Volume 1, Chapter 4 -- Travels of two Mahomedans in India and China, in the Ninth Century.
*Section 1* -- Original Account of India and China, by a Mahomedan Traveller of the Ninth Century
*Section 2* -- Commentary upon the foregoing Account, by Abu Zeid al Hasan of Siraff


This curious remnant of antiquity was translated from the Arabic, and published in 1718, by Eusebius Renaudot, a learned Member of the French Academy, and of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres. It is not known by whom the travels were actually performed, neither can their exact date be ascertained, as the commencement of the MS. which was translated by Renaudot was imperfect; but it appears to have been written in the 237th year of the Hegira, or in the year 851 of the Christian era. Though entitled the travels of two Mahomedans, the travels seem to have been mostly performed by one person only; the latter portion being chiefly a commentary upon the former, and appears to have been the work of one Abu Zeid al Hasan of Siraf, and to have been written about the 803d year of the Hegira, or A.D. 915. In this commentary, indeed, some report is given of the travels of another Mahomedan into China. The MS. employed by Renaudot belonged to the library of the Count de Seignelay, and appears to have been written in the year 619 of the Hegira, or A.D. 1173. The great value of this work is, that it contains the very earliest account of China, penned above four hundred years earlier than the travels of Marco Polo, who was esteemed the first author on the subject before this publication appeared.

There are many curious and remarkable passages in these travels, which convey information respecting customs and events that are nowhere else to be found; and though some of these carry a fabulous appearance, the greatest part of them have been confirmed and justified by the best writers in succeeding ages. The first portion, or the actual narrative, begins abruptly, on account of some portion of the original manuscript being lost, which would probably have given the name and country of the author, and the date and occasion of his voyage.

In the accompanying commentary by Abu Zeid, we are informed that the date of the narrative was of the Hegira 237, A.D. 851, which circumstance was probably contained in the missing part of the manuscript; but though written then, it is probable that the first journey of the author was undertaken at least twenty years before that date, or in 831, as he observes, that he made a second journey into the same countries sixteen years afterwards, and we may allow four years for the time spent in the two journies, and the intervening space, besides the delay of composition after his last return. Though not mentioned, it is probable his travels were undertaken for the purpose of trade, as we can hardly suppose him to have twice visited those distant countries merely for the satisfaction of curiosity.

With regard to the second treatise or commentary, it seems probable, that when the affairs of China became better known, some prince or person of distinction had desired Abu Zeid to examine the former relation, and to inform him how far the facts of the original work were confirmed by succeeding accounts. The date of the commentary is not certainly ascertainable; yet it appears, that Eben Wahab travelled into China A.H. 285. A.D. 898, and that Abu Zeid had conversed with this man after his return, and had received from him the facts which are inserted in his discourse, which therefore is probably only sixty or seventy years posterior to the actual treatise of the nameless traveller.

[1] Translation from Renaudot, 8vo. Lond. 1733. See likewise Harris, I. 522.


Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 1 -- Original Account of India and China, by a Mahomedan Traveller of the Ninth Century

The third of the seas we have to mention is that of Herkend.[1] Between this sea and that of Delarowi there are many islands, said to be in number 1900, which divide those two seas from each other,[2] and are governed by a queen.[3] Among these islands they find ambergris in lumps of extraordinary bigness, and also in smaller pieces, which resemble plants torn up. This amber is produced at the bottom of the sea, in the same manner as plants are produced upon the earth; and when the sea is tempestuous, it is torn up from the bottom by the violence of the waves, and washed to the shore in the form of a mushroom or truffle. These islands are full of that species of palm tree which bears the cocoa nuts, and they are from one to four leagues distant from each other, all inhabited. The wealth of the inhabitants consists in shells, of which even the royal treasury is full. The workmen in these islands are exceedingly expert, and make shirts and vests, or tunics, all of one piece, of the fibres of the cocoa nut. Of the same tree they build ships and houses, and they are skilful in all other workmanships. Their shells they have from the sea at certain times, when they rise up to the surface, and the inhabitants throw branches of the cocoa nut tree into the water, to which the shells stick. These shells they call Kaptaje.

Beyond these islands, and in the sea of Herkend, is Serendib[4] or Ceylon, the chief of all these islands, which are called Dobijat. It is entirely surrounded by the sea, and on its coast they fish for pearls. In this country there is a mountain called Rahun, to the top of which Adam is said to have ascended, where he left the print of his foot, seventy cubits long, on a rock, and they say his other foot stood in the sea at the same time. About this mountain there are mines of rubies, opals, and amethysts. This island is of great extent, and has two kings; and it produces aloes wood, gold, precious stones, and pearls, which last are fished for on the coast; and there are also found a kind of large shells, which are used for trumpets, and much esteemed. In the same sea, towards Serendib, there are other islands, not so many in number as those formerly mentioned, but of vast extent, and unknown. One of these is called Ramni, which is divided among a number of princes, and in it is found plenty of gold. The inhabitants have cocoa nut trees, which supply them with food, and with which also they paint their bodies, and oil themselves. The custom of the country is, that no man can marry till he has killed an enemy, and brought off his head. If he has killed two he claims two wives, and if he has slain fifty he may have fifty wives. This custom proceeds from the number of enemies with which they are surrounded, so that he who kills the greatest number is the most considered. These islands of Ramni abound with elephants, red-wood, and trees called Chairzan, and the inhabitants eat human flesh.

These islands separate the sea of Herkend from the sea of Shelabet, and beyond them are others called Najabalus, which are pretty well peopled, both men and women going naked, except that the women wear aprons made of leaves. When shipping goes among these islands, the inhabitants come off in boats, bringing with them ambergris and cocoa nuts, which they barter for iron; for, being free from the inconveniencies either of extreme heat or cold they want no clothing. Beyond these two islands is the sea of Andaman. The people on this coast eat human flesh quite raw; their complexion is black, with frizzled hair, their countenance and eyes frightful, their feet very large, almost a cubit in length, and they go quite naked. They have no sort of barks or other vessels, or they would seize and devour all the passengers they could lay their hands upon. When ships have been kept back by contrary winds, and are obliged to anchor on this barbarous coast, for procuring water, they commonly lose some of their men.

Beyond this there is an inhabited mountainous island, which is said to contain mines of silver; but as it does not lie in the usual track of shipping, many have searched for it in vain, though remarkable for a very lofty mountain called Kashenai. A ship, sailing in its latitude, once got sight of this mountain, and steered for the coast, where some people were sent on shore to cut wood: The men kindled a fire, from which there ran out some melted silver, on which they concluded that there must have been a silver mine in the place, and they shipped a considerable quantity of the earth or ore; but they encountered a terrible storm on their voyage back, and were forced to throw all their ore overboard to lighten the vessel. Since that time the mountain has been several times carefully sought for, but no one has ever been able to find it again. There are many such islands in those seas, more in number than can be reckoned; some inaccessible by seamen, and some unknown to them.

