailed ox, yak, or bos gru11 wiens, described 
by Turner, and mentioned by our author in a fonner chapter, which 
is the native of a colder region, but the gayal, or bas gavæus, an aninlal 
found wild in the provinces on the eastern side of Bengal, and fully 
described in vol. viii. of the Asiat. Researches. 


Travels of Marco Polo 


THE province of Bangala is situated on the southern confines 
of India, l and was ( not yet) brought under the dominion of 
the grand khan at the time of Marco Polo's residence at his 
court; (although) the operations against it occupied his army 
for a considerable period, the country being strong and its king 
powerful, as has been related. It has its peculiar language. 
The people are worshippers of idols, and amongst them there 
are teachers, at the head of schools for instruction in the prin- 
ciples of their idolatrous religion and of necromancy, whose 
doctrine prevails amongst all ranks, including the nobles and 
chiefs of the country.2 Oxen are found here almost as tall as 
elephants, but not equal to them in bulk. 3 The inhabitants 
live upon flesh, milk, and rice, of which they have abundance. 4 
1 The name of Bangala, as applied in this place to the kingdom of 
Benga1, approaches nearer to the genuine pronunciation and ortho- 
gr3phy (Bangâlah) than that in which we are accustomed to write the 
a This passage has an obvious reference to the Hindu schools of philo- 
sophy, where the doctrine of the Vedas and Sastras is explained by 
learned panditas and gurus, in all the principal cities of Bengal and Hin- 
dustan. The ch'handas, tantra sastra, or art of necromancy, is considered 
by these people as one of the six grer.t " angas or bodies of learning." 
a If it were fair to justify one exaggeration by another, the authority 
of a " British officer," quoted by Kerr and Turton in their translation 
of the Systema N aturæ of Linnæus, might be adduced in support of 
our author's account of the oxen of Bengal; the former of whom was 
led to describe and figure, under the name of bos arnee, an animal four- 
teen feet in height, (but reduced by the latter to eight feet,) said to have 
been met in the country above Bengal; but which proves to be only the 
wild buffalo, there called arna. The buffalo, however, or bos b'ltbalus, " a 
very large and formidable aninlal," is afterwards distinctly mentioned 
by our author; and what is here said can apply to no other than the 
gayal, or bos gat'æus, which abounds in some of the eastern districts, and 
can only in a figurative sense be compared to the elephant. 
4. Rice and milk are chief articles of sustenance with the natives of 
Bengal; but, although many of their castes are free from scruples about 
ating any kind of meat excepting beef, the assertion is too strong that 
ilesh is their ordinary food. It is evident, indeed, that our author's 
ideas of the country are fornled upon what he had seen or learned of 
the people inhabiting the mountainous districts by which Bengal is 
bounded on the eastern side, where the manners are widely different 
frOIn those which prevail on the banks of the Ganges, and where the 
gayal-ox, as well as deer, wild hogs, and wild anhnals in general, are 
commonly eaten as food. The nature and extent of the scruples of 
those anlongst the mountaineers who profess Hinduism, may be 
judged of from the following passages in a paper by Mr. Cole brooke, 
in the Asiatic Researches: "The Hindus in this province (Ch3tgoan 

The Province of Kangigu 


Much cotton is grown in the country, and trade flourishes. 
Spikenard, galangal, ginger, sugar, and man y sorts of drugs 
are amongst the productions of the soil; 1 to purchase which 
the merchants from various parts of India resort thither. 
They likewise make purchases of eunuchs, of whom there are 
numbers in the country, as slaves; for all the prisoners taken 
in war are presently emasculated; and as every prince and 
person of rank is desirous of having them for the custody of 
their women, the merchants obtain a large profit by carrying 
them to other kingdoms, and there disposing of them. 2 This 
province is thirty days' journey in extent, and at the eastern 
extremity of it lies a country named Kangigu. 


KANG!GU is a province situated towards the east,3 and is 
governed by a king. The people are idolaters, have a peculiar 
language, and made a voluntary submission to the grand khan, 
to \vhom they pay an annual tribute. The king is so devoted 
or Chittagong) will not kill the gabay, which they hold in equal 
veneration with the cow; but the asl-gáyal, or seloï, they hunt and kill, 
as they do the wild buffalo. The animal here alluded to is another species 
of gayál found wild in the hills." 
1 These are well known productions of Bengal and the adjoining pro- 
vinces; particularly the article of sugar, which is extensively cultivated, 
and exported to many parts of Asia, as well as to Europe. 
i That the courts and harems of India abounded with eunuchs, who 
often attained to the highest offices of the state, appears from all the 
histories of that country; but it is not generally understood that any 
number of them were supplied from BengaL It must be observed, 
indeed, that, with the exception of a few meagre notices in Ferishta's 
history, we are ignorant of the affairs, and more especially of the manners 
of the people of that country in the thirteenth century; and even th
dates of inscriptions on some of the principal buildings in Gaur, or Luk- 
nauti, considered as its ancient capital, are no earlier than the fifteenth. 
From the writings of Barbosa, however, which were finished in 1516, 
and of the genuineness of which no well-informed reader can doubt we 
learn that in his time the practice of emasculation prevailed there, 
although not amongst the Hindu natives, to whose ideas it would be 
abhorren t. 
3 The country here named Kangigu, in the older Latin version Kan- 
ziga, and in the early Italian epitome Cargingu, [in the Latin, Talugigla] 
appearing to lie in the route from the eastern part of Bene-al towards the 
northern part of the Birmah country, may be either the C:ch'har situated 
between Silhet and l'vleckley, or else Kassay, between the latter and Ava. 
The terminating syllable gu nlay probably be the Chinese word ko'Ue or 
kue, "kingdOln," which will be seen in the Jesuits' map to prevaii in 
that quarter. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

to sensual pleasures, that he has about four hundred wives; 
and when he hears of any handsome woman, he sends for her, 
and adds her to the number.! Gold is found here in large 
quantities, and also many kinds of drugs; but, being an inland 
country, distant from the sea, there is little opportunity of 
vending them. There are elephants in abundance, and other 
beasts. The inhabitants live upon flesh, rice, and milk. They 
have no wine made from grapes, but prepare it from rice and a 
mixture of drugs. Both men and women have their bodies 
punctured all over, in figures of beasts and birds; and there are 
among them practitioners whose sole employment it is to trace 
out these ornaments ,vith the point of a needle, upon the 
hands, the legs, and the breast. When a black colouring stuff 
has been rubbed over these punctures, it is impossible, either 
by water or otherwise, to efface the marks. The man or woman 
who exhibits the greatest profusion of these figures, is esteerned 
the most handsome. 


AMU, also, is situated to\vards the east,2 and its inhabitants are 
subjects of the grand khan. They are idolaters, and live upon 
the flesh of their cattle and the fruits of the earth. They have 
a peculiar language. The country produces many horses and 
oxen, which are sold to the itinerant merchants, and conveyed 
to lndia. Buffaloes also, as well as oxen, are numerous,3 in 
consequence of the extent and excellence of the pastures. 
Both men and women wear rings, of gold and silver, upon their 
wrists, arms, and legs; but those of the females are the more 
costly. The distance between this province and that of 
Kangigu is twenty-five 4 days' journey, and thence to Bangala 

1 In Mr. Colebrooke's paper (referred to in note ., p. 260) the raja of 
Cach'har is spoken of as a Cshatriya of the Suryabansi race. In fanner 
times his territory may have been more ex tensi ve, and his revenue lnore 
adequate to the maintenance of a hareIll of such magnitude, than they 
are at the present day. The epitome reduces the number to one hundred: 
U Lo re ha ben cento moiere." 
a AInu appears to correspond in situation with Bamu, which is de- 
scribed by Symes as a frontier province between the kingdon1 of the 
Birmahs and Yun-nan in China. 
3 fhcse are the bos bubalus and bos glwæus. See note 3, p. 260. 
. [The Paris Latin text reads fifteen.] 

Province of Tholoman 

26 3 

is twenty days' journey. .We shall no\v speak of a province 
named rrholoman, situated eight days' journey from the 


THE province of Tholoman lies towards the east,! and its in- 
habitants are idolaters. They have a peculiar language, and 
are subjects of the grand khan. The people are tall and good- 
looking; their complexions inclining rather to brown than fair. 
They are just in their dealings, and brave in war. Many of 
their towns and castles are situated upon lofty mountains. 
They burn the bodies of their dead; and the bones that are 
not reduced to ashes, they put Jnto wooden boxes, and carry 
them to the mountains, where they conceal them in caverns 
of the rocks, in order that no wild animal may disturb them. 2 
Abundance of gold is found here. For the ordinary small 
currency they use the porcelain shells that come from India; 
and this sort of money prevails also in the two before-men- 
tioned provinces of Kangigu and Amu. Their food and drink 
are the same that has been already mentioned. 
1 No name resembling Tholoman, Toloman, or Coloman, as the word 
appears in different versions, is to be found in any Inap or description 
of these parts; but as the circumstances stated render it probable that 
the country spoken of is that of the people variousl}' called Birlnahs, 
Burrnahs, Bonlans, and Burmans, we may conjecture that the word 
was intended for Po-Io-man, which is known to be the mode in which 
the Chinese pronounce Burma:'-l and Brahlnan, and by which they oLen 
designate the people of India in general. 

 The ceremonies practised by certain mountaineers of Ava or the 
Burmah country, named Kayn, bear a strong resemblance to what is 
here described: "They burn their dead," says Symes, " and after\'..ards 
collect their ashes in an urn, which they convey to a house, where, if 
the urn contains the relics of a man, they keep it six days, if of a woman, 
five; after which it is carried to the place of interment and deposited 
in a grave, and on the sod that covers it is laid a wooden image of the 
deceased to pray to the mounzing (deity) and protect the bones and 
ashes." He added, " that the tnou1'lzing resided on the great mountain 
Gnowa, where the Ï1nages of the dead are deposited."-Ernbassy to 
Ava, p. 447. 

26 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 


LEAVING the province of Tholoman, and pursuing a course 
towards the east,! you travel for twelve days by a river, on 
each side of which lie many towns and castles; when at length 
you reach the large and handsome city of Chintigui,2 the in- 
habitants of which are idolaters, and are the subjects of the 
grand khan. They are traders and artisans. They make 
cloth of the bark of certain trees, which looks well, and is the 
ordinary sumn1er clothing of both sexes. The men are brave 
\varriors. They have no other kind of money than the stamped 
paper of the grand khan. 3 
In this province the tigers are so numerous, that the inhabi- 
tants, from apprehension of their ravages, cannot venture to 
sleep at night out of their towns; and those who navigate the 
river dare not go to rest with their boats moored near the banks; 
for these animals have been known to plunge into the water, 
swim to the vessel, and drag the men from thence; but find it 
1 The countries last spoken of appear indubitably to have belonged 
to that region which geographers term " India extra Gangem." These 
our author's route now leaves behind, and what follows in the remain- 
ing chapters of this book applies only to China or its immediate de- 
2 We cannot discover in the southern part of Yun-nan (towards which 
he might be supposed to have returned) any city resembling Chinti-gui 
or Chinti-giu in name; but a material difference between the text of 
Ramusio and those of the other versions occurs here, which might be 
hoped to afford a clue for tracing the progress of the route. According 
to the former our author prosecutes his journey from Tholoman by the 
course of a river (whether wholly or in part only, is not clearly expressed) 
to the city above mentioned. In the Basle edition, on t.he contrary, it 
is said: "A provincia Tholoman dudt iter versus orientem ad provinciam 
Gingui, iturque duodecim diebus juxta fluvium quendam, donee per- 
veniatur ad dvitatem grandem Sinuglu: " and in the early Italian epi- 
tome, " Cuigui sie una provincia verso oriente laqual eUo trovo l'homo 
quando se parti da Toloman tu vai su per uno fiun1e per xii. zornade tro- 
vando cita e castelli: e trovi la cita de Similgu grande e nobile;" to 
which city of Sinulgu or Similgu are attributed all the cirCUlTIstances 
above related of Cintigui. [The name in the Paris Latin text is Funil- 
gu1.] If the reading of Cui-gui or Kui-giu be more correct than the 
others, we might conjecture it to be intended for the Chinese province 
of Koei-cheu or Quei-cheu, which, adjoining to that of Yun-nan on the 
eastern side, would be in point of direction no unlikely road to the capital. 
3 The circumstance of the emperor's paper money being current, 
shows that the country here spoken of was an integral part of the empire, 
and not one of its remote dependencies, where the sovereignty was more 
nÚlninal than real 

Abundance of Tigers 

26 5 

necessary to anchor in the middle of the stream, where, in 
consequence of its great width, they are in safety. 1 In this 
country are likewise found the largest and fiercest dogs that 
can be met with: so courageous and powerful are they, that a: 
man, with a couple of them, may be an over-match for a tiger. 
Armed with a bow and arrows, and thus attended, should he 
n1eet a tiger, he sets on his intrepid dogs, who instantly advance 
to the attack. The animal instinctively seeks a tree, against 
which to place himself, in order that the dogs may not be able 
to get behind him, and that he may have his enemies in front. 
With this intent, as soon as he perceives the dogs, he makes 
towards the tree, but with a slovv pace, and by no means run- 
ning, that he may not shovv any signs of fear, vvhich his pride 
,vould not allovv. During this deliberate movement, the dogs 
fasten upon hin1, and the man plies him with his arrows. He, 
in his turn, endeavours to seize the dogs, but they are too 
nimble for him, and dravv back, when he resumes his slo,,, 
march; but before he can gain his position, he has been 
wounded by so many arrows, and so often bitten by the dogs, 
that he falls through weakness and from loss of blood. By 
these means it is that he is at length taken. 2 
There is here an extensive manufacture of silks, which are 
exported in large quantities to other parts 3 by the navigation 
of the river, which continues to pass amongst towns and 
castles; and the people subsist entirely by trade. At the end 
of twelve days, you arrive at the city of Sidin-fu, of which an 
account has been already given. 4 From thence, in twenty 

1 Numerous instances are recorded of boats being attacked at night 
by tigers, amongst the alluvial islands at the mouth of the Ganges, 
called the Sunderbunds, and sometimes it happens that whole crews are 
destroyed whilst sleeping on board. 
J If the beast here spoken of be actually the tiger and not the lion 
(of which latter none are found in China), it must be confessed that the 
manners ascribed to him in this story are very different froIll those 
which usually mark his feline character. In the old English version of 
1579 (from the Spanish), it is not the lion or tiger, but the elephant 
that is said to be the subject of this mode of baiting with "mastie- 
dogges." I am assured, however, that dogs do attack both tigers and 
3 The trade in wrought silks denotes this to be a place in China, and 
to the south of the Yellow River, beyond which the silkworm is not 
reared for the purposes of Inanufacture. 
'From the context we might be led to inf
r that the Si-dil1-fu here 
spoken of should be the san1e place as the Chinti-gui mentioned at the 
commencement of this chapter, inasnluch as the journey of twelve days 
from Tholoman is here again referred to; but on the other hand we are 
n1uch more clearly given to understand that it is the city before described 
(in chap. xxxvi.) by the name of Sin-din-fu, and which was shown (in 


Travels of Marco 1)010 

days, you reach Gin-gui, in which we were, and in four days 
more the city of Pazan-fu,t which belongs to Cathay, and lies 
towards the south, in returning by the other side of the pro- 
vince. 2 The inhabitants worship idols, and burn the bodies of 
note 1, p. 234) to be intended for Ching-tu-fu, the capital of the province 
of Se-chuen. This would lie in the route from Ava and the province of 
Yun-nan towards the city of Pekin. 
1 In this part of the work, indeed, we perceive a more than usual 
degree of perplexjty in the geographical matter, which is increased by 
a want of agreement in the several versions, not merely in orthography, 
but in the entire names of places as well as in circumstances. The 
journey of twenty days stated in Ramusio's text is not mentioned either 
in the Latin version or early Italian epitome, and it appears in the first 
instance uncertain whether by Gin-gui is here meant that southern pro- 
vince which in the latter is named Cui-gui, and has been conjectured to 
be Kod-cheu, or whether it may have been intended for Kin-cheu on the 
Kiang, or (adnlÍtting a large hiatus in the journal) for another Kin-cheu 
in the province of Pe-che-li. For the city, likewise, which Ramusio 
names Pazan-fu, the other versions speak of Caucasu or Cancasu. But 
in addition to the confusion of names, we have, at this point, a new diffi- 
culty to contend with; for as the general course of the journey has 
latterly been to the east, as expressed in the text, or to the north-east, as 
inferred from positions, so at this place, and from henceforward, we find 
it described as tending to the south; although from the preceding chap- 
ters it might seem that the southern provinces of China had been but 
just entered from the side of Mien or A va. Our author's want of accu- 
racy in bearings, as they respect the intermediate points of the compass, 
has often required the exercise of indulgence: but this cannot be ex- 
tended to the mistaking north for south; nor would even a correction of 
this nature in one or two instances avail us; for we shall presently find 
him approaching the Yellow River from the northern side, crossing that 
river, and, in the continuance of his southerly course, describing well- 
known places between it and the Kiang, which he likewise crosses in his 
way to the province of Fo-kien. It is consequently in one or other of 
the most northern provinces that we should make our search for Pazan-fu, 
and we shall be fully justified in drawing the conclusion, that a fresh 
itinerary, hitherto unnoticed, as it would seem, by any editor or com- 
mentator, has commenced from some place in the vicinity of the capital; 
and that the fruitless attempt to connect this with the former route, as 
constituting one journey, has chiefly given rise to the confusion of 
which every reader who has endeavoured to follow the course of the 
travels must have found reason to complain. 
i It has been shown that about a mile from the town of Tso-cheu, in 
the province of Pe-che-li, the roads are said to divide, the one leading to 
the south-western, and the other to the south-eastern provinces. The 
first was that which our author pursued in his former route, and has 
described to a certain point, where either his original memoranda left 
it incomplete, or his early transcribers, to avoid the monotonous repeti- 
tion of unknown and to them uninteresting names, were induced to 
terminate it abruptly. The latter road, to the south-east, is that upon 
which he is now about to enter. Under the conviction, therefore, of a 
new intinerary having commenced about this part of the narrative from 
some place near Tso-cheu, where the roads divide, we are naturally led 
to consider the city now called Ho-kien-fu (the first in the southern 
route) as the Pa-za!l-fu of Ramusio's text, or Ca-cau-su (for fu) of the 
Basle edition; the probability of which, however discordant the sound 
of the names, we shall find to be strengthened as we proceed to the ac- 
count of places subsequently visited. Ho-kien-fu (the first syllable of 

The City of Chan-glu 

26 7 

their dead. There are here also certain Christians, who have 
a church. 1 They are subjects of the grand khan, and his 
paper money is current among them. They gain their living 
by trade and manufacture, having silk in abundance, of which 
they weave tissues mixed with gold, and also very fine scarfs. 
This city has many towns and castles under its jurisdiction: 
a great river flows beside it, by means of which large quan- 
tities of merchandise are conveyed to the city of Kanbalu; 
for by the digging of many canals it is made to communicate 
with the capital. But we shall take our leave of this, and, 
proceeding three days' journey, speak of another city named 


CHAN-GLU is a large city situated towards the south,2 and is 
in the province of Cathay. It is under the dominion of the 
grand khan. The inhabitants worship idols, and burn the 
bodies of their dead. 1'he stamped paper of the emperor is 
current amongst them. In this city and the district surround- 
ing it they make great quantities of salt, by the follo\ving pro- 
cess: in the country is found a salsuginous earth; upon this, 
when laid in large heaps, they pour water, which in its passage 
through the mass imbibes the particles of salt, and is then 
collected in channels, from whence it is conveyed to very 
wide pans, not more than four inches in depth. In these it 
is well boiled, and then left to crystallize. The salt thus made 
is white and good, and is exported to various parts. 3 Great 
which a Tartar would pronounce Ko) is the third city of the province in 
rank, and derives its name from its position U between the rivers. u 
1 The expression of certi Chri
tiani may either mean a sect of Christians 
distinct from the Nestorians, already so often mentioned, or may refer 
to the Ncstorians themselves, as a sort of Christians, not Catholic. 
21.To the eastward of Ho-kien, but inclining to the south, we find a 
city of the second order, dependent on the jurisdiction of the former 
which ill Du Halde's map is properly named Tsan-tcheu, but in Martini'
Atlas} Cang-cheu, incorrectly for Cang-cheu. This is evidently Cianglu 
or Chang-Iu here mentioned. 
3 From this detail of the process it may be thought that nitre or salt- 
petre, rather than common salt, is the article so procured. The follow- 
ing passage, from the translation of Abbé Grosier's Description générale 
de la Chine, will leave no doubt on this point: "The earth which forms 
the soil of Petcheli abounds with nitre; whole fields may be seen in the 
neighbourhood of Pe-king which are covered with it. Every morning 


Travels of Marco Polo 

ofits are made by those who manufacture it, and the grand 
khan derives from it a considerable revenue. This district 
produces abundance of well-flavoured peaches, of such a size 
that one of them will \veigh two pounds troy-weight.} We 
shall now speak of another city, named Chan-gli. 


CHAN-GLI also is a city of Cathay,2 situated towards the south, 
and belonging to the grand khan, the inhabitants of which are 
idolaters, and in like n1anner make use of the khan's paper 
currency. Its distance fro In Chan-gln is five days' journey, 
in the course of \vhich you pass many cities and castles likewise 
in the dominions of the grand khan. They are places of great 
commerce, and the customs levied at them amount to a large 
sum. 3 Through this city passes a wide and deep river, which 
affords conveyance to vast quantities of merchandise, con- 
sisting of silk, drugs, and other valuable articles. We shall 
now take leave of this place, and give an account of another 
city nan1ed Tudin-fu. 


\VHEN you depart from Chan-gli, and travel south,vards six 
days' journey, you pass many towns and castles of great im- 
at sunrise the country in certain cantons appears as white as if sprinkled 
by a gentle fall of snow. If a quantity of this substance be swept 
together, a great deal of kien, nitre, and salt may be extracted from It. 
The Chinese pretend that this salt may be substituted for common salt; 
however this may be, it is certain that in the (mountainous) extremity 
of the province, poor people and the greater part of the peasants make 
use of no other. VVith regard to the kien procured from the earth, they 
use it for washing linen, as we do soap."-Vol. i. p. 27. 
1 " Peso alia sottile" is explained in the dictionaries by "poids de 
luarchandises fines, plus léger que l'autre," which corresponds to the 
difference of fourteen and seventeen, between our troy and avoirdupois 
weigh ts. 
2 The city of Ciangli or Changli appears to be that of Te-cheu, situated 
at the entrance of the province of Shan-tung, on the river called Oei-ho 
in Du Halde's map, and Eu-ho, in the account of Lord Macartney's 
3 A transit duty (Staunton observes) is laid on goods passing from one 

The City of Tudin-fu 

26 9 

portance and grandeur, whose inhabitants worship idols, and 
burn the bodies of their dead. They are the subjects of the 
grand khan, and receive his paper money as currency. They 
subsist by trade and manufactures, and have provisions in 
abundance. At the end of these six days you arrive at a city 
named Tudin-fu,t which was formerly a magnificent capital, 
but the grand khan reduced it to his subjection by force of 
arms. It is rendered a delightful residence by the gardens 
which surround it, stored as they are with handsome shrubs 
and excellent fruits. 2 Silk is produced here in wonderfully 
large quantities. It has under its jurisdiction eleven cities 
and considerable towns of the empire, all places of great trade, 
and having abundance of silk. It was the seat of government 
of its o\vn king, before the period of its reduction by the grand 
khan. In 1272 3 the latter appointed one of his officers of the 
highest rank, named Lucansor, to the government of this city, 
vvith a command of seventy thousand horse, for the protection 
of that part of the country. This man upon finding himself 
master of a rich and highly productive district, and at the 
head of so powerful a force, became intoxicated with pride, and 
formed schemes of rebellion against his sovereign. With this 
view he tampered with the principal persons of the city, per- 
suaded them to become partakers in his evil designs, and by 
their means succeeded in producing a revolt throughout all 
the towns and fortified places of the province. As soon as the 
grand khan became acquainted with these traitorous proceed- 
ings, he despatched to that quarter an army of a hundred thou- 
sand lnen, under the orders of two others of his nobles, one of 
whom was named Angul and the other 
1ongatai. When the 
approach of this force was knovvn to Lucansor, he lost no time 
province of China to another; each province being noted, chiefly, for 
the production of some particular article, the conveyance of which, to 
supply the demand for it in the others, raises this duty to a considerable 
sum, and forms the great internal commerce and revenue of the empire. 
1 We have historical evidence that Tudin-fu is Tsi-nan-fu (by Martini 
written Cinan-fu), the capital of the province of Shan-tung. 
:I The routes of our modern travellers have not led them to visit this 
city, but that of the Dutch embassy of 1795, in its return, passed through 
several of the towns under its jurisdiction. Upon the approach to one 
of these named Ping-yuen-shen, Van Braam describes the scenery in 
terms similar to, but nlore luxuriant than those employed by our author. 
and the orchards of fruit are particularly noticed. 
a The circumstance of which our author proceeds to speak, is by 
L'Histoire générale de la Chine, assigned to a period ten years ea;lier. 
The Roman nunlerals, in which dates are expressed in the old Inanu- 
scrip!s) are more liable to errors than the Arabic, or rather Indian figures, 
now In use. 

27 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

in assembling an army no less numerous than that of his oppo- 
nents, and brought them as speedily as possible to action. 
There was t;luch. slaug
ter on both sides, when at length, 
Lucansor beIng kIlled, hIS troops betook themselves to flight. 
Many were slain in the pursuit, and many were made prisoners. 
These were conducted to the presence of the grand khan, who 
caused the principals to be put to death, and pardoning the 
others took them into his own service, to which they ever 
afterwards continued fai thfu!' 


TRAVELLING from Tudin-fu three days, in a southerly direction, 
you pass many considerable to\vns and strong places, where 
commerce and manufactures flourish. The inhabitants are 
idolaters, and are subjects of the grand khan. The country 
abounds with game, both beasts and birds, and produces an 
ample supply of the necessaries of life. At the end of three 
days you arrive at the city of Singui-matu, l which is noble, 
large, and handsome, and rich in merchandise and manufac- 
tures; all the inhabitants of this city are idolaters, and are sub- 
jects of the grand khan and use paper money; within it, but 
on the southern side, passes a large and deep river, which the 
inhabitants divided into two branches, one of which, taking its 
course to the east, runs through Cathay, whilst the other, 
taking a westerly course, passes towards the province of 
1Ianji. 2 This river is navigated by so many vessels that the 
1 The circumstances here mentioned of Sin-gui-matu seem to point to 
the large commercia] town of Lin-tsin-cheu, situated at the northern 
extremity. or commencement, of the Yun-ho or grand canal. The term 
1natu or mateou, subjoined to names, signifies, as we are told by Du Halde 
(tom. i. p. 137), " lieux de comlnerce établis sur les rivières, pour la com- 
modité des négocians et la levée des droits de l'empereur; " and by P. 
Magalhanes, mà-teú is defined to be, " lieu fréquenté pour Ie commerce; 
parceque les barques s'y asse
blent et y jettent l'ancre pour y passer la 
nuit."-Nouv. Relat. de la ChIne, p. 9. 
a These expressions might be considered as in tended to describe the 
formation of the canal itself, which must, of course, have been supplied 
with water by diverting so much of the stream of the river as was neces- 
sary for that purpose; and tl
e operation might consequently be said to 
divide it into two branches; but they may be thought rather to refer to 
the following curious circumstance noticed in the Account of Lord 

iacartney.s Elnbassy: "On the 25th of October (the third day after its 
departure from Lin-tsing) the yachts arrived at the highest part or the 

The City of Singui-rnatu 27 I 
number might seem incredible, and serves to convey from both 
provinces, that is, frOin the one province to the other, every 
requisite article of consumption. It is indeed surprising to 
observe the multitude and the size of the vessels that are 
continually passing and repassing, laden with merchandise of 
the greatest value. 1 On leaving Singui-matu and travelling 
towards the south for sixteen days, you unceasingly meet 
with commercial towns and with castles. The people 
throughout the country are idolaters, and subjects of the grand 
khan. They burn the bodies of their dead and use paper 
money. At the end of eight days' journey you find a city 
named Lingui. It is a very noble and great city; the men 
are warlike; and it has nlanufactures and commerce. There 
are plenty of animals, and abundance of everything for eating 
and drinking. After leaving Lingui you proceed three days' 
journey to the south, passing plenty of cities and castles, all 
under the grand khan. All the inhabitants are idolaters, and 
burn their dead. At the end of these three days you find a 
good city called Pingui, where there are all the necessaries of 
life, and this city furnishes a great revenue to the grand khan. 
You go thence two days' journey to the south, through fair and 
rich countries, to a city called Cingui, which is very large, and 
abounding in commerce and manufactures. All its inhabitants 
are idolaters and burn their dead; they use paper money, and 
are subjects of the grand khan. 1'hey have much grain and 
wheat. In the country through ,vhich you pass .subsequently, 
you find cities, towns, and castles, and very handsome and 
useful dogs, and abundance of wheat. The people resemble 
those just described. 
canal, bei!1g about two-fifths of its entire length. Here the river Luen 
'the largest by which the canal is fed, falls into it with a rapid stream i
a line which is perpendicular to the course of the canal. A strong bul- 
wark of stone supports the opposite western bank; and the waters of 
the Luen striking with force against it, part of them follow the northern 
and part the southern course of the canal-a circumstance which, not 
being generally explained or understood, gave the appearance of wonder 
to an assertion, that if a bundle of sticl{s be thrown into that part of the 
river, they would soon separate and take opposite directions." (Vol. 
ii. p. 387.) The name of this place is Tci-ngin-tcheou in Du Halde's 
map, and Tsin-jin-tchoo in that of the Embassy; which bears an evi. 
dent resemblance to the Sin-gui of our text. 
1 " I should say, that next to the exuberance of population," says 1\1r. 

llis. " the amo.unt of vessels employed o.n the rivers is 
he most striking 
ClTCUlnstance hItherto observed, Lelonglng to the Chlllese empire."- 
Journal of an Embassy, etc. p. 109. 

27 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 


AT the end of two days' journey you reach, once more, the 
great river Kara-moran, l which has its source in the territories 
that belonged to Prester John. I t is a mile ,vide and of vast 
depth, and upon its waters great ships freely sail with their 
full loading. Large fish in considerable quantities are caught 
there. At a place in this river, about a miie distant from the 
sea, there is a station for fifteen thousand vessels, each of them 
capable of carrying fifteen horses and twenty men, besides the 
crews to navigate them, and the necessary stores and pro- 
visions. 2 These the grand khan causes to be kept in a constant 
state of readiness for the conveyance uf an army to any of the 
islands in the (neighbouring) ocean that may happen to be in 
rebellion, or for expeditions to any more distant region. These 
vessels are moored close to the bank of the river, not far from 
a city named Koi-gan-zu, 3 on the opposite side to which is 
another named Kuan-zu, but the former is a large place, and 
the latter a small one. 4 Upon:crossing this river you enter the 
noble province of Manji; but it must not be understood that a 
complete account has been given of the province of Cathay. 
Not the twentieth part have I described. Marco Polo, in 
1 This is the Tartar name for the great river by the Chinese called the 
Hoang-ho, and by us the Yellow River, which has its source in the 
country between the western borders of China and the great desert. 
2 The number of fifteen thousand must be a prodigious exaggeration, 
if we should not rather suppose it to be an error in transcribing. The 
early Italian epitome says fifteen vessels; but this is an absurdity in the 
opposite extreme, and it is probable that fifteen hundred was the number 
intended. The station of these transports, instead of being one mile, 
is said in other versions to be one day's journey from the sea. 
8 Both from its situation and the resen1blance of name, we cannot 
hesitate to consider this as the city of Hoai-gnan-fu, which stands near 
the south-eastern bank of the Hoang-ho, at the part where it is crossed 
by the line of the grand canal, and is itself connected, by means of a 
small cut, with that river. All Chinese words comlnencing with the 
aspirate are pronounced by the Western Tartars with a hard guttural 
sound; as on the other hand, the guttural articulation of these people 
is softened'by the Chinese to the aspirate: thus for Khan they pronounce 
If an ; for Ko-ko-nor (a certain great lake), Ho-ho-nor; and for Ku- 
tukh-tu (the second rank of lamas), Hu-tu-tu. 
4 The plac
 here named. Kuan-zu . or 9uan-zu, in the 
asle edition 
Cai-gui and In the early epitomes Cal-CUl, does not appear III the maps, 
but se
ms to be the place which De Guignes nlentions by the name of 

The Provi.nce of Manii 


travelling through the province, has only noted such cities as 
lay in his route, omitting those situated on the one side and the 
other, as well as many intermediate places, because a relation 
of them all would be a work of too great length, and prove 
fa tiguing to the reader . Leaving these parts we shall there- 
fore proceed to speak, in the first instance, of the manner in 
which the province of Manji was acquired, and then of its cities, 
the magnificence and riches of which shall be set forth in the 
subsequent part of our discourse. 


THE province of Manji is the most magnificent and the richest 
that is knoyvn in the eastern world.! About the year 1269 
it was subject to a prince who was styled Facfur,2 and who 
surpassed in po\ver and wealth any other that for a century 
had reigned in that country. His disposition was pacific, and 
his actions benevolent. So much was he beloved by his 
people, and such the strength of his kingdom, enclosed by 
rivers of the largest size, that his being llloiested by any power 
upon earth was regarded as an impossible event. The effect 
of this opinion was, that he neither paid any attention him- 
self to mili tary affairs, nor encouraged his people to become 
acquainted with military exercises. The cities of his dominions 
were remarkably well fortified, being surrounded by deep 
ditches, a bow-shot in width, and full of water. He did not 
keep up any force in cavalry, because he was not apprehensive 
of attack. The means of increasing his enjoyments and multi- 

1 \Ve have not Inaterials for assigning precise boundaries either to 
Manji or to Khataï; but it is evident that our author considered gene- 
rally, that part of China which lies southward of the Hoang-ho
 or Yellow 
River, as belonging to what he terms the province of Manji l or, with some 
few lirnitations, to the empire of the Song; land the part that lies north- 
ward of that river, which was conquered by the Mungals, not from the 
Chinese, but from the dynasty of the Kin or Niuche Tartars, by whom 
it had been previously subdued, as Khataï or Cathay. 
2 This word Facfur was not the name of the individual prince but 
the title of Faghffu:, applie
y t
e Arabs and other Eastern people to 
the emperors of ChIna, as dIstInguIshed froln the Tartar sovereigns. It 
also denotes (according to the dictionaries) the porcelain of China-ware 
and probably, in general. what the French term" magots de 1a Chine.'
The name of the emperor who reigned at that period was Tu-tsong. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

plying rus pleasures were the chief employment of his thoughts. 
 maintained at his court, and kept near his person, about a 
thousand beautiful women, in whose society he took delight. 
He was a friend to peace and to justice, ,vhich he administered 
strictly. The smallest act of oppression, or injury of any kind, 
committed by one man against another, was punished in an 
exemplary manner, without respect of persons. Such indeed 
was the impression of his justice, that when shops, filled with 
goods, happened, through the negligence of the owners, to 
be left open, no person dared to enter them, or to rob them of 
the smallest article. Travellers of all descriptions might pass 
through every part of the kingdom, by night as well as by day, 
freely and without apprehension of danger. He was religious, 
and charitable to the poor and needy.1 Children whom their 
,vretched mothers exposed in consequence of their inability to 
rear them, he caused to be saved and taken care of, to the num- 
ber of twenty thousand annually.2 \Vhen the boys attained a 
sufficient age, he had them instructed in some handicraft, and 
after\vards married them to young women who were brought 
up in the same manner. 3 
Very different from the temper and habits of Facfur were 
those of Kublaï-khan, emperor of the Tartars, whose whole 
delight consisted in thoughts of a ,varlike nature, of the con- 
quest of countries, and of extending his renown. After having 
1 His character is painted in more favourable colours by our author 
than by the Chinese historians, who do not relieve its dark shades "with 
the light of any virtue. 
2 The practice in China of exposing infants, and especially fenlales, 
has become matter of notoriety since this first and unequivocal notice 
of it by our author. "The number of children," says Barrow, " thus 
unnaturally and inhurnanly slaughtered, or interred alive, in the course 
of a year, is differently stated by different authors, SOlne making it about 
ten, and others thirty thousand in the whole empire. The truth, as 
generally happens, Inay probably lie about the middle. The n1issionaries, 
who alone possess the means of ascertaining nearly the number that is 
thus sacrificed in the capital, differ very materially in their statements: 
taking the mean, as given by those with whom we conversed on the 
subject, I should conclude that about twenty-four infants were on an 
average, in Pekin, daily carried to the pit of death. . . . This calcula- 
tion gives about nine thousand yearly for the capital alone, where it is 
supposed about an equal number are exposed to that of all the other 
parts of the empire."-Travels in China, p. 169. 
3 The Latin edition describes the manner in which the enlperor pro- 
vided for a part of these children, in the following terms: "Rex tainen 
infantes, quos sic colligi jllbet, tradit divitibus quibusque, quos in regno 
suo habet; præsertim ilJis qui liberis carent, et ut in adoptionis sus- 
cipiant filios mandat. Eos verò quos ipse nutrit, matrimonio tradit 
puellis ejusdem conditionis." It appears that in the reign of Kang-hi, 
also, (who died in 1722,) there was a public establishment at Pekin fOI 
the récovery of infants so exposed. 

COllquest of Manji 


annexed to his dominions a number of provinces and kingdoms, 
he now directed his vÎe\vs to the subduing that of 
Ianji, and 
for this purpose assembled a numerous army of horse and foot, 
the command of which he gave to a general named Chin-san 
Bay-an, which signifies in our language, the" Hundreè -eyed." 1 
This occurred in the year 1273. A number of vessels were put 
under his orders, with which he proceeded to the invasion of 
}Ianji. Upon landing there, he immediately summoned the 
inhabitants of the city of Koi-gan-zu to surrender to the 
authority of his sovereign. 2 Upon their refusal to comply, 
instead of giving orders for an assault, he advanced to the next 
city, and \vhen he there received a similar answer, proceeded 
to a third and a fourth, \vith the same result. Deeming it no 
longer prudent to leave so many cities in his rear, whilst not 
only his army ,vas strong, but he expected to be soon joined by 
another of equal force, which the grand khan was to send to him 
from the interior,s he resolved upon the attack of one of these 
cities; and having, by great exertions and consummate skill, 
succeeded in carrying the place, he put every individual found 
in it to the s\vord. As soon as the intelligence of this event 
reached the other cities, it struck their inhabitants with 
such consternation and terror, that oi their own accord they 
hastened to declare their submission. This being effected, he 
advanced, with the united force of his two armies, against the 
royal city of Kinsai, the residence of king Facfur, who felt all 
the agitation and dread of a person \vho had never seen a 
battle, nor been engaged in any sort of warfare. Alarmed 
for the safety of his person, he made his escape to a fleet of 
vessels that lay in readiness for the purpose, and embarking 
all his treasure and valuable effects, left the charge of the city 
to his queen, with directions for its being defended to the 
utmost; feeling assured that her sex would be a protection to 
her, in the event of her falling into the hands of the enemy. 
He from thence proceeded to sea, and reaching certain islands, 
where were some strongly fortified posts, he continued there 

1 Ba-yan, or, as the Chinese pronounce the name, Pe-yen, literally 
signifies, in that language, "a hundred eyes," \and rnay be considered 
as the agn01nen or epithet of this distinguished warrior, derived from his 
vigilance, circumspection, and quickness in improving an advantage. 
i The earliest operation of the war against the Song, or dynasty who 
reigned in 1\lanji, took place (according to L'Hist. gén.) to the westward, 
at Siang-yang, which was invested in 1269 (before our author's arrival 
in Chi'la);lalthough not captured till 1273. 
a This was perhaps the army that had been employed in the reduction 
of Siang yang. 