It often happens in these seas that a whitish cloud suddenly appears over-head, which lets down a long thin tongue or spout, quite to the surface of the water, which is then turned swiftly round as if by a whirlwind, and if a vessel happens to be in the way, she is immediately swallowed up in the vortex. At length this cloud mounts up again and discharges itself in prodigious rain; but it is not known whether this water is sucked up by the cloud, or how this phenomenon comes to pass. All these seas are subject to prodigious storms, which make them boil up like water over a fire; at which times the waves dash the ships against the islands with unspeakable violence, to their utter destruction; and even fish; of all sizes are thrown dead on shore, against the rocks, by the extreme agitation of the sea. The wind which commonly blows upon the sea of Herkend is from a different quarter, or from the N.W.; but this sea is likewise subject to as violent agitations as those just mentioned, and there ambergris is torn up from the bottom, particularly where it is very deep; and the deeper the sea so much the more valuable is the ambergris which it produces. It is likewise observed, that when this sea is tossed by tempestuous winds it sparkles like fire; and it is infested with a certain kind of fish called Lockham, which frequently preys upon men.[5]

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Among other circumstances, the fires which frequently happen at Canfu are not the least remarkable. Canfu is the port of all the ships of the Arabs who trade to China, and fires are there very frequent, because all the houses are of wood or of split canes; besides, ships are often lost in going and coming, or they are plundered, or obliged to make too long a stay in harbours, or to sell their goods out of the country subject to the Arabs, and there to make up their cargoes. In short, ships are under a necessity of wasting much time in refitting, and many other causes of delay. Soliman[6] the merchant, writes, that at Canfu, which is a principal staple of merchants, there is a Mahomedan judge appointed by the emperor of China, who is authorized to judge in every cause which arises among the Mahomedans who resort to these parts. Upon festival days he performs the public services of religion to the Mahomedans, and pronounces the usual sermon or Kotbat, which he concludes with the usual form of prayers for the sultan of the Moslems. The merchants of Irak or Persia, who trade to Canfu, are no way dissatisfied with the conduct of this judge in the administration of his office, because his decisions are just and equitable, and conformable to the Koran.

Respecting the places whence ships depart and those they touch at, many persons affirm that the navigation is performed in the following order: Most of the Chinese ships take in their cargoes at Siraff,[7] where also they ship their goods which come from Basra, Oman, and other ports; and this is done because there are frequent storms and many shallows in those seas. From Basra to Siraff is an hundred and twenty leagues; and when ships have loaded at this latter place they take in water there also. From thence they sail to a place called Mascat, in the extremity of the province of Oman, which is about two hundred leagues from Siraff. On the east coast of this sea, between Siraff and Mascat, is a place called Nasir Bani al Sasack, and an island called Ebn Kahowan, and in this sea there are rocks called Oman, and a narrow strait called Dordur between two rocks, through which ships often venture to pass, but the Chinese snips dare not. There are also two rocks called Kossir and Howare, which scarce appear above the water's edge. After they are clear of these rocks, they steer to a place called Shitu Oman, and take in water at Muscat, which is drawn up from wells, and are here also supplied with cattle from the province of Oman. From Mascat the ships take their departure for India, and first touch at Kaucammali, which is a month's sail from Mascat with a fair wind. This is a frontier place, and the chief arsenal in the province of that name; and here the Chinese ships put in and are in safety, and procure fresh water. The Chinese ships pay here a thousand drams for duties, whereas others pay only from one dinar to ten. From thence they begin to enter the sea of Herkend, and having sailed through it, they touch at a place called Lajabalus, where the inhabitants do not understand Arabic, or any other language in use among merchants. They wear no clothes, are white, and weak in their feet. It is said their women are not to be seen, and that the men leave the island in canoes, hollowed out of one piece, to go in quest of them, and carry them cocoa nuts, mousa, and palm wine. This last liquor is white, and when drank fresh is sweet like honey, and has the taste of cocoa nut milk; if kept some time, it becomes as strong as wine, but after some days changes to vinegar. These people give this wine, and the small quantities of amber which is thrown up on their coasts, for bits of iron, the bargains being made by signs; but they are extremely alert, and are very apt to carry off iron from the merchants without making any return.

From Lajabalus the ships steer for Calabar, the name of a kingdom on the right hand beyond the Indies, which depends on the kingdom of Zabage, bar signifying a coast in the language of the country. The inhabitants are dressed in those sorts of striped garments which the Arabs call Fauta, and they commonly wear only one at a time, which fashion is common to people of all ranks. At this place they take in water, which is drawn from wells that are fed by springs, and which is preferred to that which is procured from cisterns or tanks. Calabar is about a month's voyage from a place called Kaukam, which is almost upon the skirts of the sea of Herkend. In ten days after this, ships reach Betuma, from whence, in ten days more, they come to Kadrange. In all the islands and peninsulas of the Indies, water is to be found by digging. In this last-mentioned place there is a very lofty mountain, which is entirely inhabited by slaves and fugitives. From thence, in ten days, they arrive at Senef, where is fresh water, and from whence comes the aromatic wood which we call Hud al Senefi. Here is a king; the inhabitants are black, and they wear two striped garments. Having watered at this place, it is ten days passage to Sanderfulat, an island which has fresh water. They then steer through the sea of Sanji, and so to the gates of China; for so they call certain rocks and shallows which form a narrow strait in that sea, through which the ships are obliged to pass. It requires a month to sail from Sanderfulat to China, and it takes eight whole days to steer through among the rocks and shoals.

When a ship has got through the before-mentioned gates, she goes with the flood tide into a fresh water gulf, and drops anchor in the chief port of China, which is called Canfu,[8] where they have fresh water, both from springs and rivers, as also in most of the other cities of China. The city is adorned with large squares, and is supplied with every thing necessary for defence against an enemy, and in most of the other provinces of the empire there are cities of strength similarly fortified. In this port the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours; but, whereas from Basra to the island of Bani Kahouan it flows when the moon is at full, and ebbs when she rises and when she sets; from near Bani Kahouan quite to the coast of China it is flood tide when the moon rises, and ebb when she is at her height; and so on the contrary, when she sets, it is flowing water, and when she is quite hidden under the horizon, the tide falls.

They say that in the island of Muljan, between Serendib and Cala, on the eastern shore of the Indies, there are negroes who go quite naked; and when they meet a stranger they hang him up by the heels and slice him into pieces, which they eat quite raw. These negroes, who have no king, feed chiefly on fish, mousa, cocoa nuts, and sugar canes. It is reported, that in some parts of this sea, there is a small kind of fish which flies above the water, and is called the sea locust; that in another part, there is a fish which, leaving the sea, gets up into the cocoa nut trees, and having drained them of their juices, returns to the sea; and it is added, that there is a fish like a lobster or crab, which petrifies as soon as it is taken out of its element, and that when pulverized it is a good remedy for several diseases of the eyes. They say also, that near Zabage there is a volcanic mountain which cannot be approached, which sends forth a thick smoke by day, and throws out flames at night; at the foot of which are two springs of fresh water, one hot and the other cold.