27 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

till his death.! After the queen had been left in the manneJ 
related, it is said to have come to her kno\vledge that the king 
had been told by his astrologers that he could never be de- 
prived of his sovereignty by any other than a chief \vhò should 
have a hundred eyes. On the strength of this declaration she 
felt confident, notwithstanding that the city became daily 
more and more straitened, that it could not be lost, because it 
seemed a thing impossible that any mortal could have that 
number of eyes. Inquiring, however, the name of the general 
\vho commanded the enemy's troops, and being told it was 
Chin-san Bay-an, vvhich means a hundred eyes, she ,vas seized 
with horror at hearing it pronounced, as she felt a conviction 
that this must be the person who, according to the saying of 
the astrologers, n1ight drive her husband from his throne. 
Overcome by \vomanish fear, she no longer attempted to make 
resistance, but immediately surrendered. 2 Being thus in 
possession of the capital, the Tartars soon brought the re- 
mainder of the province under their subjection. 3 The queen 
was sent to the presence of Kublai-khan, where she was 
honourably received by him, and an allowance was by his 
orders assigned, that enabled her to support the dignity of her 
rank. Having stated the manner in which the conquest of 
Manji was effected, we shall now speak of the different cities 
of that province, and first of Koi-gan-zu. 

lOur author appears in this place to have crowded under one reign 
events that belong to two or more, which followed each other in rapid 
succession. The emperor Tu-tsong, whose unwarlike and depraved 
character was said to have been the occasion of the misfortunes that 
befel his country, died in I274; when the minister by whose evil counsels 
he had been implicitly governed placed his second son, an infant, on the 
throne, and caused the empress, his mother, to be declared regent during 
the minority. This prince, who was named Kong-tsong, afterwards fell 
into the hands of the Tartars; but the Chinese, who still adhered to the 
fortunes of the expiring dynasty, conferred the imperial title upon his 
elder brother, named Tuan-tsong; and to his fate it is that the passage 
in the text applies. 
I Such we may suppose to have been the popular story, which our 
author repeats as he heard it, but which, probably, had no better founda- 
tion than a Chinese équivoque upon the name of this great captain, to 
whose talents his master was indebted for the conquest of Southern 
China and of whom it is said by the Chinese historians that" he con- 
ducted a large army as if it had been a single man." 
a The surrender of the capital took place in I276, but it was not until 
the end of the year I279 that the conquest of China was completed by 
the issue of a great naval engagement. 

TIle Town of Pau-gl}in 



KOI-GAN-ZU is a very handsome and wealthy city, lying in a 
direction between south-east and east, at the entrance of the 
province of Man ji, where a prodigious number of vessels are 
continually passing, its situation (as we have already observed) 
being near the bank of the river I(ara-moran. 1 Large con- 
signments of merchandise are forwarded to this city, in order 
that the goods m.ay be transported, by means of this river, to 
various other places. Salt is manufactured here in great 
quantities, not only for the consun1ption of the city itself, but 
for exportation to other parts; and from this salt the grand 
khan derives an ample revenue. 2 


UPON leaving I(oi-gan-zu, you travel one day's journey towards 
the south-east, by a handsome stone causeway, leading into 
the province of Manji. On both sides of the causeway there 
are very extensive n1arshy lakes, the waters of which are deep, 
and rnay be navigated j 3 nor is there besides this any other 
road by which the province can be entered. It is, however, 
accessible by means of shipping; and in this manner it was 
that the officer who commanded the grand khan's armies in- 
vaded it, by effecting a landing with his whole force. 4 At the 

1 The city is about five miles distant froin the Yellow River, with 
which it communicates by means of the grand canal. 
I " Proche de là," says P. Martini, " il y a des marais salans, où il se 
fait du sel en abondance."-Thevenot, iii. partie, p. 321. 
3 These causeways fornl the embankments of the canal, and separate 
it, on a higher level, from the waters of the lake. It \vould seem that in 
our author's time there was only a single embankment at this part by 
means of which the waters of the lake, on that side which was fed bÝ the 
rivulets, were kept up to an artificial level. Much of the country, Staun- 
ton observes, that was formerly under water, has been drained and 
brought into cultivatioll. 
, From this it must be understood that the fleet of transports entered 
the canal, or the portion of the lake that served the purpose of a canal 
and conveyed the troops to the neighbourhood of the city of Hoai-gnan' 
which stands on its bank in the midst of a swamp. ' 

27 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

end of the day's journey, you reach a considerable town named 
Pau-ghin. 1 The inhabitants \vorship idols, burn their dead 
. , 
use paper money, and are the subjects of the grand khan. They 
gain their living by trade and manufacture: they have much 
silk, and weave gold tissues. The necessaries of life are there in 


AT the distance of a day's journey from Pau-ghin, towards 
the south-east, stands the large and well-built city of Kain. 2 
Its inhabitants are idolaters, use the paper money as their cur- 
rency, and are the subjects of the grand khan. Trade and 
manufactures flourish amongst them. 1'hey have fish in 
abundance, and game also, both beasts and birds. Pheasants, 
in particular, are in such plenty, that for a bit of silver equal in 
value to a Venetian groat you may purchase three of these 
birds, of the size of pea-fo-wls. 


AT the end of a day's journey from the last-mentioned place, 
in the course of which many villages and much tilled land are 
met with, you reach a city named Tin-gui, not of any great size, 
but plentifully furnished with all the necessaries of life. The 
people are idolaters, the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper money. They are merchants, and have many trad- 
ing vessels. Both beasts and birds are here found in plenty. 
The situation of this city is towards the south-east, and on the 
left-hand-that is, on the eastern side of it, at the distance of 
three days' journey-you find the sea. In the intermediate 

1 This is the Pau-in-cheu of Van Braam's journal, the Pao-yn-hien of 
Du Halde's map, and the Paa-yng-shien of Staunton's. 
2 However different the nalnes may appear, this is evidently the town. 
of Kao-yu, 011 the banks of the lake and canal; and it is not improbable 
that Ka-in is a typographical mistake of Ka-iu, or Ka-yu, as in almost 
every naIlle we have observed the final tt to be changed for SOHle othér 
letter resembling it in form. 

The City of Yan-gui 


space there are many salt-works, where large quantities of 
salt are manufactured.! You next come to the large and well- 
built town of Chin-gui, from whence salt is exported sufficient 
for the supply of all the neighbouring provinces. 2 On this 
article the grand khan raises a revenue, the amount of which 
would scarcely be credited. Here also the inhabitants worship 
idols, use paper money, and are the subjects of his majesty. 


PROCEEDING in a south-easterly direction from Chin-gui, you 
come to the important city of Yan-gui, which, having twenty- 
four towns under its jurisdiction, must be considered as a 
place of great consequence. 3 I t belongs to the dominion of 
the grand khan. The people are idolaters, and subsist by 
trade and manual arts. They manufacture arms and all sorts 
of warlike accoutrements; in consequence of which many 
troops are stationed in this part of the country. The city is 
the place of residence of one of the t\velve nobles before 
1 Tingui, or Tingiu, appears to be the Tai-cheu of the maps, a city ùi 
the second order, dependent upon Yang-cheu-fu; but of which, as it 
lies out of the route of traveHers, we have little information. The 
situation, however, with respect to the sea, and in the midst of salt- 
works, serves to establish their identity. "11 y a beaucoup de salines," 
observes Martini, "vers l'odent de la ville (de Yang-cheu) où Ie sel se 
fait de l'eau de la mer."-P. 129. 
2 This place, as a mart for exporting the salt to different provinces, we 
may presume to lie near the great river, and Tsing-kiang-hien presents 
itself as favour ably circumstanced for that traffic. It must, however, 
be observed that Chin-gui, or Cin-gui, as distinct from Tin-gui, is not to 
be found in the Basle edition or Venice epitome. 
3 The points of the compass must here be greatly perverted; but 
whatever may be the situations assigned to the inconsiderable placc.5 
just mentioned, no doubts can be entertained of Yan-gui, or Yan-giu, 
being the city of Yang-cheu-fu; although the jurisdiction of the latter 
comprehended, in the seventeenth century, according to Martini, only 
ten, instead of twenty-four towns. "C'est une ville forte marchande," 
says Du Halde, " et il s'y fait un grand commerce de toutes sortes d'ouv- 
rages Chinois. . . Le reste du canal jusqu'à Pe-king, u'a aUCUIle ville 
qui lui soit comparable. . . Yang-tcheou a deux lienes de circuit, et l'on 
y compte, taut dans la ville, que dans les fauxbourgs, deux millions 
d' atTIes." (Tom. i. p. 134.) Staunton speaks of it as a city of the first 
order, bearing the marks of great antiquity. "It still," he says, "had 
the appearance of carrying on a considerable trade; and there were not 
fewer than a thousand vessels of different sizes lying at anchor close to 
it."-P. 420. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

spoken of, who are appointed by his majesty to the govern- 
ment of the provinces; 1 and in the room of one of these, 
Marco Polo, by special order of the grand khan, acted as 
governor of this city during the space of three years. 


NAN-GRIN is the name of a large and distinguished province 
of 1vIanji, situated towards the west. 2 1'he people are 
idolaters, use paper money in currency, are subjects of the 
grand khan, and are largely engaged in commerce. They 
have raw silk, and \veave tissues of silver and gold in great 
quantities, and of various patterns. The country produces 
abundance of corn, and is stored as v{ell with domestic cattle 
as with beasts and birds that are the objects of the chase, and 
plenty of tigers. It supplies the sovereign with an ample 
revenue, and chiefly from the imposts levied upon the rich 
articles in which the merchants trade. We shall now speak 
of the noble city of Sa-yan-fu. 


SA-YAN-FU is a considerable city of the province of Manji, 
having under its jurisdiction t\velve wealthy and large towns. 3 
1 From the account of the Civil Tribunal of Twelve, given in chap. 
xix. of this book, and note 2, p. 206, it did not appear, as this passage 
implies, that the governors of the pro,,
inces, or viceroys, as they are 
termed (tsong-tll.), were chosen from theIr own body. Such a selection 
may have taken place occasionally, without being the established prac- 
2 By Nan-ghin (in the Basle edition Nauigui, and in the manuscripts 
as well as the epitome Naingui) must unquestionably be meant Nankill, 
formerly the name of the province to which the reigning dynasty has 
given that of I{iang-nan. 
3 In proceeding to the description of this remarkable city, our author 
departs from the fonns of an itinerary, and makes no Inention of its dis- 
tance or its hearings froIn any of the places already noticed. Siang- 
yang is situated in the northern part of the province of Hu-kuang, adjoin- 
ing to that of Kiang-nan, upon the river Ha.n, 
vh!ch. d
scharges it
into the I{iang. The nUlnber of towns under Its JUrIsdictIon at the tune 
l\Iartini wrote, was SC\'Cll, exclusive of SOllle furtrcsses. 

Siege of Sa-yan-fu 


It is a place of great commerce and extensive manufactures. 
The inhabitants burn the bodies of their dead, and are 
idolaters. 1 They are the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper currency. Raw silk is there produced in great 
quantity, and the finest silks, intermixed with gold, are woven. 
Game of all kinds abounds. The place is amply furnished 
with everything that belongs to a great city, and by its un- 
common strength it was enabled to stand a siege of three years; 
refusing to surrender to the grand khan, even after he had ob- 
tained possession of the province of Manji. 2 The difficulties 
experienced in the reduction of it were chiefly occasioned by 
the army's not being able to approach it, excepting on the 
northern side; the others being surrounded with water,3 
by means of which the place continually received supplies, 
which it was not in the power of the besiegers to prevent. 
When the operations were reported to his majesty, he felt 
extremely hurt that this place alone should obstinately hold 
out, after all the rest of the country had been reduced to obedi- 
ence. The circumstance having come to the knowledge of the 
brothers Nicolo and Maffeo, who were then resident at the 
imperial court,4 they immediately presented themselves to 
the grand khan, and proposed to him that they should be 
allowed to construct machines, such as were made use of in 
the "rest, capable of throwing stones of three hundred pounds 
weight, by which the buildings of the city might be destroyed 
and the inhabitants killed. Their memorial \vas attended to 
1 \Ve are naturally surprised at these repeated assertions, that, even 
in the central parts of the empire, the inhabitants were accustomed to 
burn th.e bodies of their dead. It appears, ho,vever, from the observa. 
tions made by the gentlemen of the Dutch embassy, in passing through 
the province of Kiang-nan, that regular inhumation is not, even now so 
general as had been supposed; and it may be fair to conjecture that' as 
many of the Chinese superstitions, and along with them the doctrin
the metmnpsychosis, were borrowed from their Indian neighbours the 
rites of the funeral pile may formerly have been still more prevale
:& According to those who have written on the authority of the Chinese 
annals, Siang-yang was invested in 1269, and taken in 1273; whereas 
Hang cheu, the capital of the Song, ,vas not summoned until 1276. Our 
author, therefore, instead of saying that the whole of Manji had been 
conquered during the continuance of the siege, should have confined his 
assertion to a considerable part. 
8 The operations were directed, in the first instance, against Fan- 
ching, on the northern side of the Han, opposite to, and a kind of suburb 
of, Siang-yang, which appears from the plan in Du Halde to be in part 
enoon1passed by a bend of that river. 
4 In the Basle edition the author ascribes to himself a share of the 
n1crit; the words being: "Ilio euim tempore ego et pater Incus atque 
patruus fuimus in imperatoris aula;" and in the Italian epitome: 
" Certamente la fo presa per industria de n1Ïser Nicolo e Mafia e l\1arco." 


Travels of Marco Polo 

by the grand khan, \vho, war
ly approving of the scheme j 
gave orders that the ablest smIths and carpenters should be 
placed under their direction; amongst whom were some Nes- 
tori an Christians, who proved to be most able mechanics. 1 In 
a few days they completed their mangonels, according to the 
instructions furnished by the two brothers; and a trial being 
made of them in the presence of the grand khan, and of his 
whole court, an opportunity was afforded of seeing them cast 
stones, each of which weighed three hundred pounds. They 
were then put on board of vessels, and conveyed to the army. 
When set up in front of the city of Sa-yan-fu, the first stone 
projected by one of them fell with such weight and violence 
upon a building, that a great part of it was crushed, and fell 
to the ground. So terrified were the inhabitants by this 
mischief, \vhich to them seemed to be the effect of a thunder- 
bolt froIn heaven,2 that they immediately deliberated upon 
the expediency of surrendering. Persons authorized to treat 
were accordingly sent from the place, and their submission 
was accepted on the same terms and conditions as had been 
granted to the rest of the province. This prompt result of 
their ingenuity increased the reputation and credit of these 
two Venetian brothers in the opinion of the grand khan and of 
all his courtiers. 3 
1 These people we migbt understand from the text of Ramusio to be 
Asiatic Christians, and possibly Ighurs or Rumîs, who were then ac- 
counted the most ingenious and best instructed people elnployed at 
the courts or in the armies of the Tartar and other Eastern princes. 
In the Basle edition, on the contrary, they are spoken of as " fabros 
lignarios Christianos quos nobiscum habuimus;" and in the epitome, 
as " Inaestri Venetiani che era (erano) in queUe parte." 
2 Frequent notice is taken in the Chinese annals of the fall of meteoric 
stones. See. Voy à Peking par De Guignes, tom. i. pp. 195-250. 
3 It must not here be passed unnoticed, that the consistency of our 
author is put to a severe test by the date comlnonly assigned to the 
reduction of Siang-yang, which, if it actually took place at the close 
of the year 1273, allows no more than two years for the journey (If 
the Polo family from Acre, in Palestine, which they certainly left about 
the end of 1271 (as shown in note 1, p. 19), until their arrival at Pekin; 
whilst in Ramusio's text, although not in the Basle edition, it is said to 
have occupied three years and a half. I t becomes necessary therefore 
to adopt the opinion, either that the time they were on the road did 
not in fact exceed the first-mentioned period, or that the siege was not 
terminated so early as P. Gaubil and P. lVlaiJla have stated; to which 
latter supposition some degree of probability is given by the repeated 
assertion of our author that this ,vas amongst the last places of l\fanji 
that held out against the Tartars. 

The Great River Kiang 

28 3 


I.lEAVING the city of Sa-y
n-fu, and proceeding fifteen days' 
journey to,vards the south-east, you reach the city of Sin-gui, 
which, although not large, is a place of great commerce.! 
The number of vessels that belong to it is prodigious, in con- 
sequence of its being situated near the Kiang, which is the. 
largest river in the world, its ,vidth being in some places ten, 
in others eight, and in others six miles. 2 I ts length, to the 
place where it discharges itself into the sea, is upwards of one 
hundred days' journey.3 It is indebted for its great size to 
the vast number of other navigable rivers that empty their 
waters into it, ,vhich have their sources in distant countries. 
A great number of cities and large towns are situated upon 
its banks, and more than two hundred, with sixteen 
provinces,4 partake of the advantages of its navigation, 
by which the transport of merchandise is to an extent 
that might appear incredible to those who have not 
had an opportunity of witnessing it. When \ve consider, 
indeed, the length of its course, and the multitude of rivers 
lOur author had stepped out of what might be regarded as the line 
of his route to speak of a place so relnarkable as Siang-yang, and here 
again, by a large stride, returns to the eastern provinces. There is no 
town that appears to answer so well to the description he has given of 
Sin-gui, as that of Kiu-kiang, at the northern extremity of the province 
of I{iang-si, and which, as we are informed by l\lartini, was named Tin- 
kiang under the dynasty of the Song. 
a At the place where the Kiang is crossed by the line of the canal the 
width is stated by Sir G. Staunton at about two English miles, and by M. 
De Guignes at a French league; but nearer to the sea it is, of course, 
much greater. As our author should, however, be supposed to speak of 
its width near the city he is describing, we ought perhaps to understand 
nút Italian but Chinese miles, or li, which are to the former in the pro- 
portion of three to eight, and consequently his estimation would agree 
with that of the modern travellers. It is to the city of Kiu-kiang that 
the tides of the sea, at the full and change, are perceived to extend; and 
here, on this account, it is said to change its appellation of Ta-kiang, or 
the great river, for that of Y âng-tsè-kiang, or the son of the sea. 
S The length of its course is colnputed by Barrow at two thousand 
two hundred lniles, which would give an average of twenty-two Iniles 
for each day's passage, or perhaps thirty, when the unavoidable stop- 
pages in so long a tract are considered. By a day's journey must not 
in general be understood what a person could travel in a given number 
of hours, but the interval between two accustomed resting places. 
( The division of the provinces was not the same at that period as it 
ts at present; the whole nUfilber being now fifteen, exclusively of 
the i:;land úf Hai-nan. 

28 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

that communicate with it (as has been observed), it is not sur- 
prising that the quantity and value of articles for the supply of 
so many places, lying in all directions, should be incalculable. 
The principal commodity, however, is salt, '\vhich is not only 
conveyed by means of the Kiang, and the rivers connected with 
.it, to the towns upon their banks, b
t afterwards from thence to 
all places in the interior of the country.1 On one occasion, 
when Marco Polo was at the city of Sin-gui, he saw there not 
fewer than fifteen thousand vessels; and yet there are other 
towns along the river where the number is still more consider- 
able. 2 All these vessels are covered with a kind of deck, and 
have a mast with one sai1. 3 Their burthen is in general about 
four thousand cantari, or quintals, of Venice, and from that 
upwards to twelve thousand cantari, which some of them are 
capable of loading. 4 They do not employ hempen cordage, 
excepting for the masts and sails (standing and running 
rigging). They have canes of the length of fifteen paces, 
such as have been already described, which they split, in their 
whole length, into very thin pieces, and these, by twisting them 
together, they form into ropes three hundred paces long. ó So 
skilfully are they manufactured, that they are equal in strength 
to cordage made of hemp. With these ropes the vessels are 
tracked along the rivers, by means of ten or twelve horses to 
1 Salt appears to be principally manufactured in tl1at part of Kiang- 
nan which lies between the sea, on the east, the Kao-yeu lake on the 
west, and the Kiang on the south. Being shipped on the latter, it is 
conveyed to the most distant parts of China, but a considerable portion 
goes to the metropolis. 
t The city of Kiu-kiang, which answers best to the circumstances 
related of Sin-gui, is thus spoken of by P. l\1artini: "Kiu-kiang est une 
grande ville et fort marchande sur Ie bord méridional de la rivière de 
Kiang où elle se joint avec Ie grand lac de Poyang 
 on auroit de la peine 
à croire Ie grand nombre de vaisseaux qu'il y a, à Illoins que de l'avoir 
vue; car ils viennent de taus les endroits les plus éloignés de la Chine 
dans cette rivière, qui est comme leur rendez-vous, où ils s'assemblent 
pour se mettre en mer."-P. III. 
3 Representations of these vessels may be seen in the plates accom- 
panying the accounts of all the Embassies to Chil1a. 
4 The canfaro is commonly translated by quintaJ or hundredweight, 
which would n1ake the burthen of these vessels two hundred, and up to 
six hundred tons: but the cantaro of some parts of Italy is smaller than 
that of others. 
6 Persons who have seen the cables belonging to praws of the Eastern 
Islands might suppose that this account of twisting the bamboo into 
cordage, was a mistake for the Inanufa
ture of cables by twisting or 
platting the rattan, so commonly applied to that purpose; but our 
author's correctness as to the nlaterial is fully proved by the testinlony 
of rnodern travellers. "Even the ropes," says 
lr. Ellis, "by which 
the buckets were attached to the wheel, were of bamboo."- J ourna!. 
etc. p. 3 8 3. 

The City of Kayn-gui 

28 5 

each,! as well upwards, against the current, as in the opposite 
direction. At many places near the banks of this river there 
are hills and small rocky eminences, upon which are erected idol 
temples and other edifices, and you find a continual succession 
of villages and inhabited places. 


KAYN-GUI is a small town on the southern bank of the before- 
mentioned river,2 where annually is collected a very large 
quantity of corn and rice, the greatest part of which is conveyed 
from thence to the city of I(anbalu, for the supply of the estab- 
lishment of the grand khan; 3 for through this place is the line 
of communication with the province of Cathay, by means of 
rivers, lakes, and a ,vide and deep canal which the grand khan 
has caused to be dug, in order that vessels may pass from one 
great river to the other, and from the province of lYlanji, by 
water, as far as Kanbalu, without making any part of the 
voyage by sea. 4 This magnificent work is deserving of ad.. 
miration; and not so much from the manner in which it is con- 
ducted through the country, or its vast extent, as from its 
utility and the benefit it produces to those cities which lie in 
its course. On its banks, likewise, are constructed strong and 
wide terraces, or chaussées, upon which the travelling by land 
also is rendered perfectly convenient. In the midst of the 
1 At the present day it would seem that vessels of every description 
are tracked by men only, and not by horses, which, as well as other 
cattle, are to a certain degree scarce in China; but there is reason to 
believe that under the I\1ungal princes, great numbers were brought 
from Tartary, and much encouragement given to breeding them. It 
may be observed at the same time that very little is known of the inland 
navigation of the country, excepting what is immediately connected 
with the grand canal. 
2 There is reason to conclude that by Kayn-gui nlust be Ineant a town 
situated at the entrance of the canal, on the southern side of the Kiang, 
named by P. l\1agalhanes Chin-kiang-keù, signifying the mouth or port 
of Chin-kiang (the Tsin-kiang of De Guignes), a city standing on the 
same canal, and which is the subject of the succeeding chapter. 
3 The journals of Van Braaln and of De Guignes make frequent rnen- 
tion of the interruption their yachts experienced from the vast number 
of vessels laden with rice for Pekin, that were collected at this part of 
the canal. 
, In every account of China the description of this grand canal forms 
a prominent feature: "an inland navigation of such extent and magni- 
tude," says Barrow: " as to stand unrivalled in the history of the world." 
Its completion, as it now exists, is said to have been effected in the reign 
of Yang-lo, third emperor of the Ming, about the year I409. 


rravels of Marco Polo 

river, opposite to the city of l{ayn-gui, there is an island en 
tirely of rock, upon which are built a grand temple and monas- 
tery, where t'\vo hundred monks, as they may be termed, reside, 
and perform service to the idols; and this is the supreme head 
of many other temples and monasteries. 1 We shall now speak 
of the city of Chan-ghian-fu. 


CHAN-GHIAN-FU is a city of the province of Manji,2 the inhabi- 
tants of which are idolaters, subjects of the grand khan, and 
use his paper money. They gain their living by trade and 
manufacture, and are wealthy. They weave tissues "of silk 
and gold. The field sports are there most excellent in every 
species of game, and provisions are abundant. There are in 
this city three churches of Nestorian Christians, which were 
built in..the year 1278, when his majesty appointed a Nestorian, 
{ar-Sachis, to the government of it for three years. 
By him these churches were established, ,,,,here there had not 
been any before; and they still subsist. 3 Leaving this place, 
we shall now speak of Tin-gui-gui. 
lOur author's notice of this island, so peculiarly circumstanced, at the 
saIne time that it presents an unquestionable proof of the genuineness of 
his observations, ser"es to mark with certainty the place at which he 
crossed the Kiang. "In crossing the river," says Staunton, " the atten- 
tion was particularly attracted by an island situated in the middle, called 
Chin-shan, or the golden mountain, which rose alnlost perpendicularly 
out of the river. . . . It belonged to the emperor, who had built upon it 
a large and handsome palace, and on the highest eminence several temples 
and pagodas. The island also contained a large monastery of prieSts, 
by whom it is chiefly inhabited."-Vol. n. p. 424.. 
a " Ceux qui liront les escrits de Marco Polo de Venise," says P. M.artini 
" verront clairen1ent par la situation de cette ville et le nom qu'elle 
(Chin-kiang-fu) que c'est celle qu'il nomme Cingiam (Chin-gian). EUe 
est bastie sur Ie bard de la rivière de Kiang, et à l'orient d'un canal fait 
par artifice, qu'on a conduit jusqucs dans la rivière de l{iang; de l'autre 
costé du canal, sur Ie bord qui regarde l'occident, est son fauxbourg, qui 
n'est pas moins peuplé, et où l'abord est aussi grand que celuy de ]a ville 
mesJne." It is evident that this lau
'tbou1'g is the town that has been 
described under the corrupted name of Kayn-gui, and what has been 
said of the resort of shipping might have been reserved for this place. 
3 The existence of these churches) of which 110 reasonable doubt can 
be entertained, is a curious fact in the history of the progress made by 
the Christian religion in the eastern or remoter parts of China. The 
naIne of the indh;idual is, in the Basle edition, lYlar-Sarcis, and in the 
Bcrlin manuscript, !\lar-Iarchi:;. The title or appellation of Mar, equiva- 
lent, in Syriac, to Dominus in Latiu, is well known to have been commonly 

TIle City of Tin-gui-gui 

28 7 


DEPARTING from Chan-ghian-fu, and travelling four days 
to,vards the south-east, you pass many towns and fortified 
places, the inhabitants of which are idolaters, live by arts 
and commerce, are the subjects of the grand khan, and use 
his paper money. At the end of these four days, you reach 
the city of Tin-gui-gui, which is large and handsome, l and 
produces much raw silk, of which tissues of various qualities 
and patterns are woven. The necessaries of life are here in 
plenty, and the variety of game affords excellent sport. The 
inhabitants were a vile, inhuman race. At the time that 
 Ba-yan, or the hundred-eyed, subdued the country 
of Manji, he despatched certain Alanian Christians,2 along 
with a party of his own people, to possess themselves of this 
city; who, as soon as they appeared before it, were suffered 
to enter '\vithout resistance. The place being surrounded by 
a double wall, one of them ,vi thin the other, the Alanians 
occupied the first enclosure, where they found a large quantity 
of wine, and having previously suffered much from fatigue 
and privation, they were eager to quench their thirst, and, 
without any consideration, proceeded to drink to such excess, 
that, becoming intoxicated, they fell asleep. The people of 
the city, who were within the second enclosure, as soon as they 
perceived that their enemies lay slulllbering on the ground, 
took the opportunity of murdering them, not suffering one to 
escape. When Chinsan Ba-yan learned the fate of his detach- 
ment, his indignation and anger were raised to the highest 
affixed to the nanles of Nestorian bishops, as well as of other persons of 
rank, and as that of Mar-Sergius often occurs in the annals of their 
church, it seems likely to have been the name of which Sachis and Sarcis 
are corruptions. 
1 The dIstance of four days' journey. in the line of the canal, from the 
last-mentioned place, shows that this city, which in the early Venice epi- 
tome is named Tin-gin-gui, and in the Berlin manuscript Chin-chin-gui, 
must be the Tchang-tcheou.fou of Du Halde's n1ap, or Chang-cheu-fû 
according to our orthography: "ville célèbre et d'un grand commerce 
qui est située proche du canal. n 
a Without entering upon the ancient and obscure history of the Alani 
or Alanians of Scythia or Turkistan, it will be sufficient to observe that 
after their defeat and dispersion by the fIuns, a considerable portion of 
them settled on the northern slope of the ran
e of Caucasus, on the 
western side of the Caspian, and, if not actually the same people, are 
now confounded with the A bkhas and Cherkess or Circassians. 


Travels of LVlarco Polo 

pitch, and he sent another army to attack the place. When 
it was carried, he gave orders for putting to the sword all the 
inhabitants, great and small, without distinction of sex. as an 
act of retaliation. 


SIN-GUI is a large and magnificent city, the circumference of 
which is twenty miles.! The inhabitants are idolaters, sub- 
jects of the grand khan, and use his paper money. They have 
vast quantities of raw silk, and manufacture it, not only for 
their own consumption, all of them being clothed in dresses: 
of silk, but also for other markets. There are among
some very rich merchants, and the number of inhabitants is so 
great as to be a subject of astonishment. They are, however, a 
pusillanimous race, and solely occupied with their trade and 
manufactures. In these indeed they display considerable 
ability, and if they were as enterprising, manly, and warlike, 
as they are ingenious, so prodigious is their number, that they 
might not only subdue the whole of the province (IvIanji), but 
might carry their views still further. They have amongst 
them many physicians of eminent skill, who can ascertain the 
nature of the disorder, and know how to apply the proper 
remedies. 2 There are also persons distinguished as professors 
of learning, or, as we should term them, philosophers, and 
1 By Sin-gui is to be understood the eminent city of Su-cheu, situated 
in the line of the canal, and much celebrated by travellers, who compare 
it in some respects, to Venice. "The streets of the city of Sou-choo- 
foo," says Staunton, "through the suburbs of which the yachts now 
passed, were divided, like Venice, by branches from the principal canal. 
Over each of those branches was erected an elegant stone bridge. The 
fleet of the embassy was nearly three hours in passing the suburbs of 
Sou-choo-foo, before they arrived at the city walls." (Vol. ii. p. 427.) 
" Les muraiHes de la vil1e de Sucheu," says Martini, "ont quarante 
stades Chinoises de circuit; mais si vous y comprenez les fauxbourgs, 
va us en trouverez sans doute plus de cent." (P. 124.) Forty Chinese 
Ii are equa1 to fifteen Italian miles. 
2 Su-cheu-fu being a place of great wealth and luxury, it is natural 
that the medical art should there be liberally encouraged. and its prac- 
titioners skilful. By some writers the Chinese physicians are said to 
" have made a proficiency that would astonish the ablest of ours in 
Europe;" whilst others consider their elaborate process of feeling the 
pulse, and their pretensions of being from thence enabled to asC'..ertain 
the seat of the disorder, as nothing better than solemn mummery. See 
General Description of China, by the Abbé Grosier, vol. ii. p. 480; and 
Barrow's Travels in Cbina, p. 343. 

The City of Sin-gui 

28 9 

others who may be called magicians or enchanters. 1 On the 
mountains near the city, rhubarb grows in the highest per- 
fection, and is from thence distributed throughout the pro- 
vince. 2 Ginger is likewise produced in large quantities, and 
is sold at so cheap a rate, that forty pounds '\veight of the 
fresh root may be had for the value, in their money, of a Vene- 
tian silver groat. Under the jurisdiction of Sin-gui there are 
sixteen respectable and wealthy cities and towns, where trade 
and arts flourish. By the name of Sin-gui is to be understood 
" the city of the earth," as by that of Kin-sai, "the city of 
heaven. "3 Leaving Sin-gui, we shall now speak of another 
1 By philosophers and magicians, he evidently alludes to the disciples 
of Confucius (commonly termed literati), and to those of Lao-kiun, or 
the sect of the tao-tse,. as in other places, by the appellation of idolaters, 
he means the worshippers of Fo, or Buddha, whe constitute the most 
numerous class. The first of these study the moral and metaphysical 
works of their great master, and take regular degrees in philosophy, 
which qualify them, according to their attainments, for holding the 
several offices of government, and becoming what Europeans term 
" mandarins of letters." The tao-tse, or " sons of immortality," as they 
style themselves, hold doctrines which some writers describe as resem- 
bling those of the Hindu yogis or quietists (from whom they seem, in 
fact, to be dèrived); whilst others, judging from their worldly habits, 
attribute to them those of the Epicurean school; but whatever their 
dogmas may be, they devote themselves to the practice of magic, and 
delude their followers by the visions and reveries of the illuminati. 
2 " Le tai-hoam (more correctly, according to De Guignes, ta-hoang, 
grand jaune) ou la rhubarbe," says P. Perennin, "croît en plusieurs 
endroits de la Chine. La meilleure est celle de Sse-tchouen; celIe qui 
vient dans la province de Xensi et dans Ie royaume de Thibet, lui est 
fort inférieure." (Lett. édif. tom. xix. p. 307.) The mountains of the 
province of Kiang-nan, being in the same latitude as the former, may 
likewise produce a good kind, although not noticed by our modern tra- 
vellers, who in general have had little opportunity of making botanical 
researches beyond the borders of the canals and high roads. I t is evi- 
dent that a mistake has here been made, probably in the arrangement 
of our author's original notes. What is said of the growth of rhubarb 
in the neighbourhood of this Sin-gui or Su-cheu, in the eastern province 
of Kiang-nan, was undoubtedly meant to apply to another Singui or 
Si-ning, a well-known place of trade in the western province of She
and on the road to Tibet. The commerce in that article particularly 
belongs to the latter place, and the Russians, as Pallas informs us, make 
their contracts for it with Bucharian merchants settled there. It is not 
only in itself improbable that two places of the same name, in opposite 
extremes of China, should boast of this production, but the fact of 
its being found in anyone of the eastern provinces is entirely un- 
supported. With respect to ginger, the quantity that might be pur- 
chased for a Venetiar; groat is said in the Italian 
pitome to be five only, 
not forty pounds weIght. [The best texts agree In reading forty.] 
. 3 
ur author may be mistaken 
n his etymology and in his 
d!stInctIve epIthets of celestIal and terrestrIal paradise, it is plain that 
hIS observatIon refers to a well-known Chinese saying, that, " what the 
heavens are, above, Su-cheu and Hang-chen are upon earth." P. Mar- 
tini gives the proverb in the original words. Thevenot, Hi. partie, 
p. 12 4. 


29 0 

Travels of Marco Polo 

city. distant from it only a day's journey, named Va-giu., 
where, likewise, there is a vast abundance of raw silk, and 
where there are many merchants as well as artificers. Silks 
of the finest quality are woven here, and are afterwards carried 
to every part of the province.! No other circumstances pre- 
senting themselves as worthy of remark, we shall no,v proceed 
to the description of the principal city 
nd metropolis of tbe 
province of Man ji, named Kin-sai. · 



 I. UPON leaving Va-giu you pass, in the course of three days' 
journey, many to,vns, castles, and villages, all of them well 
inhabited and opulent. The people are idolaters, and the 
subjects of the grand khan, and they use paper money and 
have abundance of provisions. At the end of three days you 
reach the noble and magnificent city of Kin-sai, a name that 
. signifies" the celestial city," and which it merits from its pre- 
eminence to all others in the world, in point of grandeur and 
beauty, as well as from its abundant delights, which might 
lead an inhabitant to imagine himself in paradise. 2 This city 
was frequently visited by Marco Polo, 3 who carefully and 
diligently observed and inquired into every circumstance 
respecting it, all of ,vhich he entered in his notes, from whence 
the following particulars are briefly stated. According to 
1 The city of Va-gie, of which no mention is made in the other ver- 
sions, must be either Ho-cheu, situated on the side of Lake Tai, opposite 
to that on which Su-cheu stands, or else (and more probably) the city 
called Kia-hing in modern times, and forn1erly Siu-cheu, which is in the 
direct line of the canal, and midway between Su-cheu and I-Iang-cheu. 
Both of them are celebrated for the richness of their commerce, particu- 
arly in silk, both raw and manufactured. 
2 At the time when this city, the capital of Southern China under the 
dynasty of the Song, was surrendered to the arms of KublaÏ. the Chinese 
annals call it by the name of Lin-gnan. This was changed by the l\ling 
for that of Hang-cheu, which it had borne at an earlier period, and which 
it still retains. Quinsai, Kin-sai, or, according to De Guignes, Kin-tsay, 
must therefore be considered only as a descriptive appellation, grounded, 
perhaps, upon the proverbial saying already noticed, which terms it a 
celestial abode, although the meaning of the component words may not 
be precisely that which our author has assigned to them. 
3 The city of Yang-cheu-fu, of which he was the provisional governor 
for three years, being distant only about a week's journey, by the canal, 
from lIang-cheu-fu, he had consequently the opportunity of occac;ional 
intercourse with that capital. 

The City of Kin-saÎ 

29 1 

common estimation, this city is an hundred n1iles in circuit. 1 
Its streets and canals are extensive, and there are squares, or 
market-places, which, being necessarily proportioned in size 
to the prodigious concourse of people by whom they are fre- 
quented, are exceedingly spacious. It is situated between a 
lake of fresh and very clear ,vater on the one side, 2 and a river 
of great magnitude .on the other, the waters of which, by a 
number of canals, large and small, are made to run through 
every quarter of the city, carrying with them all the filth into 
the lake, and ultimately to the sea. 3 This, whilst it contributes 
much to the purity of the air, furnishes a communication by 
water, in addition to that by land, to all parts of the town; 
the canals and the streets being of sufficient width to allow of 
boats on the one, and carriages in the other, conveniently 

1 These dimensions, taken in their literal sense, must be regarded as 
extravagant, even although they should be understood to include the 
suburbs; but there has already been frequent occasion to remark, that 
when, in describing the size of places, our author speaks of miles, he 
must be supposed to mean Chinese miles, or li, which are to the Italian 
in the proportion of three to eight. Even such an extent might seem 
excessive, were it not that the walls even of the modem city are esti- 
mated by travellers at sixty li, and that, if in the course of five centuries 
they have undergone alterations, it is to be presumed their limits may 
have been considerably contracted. It is rarely indeed that strangers 
can have the opportunity of measuring the works of fortified places: 
they must derive their information from the natives, who, from ignorance 
or vanity, are likely to deceive them. 
2 The lake here spoken of is the Si-hu, or " western lake," so called 
from it.s being situated on the western side of the city. Although 
inconsiderable in point of extent, it is highly celebrated by all travellers 
on account of the beauty of its surrounding scenery, and the peculiar 
transparency of its waters. "The lake," says Staunton, "formed 
a beautiful sheet of water, about three or four miles in diameter, and 
surrounded to the north, east, and south by an amphitheatre of pic- 
turesque mountains. . . . It was in most places shallow, the water per- 
fectly pellucid, and the bottom gravelly." (P. 444.) "The water" 
says Barrow, who made an excursion on it, " was as clear as crystal."
P. 524. 
3 The river upon which this ancient capital of southern China stands 
is the Tsien-tang-kiang. "The tide," says Staunton, "increases the 
width of this river to about four miles opposite the city. At low water 
there is a fine level strand near two miles broad, which extends towards 
the sea as far as the eye can reach." (P.438.) According to the words 
of our author there appears to have been, in his time, a passage of water 
from the river, through the numerous canals of the city, into the lake. 
This would take place at the flood tide; and at the ebb, through the same 
channels, there would be a reflux from the lake into the river necessary 
for the purpose of cleansing them. But in the modern accounts of Hang- 
cheu-fu no mention is made of any such communication between the 
river and the city or the lake, and to account for the disagreenlent we 
nlight be led to conclude that from the receding of the sea or other 
natural causes, a change of circumstances may have been p
oduced in 
so long a course of tiIne. 