The Chinese are dressed in silk garments, both in summer and winter, and this dress is common both to the prince and peasant. In winter, they wear drawers of a particular make, which reach to their feet, and of these, they put on two, three, four, five, or more, one over the other, if they can afford it; and are very careful to be covered quite down to their feet, because of the damps, which are very great, and of which they are extremely apprehensive. In summer they only wear a single garment of silk, or some such light dress, but they have no turbans. Their common food is rice, which they eat frequently with a broth made of meat or fish, like that used by the Arabs, and which they pour upon the rice. Their kings eat wheaten bread, and the flesh of all kinds of animals, not excepting swine, and some others not used by us. They have several sorts of fruits, as apples, lemons, quinces, moulats, sugar canes, citruls, figs, grapes, cucumbers of two sorts, trees, which produce a substance like meal, walnuts, almonds, filberts, pistachios, plumbs, apricots, services, and cocoa nuts, but no store of palms, of which they have only a few about private houses. Their drink is a kind of wine made of rice, having no other wine in the country, neither is any other imported by them. They do not even know what wine is, nor will they drink of it. They have vinegar also, and a kind of comfit, like that called Natef by the Arabs and some others.

The Chinese are by no means nice in point of cleanliness, not washing with water when they ease nature but only wiping with paper. They do not scruple to eat of animals which have died, and they practise many other things like the Magians;[9] and in truth, the two religions are much similar. Their women appear uncovered, and adorn their heads with many small ivory combs, of which they wear sometimes a score at one time. The heads of the men are covered by a cap, of a particular make. Thieves are put to death as soon as caught.

The Indians and Chinese agree that there are four great or principal kings in the world, all of them allowing that the king of the Arabs is the first and most powerful of kings, the most wealthy, and the most excellent every way, because he is the prince and head of a great religion, and because no other surpasses him. The Emperor of China reckons himself next after the king of the Arabs, after him the king of the Greeks, and lastly the Balhara,[10] or king of the Moharmi al Adon, or people who have their ears bored. The Balhara is the most illustrious sovereign in all the Indies, and though all the other kings in India are masters and independent each in their own dominions, they thus so far acknowledge his preeminence, that when he sends ambassadors to the other princes, they are received with extraordinary honours. This king makes magnificent presents after the manner of the Arabs, and has vast numbers of horses and elephants, and great treasures in money. His silver coin is what we call Thartarian drams, being equal to one and a half of the Arabian dram. They are coined with the die of the prince, and bear the year of his reign, counting from the last year of the reign of his predecessor. They compute not their years from the era of Mahomed, like the Arabs, but only by the years of their successive kings. Most of these princes live a long time, many of them having reigned above fifty years; and those of the country believe that the length of their lives and reigns is granted in recompence of their kindness to the Arabs; for there are no princes more heartily affectionate to the Arabs, and their subjects profess the same kindness for us. Balhara is not a proper name, but an appellative, common to all those kings, like Cosroes and some others. The country under the dominion of the prince begins on the coast of the province called Kamcam, and reaches by land to the confines of China. He is surrounded by the dominions of many kings, who are at war with him, yet he never marches against them.

One of these is the king of Harez, who has very numerous forces, and is stronger in cavalry than all the other princes of the Indies. He is an enemy to the Arabs, neither is there any prince in India who has a greater aversion to the Mahomedans; though he confesses their king to be the greatest of princes. His dominions are on a promontory, where are much riches, many camels, and abundance of other cattle. The inhabitants traffic for silver, and they say there are mines of that metal on the continent. There are no robbers in this country, nor in the rest of the Indies. On one side of this country is that of Tafek, which is not of very great extent. This king has the finest white women in all the Indies; but he is awed by the kings about him, as his army is very small. He has a great affection for the Arabs as well as the Balhara. These kingdoms border upon the lands of a king called Rami, who is at war with the king of Harez, and with the Balhara likewise. This prince is not much considered, either for the dignity of his birth or the antiquity of his kingdom; but his forces are more numerous than those of the Balhara, and even than those of the kings of Harez and Tafek. It is said that he appears in the field at the head of fifty thousand elephants, and commonly marches in the rainy season, because his elephants cannot move at any other time, as they are unable to bear thirst. His army is said commonly to contain from ten to fifteen thousand tents. In this country they make cotton garments of such extraordinary fineness and perfection, as is to be seen nowhere else. These garments are mostly round, and are wove so extremely fine, that they may be drawn through a moderately sized ring. Shells are current in this country as small money; and they have abundance of gold and silver, aloes wood, and sable skins, of which they make their horse-furniture.

In this country is the famous Karkandan, that is the rhinoceros, or unicorn, which has but one horn on his forehead, on which there is a round spot with the representation of a man; the whole horn being black, except the spot in the middle which is white. The rhinoceros is much smaller than the elephant, and resembles the buffalo from the neck downwards, and excels all other creatures in extraordinary strength. His leg is all one thickness, from the shoulder to the foot, and the hoof is not cloven. The elephant flies from the rhinoceros, whose lowing is like that of an ox, with something of the cry of the camel. His flesh is not forbidden, and we have eaten of it. There are great numbers of this creature in the fens of this country, as also in all the other provinces of India; but the horns of these are most esteemed, having generally upon them the figures of men, peacocks, fishes and other resemblances. The Chinese adorn their girdles with these sorts of figures, so that some of their girdles are worth two or three thousand pieces of gold in China, and sometimes more, the price augmenting with the beauty of the figures. All these things are to be purchased in the kingdom of Rahmi, for shells, which are the current money of the country.

After this country, there is an inland state distant from the coast, and called Kaschbin, of which the inhabitants are white, and bore their ears. They have camels, and their country is for the most part desert, and full of mountains. Farther on the coast, there is a small kingdom called Hitrange, which is very poor; but in its bay, the sea throws up great quantities of ambergris, and they have elephants teeth and pepper; but the inhabitants eat this last green, because of the small quantity they gather. Beyond these, there are other kingdoms, but their numbers and names are unknown. Among these is one named Mujet, the inhabitants of which are white and dress after the Chinese manner; their country is full of mountains, having white tops, and of very great extent, in which there are great quantities of musk; esteemed the most exquisite of any in the world. They have continual war with all the surrounding kingdoms; The kingdom of Mabet is beyond that of Mujet, wherein are many cities, and the inhabitants have even a greater resemblance to the Chinese than those of Mujet; for they have officers or eunuchs like those who govern the cities among the Chinese. The country of Mabet borders upon China, and is at peace with the emperor, but not subject to him. The king of Mabet sends ambassadors every year with presents to the emperor of China, who in return sends ambassadors and presents to Mabet. But when the ambassadors of Mabet enter China, they are very carefully watched, lest they should survey the country, and form designs of conquest; which would be no difficult matter, as their country is very extensive, and extremely populous, and as they are only divided from China by rocks and mountains.