29 2 

Travels of Marco Polo 

passIng, with articles necessary for the consumption of the 
inhabitants. 1 It is commonly said that the number of bridges, 
of all sizes, amounts to twelve thousand. 2 Those which are 
thrown over the principal canals and are connected with the 
main streets, have arches so high, and built with so much skill, 
that vessels with their masts can pass under them,3 whilst, at 
the same time, carts and horses are passing over their heads,- 
so well is the slope from the street adapted to the height of the 
arch. If they were not in fact so numerous, there would be no 
convenience of crossing from one place to another. 

 2. Beyond the city, and enclosing it on that side, there is 
a fosse about forty miles in length, very wide, and full of water 
that comes from the river before mentioned. This was ex- 
cavated by the ancient kings of the province, in order that 
when the river should overflow its banks, the superfluous 
water might be diverted into this channel; and to serve at the 
same time as a measure of defence. 4 The earth dug out from 
1 All the n10dern accounts of this city concur in describing its numerous 
canals, but they likewise insist upon the narrowness of its paved streets. 
Our author, it is true, in a subsequent part of his description, speaks of 
the principal street as being forty paces in width (about equal to that of 
Pekin); but it must be considered that at the period when he wrote, 
Hang-cheu still retained the magnificence of a great capital and imperial 
residence, and that in a country repeatedly ravaged by foreign and 
domestic conquerors, it cannot be suppo!?ed to have escaped repeated 
destruction, nor, when renewed, to have assumed, in the new arrange- 
ment of its streets, any other character than that of a provincial city, 
although of the first class. 
2 Amongst the exaggerations imputed to our author, in his account of 
China, none has been more comrnonly pointed out by those who take a 
part against him, than this assertion, that a city, whatever its extent 
and magnificence might be, should have contained twelve thousand 
bridges.. It cannot be denied that the truth is here outstepped; but it 
must be recollected that he does not state the fact upon the authority of 
any enumeration of his own, but merely as the popular story (è lama is 
the expression) related by the inhabitants of the place, whose vanity, 
in this and other instances, led them to impose upon admiring credulity. 
3 " Outre ces digues," says P. Le Comte, speaking of the grand canal, 
" on a basti une infinité de ponts pour la communication des terres: 
ils sont de trois, de cinq, et de sept arches; celle du milieu est extra- 
ordinairement haute, afin que les barques en passant, ne soient pas 
obligées d'abaisser leurs masts." (Nouv. Mém. de la Chine, tom. i. p. 
161.) "De to us les environs," says Du Halde, in his description of a 
neighbouring city, " on peut venir, entrer, et aller dans toute la ville en 
bateau. 11 n'y a point de rue où il n'y ait un canal; c'est pourquoi il y 
a quantité de ponts qui sont fort élevés, et presque to us d'une seule 
arche." (Tom. i. p. 179.) But most directly to our purpose is Barrow's 
observation, that " over this main trunk and most of the other canals 
and rivers, are a great variety of bridges. . . . Some have the piers of 
such an extraordinary height, that the largest ves
els, of two hundred 
tons sail under them without striking their masts."-P. 337. 
4 'the existence of this fosse, commencing at the lake, and terminating 
at the river, may be traced in Du Halde's plan of the city. Its length 

The City of Kin-sai 


thence was thrown to the inner side, and has the appearance of 
many hillocks surrounding the place. There are within the 
city ten principal squares or market-places, besides innumer- 
able shops along the streets. Each side of these squares is half 
a mile in length, l and in front of them is the main street, forty 
paces in width, and running in a direct line from one ex- 
tremity of the city to the other. It is crossed by many low 
and convenient bridges. These market-squares (two miles 
in their whole dimension) are at the distance of four miles from 
each other. In a direction parallel to that of the main street, 
but on the opposite side of the squares, runs a very large canal, 
on the nearer bank of which capacious warehouses are built of 
stone, for the accommodation of the merchants who arrive 
from India and other parts, together with their goods and 
effects, in order that they may be conveniently situated with 
respect to the market-places. 2 In each of these, upon three 
days in every week, there is an assemblage of from forty to fifty 
thousand persons, who attend the markets and supply them 
with every article of provision that can be desired. There is 
an abundant quantity of game of all kinds, such as ro
stags, fallow deer, hares, and rabbits, together with partridges, 
pheasants, francolins, quails, common fowls, capons, and such 
numbers of ducks and geese as can scarcely be expressed; for 
so easily are they bred and reared on the lake, that, for the 
value of a Venetian silver groat, you may purchase a couple of 
geese and two couple of ducks. 3 There, also, are the shambles, 

there appears to exceed the proportion here assigned of four-tenths of 
the whole extent of the waHs, but all the plans in that collection are 
without scale, and seem to have been drawn by Chinese artists from 
memory rather than from actual survey. With regard to the object of 
this excavation, it may rather be thought intended to carry off the over- 
flowings of the lake, than to receive those of the river, and Staunton 
accordingly speaks of the stream that flows through it at ordinary times 
as being supplied from the former. ' 
1 The interior of this and of every other Chinese city must. have under- 
gone an entire change since the days of our author, and the bazars or 
market-places here mentioned are unnoticed by modern travellers. 
According to the length of the Chinese Ii, as established by the most 
accurate writers, at 296 French toises, each side of these squares would 
be about .320 English yards. and their distance from each other about 
2 The regulations of the Chinese government with regard to foreign 
commerce a]?pear to have been nearly the same, at a remote period, as 
those to WhICh the European concerns at the port of Canton are sub- 
jected at the present day. 
3 Perhaps instead of the conjunction copulative "and," we should 
here read the disjunctive" or," and consider two of the smaller of these 
aquatic birds as an equivalent for one of the larger. 


Travels of Marco Polo 

where they slaughter cattle for food, such as oxen, calves, kids, 
and lambs, to furnish the t l.bles of rich persons and of the great 
magistrates. As to people of the lo\ver classes, they do not 
scruple to eat every other kind of flesh, however unclean, 
without any discrimination. 1 At all seasons there is in the 
markets a great va.riety of herbs and fruits, and especially 
pears of an extraordinary size, weighing ten pounds each, that 
are white in the inside, like paste, and have a very fragrant 
smell. 2 There are peaches also, in their season, both of the 
yellow and the white kind,s and of a delicious flavour. Grapes 
are not produced there, but are brought in a dried state, and 
very good, from other parts. This applies also to wine, which 
the natives do not hold in estimation, being accustomed to 
their own liquor prepared from rice and spices. From the sea, 
which is fifteen miles distant, there is daily brought up the 
river, to the city, a vast quantity of fish; and in the lake also 
there is abundance, which gives employment at all times to 
persons whose sole occupation it is to catch them. The sorts 
1 Staunton observes, that "of the larger kind (of quadrupeds) the 
common people have little opportunity of ever tasting, unless of such 
as die by accident or disease. In such cases the appetite of a Chinese 
surmounts all scruple; whether it be an ox or camel, a sheep or ass, it is 
equally acceptable. This people know no distinction of clean and un- 
clean meat. . . . Quadrupeds that can find some resources for subsistence 
about dwelling-houses, such as hogs and dogs, are the most comnlon 
animal food, and are sold at the public markets." (P. 399.) The 
Arabian travellers of the ninth century notice in like manner the indis- 
criminate style of feeding to which the Chinese were addicted in their 
I Pears of the ,\yeight of ten pounds are, it must be confessed, an extra- 
ordinary production of nature, and must have been of a kind stiJl un- 
known in Europe, where, I believe, the largest are not found to exceed 
two pounds; nor have I been able to ascertain the weight of any pear 
grown in England, exceeding twenty-six ounces. It is well known, 
indeed, that the varieties of the pyrus, as well as of other fruits, not only 
degenerate in size and quality, but in a long course of years actually 
become extinct. But the credibility of our author's assertion does not 
rest for support upon the mere presumption of what might bave been 
the state of Chinese horticulture in. the thirteenth century; for we learn 
from the accounts of modern travellers that pears of uncommon magni- 
tude are still produced in the eastern provinces of China. I\-lr. Henry 
Browne, who for many years filled the situation of Chief of tbe Company's 
factory at Canton, assured Mr. I\-Iarsden that he had seen pears, supposed 
to have been produced in the province of Fo-kien, the bulk of which 
equalled that of a moderate sized wine decanter. \Vhat is said of their 
inner substance resernbling paste, is meant to describe that quality 
which Van Braam tenns fondante or melting, and which De Guignes, 
speaking of the same fruit, expresses by beu.rrée. The latter pronounces 
them to be " fort grosses et excellentes."-Tom. iii. p. 355. 
8 By peaches of the yellow kind it may be conjectured that our author 
means apricots, which, as well as peaches, are the produce of that part 
of China. No mention Ï3 made of oranges. 

Produce and Manufactllres of Ki11-saÎ 295 

are various according to the season of the year, and, in conse- 
quence of the offal carried thither from the to\vn, they become 
large and rich. At the sight of such an importation of fish, 
you would think it impossible that it could be sold; and yet, 
in the course of a few hours, it is all taken off, so great is the 
number of inhabitants, even of those classes which can afford 
to indulge in such luxuries, for fish and flesh are eaten at the 
same meal. Each of the ten market-squares is surrounded 
with high dwelling-houses, 1 in the lower part of which are 
shops, where every kind of manufacture is carried on, and 
every article of trade is sold; such, amongst others, as spices, 
drugs, trinkets, and pearls. In certain shops nothing is 
vended but the wine of the country, which they are continu- 
ally brewing, and serve out fresh to their customers at a 
moderate price. The streets connected with the market.. 
squares .are numerous, and in some of them are many cold 
baths, attended by servants of both sexes, to perform the 
offices of ablution for the men and women who frequent them, 
and who from their childhood have been accustomed at all 
times to wash in cold water, which they reckon highly con- 
ducive to health. At these bathing places, however, they 
have apartments provided with ,varm water, for the use of 
strangers, who, from not being habituated to it, cannot bear 
the shock of the cold. All are in the daily practice of washing 
their persons, and especially before their meals. 
9 3. In other streets are the habitations of the courtesans, 
who are here in such numbers as I dare not venture to report: 
and not only near the squares, which is the situation usually 
appropriated for their residence, but in every part of the city 
they are to be found, adorned with much finery, highly per- 
fumed, occupying ,veIl-furnished houses, and attended by 
many female domestics. 2 These women are accomplished, 

1 The generality of Chinese houses having only one floor, those which 
are raised to a second story may, comparatively, be termed case alte. 
2 At I{anbalu, or Pekin, it was the custom in our author's time as it 
is at the present day, to restrict the residence of the public women 'to the 
suburbs of the city, where the nUlnerous strangers who resort to the 
capital were likewise quartered. I-Iere, on the other hand they are 
described as inhabiting the most frequented parts of the to
n and es- 
pecially the vicinity of the squares or bazars, as if the accommodation of 
the foreign merchants, in this respect also, was particularly consulted. 
"Ces fenunes" (says the second of the Arabian travellers after ex- 
plaining the manner in which they were registercd and licen
ed by the 
officers of governlncnt) " 111archent les soirs habwlées d'estoffes (silks) de 
diverses couleurs, et eUes ne portent point ùe voiles. Elles s'abandon- 
nent à tous les estrangers nouvellement arrivés dans Ie pais, lors qu'ils 

29 6 

Travels of Marco Polo 

and are perfect in the arts of blandishn1ent and dalliance, 
which they accompany with expressions adapted to every 
description of person, insomuch that strangers who have once 
tasted of their charms, remain in a state of fascination, and 
become so enchanted by their meretricious arts, that they can 
never divest themselves of the impression. Thus intoxicated 
with sensual pleasures, when they return to their homes they 
report that they have been in Kin-sai, or the celestial city, and 
pant for the time when they may be enabled to revisit paradise. 
In other streets are the dwellings of the physicians and the 
astrologers, who also give instructions in reading and writing, 
as well as in many other arts. They have apartments also 
amongst those which surround the market-squares. On 
opposite sides of each of these squares there are two large 
, where officers appointed by the grand khan are 
stationed, to take immediate cognisance of any differences 
that may happen to arise between the foreign merchants, or 
amongst the inhabitants of the place. It is their duty like- 
wise to see that the guards upon the several bridges in their 
respective vicinities (of whom mention shall be made here... 
after) are duly placed, and in cases of neglect, to punish the 
delinquents at their discretion. 1 
On each side of the principal street, already mentioned as 
extending from one end of the city to the other, there are 
houses and mansions of great size, with their gardens, and near 
to these, the dwellings of the artisans, who work in shops, at 
their several trades; and at all hours you see such multitudes 
of people passing and repassing, on their various avocations, 
that the providing food in sûfficiency for their maintenance 
might be deemed an impossibility; 2 but other ideas will be 
formed when it is observed that, on every market-day, the 
squares are crowded with tradespeople, who cover the whole 
space with the articles brought by carts and boats, for all of 
which they find a sale. By instancing the single article of 

aiment la desbauche. Les Chinois les font venir chez eux, et elles n'en 
sortent que Ie nlatin. Louons Dieu, de ce qu'il nous a exemptez de sem- 
blables infamies."-Anc. Relat. p. 57. 
1 In the account given by De Guignes of the several ranks of civil 
mandarins or magistrates (kouan), he mentions "Ie nan-hay, chef de 
police, et ses assesseurs ou lieutenants de quartiers. 1 ' The officers spoken 
of in the text were probably of this latter class. 
2 " It was difficult," says Staunton, "to pass along the streets, on 
account of the vast concourse of people not assembled merely to see the 
strangers, or on any other public occasion, but each individual going 
about his own concerns."-P. 439. 

The Inhabitants of Kin-sai 


pepper, some notion may be formed of the whole quantity of 
provisions, meat, wine, groceries, and the like, required for the 
consumption of the inhabitants of Kin-sai; and of this, Marco 
Polo learned from an officer employed in the grand khan's 
customs, the daily amount was forty-three loads, each load 
being two hundred and forty-three pounds.! 
9 4. The inhabitants of the city are idolaters, and they use 
paper money as currency. The men as well as the women have 
fair complexions, and are handsome. The greater part of 
them are always clothed in silk, in consequence of the vast 
quantity of that material produced in the territory of Kin-sai, 
exclusively of what the merchants import from other pro- 
vinces. 2 Amongst the handicraft trades exercised in the 
place, there are twelve considered to be superior to the rest, 
as being more generally useful; for each of which there are a 
thousand workshops, and each shop furnishes employment 
for ten, fifteen, or tvventy workmen, and in a few instances as 
many as forty, under their respective masters. The opulent 
principals in these manufactories do not labour with their own 
hands, but, on the contrary, assume airs of gentility and affect 
parade. Their wives equally abstain from work. They have 
much beauty, as has been remarked, and are brought up witb 
delicate and languid habits. 3 The costliness of their dresses, 
1 As our author professes to have obtained his information on this 
head frOIn an officer of the customs, it follows that the quantity of pepper 
stated in the text was that of the importation (which alone could come 
under his cognisance), and not the quantity consumed in the city; with 
which, however, it was not unlikely to be confounded in the mind of the 
fornler. The daily entry being stated at 10,449 lbs., the annual quantity 
would be 3,813,885 lbs., or (at the customary rate of 16 cwt. to the ton, 
in this article) about 2,130 tons. This may be thought large, but in a 
paper drawll up by Mr. F. Pigou, and published in Dalrymple's Oriental 
Repertory (vol. ii. p. 305), it is asserted that" the usual import, at all the 
trading ports of China, is about 40,000 peculs, or, at 133 lbs. to the pecul, 
about 3,000 tons. "Les Hollandois et les Anglois," says De Guignes, 
speaking of the modern commerce of the Chinese, " ont vendu 1,465,053 
livres pesant de poivre, 46,371 livres de girofle, et 8,979 livres de muscade. 
Cette quantité d'épiceries, si l'on considère la population de la Chine, est 
plus qu'insuffìsante, et n'est rien en raison de ce que l'empire devroit con- 
summer." (Tom. iii. p. 304.) In regard to the inadequacy of this 
importation it should be observed, that it is not upon the European 
trade alone the Chinese depend for their supplies of pepper. Their junks 
frequent many of the eastern islands, and at the port of Borneo Proper, in 
particular, annually take on board large cargoes of that article. 
S " The flowered and embroidered satins, and other branches in the 
manufacture of silk, every part of which is done by women, occupy," 
says Staunton, " vast numbers of them in Han-choo-foo. 1\lost of the 
men were gaily dressed; and appeared to be in comfortable circum- 
stances."-Embassy, vol. Ïi. p. 439. 
3 The softness of feature, delicacy of shape, and languid habits of the 

29 8 

Travels of Marco Polo 

in silks and jewellery, can scarcely be imagined. Although 
the laws of their ancient kings ordained that each citizen should 
exercise the profession of his father, yet they were allowed, 
\vhen they acquired wealth, to discontinue the manual labour, 
provided they kept up the establishment, and employed per- 
sons to work at their paternal trades.} Their houses are well 
built and richly adorned with carved work. So much do they 
delight in ornaments of this kind, in paintings, and fancy 
buildings, that the sums they lavish on such objects are enor- 
mous. The natural disposition of the native inhabitants of 
Kin-sai is pacific, and by the example of their former kings, 
who were themselves unwarlike, they have been accuston1cd 
to habits of tranquillity. The management of arms is un- 
known to them, nor do they keep any in their houses. 2 Con- 
tentious broils are never heard among them. 3 They conduct 
their mercantile and manufacturing concerns with perfect 
candour and probity.4 They are friendly towards each other, 
Chinese women of superior rank, may be observed in their paintings. 
" Though the ladies," says Staunton, " reckon corpulence a beauty in a 
man, they consider it as a palpable blemish in their own sex, and aim at 
preserving a slimness and delicacy of shape." (P. 440.) The practice 
of reducing the size and impeding the use of their feet, by early bandaging, 
is not adverted to by our author, unless he may be thought to have had 
it in view when he employed the phrase" allevate morbidamente." In 
respect to this and some other instances of extraordinary peculiarities, 
(such as the growth of the finger-nails to the length of two or three inches, 
and the preserving them in cases,) he may have been doubtful of gaining 
credit, or apprehensive of being exposed to ridicule, should he relate theln 
as facts. It may also admit of question whether such fashions did 
actually prevail at that period. 
1 If this hereditary exercise of professions was anciently a custoln 
amongst the Chinese, as it is with the people of India, it must be allowed 
that the traces of it are not apparent in modern times. 
I The unwarlike disposition and habits of the Chinese are generally 
known; yet in the defence of their towns they have on many occasions 
shown the highest degree of patriotic and desperate resolution; nor 
would the Mungals have effected the subjugation of the country, if the 
people had not been betrayed by their superior officers. 
3 The exterior deportment of these people is grave and placid, but 
their temper is naturally irascible and vindictive, and the infrequency 
of broils is chiefly to be attributed to a rigorous police. 
'To this character for probity it may be thought that the Chinese 
traders of the present day have little claim, as all our accounts of theÍ1 
manners abound with stories of the ingenious frauds practised at Can- 
ton upon the less cunning Europeans; but these apply chiefly to the 
lower class of dealers, who, perhaps, if they could be heard in their own 
defence, might justify their knavery upon the principle of retaliation. 
In the long-continued intercourse that has subsisted between the agents 
(!)f the European companies and the more eminent of the Chinese mer- 
chants, whatever injustice the former may have experienced from the 
effects of court intrigue, complaints on the ground of commercial unfair- 
ness have been extremely rare, and on the contrary their transactions 
have been marked with the most perfect good faith and mutual confidence. 

Character of the People of Kin-sai 299 
and persons who inhabit the same street, both men and women, 
from the mere circumstance of neighbourhood, appear like one 
family. In their domestic manners they are free from jealousy 
or suspicion of their wives, to whom great respect is shown, and 
any man would be accounted infamous who should presume 
to use indecent expressions to a married woman. To strangers 
also, who visit their city in the way of commerce, they give 
proofs of cordiality, inviting them freely to their houses, show- 
ing them hospitable attention, and furnishing them with the 
best advice and assistance in their mercantile transactions. 
On the other hand, they dislike the sight of soldiery, not 
excepting the guards of the grand khan, as they preserve the 
recollection that by them they were deprived of the govern- 
ment of their native kings and rulers. 

 5. On the borders of the lake are many handsome and 
spacious edifices belonging to men of rank and great magis- 
trates. There are like\vise many idol temples, with their 
monasteries, occupied by a number of monks, who perform 
the service of the idols. 1 N ear the central part are two islands, 
upon each of which stands a superb building, with an incredible 
number of apartments and separate pavilions. \Vhen the 
inhabitants of the city have occasion to celebrate a \vedding, 
or to give a sumptuous entertainment, they resort to one of 
these islands, where they find ready for their purpose every 
article that can be required, such as vessels, napkins, table- 
linen, and the like, which are provided and kept there at the 
common expense of the citizens, by whom also the buildings 
were erected. It may happen that at one time there are a 
hundred parties assembled there, at wedding or other feasts, 
all of whom, notwithstanding, are accommodated with separate 
rooms or pavilions, so judiciously arranged that they do not 
interfere with or incommode each other. In addition to this, 
there are upon the lake a great number of pleasure vessels or 
barges, calculated for holding ten, fifteen, to twenty persons, 
being from fifteen to twenty paces in length, with a wide and 

1" The lake," says Staunton, "formed a beautiful sheet of water 
about three or four miles in diameter, and surrounded, to the north' 
east, and south, by an amphitheatre of mountains, between the base of 
which and the margin of the lake, the narrow slip of level ground was 
laid out in a pleasing style suitable to the situation. It was ornamented 
with houses and gardens of mandarins, as well as a palace belonging to 
the emperor, together with temples, monasteries for the hosha1.t1tg or 
priests of Fo, and a number of light and fanciful stone bridges that are 
thrown across the arms of the lake. . . . Upon the summit also were 
erected pagodas, one of which attracted particular attention."-P. 444. 


3 00 

Travels of Marco Polo 

flat flooring, and not liable to heel to either side in passing 
through the water. Such persons as take delight in the amuse- 
ment, and mean to enjoy it, either in the company of their 
women or that of their male companions, engage one of these 
barges, which are always kept in the nicest order, with proper 
seats and tables, together with every other kind of furniture 
necessary for giving an entertainment. The cabins have a 
flat roof or upper deck, where the boatmen take their place, and 
by means of long poles, which they thrust to the bottom of 
the lake (not more than one or two fathoms in depth), they 
shove the barges along, until they reach the intended spot. 
These cabins are painted within-side of various colours and 
with a variety of figures; all parts of the vessel are likewise 
adorned 'with painting. 1 There are windows on each side, 
which may either be kept shut, or opened, to give an oppor- 
tunity to the company, as they sit at table, of looking out in 
every direction and feasting their eyes on the variety and 
beauty of the scenes as they pass them. And truly the gratifi- 
cation afforded in this manner, upon the water, exceeds any 
that can be derived from the amusements on the land; for as 
the lake extends the whole length of the city, on one side, you 
have a view, as you stand in the boat, at a certain distance 
from the shore, of all its grandeur and beauty, its palaces, 
temples, convents, and gardens, with trees of the largest size 
growing down to the water's edge, whilst at the same time you 
enjoy the sight of other boats of the same description, con- 
tinually passing you, filled in like manner with parties in 
pursuit of amusement. In fact, the inhabitants of this place, 
as soon as the labours of the day have ceased, or their mercan- 
tiìe transactions are closed, think of nothing else than of pass- 
ing the remaining hours in parties of pleasure, with their wives 
or their mistresses, either in these barges, or about the city in 
carriages, of which it will here be proper to give some account, 
as constituting one of the amusements of these people. 
I t must be observed, in the first place, that the streets of 

1 "Navires," says P. ßIartini, "qu'on pourroit appeller avec raison 
des palais dorés, parce qu'ils sont peints de diverses couleurs, et que 
tout y brille du plus fin et du meilleur or: de sorte que c'est là où la 
magnificence et la pompe des festins, des spectacles, et des jeux éclatent 
tous les jours. Ces Chinois de Hang-cheu, qui sont autant d'esclaves de 
la volupté, y trouvent en abondance tout ce qu'ils peuvent souhaiter." 
(P. 141.) "Vast numbers of barges," says Barrow, speaking of the 
same lake, "were sailing to and fro, all gaily decorated with paint and 
gilding and streaming colours; the parties within them apparently aU 
in pursuit of pleasure."-P. 524. 

tl"he Streets of Kin-sai 

3 01 

Kin-sai are all paved with stones and bricks, and so likewise 
are all the principal roads extending from thence through the 
province of Manji, by means of which passengers can travel 
to every part without soiling their feet; but as the couriers of 
his majesty, who go on horseback with great speed, cannot 
make use of the pavement, a part of the road, on one side, is on 
their account left unpaved. The main street of the city, of 
which we have before spoken, as leading from one extremity 
to the other, is paved with stone and brick to the width of ten 
paces on each side, the intermediate part being filled up with 
small gravel, and provided with arched drains for carrying off 
the rain-water that falls, into the neighbouring canals, so that 
it remains always dry. On this gravel it is that the carriages 
are continually passing and repassing. They are of a long 
shape, covered at top, have curtains and cushions of silk, and 
are capable of holding six persons. Both men and women who 
feel disposed to take their pleasure, are in the daily practice of 
hiring them for that purpose, and accordingly at every hour 
you may see vast numbers of them driven along the middle 
part of the street. 1 Some of them proceed to visit certain gar- 
dens, where the company are introduced, by those who have 
the management of the place, to shady recesses contrived by 
the gardeners for that purpose; and here the men indulge 
themselves all day in the society of their women, returning 
home, when it becomes late, in the manner they came. 

 6. It is the custom of the people of Kin-sai, upon the birth 
of a child, for the parents to make a note, immediately, of the 
day, hour, and minute at which the delivery took place. They 
then inquire of an astrologer under what sign or aspect of the 
heavens the child was born; and his answer is likewise com- 
mitted carefully to writing. When therefore he is grown up, 
and is about to engage in any mercantile adventure, voyage, 
or treaty of marriage, this document is carried to the astrologer, 
who, having examined it, and weighed all the circumstances, 
1 The carriages which stand for hire in the streets of Pekin are of a 
smaller size than these described by our author, but in other respects 
the construction is the same. See plate 41, of those annexed to IV!. De 
Guignes' work, where it will be observed that the carriages nearly re- 
semble what we term in England a tilted cart. As the habits of the 
ancient Chinese capital were much more luxurious than those of Pekin 
under the Tartar dominion, at any period, we may conclude that the 
vehicles of the former were fitted up with more attention to ease and 
convenience, as well as with more splendour, than the clumsy machines 
above described. Staunton, indeed, speaks of " cushions stuffed with 
cotton, and covered with silk, to sit upon," in the waggons of Hang- 
cheu-fu.-P. 447. 

3 02 

Travels of Marco Polo 

pronounces certain oracular words, in which these people, whc 
sometimes find them justified by the event, place great con- 
fidence. Of these astrologers, or rather magicians, great num- 
bers are to be met with in every market-place, and no n1arriage 
is ever celebrated until an opinion has been pronounced upon 
it by one of that profession. 
I t is also their custom, upon the death of any great and rich 
personage, to observe the following ceremonies. The relations, 
male and female, clothe themselves in coarse dresses, and 
accompany the body to the place appointed for burning it. 
The procession is likewise attended by performers on various 
musical instruments, which are sounded as it moves along, and 
prayers to their idols are chanted in a loud voice. When arrived 
at the spot, they throw into the flame many pieces of cotton- 
paper, upon which are painted representations of male and 
female servants, horses, camels, silk wrought with gold, as well 
as of gold and silver money. This is done, in consequence of 
their belief that the deceased will possess in the other world all 
these conveniences, the former in their natural state of flesh 
and bones, together with the money and the silks. As soon as 
the pile has been consumed, they sound all the instruments of 
music at the same time, producing a loud and long-continued 
noise; and they imagine that by these ceremonies their idols 
are induced to receive the soul of the man whose corpse has 
been reduced to ashes, in order to its being regenerated in the 
other world, and entering again into life. 

 7. In every street of this city there are stone buildings or 
towers, to which, in case of a fire breaking out in any quarter 
(an accident by no means unusual, as the houses are mostly 
constructed of wood), the inhabitants may remove their effects 
for security. By a regulation which his majesty has estab- 
lished, there is a guard of ten watchmen stationed, under 
cover, upon all the principal bridges, of whom five do duty by 
day and five by night. Each of these guard-rooms is provided 
with a sonorous wooden instrument as well as one of metal, 
together with a clepsydra (horiuolo), by means of which latter 
the hours of the day and night are ascertained. 1 As soon as 
the first hour of the night is expired, one of the watchmen gives 
a single stroke upon the wooden instrument, and also upon the 
metal gong (bacino), which announces to the people of the 
neighbouring streets that it is the first hour. At the expira- 
tion of the second, two strokes are given; and so on progres- 
1 This clepsydra, or water-clock, is noticed by more modern travellers. 

PrecautiollS agai11st Fires 

3 0 3 

sively, increasing the number of strokes as the hours advance. l 
The guard is not allowed to sleep, and must be ahvays on the 
alert. In the morning, as soon as the sun begins to appear, a 
single stroke is again struck, as in the evening, and so onwards 
from hour to hour. SOlne of these watchmen patrol the streets, 
to observe whether any person has a light or fire burning after 
the hour appointed for extinguishing theIne Upon making the 
discovery, they affix a mark to the door, and in the morning 
the owner of the house is taken before the magistrates, by 
whom, if he cannot assign a legitimate excuse for his offence, 
he is condemned to punishment. Should they find any person 
abroad at an unseasonable hour, they arrest and confine him, 
and in the morning he is carried before the same tribunal. If, 
in the course of the day, they notice any person who from 
lameness or other infirmity is unable to work, they place him 
in one of the hospitals, of which there are several in every part 
of the city, founded by the ancient kings, and liberally endowed. 
When cured, he is obliged to work at some trade. Imn1e- 
diately upon the appearance of fire breaking out in a house, 
they give the alarIn by beating on the wooden machine, when 
the \vatchmen from all the bridges within a certain distance 
aSlcmble to extinguish it, as well as to save the effects of the 
merchants and others, by removing them to the stone to\vcrs 
that have been mentioned. The goods are also sometimes 
put into boats, and conveyed to the islands in the lake. Even 
on such occasions the inhabitants dare not stir out of their 
houses, when the fire happens in the night-time, and only 

1 " On distingue ordinairement," says Le Comte, U cinq (veilles de 
la nuit) qui commencent à sept ou huit heures du soir. Au commence- 
ment de la prenlière on frappe un seul coup, un moment après on re- 
double encore, ce qu'on répète continuellement durant deux heures 
jusqu'à la seconde veille. Car alors on frappe deux coups, et on continu
toujours à trapper jusqu'à la troisième veille, etc. . . . augmentant Ie 
nonlbre des coups, à mesure qu'on passe d'une veille à l'autre, de sorte 
que ce sont autant d'horloges à répétition, qui font connoistre à tout 
moment queUe heure il est. all sert encore pour marquer les mesmes 
veiUes d'Ull tambour, d'une grandeur extraordinaire, sur Iequel on 
frappe toute la nuit seIon les mesmes proportions." (Tom. i. p. 127.) 
This continued repetition of the strokes, during the intervals of the 
several watches (similar to calling the hours in the streets of our own 
metropolis), is not stated in the text. The practice nlay have undergone 
a change; but it seems more 1ikely that our author's words Inay have 
been n1Îsunderstood by those who, being accustomed to the mechanical 
striking of a town-clock, have brought his meaning to that standard. 
It is remarkable at the same time, that what P. Le Comte bas so dis- 
tinct! y explained is not adverted to in the journals of the late embassies. 
" La prernière veille," says De Guignes. " s'annonce par un coup de tam. 
bour; la troisième, par trois coups. et ainsi de swte."-Tom. ii. p. 426. 

3 0 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

those can be present whose goods are actually. removing, 
together with the guard collected to assist, which seldom 
amounts to a smaller number than from one to two thousand 
men. In cases also of tumult or insurrection amongst the 
citizens, the services of this police guard are necessary; but, 
independently of them, his majesty always keeps on foot a 
large body of troops, both infantry and cavalry, in the city and 
its vicinity, the command of which he gives to his ablest officers, 
and those in whom he can place the greatest confidence, on 
account of the extreme importance of this province, and 
especially its noble capital, which surpasses in grandeur and 
\vealth every other city in the world. For the purposes of 
nightly watch, there are mounds of earth thrown up, at the 
distance of above a mile from each other, on the top of which a 
wooden frame is constructed, with a sounding board, which 
being struck with a mallet by the guard stationed there, the 
noise is heard to a great distance. If precautions of this 
nature were not taken upon occasions of fire, there would be 
danger of half the ci ty being consumed; and their use is 
obvious also in the event of popular con1motion, as, upon the 
signal being given, the guards at the several bridges arm them- 
selves, and repair to the spot where their presence is required. 

 8. When the grand khan reduced to his obedience the 
province of Man ji, which un til that time had been one king- 
dom, he thought proper to divide it into nine parts,l over each 
of which he appointed a king or viceroy, who should act as 
supreme governor of that division, and administer justice to 
the people. 2 These make a yearly report to commissioners 
acting for his majesty, of the amount of the revenue, as well as 
of every other matter pertaining to their jurisdiction. Upon 
1 There is reason to be1ieve that the boundaries of the several pro. 
vinces were not, in former times, exactly the same as we find them at 
present. Generally, however, these nine parts into which Manji, or 
Southern China, was divided, may be considered as the provinces of 
l{iang.nan. Kiang-si, Che-kiang, Fo-kien, Kuan-tong, Kuang-si, Koei- 
cheu, Hu-kuang, and Ho-nan. Cathay or Khatai appears to have con- 
sisted of Pe-che-li, Shan-tung, Shan-si, and the eastern part of Shen-si. 
The remaining provinces of the fifteen, namely Se-chuen and Yun-nan, 
as well as th
 western portion of Shen-si, had been but imperfectly 
subdued by the Chinese emperors, and seem not to have belonged, in 
our author's time, to either of the two grand divisions. 
2 The great officer or mandarin, here styled a king (1'e), or, more pro- 
perly, viceroy, i
 by the Chinese termed tsong-tu,. of whom there are 
eleven throughout the empire; some of them having jurisdiction over 
more than one province. The proper governor of each province is named 
l'tt-yuen, whom the missionaries frequently style the viceroy, although 
avowedly subordinate to the formeni 

Governmen t of Kin-sai 

3 0 5 

the third year they are changed, as are all other public officers. 
One of these nine viceroys resides and holds his court in the 
city of Kin-sai, and has authority over more than a hundred 
and forty cities and towns, all large and rich. 1 Nor is this 
number to be wondered at, considering that in the whole of the 
province of Manji there are no fewer than twe]ve hundred, 
containing a large population of industrious and wealthy in- 
habitants. 2 In each of these, according to its size and other 
circumstances, his majesty keeps a garrison, consisting, in some 
places, of a thousand, in others of ten or twenty thousand men, 
accordingly as he judges the city to be, in its own population, 
more or less powerful. It is not to be understood that all these 
troops are Tartars. On the contrary, they are chiefly natives 
of the province of Cathay. The Tartars are universally horse- 
men, and cavalry cannot be quartered about those cities which 
stand in the low, marshy parts of the province, but only in firm, 
dry situations, where such troops can be properly exercised. 
To the former, he sends Cathaians, and such men of the pro- 
vince of l\lanji as appear to have a military turn; for it is his 
practice to make an annual selection amongst all his subjects of 
such as are best qualified to bear arms; and these he enrolls to 
serve in his numerous garrisons, that may be considered as so 
many armies. But the soldiers drawn from the province of 
l\fanji he does not employ in the duty of their native cities; on 

1 This number much exceeds what is allotted to the jurisdiction of any 
of the great cities at the present day; but it must be considered that 
Hang-cheu-fu had then recently been the capital of the proper Chinese 
ernpire, and its municipal influence might not have been brought down 
to the level of other provincial cities. 
2 According to Du Halde's list, the nine provinces of the south-eastern 
part of ChIna contain 101 cities of the first class, 84 of the second, and 
625 of the third, making together 810 cities; independently of any por- 
tions of Yun-nan or Se-chuen that might then have belonged to the king- 
dom of Manji. This, it will be seen, does not fall very far short of our 
author's statement, who might, besides, have intended to include some 
populous towns of the fourth order. With respect to those of the third 
Du Halde observes: "Quand on parle de hien ou ville du troisième ordre' 
i1 ne faut pas s'imaginer que ce soit un district de peu d'étendue: il Ý 
a tel hien qui a 60, 70, et même 80 lieues de circuit, et que paye à l'em- 
pereur plusieurs millions de tribut." (Tom. i. p. 2.) P. Le Comte 
makes the number of cities Inore considerable than Du Halde: "On les 
divise ordinairement," he observes, " en trois ormes. Dans Ie premier 
il y en a plus de 160; dans Ie second 270, et dans Ie troisième pres d
1200; sans compter 300 autres villes murées qu'on met hors'de rang 
quoy qu'elles soient presque toutes fort peuplé.es et qu'on y fasse u
grand commerce." (Tom. i. p. 118.) This seems to exceed a1so the 
enumeration of our author; but it must be recollected that the latter 
speaks of l\Ianji only, which excludes the three northern provinces of 

3 06 

Travels of Marco Polo 

the contrary, he marches them to others at the distance of per- 
haps twenty days' journey, where they are continued for four 
or five years, at the expiration of which they are allo\ved to 
return to their homes, and others are sent to replace them. 
This regulation applies equally to the Cathaians. The greater 
part of the revenues of the cities, paid into the treasury of the 
grand khan, is appropriated to the maintenance of these garri- 
sons. \Vhen it happens that a city is in a state of rebellion 
(and it is not an uncommon occurrence for these people, 
actuated by some sudden exasperation, or when intoxicated, 
to murder their governors), a part of the garrison of a neigh- 
bouring city is immediately despatched with orders to destroy 
the place where such guilty excesses have been committed; 
whereas it would be a tedious operation to send an army from 
another province, that might be t\VO months on its march. 
For such purposes, the city of Kin-sai constantly supports a 
garrison of thirty thousand soldiers; and the smallest number 
stationed at any place is one thousand. 1 

 9. It now remains to speak of a very fine palace that was 
formerly the residence of king Facfur, whose ancestors enclosed 
with high walls an extent of ground ten miles in compass, and 
divided it into three parts. That in the centre was entered by 
a lofty portal, on each side of which was a magnificent colon- 
nade, on a flat terrace, the roofs of which were supported by 
rows of pillars, highly ornamented with the most beautiful 
azure and gold. The colonnade opposite to the entrance, at 
the further side of the court, ,vas still grander than the 
others, its roof being richly adorned, the pillars gilt, and the 
,valls on the inner side ornamented with exquisite paint- 
ings, representing the histories of fornler kings. 2 I-Iere, 
1 That it should be found necessary to station an army of that number 
of men in or near the populous capital of a newly-conquered empire is 
by no means improbable; nor that a thousand men should at that period 
have constituted the ordinary garrison of cities of the first or second 
class; however deficient of troops they may be found (according to some 
travellers) at the present tirne. In the seventeenth century, as we are 
told by P. Le Comte, the garrison of Hang-cheu consisted of 10,000 men, 
of whom 3,000 were Chinese. (Tom. i. p. 129.) 
2 The plans of Chinese palaces seem nearly to resemble each other, 
and particularly in respect to this kind of court on a raised terrace, in 
front of the principal part of the building, where those persons assemble 
whose rank entitles them to the privilege of paying their compliInents 
to the sovereign. In the" Gezandtschaft " of Nieuhof (p. 172) will be 
found a representation of the anterior court of the palace of Pekin, 
which Van Braam commends for its fidelity. The hotel or palace of a 
great officer of state, or wealthy individual, seClns to be built upon the 
same plan, and decorated in the sanle manner. 