It is said that, in the country of China, there are above two hundred cities having jurisdiction over others, each of which has a governor and an eunuch or lieutenant. Canfu is one of these cities, being the port for all shipping, and has jurisdiction over twenty towns. A town is raised, to the dignity of a city, by the grant of certain large trumpets. These are three or four cubits in length, and as large about as can be grasped by both hands, growing smaller towards the end which is fitted to the mouth. On the outside, they are adorned with Chinese ink, and may be heard at the distance of a mile. Each city has four gates, at each of which five of these trumpets are stationed, which are sounded at certain hours of the day and night. There are also ten drums in each city, which are beaten at the same times; and this is done as a public token of obedience to the emperor, and to point out the hours of the day and night to the inhabitants; and for ascertaining the time; they have sun dials, and clocks with weights.[11]

In China they use a great quantity of copper money, like that named falus by the Arabians, which is the only sort of small money, and is current all over the country, and is indeed the only current coin. Yet their emperor has treasures like other kings, containing abundance of gold and silver, with jewels, pearls, silk, and vast quantities of rich stuffs of all kinds, which are only considered as moveables or merchandize; and from foreign commerce they derive ivory, frankincense, copper in bars, tortoise shell, and unicorns horns, with which they adorn their girdles. Of animals they have abundance, particularly of beasts of burden; such as oxen, horses, asses, and camels; but they have no Arabian horses. They have an excellent kind of earth, of which they make a species of ware equal in fineness to glass, and almost equally transparent. When merchants arrive at Canfu, the Chinese seize their cargoes, which they convey to warehouses, where the goods are detained six months, until the last merchant ship of the season has arrived; they then detain three parts in ten of every species of commodity, or thirty per cent as duty, and return the rest to the merchants. Besides which, if the emperor has a mind for any particular article, his officers have a right of taking it in preference to any other person, paying for it, however, to the utmost value; and they dispatch this business with great expedition, and without the least injustice. They commonly take the whole importation of camphor, on the account of the emperor, and pay for it at the rate of fifty fakuges per man, each fakuge being worth a thousand falus, or pieces of copper coin. When it happens that the emperor does not take the camphor, it sells for half as much again.

The Chinese do not bury their dead till the day twelve months after their decease; but keep them all this time in coffins in some part of their houses, having previously dried them by means of quicklime. The bodies of their kings are embalmed with aloes and camphor. They mourn during three whole years, and whoever transgresses this law is punished with the bamboo, a chastisement to which both men and women are subjected, and are at the same time reproached for not shewing concern for the death of their parents. They bury their dead in deep pits, much like those in use among the Arabs. During all the time that the dead body is preserved in the house, meat and drink are regularly set before it every evening; and if they find these gone in the morning, they imagine that the dead have consumed all; and all this time they cease not from bewailing their loss, insomuch, that their expences upon these occasions, in paying the last duties to their deceased relations, are exorbitant, and often consume their wealth and estates, to the utter ruin of the living. In former times, they buried very rich apparel, and those expensive girdles already mentioned, with the bodies of their kings, and others of the blood royal; but this custom is now discontinued, because it has happened that the bodies have been dug up from their graves by thieves, for the sake of what was buried with them. The whole nation, great and small, rich and poor, are taught to read and write. The titles of their viceroys or governors, are varied according to the dignity and rank of the cities under their government. Those of the smaller cities are called Tusing, which signifies the governor of a town. Those of the greater cities, such as Canfu, are stiled Difu, and the eunuch or lieutenant is stiled Tukam. These lieutenants are selected from among the inhabitants of the cities. There is also a supreme judge called Lakshima-makvan, and they have other names for other officers, which we do not know how properly to express.

A person is never raised to the dignity of a prince, or governor of a city, until he has attained to his fortieth year; for then they say he has acquired experience. When one of these princes or viceroys holds his court, in the city of his residence, he is seated on a tribunal, in great state, and receives the petitions or complaints of the people; having an officer called Lieu, who stands behind the tribunal, and indorses an answer upon the petition, according to the order of the viceroy; for they null [[?]] no applications but what are in writing, and give all their decisions in the same manner. Before parties can present their petitions to the viceroy, they must be submitted to the proper officer for examination, who sends them back if he discovers any error; and no person may draw up any of those writings which are to be presented to the viceroy, except a clerk conversant in business, who must mark at the bottom that it is written by such a man, the son of such a man: And if the clerk is guilty of any error or mistake, he is punished with the bamboo. The viceroy never seats himself on his tribunal until he has eaten and drunk, lest he should be mistaken in some things; and he receives his subsistence from the public treasury of the city over which he presides. The emperor, who is above all these princes or petty kings, never appears in public but once in ten months, under the idea that the people would lose their veneration for him if he shewed himself oftener; for they hold it as a maxim, that government can only subsist by means of force, as the people are ignorant of the principles of justice, and that constraint and violence are necessary to maintain among them the majesty of empire.

There are no taxes imposed upon the lands, but all the men of the country are subject to a poll-tax in proportion to their substance. When any failure of crops makes necessaries dear, the king opens his store-houses to the people, and sells all sorts of necessaries at much cheaper rates than they can be had in the markets; by which means famine is prevented, and no dearth is of any long continuance. The sums that are gathered by this capitation tax are laid up in the public treasury, and I believe that from this tax, fifty thousand dinars are paid every day into the null of Canfu alone, although that city is not one of the largest. The emperor reserves to himself the revenues which arise from the salt mines, and those which are derived from impositions upon a certain herb called Tcha, which they drink with hot water, and of which vast quantities are sold in all the cities in China. This is produced from a shrub more bushy than the pomegranate tree, and of a more pleasant smell, but having a kind of a bitterish taste. The way of using this herb is to pour boiling water upon the leaves, and the infusion cures all diseases. Whatever sums come into the public treasury arise from the capitation tax, the duties upon salt, and the tax upon this leaf.

In every city there is a small bell hung to the wall, immediately over the head of the viceroy or governor, which may be rung by a string which reaches about three miles, and crosses the high way, on purpose that all the people may have access to it; und whenever the string is pulled, and the bell strikes, the person who thus demands justice is immediately commanded to be brought into the presence, where he sets forth his case in person. If any person inclines to travel from one part of the country to another, he must have two passes along with him, one from the governor, and the other from the lieutenant. The governor's pass permits him to set out on his journey, and specifies the name of the traveller, and of all that are in his company, with their names and ages; for every person in China, whether native, Arab, or other foreigner, is obliged to make a full declaration of every thing he knows about himself. The lieutenant's pass specifies the exact quantities of goods and money which the traveller and his company take along with them, and this is done for the information of the frontier places, where both passes are regularly examined; for whenever a person arrives at any of these places, it is entered in the register that such a one, the son of such a one, of such a family, passed through the place, in such a month, day, and year, and in such company. By this means they prevent any one from carrying off the money or effects of others, or the loss of their own goods in case of accident; so that if any thing has been taken away unjustly, or if the traveller should die on the road, it may be immediately known where the things are to be found, that they may be restored to the claimants, or to the heirs of the deceased.