Luxurious Habits of King Facfur 307 
annually, upon certain days consecrated to the service of their 
idols, king Facfur was accustomed to hold his court, and to 
entertain at a feast his principal nobles, the chief magistrates, 
and the opulent citizens of Kin-sai. Under these colonnades 
might be seen, at one time, ten thousand persons suitably 
accommodated at table. This festival lasted ten or twelve 
days, and the magnificence displayed on the occasion, in silks, 
gold, and precious stones, exceeded all imagination; for every 
guest, with a spirit of emulation, endeavoured to exhibit as 
much finery as his circumstances would possibly allow. Be- 
hind the colonnade last mentioned, or that which fronted the 
grand portal, there was a wall, \vith a passage, that divided 
thjs exterior court of the palace from an interior court, which 
foi'med a kind of large cloister, with its rows of pillars sustain- 
ing a portico that surrounded it, and led to various apartments 
for the use of the king and queen. These pillars were orna- 
mented in a similar manner, as ,vere also the walls. From this 
cloister you entered a covered passage or corridor, six paces in 
width, and of such a length as to reach to the margin of the 
lake. On each side of this there were corresponding en trances 
to ten courts, in the form of long cloisters, surrounded by their 
porticoes, and each cloister or court had fifty apartments, 
with their respective gardens, the residence of a thousand 
young ,vomen, whom the king retained in his service. l Accom- 
panied sOlnetimes by his queen, and on other occasions by a 
party of these females, it was his custom to take amusement 
on the lake, in barges covered with silk, and to visit the idol 
temples on its borders. The other two divisions of this seraglio 
were laid out in groves, pieces of water, beautiful gardens 
stored with fruit-trees, and also enclosures for all sorts of 
animals that are the objects of sport, such as antelopes, deer, 
stags, hares, and rabbits. Here likewise the king amused him- 
self, in company with his damsels, SaIne in carriages and some 
on horseback. No male person was allowed to be of these 
parties, but on the other hand, the females were practised in 
the art of coursing with dogs, and pursuing the anÎ1nals that 
have been mentioned. When fatigued with these exercises, 
they retired into the groves on the banks of the lake, and there 
quitting their dresses, rushed into the water in a state of 
nudity, sportively swimming about, some in one direction and 

1" Avant que les Tartares se fussent emparés de l'empire," says De 
Guignes,.:' certains empereurs Chinois ont eu jusqu'à dix mille femmes." 
-Tom. 11. p. 284. 

3 08 

Travels of Marco Polo 

some in another, whilst the king remained a spectator of the 
exhibition. this they returned to the palace. Some- 
times he ordered his repast to be provided in one of these 
groves, where the foliage of lofty trees afforded a thick shade, 
and was there waited upon by the same damsels. Thus was 
his time consumed amidst the enervating charms of his women, 
and in profound ignorance of whatever related to martial con- 
cerns, the consequence of which was, that his depraved habits 
and his pusillanimity enabled the grand khan to deprive him of 
his splendid possessions, and to expel him with ignominy from 
his throne as has been already stated. All these particulars 
were communicated to me, when I was in that city, by a rich 
merchant of Kin-sai, then very old, who had been a confiden- 
tial servant of king Facfur, and was acquainted with every 
circumstance of his life. 1 Having known the palace in its 
original state, he was desirous of conducting me to view it. 
Being at present the residence of the grand khan's viceroy, the 
colonnades are preserved in the style in which they had 
formerly subsisted, but the chambers of the females had been 
suffered to go to ruin, and the foundations only were visible. 
The wall likewise that enclosed the park and gardens was 
fallen to decay, and neither animals nor trees were any longer 
to be found there. 

 10. At the distance of twenty-five miles from this city, in a 
direction to the northward of east, lies the sea, near to which is 
a town named Gan-pu, where there is an extremely fine port, 
frequented by all the ships that bring merchandise from India. 2 
The river that flows past the city of Kin-sai forms this port, at 
the place where it falls into the sea. Boats are continually 
employed in the conveyance of goods up and down the river, 
and those intended for exportation are there put on board of 
ships bound to various parts of India and of Cathay. 
Marco Polo, happening to be in the city of I(in-sai at the time 
of making the annual report to his majesty's commissioners 
1 Tu- tsong, the laghlur or emperor of the Song, here alluded to, having 
ceased to reign in 1274, and the Polo family having quitted China in or 
about the year 1291, our author might well have conversed with the 
domestics of that prince, and particularly whilst he held the government 
of Yang-cheu, in the adjoining province. 
S Gan-pu, here described as the seaport of Kin-sai or Hang-cheu, 
answers to the port of Ning-po, situated on a river the entrance of which 
is sheltered by the islands of Chu-san, where H.M. ship Lion and the 
East India Company's ship Hindostan lay, in the year 1793. To those 
islands Captain Macintosh, who had accompanied Lord Macartney, pro. 
ceeded from Hang-cheu-fu, to rejoin his ship, passing through Ning-po 
in his route. 

Population of Kin-sai 

3 0 9 

of the amount of revenue and the number of inhabitants, had 
an opportunity of observing that the latter were registered at 
one hundred and sixty tomans of fire-places, that is to say, of 
families dwelling under the same roof; and as a tontan is ten 
thousand, it follows that the whole city must have contained 
one million six hundred thousand families, l amongst which 
multitude of people there was only one church of Nestorian 
Christians. Every father of a family, or housekeeper, is 
required to affix a writing to the door of his house, specifying 
the name of each individual of his family, whether male or 
female, as well as the number of his horses. When any person 
dies, or leaves the d,velling, the name is struck out, and upon 
the occasion of a birth, it is added to the list. By these means 
the great officers of the province and governors of the cities are 
at all times acquainted with the exact number of the inhabi- 
tants. The same regulation is observed throughout the 
province of Cathay as well as of Manji. 2 In like manner, all 
the keepers of inns and public hotels inscribe in a book the 
names of those who take up their occasional abode with them, 
particularisíng the day and the hour of their arrival and de- 
parture; a copy of which is transmitted daily to those magis- 
trates who have been spoken of as stationed in the market- 
squares.. It is a custom in the province of Manji, with the 
indigent class of the people, who are unable to support their 
1 This statement of the number of families in Hang-cheu, even admit- 
ting that the suburbs are meant to be included, appears excessive; but 
it is unfair to measure the population of an ancient capital of China, by 
the standard of a modern city. Yet Staunton observes that" its popu
lation is indeed immense; and is supposed to be not very much inferior 
to that of Pekin," which he computes at about three millions; remarking, 
at the same time, that few of the circumstances take place in the metro- 
polis of China, which contribute to the aggrandisement of other capitals; 
Pekin being merely the seat of government of the empire. It is neither 
a port nor a place of inland trade or manufacture, and forms no rendez- 
vous for pleasure and dissipation. (Pp. 149, 439.) The former, on the 
other hand, possessed these advantages in an eminent degree. 
SIt does not appear in the writings either of the missionaries or of 
modern travellers, that mention is made of such lists of the inhabitants 
being affixed (at stated periods we may presume) on the outside of 
houses; but I have the verbal assurance of Mr. Reeves, who resided 
many years in China, and is lately returned to that country
 that the 
regulation exists at the present day: to which he added his opinion that 
it was established not merely on account of the facility it gives to the 
officers of revenue and police, but from a regard to delicacy, that there 
might be no pretence for intrusion into the apartments of the females. 
The practice is adverted to by !\vIr. Ellis, who says: "The municipal 
regulation existing throughout China, which requires that every house
holder should affix on the outside of his house a list of the number and 
description of persons dwelling under his rC\of, ought to afford most 
accurate data in forming a census of the population."-P. 432. 

3 10 

Travels of Marco Polo 

families, to sell their children to the rich, in order that they 
may be fed and brought up in a better manner than their own 
poverty would admit. 


WE shall now speak of the revenue which the grand khan 
draws from the city of Kin-sai and the places within its juris- 
diction, constituting the ninth division or kingdom of 
In the first place, upon salt, the most productive article, he 
levies a yearly duty of eighty tomans of gold, each toman 
being eighty thousand saggi, and each saggio fully equal to a 
gold florin, and consequently amounting to six millions four 
hundred thousand ducats.! This vast produce is occasioned by 
the vicinity of the province to the sea, and the number of salt 
lakes or marshes, in which, during the heat of summer, the 
water becomes crystallized, and from whence a quantity of salt 
is taken, sufficient for the supply of five of the other divisions of 
the province. 2 There is here cultivated and manufactured a 
large quantity of sugar,3 which pays, as do all other groceries, 
three and one-third per cent. The same is also levied upon 
the wine, or fermented liquor, made of rice. The twelve classes 
of artisans, of whom we have already spoken, as having each 
a thousand shops, and also the merchants, as well those who 
import the goods into the city, in the first instance, as those 
1 Estimating the gold ducat of Venice at ten shillings English, (for the 
sake of round numbers,) this revenue derived from the article of salt 
would amount to the sum of f3,200,000, which may be thought excessive, 
as applying, not to the empire at large, but to that portion of China of 
which Hang-cbeu-fu was the capital. It must, however, be considered 
that all the northern provinces, as well as those of the interior, are sup- 
plied from the south-eastern parts of the coast, and that the quantity 
exported from the places of manufacture must consequently be enor- 
mous. One half of the duties upon articles of produce is understood to 
be paid in kind, and we are informed that the stock of salt collected upon 
government account at Tien-sing on the Pe-ho, was calculated by the 
gentlemen of 

rd Macartney's e
bassy, at 

ree millions of bags, or 
six hundred millIons of pounds weIght. (Vol. 11. p. 21.) The gabelle or 
revenue from salt, in France, about the year 1780, is stated by M. Necker 
to bave been 54,000,000 livres, or [2,25 0 ,000. 
I Sea salt is produced by a similar process of solar evaporation, in many 
of the southern parts of Europe, as well as on the coasts of India. 
a " The valleys along the river," says Staunton, speaking of that which 
flows by Hang-cheu-fu,. "were c
ted chi

y in sugar-canes, then 
almost ripe, and about eight feet hIgh. -Tom. 11. p. 460. 

The City of Ta-pin-zu 

3 I I 

who carry them from thence to the interior, or \vho export them 
by sea, pay, in like manner, a duty of three and one-third per 
cent.; but goods coming by sea from distant countries and 
regions, such as from India, pay ten per cent. So likewise all 
native articles of the country, as cattle, the vegetable produce 
of the soil, and silk, pay a tithe to the king. The account being 
made up in the presence of Marco Polo, he had an opportunity 
of seeing that the revenue of his majesty, exclusively of that 
arising from salt, already stated, amounted in the year to the 
sum of two hundred and ten tomans (each taman being eighty 
thousand saggi of gold), or sixteen million eight hundred thou- 
sand ducats.! 



LEAVING the city of Kin-sai, and travelling one day's journey 
towards the south-east, continually passing houses, villas, and 
delightful gardens, where every kind of vegetable is produced 
in abundance, you arrive at the city of Ta-pin-zu, which is 
very handsome and large, and belongs to the jurisdiction of 
Kin-sai. 2 The inhabitants worship idols, use paper money, 
burn the bodies of their dead, are subjects of the grand khan, 
and gain their subsistence by trade and manual arts. This 
place not demanding any more particular notice, we shall pro- 
ceed to speak of the city of Uguiu. 

1 This sum is equal to [8,400,000 of our money, and the aggregate to 
[11,600,000, an amount which the revenues and expenses of our own 
country, in recent times, have taught us to consider as almost insigni- 
2 No name resembling the Ta-pin-zu of our text or the Tam-pin-gui of 
the Latin versions presents itself, at the distance of one day's journey, 
in a southerly direction, frOITI Hang-cheu-fu, nor could it under those 
circumstances be a place of more importance than the second rank of 
cities P. 1\Iagalhanes (p. 10) asserts without hesitation that it is in- 
tended for Tai-ping-fu in the province of Nan-king or Kiang-nan; but 
however unexceptionable the agreeInent in sound nlay bf'. the situation 
of the latter, to the north-west of Hang-cheu, presents a fo."!nidable diffi- 
culty, which cannot otherwise be resolved than by supposing that liberties 
have been taken with our author's words, and that places which he has 
thought proper to notice, although lying out of the direct road, have been 
forced by his translators into the line of an itinerary, to which he never 
PFofesses to ad
ere. This remark will be found to apply equally to tùe 
city spoken of In the next chapter. 

3 12 

Travels of Marco Polo 


FROM Ta-pín-zu, travelling three days towards the south-east, 
you come to the city of Uguiu, l and still further, in the same 
direction, two days' journey, you pass in continual succession 
so many towns, castles, and other inhabited places, and such 
is their vicinity to each other, that to a stranger they have the 
appearance of one extended city. All of them are dependent 
upon Kin-saÌ. The people are idolaters, and the country 
supplies the necessaries of life in great abundance. Here are 
found canes of greater bulk and length than those already 
noticed, being four spans in girth and fifteen paces long. 2 


PROCEEDING further, three days' journey in the same direction, 
you reach the town of Gen-gui,3 and still advancing to the 
south-east, you never cease to meet with towns full of inhabi- 
tants, who are employed at their trades, and cultivate the soil. 
In this part of the province of Manji there are not any sheep to 
be seen, but many oxen, cows, buffaloes, and goats, and of 
swine a vast number. 4 At the end of the fourth day you 
arrive at the city of Zen-gian, built upon a hill that stands 
insulated in the river, which, by dividing itself into two 

1 The name of V-guiu or V-gin, which is V-gui in the Italian epitomes, 
but is olnitted in the Basle edition, has an obvious affinity to that of 
Hu-cheu on the bank of the lake Tai, not far frorn Hang-cheu, but like 
Tai-ping is situated in a direction opposite to that of south-east, as ex- 
pressed in the text. [The Paris Latin text calls the town Un-gui.] 
2 Hu-cheu and the places subsequently mentioned being surrounded 
by a low country, and situated in a warm climate, it is reasonable to 
suppose that the bamboo cane should there be found in abundance and 
perfection, and accordingly Du Halde says: "Le Tche-kiang en est plus 
fourni qu'aucune autre province. II y en a des forêts entières."-Tom. 
i. p. 174. 
3 Gen-gui, which in the B.:\I. and Berlin rr;anuscripts is written Ch
gui appears to be the Tchu-ki of Du Halde s map, a town of the thIrd 
order. [In the Paris Latin text it is Ciansiam.] 
4 In the journals of our modern travellers, as well as in 
he writings 
of the missionaries, we find repeated remarks on the paucIty of sbeep 
and abundance of pork in this part of China. 

The Viceroyalty of Kon-cha 

3 1 3 

branches, appears to embrace it. These streams take opposite 
directions, one of them pursuing its course to the south-east, 
and the other to the north-,vest. 1 The cities last mentionect 
are likewise under the dominion of the grand khan, and depen 
dent upon Kin-sai. The people worship idols, and subsist by 
trade. There is in the country abundance of game, both 
beasts and birds. Proceeding further, three days' journey, you 
reach the large and noble city of Gie-za, which is the last with- 
in the jurisdiction of I(in-sai. 2 Having passed this city, you 
enter upon another kingdom or viceroyalty of Manji, named 


UPON leaving the last city of the kingdom or viceroyalty of 
Kin-sai, named Gie-za, you enter that of Kon-cha, 3 the prin- 
cipal city of which is named Fu-giu. 4 In the course of six 
days' journey through this country, in a south-east direction, 
over hills and along valleys,S you continually pass towns and 
1 That Zen-gian, which in the early Italian epitome is Eian-giari, and 
in the early Latin, Cyangy, ,vas intended for the city of Yen-cheu (called 
also Nian-cheu), will hardly admit of a doubt; the names approaching 
as near as the usual corruptions of the syl1able cheu or giu can be expected 
to allow. With respect to local circumstances it must be admitted, that 
the modern city is not built upon a hill, but at the foot of high mountains, 
and just at the meeting (which in ascending rivers is often termed the 
branching) of two streams that contribute to form the Tsien-tang-kiang. 
2 This name of Gie-za, or, as it appears in the other versions, En-giu 
and Cu-gui, belongs evidently to the city of Kiu-cheu, situated as it is 
at the south-western extremity of the province of Che-kiang, on th
border of a distinct viceroyalty, and in the usual, perhaps the only route 
to the provinces of Fo-kien and Kuang-tong. 
3 Kon-cha, or I{on-l{a, as an Italian would pronounce the word, which 
is Kon-chay in the early Latin version, and Tonza in the Italian epitome, 
seems to have been the name of a viceroyalty that inc1 uded the provinces 
of Fo-kien, Kiang-si, and Kuang-tong; but at the present day, Che- 
kiang and Fo-kien are governed by one viceroy, or tsong-tu, as Kuang-tong 
and Kiang-si are by another. 
6 The Fu-giu of our author [Fuchiu of the Paris Latin text] is the city 
of Fu-cheu-fu, the capital of the province of Fo-kien. It is here men- 
tioned incidentally, and not as lying in the direction of his route; but 
it appears to be the city afterwards described in chap. lxxvi. 
Ii These hills or, more properly, mountains, constitute the chain which 
separates the province of Che-kiang from those of I{iang-si and Fo-kien. 
The distance from Kiu-cheu to the first considerable town on the south- 
ide of the mountains Inay be considered as a journey of six days. 

3 1 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

villages, where the necessaries of life are in abundance, and 
there is much field sport, particularly of birds. The people 
are idolaters, the subjects of the grand khan, and are engaged 
in commerce and manufactures. In these parts there are 
tigers of great size and strength. Ginger and also galangal 1 
are produced in large quantities, as well as other drugs. 2 For 
money equal in value to a Venetian silver groat you may have 
eighty pounds weight of fresh ginger, so common is its growth. 
There is also a vegetable which has all the properties of the 
true saffron, as well the smell as the colour, and yet it is not 
really saffron. It is held in great estin1ation, and being an 
ingredient in all their dishes, it bears, on that account, a high 
price. 3 
The people in this part of the country are addicted to eating 
human flesh, esteeming it more delicate than any other, pro- 
vided the death of the person has not been occasioned by 
disease. When they advance to combat they throw loose their 
hair about their ears, and they paint their faces of a bright 
blue colour. They arm themselves with lances and swords, 
and all march on foot excepting their chief, who rides on horse- 
back. They are a most savage race of men, insomuch that 
\vhen they slay their enemies in battle, they are anxious to 
drink their blood, and afterwards they devour their flesh. 
Leaving this subject, we shall now speak of the city of Kue- 


THE journey of six days (mentioned in the preceding chapter) 
being accomplished, you arrive at the city of Kue-lin-fu, 
1 De Guignes, in bis account of the articles exported from Cbina, speak- 
ing of the galanga, says: "C'est la racine noueuse d'une plante qui croît 
à près de deux pieds de hauteur, et dont les feuilles ressenlblent à celles 
du myrte."- Torn. iii. p. 254. 
2 If I am warranted in the conjecture (which will be found to gain 
strength as we advance) that our author's original notes bave been 
transposed in this place} it will acçount for the circumstance of the article 
tea, the production of this part of China, and distinctly mentioned by 
the Arabian travellers of the ninth century, being here olnitted in the 
enumeration of drugs. 
. 3 By this yellow dye is indubitably meant the curC'll1na Zonga. "Le 
turmerick, ou terra merit a, au curcuma," says De Guignes, " est appelé 
en Chinois, cha-kiang,. il vient du Quang-tong: cette racine est bonne 

The People of Kue-lin-fu 

3 1 5 

which is of considerable size, and contains three very hand. 
some bridges, upwards of a hundred paces in length, and eight 
paces in "ridth. 1 The women of the place are very handsome, 
and live in a state of luxurious ease. There is much raw silk 
produced here, and it is manufactured into silk pieces of 
various sorts. Cottons are also woven, of coloured threads, 2 
which are carried for sale to every part of the province of Man ji. 
The people employ themselves extensively in commerce, and 
export quantities of ginger and galangal. I have been told, 
but did not myself see the animal, that there are found at this 
place a species of domestic fowls which have no feathers, their 
skins being clothed with black hair, resembling the fur of cats. 3 
Such a sight must be extraordinary. They lay eggs like other 
fowls, and they are good to eat. The multitude of tigers 
renders travelling through the country dangerous, unless a 
number of persons go in company. 


UPON leaving the city of Kue-lin-fu, and travelling three days, 
during \vhich you are continually passing towns and castles, 
of \vhich the inhabitants are idolaters, have silk in abundance, 
and export it in considerable quantities, you reach the city of 

pour la teinture: la plus longue est la Ineilleure." (Tom. ill. p. 26 4.) 
But in China it is not commonly, if it is at all, employed in cookery. 
whereas amongst the Malays, and other people of the Eastern islands' 
it enters into the composition of every dish, whilst it is by them equally 
applied to the purposes of a dye-stuff. 
1 From its position with respect to the road across the mountains, and 
other circumstances, there appears to be reason for agreeing in opinion 
with P. Martini, that this is the city of I{ien-ning-fu, in the province of 
Fo-kien. It must at the same time be observed that the name of Quei- 
ling-fu belongs to the capital of the province of Kuang-si; but this lies 
at so great a distance from the places already mentioned, and is so en- 
tirely unconnected with them, tl
a.t it cannot be considere
 as the city 
here meant, unless on the supposItlon that the accounts of Intermediate 
parts have been oIni t ted. 
2 The words of the text express no more than that the cotton received 
its colour in the yarn, and not in the piece, which would scarcely deserve 
notice as a peculiarity; but the N ankin cotton, which is known to be in 
it:; raw state, of the colour it bears in the manufacture, may perhaps' be 
that which is meant to be described. 
3 The account of this uncommon species of fowl appears to have been 
thought too incredible by some early translators; yet the same breed. 
or one equally singular, is described by Du Halde. . 

3 16 

Travels of Marco Polo 

Uu-guen. 1 This place is remarkable for a great manufacture 
of sugar, \vhich is sent from thence to the city of Kanbalu for 
the supply of the court. Previously to its being brought 
under the dominion of the grand khan, the natives were un- 
acquainted with the art of manufacturing sugar of a fine 
quality, and boiled it in such an imperfect manner, that when 
left to cool it remained in the state of a dark-brown paste. 2 
But at the time this city became subject to his majesty's gov- 
ernment, there happened to be at the court some persons from 
Babylon 3 who were skilled in the process, and who, being sent 
thither, instructed the inhabitants in the mode of refining 
the sugar by means of the ashes of certain woods.4. 


TRA VELLING fifteen miles further in the same direction, you 
come to the city of Kan-giu, which belongs to the kingdom or 
viceroyalty of Kon-cha, one of the nine divisions of Manji. 5 
In this place is stationed a large army for the protection of the 
country, and to be always in readiness to act, in the event 
'Of any city manifesting a disposition to rebel. Through the 
midst of it passes a river, a mile in breadth, upon the 
banks of which, on either side, are extensive and handsome 
buildings. In front of these, great numbers of ships are seen 
lying, having merchandise on board, and especially sugar, of 
which large quantities are manufactured here also. Many 
1 With whatever modern name that of Un-guen, or U-gueu (as it 
appears in the early Venice epitome), may be thought to accord, it is 

vident from the circumstances that it must be one of the cities of the 
second or third class, within the jurisdiction of Fu-gui, or Fu-cheu-fu, 
and in the neighbourhood of that capital. 
3 Sugar in that moist and imperfect state is ternled jaggl'i in most parts 
of the East Indies. 
3 [Babylon was in the middle ages the name for Cairo ill Egypt.] 

 It is well known that alkaline substances are used in the process 
of granulating sugars. U Towards the end of this boiling," says the 
Dictionary of Arts and Spiences, " t
 into the juice a strong 
lixivium of wood-ashes, with some qUIck-lIme. 
Ii It cannot be doubted that the word Kan-giu is here intended for 
Kuan<Y-cheu or Quang-cheu, the name of the city improperly termed by 
Europoeans, Canton, 
g.a corrup!ion of 
uanþ-tong, which belon
to the province of whIch It IS the capital. It IS eVIdent that the Kan-giu 
of our author is the Can-su described by the Arabian travpllers; and 
this latter is proved by the historical events to have been Kuang-chel1, 
Of Can ton. 

The Port of Zai-tun 

3 1 7 

vessels arrive at this port from India, freighted by merchants 
who bring with them rich assortments of jewels and pearls, 
upon the sale of which they obtain a considerable profit. This 
river discharges itself into the sea, at no great distance from the 
port named Zai-tun. The ships coming from India ascend the 
river as high up as the city, which abounds ,vith every sort of 
provision, and has delightful gardens, producing exquisite 


UPON leaving the city of Kan-giu and crossing the river to pro- 
ceed in a south-easterly direction, you travel during five days 
through a ,veIl-inhabited country, passing towns, castles, and 
substantial dwellings, plentifully supplied with all kinds of 
provisions. The road lies over hills, across plains, and through 
woods, in which are found many of those shrubs from whence 
the camphor is procured.! The country abounds also with 
game. The inhabitants are idolaters. They are the subjects 
of the grand khan, and within the jurisdiction of Kan-giu. 
At the end of five days' journey, you arrive at the noble and 
handsome city of Zai-tun, which has a port on the sea-coast 
celebrated for the resort of shipping, loaded with merchandise, 
that is afterwards distributed through every part of the pro- 
vince of Manji. 2 The quantity of pepper imported there is 
so considerable, that what is carried to Alexandria, to supply 
the demand of the western parts of the world, is trifling in 
comparison, perhaps not more than the hundredth part. It is 

1 This tree, the laurus ca1nphora of China and] apan, grows to a large size, 
and is iInproperly termed by Ramusio an arboscello, or shrub. Staunton 
speaks of " the shining leaves of the thick and spreading camphor-tree," 
-the only species of the laurel genus growing in China, and there a large 
and valuable timber tree. It is not to be confounded with the camphor- 
tree of Borneo and Sumatra, which is also remarkable for its great size, 
but is of a genus entirely distinct from the la'ltrlts. 
I This famous port of Zai-tun, named Zarten in the Basle edition, Zai- 
zen in the older Latin, and J aitoni in the epitome, is generally supposed 
to be the place named Tsuen-cheu by the Chinese (the Suen-tcheou of 
Du Halde's map). Yet it may be thought that the description applies 
with equal justness to the nearly adjoining port of Hia-muen, called 
Emoui by the French and Amoy by the English navigators, which, until 
the last century, participated largely with Canton in the foreign com.. 
merce of the empire. 

3 18 

Travels of Marco Polo 

indeed impossible to convey an idea of the concourse of mer.. 
chants and the a
cumulation of goods, in this which is held to 
be one of the largest and most commodious ports in the world. 
The grand khan derives a vast revenue from this place, as 
every merchant is obliged to pay ten per cent. upon the amount 
of his investment. The ships are freighted by them at the rate 
of thirty per cent. for fine goods, forty-four for pepper, and for 
lignum aloes, sandalwood, and other drugs, as well as articles of 
trade in general, forty per cent.; so that it is computed by the 
merchants, that their charges, including customs and freight, 
amount to half the value of the cargo; and yet upon the half 
that remains to them their profit is so considerable, that they 
are ah,vays disposed to return to the same market with a 
further stock of merchandise. The country is delightful. 
The people are idolaters, and have all the necessaries of life in 
plenty: their disposition is peaceable, and they are fond of 
ease and indulgence. Many persons arrive in this city from 
the interior parts of India for the purpose of having their 
persons ornamented by puncturing with needles (in the manner 
before described), as -it is celebrated for the number of its 
artists skilled in that practice. 1 
The river that flows by the port of Zai-tun is large and rapid, 
and is a branch of that ,vhich passes the city of Kin-sai. 2 At 
1 This assertion may well appear strange and improbable, and must 
have been occasioned by some mistake either of arrangement of the 
Inatter or translation of the passage; for it cannot be supposed that 
the inhabitants of this most frequented and civilized part of China were 
then, or at any historica1 period, in the habit of puncturing or tattooing 
their skins. It may be, that a memorandum on the subject (as in other 
instances we have had strong grounds to suspect) belonging to a descrip- 
tion either of the Malayan islands or of A va, where the practice prevails, 
has been introduced in the wrong place; or, as I am more inclined to 
think, that what has been here Inisunderstood for puncturing the face, 
was meant by our author for the art of portrait-painting, in which the 
Chinese are such adepts, that few strangers visit Canton without em- 
ploying a native to take their likeness, or, as it is expressed in the jargon 
of the factories, " make handsome face." 
, Into this geographical error our author must have been led by the 
report of the natives. In all parts of the East there seems to be a dis- 
position to believe, and to persuade others, that several rivers proceed 
from one common source (generally a lake), and afterwards diverge, ill 
their progress towards the sea; however contrary this may be to the 
known operations of nature. That there is no such community of origin 
between the river Tsien-tang, upon which Hang-cheu or l{in-sai stands, 
and the river Chang, which empties itself at Amoy, is obvious from in- 
spection of the maps of China; but at the saIne tÏInc it will be seen that 
the sources of the Chang, and those of the great river that passes by Fu- 
cheu, the capital of the province, are ill the SaIne mountains, and may be 
said to be intenuing1ed. It may also be observed that the northern 
branch of the lattC'r riVPf. whic.h passes the city of Kien-ning, is separated 

Manufacture of PorcelaÎl1 

3 1 9 

the place where it separates from the principal channel stands 
the city of Tin-gui. Of this place there is nothing further to 
be observed, than that cups or bowls and dishes of porcelain- 
ware are there manufactured. 1 The process was eXplained to 
be as follows. They collect a certain kind of earth, as it were, 
from a mine, and laying it in a great heap, suffer it to be ex- 
posed to the wind, the rain, and the sun, for thirty or forty 
years, during which time it is never disturbed. By this it 
becomes refined and fit for being wrought into the vessels above 
mentioned. Such colours as may be thought proper are then 
laid on, and the ware is afterwards baked in ovens or furnaces. 
Those persons, therefore, who cause the earth to be dug, collect 
it for their children and grandchildren. Great quantities of 
the manufacture are sold in the city, and for a Venetian groat 
you may purchase eight porcelain cups. 
We have now described the viceroyalty of Kon-cha, one of 
the nine divisions of I\Ianji, from whence the grand khan draws 
as ample a revenue as even from that of Kin-sai. Of the others 
we shall not attempt to speak, because Marco Polo did not 
himself visit any of their cities, as he has done those of Kin.. 
sai and Kon-cha. It should be observed that throughout the 
province of Manji one general language prevails, and one 
uniform manner of writing, yet in the different parts of the 
country there is a diversity of dialect, similar to what is found 
between the Genoese, the lVlilanese, the Florentine, and the 
dialects of other Italian states, ,vhose inhabitants, although 
they have each their peculiar speech, can make themselves 
reciprocally understood. 
Not having yet completed the subjects upon which Marco 
Polo purposed to write, he will now bring this Second Book 
to a close, and \vill commence another with a description of 
the countries and provinces of India, distinguishing it into 
the Greater, the Lesser, and the Middle India, parts of which 
he visited whilst employed in the service of the grand khan, 
only by another ridge from the sources of the Tsien-tang, or river of Hang- 
cheu; and this sort of conllexion of the extremes, by the intervention of 
a middle tern1, may have given rise to the mistaken idea adopted by our 
author, upon a subject of which he was not likely to have any practical 
1 The city of Ting-cheu, answering to the name of Tin-gui or Tin-giu, 
stands near the western border of the province of Fo-kien, amongst the 
mountains that give source to the Chang, mentioned in the preceding 
note, but upon a river that empties itself near the city of Chao-cheu, in 
the province of Kuang-tong. It is not, however, at the present day the 
seat of p0Tcelain works, which are principally carried on at the town of 
King-te-ching. in the neighbouring province of Kiang-si. 

3 20 

Travels of Marco Polo 

who ordered him thither upon different occasions of business, 
and afterwards when, accompanied by his father and uncle, 
in their returning journey they escorted the queen destined 
for king Argon. He will have the opportunity of relating 
many extraordinary circumstances observed by himself per- 
sonally in those countries, but at the same time will not omit 
to notice others of which he was informed by persons worthy 
of credit, or which were pointed out to him in the sea-chart of 
the coasts of India.! 

1 It may be presumed that the sea-charts here spoken of were chiefly 
in the hands of Arabian pilots, who navigated from the Persian Gulf to 
India and China, and who might have added the results of their experi- 
ence to the information derived from the geographical work of Ptolemy. 




HAVING treated, in the preceding parts of our work, of 
various provinces and regions, \ve shall now take leave of 
them, and proceed to the account of India, the admirable 
circumstances of which shall be related. We shall commence 
with a description of the ships employed by the merchants, 
which are built of fir-timber. l They have a single deck, and 
below this the space is divided into about sixty small cabins, 
fewer or more, according to the size of the vessels, each of 
them affording accommodation for one merchant. 2 They are 
provided with a good helm. They have four masts, with as 
many sails, and some of them have two masts which can be 
set up and lowered again, as may be found necessary.3 Some 
ships of the larger class have, besides (the cabins), to the 
number of thirteen bulk-heads or divisions in the hold, formed 
1 The vegetable productions, and especially the timber, of southern 
or maritime India, being different from the kinds kno.wn in Europe, it 
is improperly (if our author is actually speaking of Indian ships) that 
the ship-timber is said in the text to be the abete and zapino, as neither 
the abies nor pinus are found (in any accessible situation) between the 
tropics. But, irregular as it may seem, there will in the sequel be found 
reason to conclude that he is describing ships built ill China, although 
for the Indian trade. 
2 In the Latin of the Basle edition the number of these cabins is stated 
at forty, and they are said to be upon, not b
neath, the upper deck. 
We know little of the interior of Indian ve.ssds before the period of 
European intercourse, but in modern times their cabins are usually upon 
the after part of the quarter deck. 
a No mention is made of topmasts in any modern description of Chinese 
junks; nor is it clear that such are here meant. The expressions may 
rather be understood of masts capable of being raised or lowered in the 
manner of those belonging to our lighters, and the sense of the passage 
may be-" They have four masts (with as many sails); two of which 
may be set up or lowered, as occasion may require." 
321 L 

3 22 

Travels of Marco Polo 

of thick planks let into each other (incastrati, mortised or 
rabbeted). The object of these is to guard against accidents 
which may occasion the vessel to spring a leak, such as striking 
on a rock or receiving a stroke from a whale, a circumstance 
that not unfrequently occurs; for, when sailing at night, the 
motion through the waves causes a white foam that attracts 
the notice of the hungry animal. In expectation of meeting 
with food, it rushes violently to the spot, strikes the ship, and 
often forces in some part of the bottom. The water, running 
in at the place where the injury has been sustained, makes its 
way to the well, which is always kept clear. The crew, upon 
discovering the situation of the leak, immediately remove 
the goods from the division affected by the water, which, in 
consequence of the boards being so well fitted, cannot 
pass from one division to another. They then repair the 
damage, and return the goods to that place in the hold from 
\vhence they had been taken. The ships are all double- 
planked; that is, they have a course of sheathing-boards laid 
over the planking in every part. These are caulked with 
oakum both withinside and without, and are fastened with iron 
nails. They are not coated \vith pitch, as the country does not 
produce that article, but the bottoms are smeared over with 
the following preparation. The people take quick-lime and 
hemp, ,vhich latter they cut small, and with these, when 
pounded together, they mix oil procured from a certain tree, 
. making of the whole a kind of unguent, which retains its 
viscous properties more firmly, and is a better material than 
pitch. 1 
Ships of the largest size require a crew of three hundred 
men; others, two hundred; and some, one hundred and fifty 
only, according to their greater or less bulk. They carry 
from five to six thousand baskets (or mat bags) of pepper. 
1 This mode of preserving the bottoms of their vessels is common to 
the Chinese and the Indians. "At Surat," says Grose} " they excel in 
the art of ship-building. Their bottoms and sides are composed of 
planks let into one another, in the nature, as I apprehend, of what is 
called rabbet-work, so that the seams are impenetrable. They have 
also a peculiar way of preserving their ships' bottoms, by occasionally 
rubbing into them an oil they call wood-oil, which the planks imbibe." 
(Voyage to the East Indies, vol. i. p. 107.) The mixture of chunam OJ 
lime with a resinous 'oil, or with melted dammar, is commonly knowD 
in the dockyards of India by the name of gul-gul. "There would be no 
exaggeration," adds Grose, "in averring that they (the natives) build 
.., incomparably the best ships in the world for duration, and that of any 
size even to a thousand tons and upwards. . . . I t is not uncommon for 
one' of them to last a century."-P. 108. 

Descriptiol) of the Indian Ships 323 
In fGrmer times they were of greater burthen than they are 
at present.; but the violence of the sea having in many places 
broken up the islands, and especially in some of the principal 
ports, there is a want of depth of water for vessels of such 
draught, and they have on that account been built, in latter 
times, of a smaller size. The vessels are likewise moved with 
oars or sweeps, each of which requires four men to work it. 
Those of the larger class are accompanied by two or three 
large barks, capable of containing about one thousand baskets 
of pepper, and are manned with sixty, eighty, or one hundred 
sailors. These small craft are often employed to tow the 
larger, \vhen working their oars, or even under sail, provided 
the wind be on the quarter, but not when fight aft, because, in 
that case, the sails of the larger vessel must becalm those of the 
smaller, which would, in consequence, be run down. The ships 
also carry with them as many as ten small boats, for the pur- 
pose of carrying out anchors, for fishing, and a variety of other 
services. They are slung over the sides, and lowered into the 
water when there is occasion to use them. The barks are in 
like manner provided with their small boats. When a ship, 
having been on a voyage for a year or more, stands in need of 
repair, the practice is to give her a course of sheathing over the 
original boarding, forming a third course, which is caulked and 
paid in the same manner as the others; and this, when she needs 
further repairs, is repeated, even to the number of six layers, 
after which she is condemned as unserviceable and not sea- 
worthy. Having thus described the shipping, we shall proceed 
to the account of India; but in the first instance we shall speak 
of certain islands in the part of the ocean where we are at 
present, and shall comluence with the island na111ed Zipangu. 


ZIPANGU is an island in the eastern ocean, situated at the dis- 
tance of about fifteen hundred miles from the main-land, or 
1 The name which is here, as well as in the B.M. and Berlin manu- 
scripts, written Zipangu, in the Basle edition Zipangri, in the older Latin 

yampagu, and in the early Italian epitomes Cimpagu, is evidently 
Intended for those islands which we, in a collective sense, term Japan. 
By the Chinese they are naIned Ge-pen (Jy-pèn according to the ortho- 
graphy of De Guignes, or J ih-pun according to that of Morrison), and 

3 2 4 

Travels of Marco Polo 

coast of 1v