The Chinese administer justice with great strictness, in all their tribunals. When any person commences a suit against another, he sets down his claim in writing, and the defendant writes down his defence, which he signs, and holds between his fingers. These two writings are delivered in at the same time; and being examined, sentence is pronounced in writing, each of the parties having his papers returned to him, the defendant having his delivered first. When one party denies what the other affirms, he is ordered to return his writing; and if the defendant thinks he may do it safely, and delivers in his papers a second time, those of the plaintiff are likewise called for; and he who denies the affirmation of the other, is warned, that if he does not make out what he denies, he shall undergo twenty strokes of the bamboo on his buttocks, and shall pay a fine of twenty fakuges, which amount to about two hundred dinars. And the punishment of the bamboo is so severe, that the criminal can hardly survive, and no person in all China is permitted to inflict it upon another by his own authority, on pain of death, and confiscation of his goods; so that no one is ever so hardy as to expose himself to such certain danger, by which means justice is well administered to all. No witnesses are required, neither do they put the parties upon oath.

When any person becomes bankrupt, he is immediately committed to prison in the governor's palace, and is called upon for a declaration of his effects. After he has remained a month in prison, he is liberated by the governor's order, and a proclamation is made, that such a person, the son of such a one, has consumed the goods of such a one, and that if any person possesses any effects, whatever belonging to the bankrupt, a full discovery must be made within one month. If any discovery is made of effects belonging to the bankrupt, which he had omitted to declare, he suffers the punishment of the bamboo, and is upbraided with having remained a month in prison, eating and drinking, although he has wherewithal to satisfy his creditors. He is reproached for having fraudulently procured and embezzled the property of others, and is chastised for stripping other people of their substance. But if, after every inquiry, the debtor does not appear to have been guilty of any fraud, and if it is proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate, that he has nothing in the world, the creditors are called in, and receive a part of their claims from the treasury of the Bagbun. This is the ordinary title of the emperor of China, and signifies the Son of Heaven, which we ordinarily pronounce Magbun. After this, it is publickly forbidden to buy of or sell to the bankrupt, that he may not again have an opportunity of defrauding his creditors, by concealing their money or effects. If it be discovered that the bankrupt has any money or effects in the hands of another, and that person makes no disclosure within the time limited, the person guilty of this concealment is bambooed to death, and the value discovered is divided among the creditors; but the debtor or bankrupt must never more concern himself with trade.

Upon a stone ten cubits high, erected in the public squares of all the cities, the names of all sorts of medicines, with the exact prices of each, are engraven; and when the poor stand in need of relief from physic, they receive, at the treasury, the price that each medicine is rated at. In China there is no tax upon land, but every male subject pays a rateable capitation in proportion to his wealth and possessions. When a male child is born, his name is immediately entered in a public register, and when he has attained his eighteenth year he begins to pay the poll-tax; but when once a man has reached his eightieth year, he not only ceases to contribute, but even receives a pension from the treasury, as a provision for old age, and in acknowledgment of what he paid during his youth. There are schools, maintained at the public charge, in every town, where the children of the poor are taught to read and write. The women wear nothing on their heads besides their hair, but the men are covered. In China there is a certain town called Tayu, having a castle, advantageously situated on a hill, and all the fortresses in the kingdom are called by the same name. The Chinese are generally handsome, of comely stature, and of fair complexions, and by no means addicted to excess in wine. Their hair is blacker than that of any other nation in the world, and the Chinese women wear it curled.

In the Indies, when one man accuses another of a capital crime, it is usual to ask the accused if he is willing to undergo the trial by fire, and if he consents, the ceremony is conducted in the following manner: A piece of iron is heated red hot, and the accused is desired to stretch out his hand, on which they put seven leaves of a certain tree, and above these the red hot iron is placed. In this condition he walks backwards and forwards for some time, and then throws off the iron. Immediately after this his hand is covered with a leathern bag, which is sealed with the prince's signet; and if at the end of three days he appears and declares that he has suffered no hurt, they order him to take out his hand, and if no sign of fire is visible, he is declared innocent of the crime laid to his charge, and the accuser is condemned to pay a fine of a man of gold to the prince. Sometimes they boil water in a caldron, till it is so hot that no one can touch it; they then throw in an iron ring, and the accused is commanded to thrust down his hand to bring up the ring. I saw one who did this and received no manner of harm. In this case, likewise, if the accused remain unhurt, the accuser pays a fine of a man of gold.

When a king dies in the island of Serendib, which is the last of the islands of the Indies, his body is laid in an open chariot, in such a posture, that his head hangs backward, almost touching the ground, with his hair trailing on the earth; and the chariot is followed by a woman, who sweeps the dust on the face of the deceased, while she proclaims with a loud voice: "O man! behold your king! He was yesterday your master, but now the dominion which he exercised over you is at an end. He is reduced to the state you now see, having left the world; and the arbiter of life and death hath withdrawn his soul. Count not, therefore, O man! upon the uncertain hopes of this life." This or a similar proclamation is continued for three days; after which the body is embalmed with sandal wood, camphor, and saffron, and is then burned, and the ashes are scattered to the winds. When they burn the body of a king, it is usual for his wives to jump into the fire and burn along with him; but this they are not constrained to do. The same custom of burning the bodies of the dead prevails over all the Indies.

In the Indies there are men who devote themselves to live in the woods and mountains, professing to despise what other men most value, abstaining from everything but such wild herbs and fruits as are to be found in the woods, and they affix an iron buckle to their genitals in such a manner as to interdict all commerce with woman. Some of these go quite naked, or have only the skin of a leopard thrown over them, and keep perpetually standing with their faces to the sun. I formerly saw one in that posture; and on my return to the Indies, sixteen years afterwards, I found him in the very same attitude, it being astonishing that he had not lost his sight by the heat and glare of the sun.

In all these kingdoms the sovereign power resides in the royal family, without ever departing from it, and the heirs of the family follow each other in regular succession. In like manner, there are families of learned men, of physicians, and of all the artificers concerned in the various arts; and none of these are ever mixed with the family of a different profession. The several states of the Indies are not subject to one king, but each province has its own; though the Balhara is considered in the Indies as king of kings. The Chinese are fond of gaming and all manner of diversions; but the Indians condemn them, and have no pleasure in such employments. They drink no wine, neither do they use vinegar, because it is made from wine; although this abstinence does not proceed from any religious duty: but they allege that a king given to wine is not worthy of being a king; for how should a drunkard be able to manage the affairs of a kingdom, especially as wars are so frequent between the neighbouring states. Their wars are not usually undertaken to possess themselves of the dominions of others, and I never heard of any except the people bordering on the pepper country that seized the dominions of their neighbours after victory. When a prince masters the dominions of a neighbour, he confers the sovereignty upon some person of the royal family of the conquered country, and thus retains it in dependence upon himself, under the conviction that the natives would never submit to be otherwise governed.

When any one of the princes or governors of cities in China is guilty of a crime, he is put to death and eaten; and in general, it may be said that the Chinese eat all those who are put to death. When the Indians and Chinese are about to marry and the parties are agreed, presents are interchanged, and the marriage ceremony is solemnized amidst the noise of drums and various sorts of instruments. The presents consist in money, and all the relatives and friends contribute as much as they can afford. If any man in the Indies runs away with a woman and abuses her, both are put to death; unless it is proved that force has been used against the woman, in which case the man only is punished. Theft is always punished capitally, both in India and China, whether the theft be considerable or trifling; but more particularly so in the Indies, where, if a thief have stolen even the value of a small piece of money, he is impaled alive. The Chinese are much addicted to the abominable vice of pederasty, which they even number among the strange acts they perform in honour of their idols. The Chinese buildings are of wood, with stone and plaster, or bricks and mortar. The Chinese and Indians are not satisfied with one wife, but both nations marry as many as they please, or can maintain. Rice is the common food of the Indians, who eat no wheat; but the Chinese use both indifferently. Circumcision is not practised either by the Chinese or Indians. The Chinese worship idols, before whom, they fall down and make prayers, and they have books which explain the articles of their religion. The Indians suffer their beards to grow, but have no whiskers, and I have seen one with a beard three cubits long; but the Chinese, for the most part, wear no beards. Upon the death of a relation, the Indians shave both head and face. When any man in the Indies is thrown into prison, he is allowed neither victuals nor drink for seven days together; and this with them answers the end of other tortures for extorting from the criminal a confession of his guilt. The Chinese and Indians have judges besides the governors, who decide in causes between the subjects. Both in India and China there are leopards and wolves, but no lions. Highway robbers are punished with death. Both the Indians and Chinese imagine that the idols which they worship speak to them, and give them answers. Neither of them kill their meat by cutting the throat, as is done by the Mahomedans, but by beating them on the head till they die. They wash not with well water, and the Chinese wipe themselves with paper, whereas the Indians wash every day before eating. The Indians wash not only the mouth, but the whole body before they eat, but this is not done by the Chinese. The Indies is larger in extent by a half than China, and has a great many more kingdoms, but China is more populous. It is not usual to see palm trees either in the Indies or in China, but they have many other sorts of trees and fruits which we have not. The Indians have no grapes, and the Chinese have not many, but both abound in other fruits, though the pomegranate thrives better in India than in China.

The Chinese have no sciences, and their religion and most of their laws are derived from the Indians. They even believe that the Indians taught them their worship of idols. Both nations believe the Metempsychosis, though they differ in many of the precepts and ceremonies of their religion. Physic and philosophy are cultivated among the Indians, and the Chinese have some skill in medicine; but that almost entirely consists in the art of applying hot irons or cauteries. They have some smattering of astronomy; but in this likewise the Indians surpass the Chinese. I know not that even so much as one man of either nation has embraced Mahomedism, or has learned to speak the Arabic language. The Indians have few horses, and there are more in China; but the Chinese have no elephants, and cannot endure to have them in their country. The Indian dominions furnish a great number of soldiers, who are not paid by their kings, but, when called out to war, have to take the field and serve entirely at their own expense; but the Chinese allow their soldiers much the same pay as is done by the Arabs.

China is a pleasant and fruitful country, having numerous extensive and well fortified cities, with a more wholesome climate and less fenny country than India, in which most of the provinces have no cities. The air in China likewise is much better than in India, and there are scarcely any blind persons, or who are subject to diseases of the eyes; and similar advantages are enjoyed by several of the provinces of India. The rivers of both countries are large, and surpass our greatest rivers, and much rain falls in both countries. In the ladies there are many desert tracks, but China is inhabited and cultivated through its whole extent. The Chinese are handsomer than the Indians, and come nearer to the Arabs in countenance and dress, in their manners, in the way of riding, and in their ceremonies, wearing long garments and girdles in the manner of belts; while the Indians wear two short vests, and both men and women wear golden bracelets, adorned with precious stones.

Beyond the kingdom of China, there is a country called Tagazgaz, taking its name from a nation of Turks by which it is inhabited, and also the country of Kakhan which borders on the Turks. The islands of Sila are inhabited by white people, who send presents to the Emperor of China, and who are persuaded that if they were to neglect this the rain of heaven would not fall upon their country. In that country there are white falcons; but none of our people have been there to give us any particular information concerning them.

[1] This is probably the sea about the Maldives, which, according to the eastern geographers, divides that part of the Indian Ocean from the sea of Delarowi, or the Magnus Sinus of the ancients. The eastern writers often speak of the Seven Seas, which seems rather a proverbial phrase, than a geographical definition. These are the seas of China, India, Persia, Kolzoum, or the Red Sea, of Rum or Greece, which is the Mediterranean, Alehozar or the Caspian, Pont or the Euxine. The sea of India is often called the Green Sea, and the Persian Gulf the sea of Bassora. The Ocean is called Bahr Mahit.--Harris
[2] Male-dive signifies, in the Malabar language, a thousand isles.--E.
[3] The subsequent accounts of these islands do not justify this particular sentence, if the author meant that they were always governed by a queen. It might be so in this time by accident, and one queen might have succeeded another, as Queen Elizabeth did Queen Mary.--Harris.
[4] This is the Taprobana of the ancients, and has received many names. In Cosmas Indicopleustes, it is called Sielendiba, which is merely a Grecian corruption of Sielea-dive, or Sielen island; whence the modern name of Ceylon.--E.
[5] This is probably the shark, which is common on all the coasts of India. There was a portion of the MS. wanting at this place; wherein the author treated of the trade to China as it was carried on in his time, and of the causes which had brought it into a declining condition.--Renaud.
[6] Perhaps some account of this Soliman might be contained in the lost pages: But the circumstance of a Mahomedan judge or consul at Canfu is a circumstance worthy of notice, and shews that the Mahomedans had carried on a regular and settled trade with China for a considerable time, and were in high estimation in that country.--Renaud.
[7] It is difficult at this distance of time to ascertain the rout laid down by this author, on account of the changes of names. This mart of Siraff is not to be met with in any of our maps; but it is said by the Arabian geographers to have been in the gulf of Persia, about sixty leagues from Shiraz; and that on its decay, the trade was transferred to Ormuz.--Renaud.
[8] It is probable, or rather certain, that Canton is here meant.--E.
[9] Meaning the Parsees or Guebres, the fire-worshippers of Persia.--E.
[10] It is probable that this Balhara, or king of the people with bored ears, which plainly means the Indians, was the Zamorin or Emperor of Calicut; who, according to the reports of the most ancient Portuguese writers concerning India, was acknowledged as a kind of emperor in the Indies, six hundred years before they discovered the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope.--Harris.
The original editor of this voyage in English, Harris, is certainly mistaken in this point. The Balhara was the sovereign of Southern Seindetic India; of which dominion Guzerat was the principal province.--E.
[11] This is a very early notice of the construction and use of clocks, or machinery to indicate divisions of time, by means of weights.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 2 -- Commentary upon the foregoing Account, by Abu Zeid al Hasan of Siraff.

Having very carefully examined the book I was desired to peruse, that I might confirm what the author relates so far as he agrees with what I have learnt concerning the affairs of navigation, the kingdoms on the coast, and the state of the countries of which he treats, and that I might add what I have elsewhere collected concerning these matters: I find that this book was composed in the year of the Hegira 237, and that the accounts given by the author are conformable with what I have heard from merchants who have sailed from Irak or Persia, through these seas. I find also all that the author has written to be agreeable to truth, except some few passages, in which he has been misinformed. Speaking of the custom, of the Chinese in setting meat before their dead, and believing that the dead had eaten, we had been told the same thing, and once believed it; but have since learnt, from a person of undoubted credit, that this notion is entirely groundless, as well as that the idolaters believe their idols speak to them. From that creditable person we have likewise been informed, that the affairs of China wear quite a different aspect since those days: and since much has been related to explain why our voyages to China have been interrupted, and how the country has been ruined, many customs abolished, and the empire divided, I shall here declare what I know of that revolution.

The great troubles which have embroiled the affairs of this empire, putting a stop to the justice and righteousness there formerly practised, and interrupting the ordinary navigation from Siraff to China, was occasioned by the revolt of an officer named Baichu, in high employment, though not of the royal family. He began by gathering together a number of vagabonds, and disorderly people, whom he won to his party by his liberalities, and formed into a considerable body of troops. With these he committed hostilities in many parts of the country, to the great loss of the inhabitants; and having greatly increased his army, and put himself into a condition to attempt greater things, he began to entertain a design of subduing the whole empire, and marched direct for Canfu, one of the most noted cities in China, and at that time the great port for our Arabian commerce. This city stands upon a great river, some days sail from the sea, so that the water there is fresh. The citizens shut their gates against him, and he was obliged to besiege it a great while; but at length he became master of the city, and put all the inhabitants to the sword. There are persons fully acquainted with the affairs of China, who assure us, that besides the Chinese who were massacred upon this occasion, there perished one hundred and twenty thousand Mahomedans, Jews, Christians, and Parsees, who were there on account of traffic; and as the Chinese are exceedingly nice in the registers they keep of foreigners dwelling among them, this number may be considered as authentic. This took place in the year of the hegira 264, or of Christ 877. He also cut down the mulberry trees, which are carefully cultivated by the Chinese for their leaves, on which the silk worms are fed; and owing to this, the trade of silk has tailed, and that manufacture, which used to be much prosecuted in all the countries under the Arabian government, is quite at a stand.

Having sacked and destroyed Canfu, he possessed himself of many other cities, which he demolished, having first slain most of the inhabitants, in the hope that he might involve all the members of the royal family in this general massacre, that no one might remain to dispute with him for the empire. He then advanced to Cumdan,[1] the capital city, whence the emperor was obliged to make a precipitate retreat to the city of Hamdu, on the frontiers towards Thibet. Puffed up with these great successes, Baichu made himself master of almost the whole country, there being no one able to dispute his authority. At length the emperor wrote to the king of the Tagazgaz in Turkestan, with whom he was in some degree allied by marriage, imploring his assistance to subdue the rebellion. The king of the Tagazgaz dispatched his son, at the head of a very numerous army, into China, and after a long and arduous contest, and many battles, Baichu was utterly defeated, and it was never known afterwards what became of him; some believing that he fell in the last battle, while others supposed that he ended his days in a different manner. The emperor of China now returned to his capital, much weakened and dispirited in consequence of the embezzlement of his treasures, and the loss of the best of his officers and troops, and the horrible devastations, calamities, and losses which his empire had sustained; yet he made himself master of all the provinces which had revolted from his authority. He would not, however, lay his hands upon the goods of his subjects, notwithstanding the exhausted state of his finances, but satisfied himself with what was still left in his coffers, and the small remains of the public money that was to be found, requiring nothing from his subjects, but what they were willing to give, and only demanding obedience to the laws and to his authority, considering that they had been already severely oppressed in consequence of the rebellion. Thus, China became like the empire of Alexander, after the defeat and death of Darius, when he divided the provinces among his chiefs, who became so many kings. For now, each  of the Chinese princes, or viceroys, joined themselves into petty alliances, making wars among themselves without the authority of the emperor; and when the stronger had subdued the weaker, and acquired possession of his province, the subjects of the vanquished prince were unmercifully wasted and plundered, and even barbarously devoured: a cruel practice allowed by the laws of their religion, which even permit human flesh to be exposed to public sale in the markets. There arose from all these confusions many unjust dealings with the merchants; and there was no grievance so intolerable, or treatment so bad, but what was exercised upon the Arab merchants, and captains of ships, extorting from them what was altogether uncustomary, seizing upon their effects, and behaving towards them quite contrary to all the ancient usages; so that our merchants were forced to return in crowds to Siraff and Oman[2].

The punishment of married persons, convicted of adultery, as well as for the crimes of homicide and theft, is as follows: The hands are bound fast together, and forced backwards over the head, till they rest on the neck. The right foot is then fastened to the right hand, and the left foot to the left hand, and all drawn tight together behind the back, so that the criminal is incapable to stir; and by this torture the neck is dislocated, the joints of the arms start from their sockets, and the thigh bones are disjointed;--in short, the tortured wretch would soon expire without any farther process; yet, in that state, he is beaten by bamboos till at the last gasp, and is then abandoned to the people, who devour the body.

There are women in China who refuse to marry, and prefer to live a dissolute life of perpetual debauchery. A woman who has made this election, presents herself in full audience before the commanding officer of a city, declares her aversion to marriage, and desires to be enrolled among the public women. Her name is then inserted in the register, with the name of her family, the place of her abode, the number and description of her jewels, and the particulars of her dress. She has then a string put round her neck, to which is appended a copper ring, marked with the king's signet, and she receives a writing, certifying that she is received into the list of prostitutes, and by which she is entitled to a pension from the public treasury of so many falus yearly, and in which the punishment of death is denounced against any man who should take her to wife. Every year, regulations are published respecting these women, and such as have grown old in the service are struck off the list. In the evening, these women walk abroad in dresses of different colours, unveiled, and prostitute themselves to all strangers who love debauchery; but the Chinese themselves send for them to their houses, whence they do not depart till next morning.

The Chinese coin no money, except the small pieces of copper like those we [[call?]] falus, nor will they allow gold and silver to be coined into specie, like our dinars and drams; for they allege that a thief may carry off ten thousand pieces of gold from the house of an Arab, and almost as many of silver, without being much burthened, and so ruin the man who suffers the loss; but in the house of a Chinese, he can only carry off ten thousand falus at the most, which do not make above ten meticals or gold dinars in value. These pieces of copper are alloyed with some other metal, and are about the size of a dram, or the piece of silver called bagli, having a large hole in the middle to string them by. A thousand of them are worth a metical or gold dinar; and they string them by thousands, with a knot distinguishing the hundreds. All their payments, whether for land, furniture, merchandize, or any thing else, are made in this money, of which there are some pieces at Siraff, inscribed with Chinese characters. The city of Canfu is built of wood and canes interwoven, just like our lattice-work of split canes, the whole washed over with a kind of varnish made of hempseed, which becomes as white as milk, having a wonderfully fine gloss. There are no stairs in their houses, which are all of one storey, and all their valuables are placed in chests upon wheels, which in case of fire can easily be drawn from place to place, without any hinderance from stairs.

The inferior officers of the cities, and those commonly who have the direction of the customs and of the treasury, are almost all eunuchs, some of whom have been captured on the frontiers and made so, while others are so treated by their fathers, and sent as presents to the emperors. These officers are at the head of the principal affairs of state, and have the management of the emperor's private affairs, and of the treasury; and those, particularly, who are sent to Canfu, are selected from this class. It is customary for them, and for the viceroys or governors of the cities, to appear abroad from time to time in solemn procession. On these occasions, they are preceded by men who carry great pieces of wood, like those used in the Levant instead of bells by the Christians, on which they make a noise which is heard at a great distance, upon which every person gets out of the way of the prince or eunuch. Even if a man is at his door, he goes in, and keeps his door shut till the great personage has gone by. Thus, not a soul is in the way, and this is enjoined that they may strike a dread into the people, and be held in veneration; and the people are not allowed to see them often, lest they should grow so familiar as to speak to them.. All these officers wear very magnificent dresses of silk, so fine that none such is brought into the country of the Arabs, as the Chinese hold it at a very high price. One of our chief merchants, a man of perfect credibility, waited upon an eunuch who had been sent to Canfu, to purchase some goods from the country of the Arabs. The eunuch had upon his breast a short and beautiful silk vest, which was under another silk vest, and seemed to have two other vests over that again; and perceiving that the Arab eyed him very steadfastly, he asked him the cause; and being told that he admired the beauty of the little vest under his other garments, the eunuch laughed, and holding out his sleeve to him, desired him to count how many vests he had above that which he so much admired. He did so, and found five, one over the other, and the little rich vest undermost. These garments are all wove of raw silk, which has never been washed or fulled; and those worn by the princes or governors are still richer, and more exquisitely wrought.

The Chinese surpass all nations in all arts, and particularly in painting, and they perform such perfect work, as others can but faintly imitate. When an artificer has finished a piece, he carries it to the prince's palace to demand the reward which he thinks he deserves, for the beauty of his performance; and the custom is for the prince to order the work to be left at the gate of the palace for a whole year, and if in that time no person finds a just fault in the piece, the artificer is rewarded, and admitted into the body of artists; but if any fault is discovered, the piece is rejected, and the workman sent off without reward. It happened once, that one of these artists painted an ear of corn, with a bird perched upon it, and his performance was very much admired. This piece, stood exposed to public view as usual, and one day a crooked fellow going past, found fault with the picture, and was immediately conducted to the prince or governor, who sent for the painter that he might hear his piece criticized. Being asked what fault he had to find, he answered, that every one knew that a bird never settles on an ear of corn, but it must bend under the weight; whereas this painter had represented the ear of corn bolt upright, though loaded with a bird. The objection was held just, and the painter was dismissed without reward. By such means, they excite their workmen to aim at perfection, and to be exceedingly nice and circumspect in what they undertake, and to apply their whole genius to any thing that has to go through their hands.

There dwelt at Basra one Ebn Wahab, of the tribe of Koreish, descended from Hebar, the son of Al Asud, who quitted Basra when it was sacked, and came to Siraff, where he saw a ship preparing to sail for China.[3] The humour took him to embark in this ship for China, and he had the curiosity to visit the emperor's court. Leaving Canfu, he went to Cumdan, after a journey of two months, and remained a long while at the court, where he presented several petitions to the emperor, setting forth, that he was of the family of the prophet of the Arabs. After a considerable interval, the emperor ordered him to be lodged in a house appointed for the purpose, and to be supplied with every thing he might need. The emperor then wrote to the governor of Canfu, to inquire carefully among the Arabian merchants respecting this man's pretensions; and receiving a full confirmation of his extraction, received him to an audience, and made him rich presents, with which he returned to Irak.

When, we saw him, this man was much advanced in years, but had his senses perfectly. He told us that the emperor asked him many questions respecting the Arabs, and particularly how they had destroyed the kingdom of the Persians. Ebn Wahab answered, that they had done it by the assistance of God, and because the Persians were immersed in idolatry, adoring the sun, moon, and stars, instead of the Almighty. The emperor said, that they had conquered the most illustrious kingdom of the earth, the best cultivated, the most populous, the most pregnant of fine wits, and of the highest fame. The emperor then asked Ebn Wahab what account the Arabs made of the other kings of the earth; to which he answered that he knew them not. Then the emperor caused the interpreter to say, we admit but five great kings. He who is master of Irak has the kingdom of widest extent, which is surrounded by the territories of other kings, and we find him called King of Kings. After him is the emperor of China, who is styled King of Mankind, for no king has more absolute authority over his subjects, and no people can be more dutiful and submissive than his subjects. Next is the king of the Turks, whose kingdom borders on China, and who is styled the King of Lions. Next is the king of the Elephants, who is king of the Indies, whom we call King of Wisdom. Last of all is the King of Greece, whom we call King of Men, as there are no men of better manners, or comlier appearance, on the face of the earth, than his subjects.

Ebn Wahab was then asked if he knew his lord and master the prophet Mohammed, and if he had seen him? How could that be, said Wahab, seeing that he is with God? Being then asked what manner of person he was; he answered that he was very handsome. Then a great box was brought, out of which another box was taken, and the interpreter was desired to shew him his lord and master. Ebn Wahab, upon looking in, saw the images of the prophets and the emperor observing him to move his lips, desired him to be asked the reason; on which he said he was praying inwardly in honour of the prophets. Being asked how he knew them, he said by the representation of their histories; as for instance, one was Noah and his ark, who were saved from the flood with those who were with them. The emperor laughed, and said he was right in regard to Noah, but denied the universal deluge; which, though it had covered part of the earth, did not reach China or the Indies. On Wahab observing that the next was Moses, with his rod, and the children of Israel; the emperor agreed that their country was of small extent, and that Moses had extirpated the ancient inhabitants. Wahab then pointed out Jesus upon the ass, accompanied by his apostles. To this the emperor said, that he had been a short time upon earth, all his transactions having very little exceeded the space of thirty months. On seeing the image of Mohammed riding on a camel, and his companions about him, with Arabian shoes and leathern girdles, Wahab wept; and being asked the reason, he answered, it was on seeing his prophet and lord, who was his cousin also. The emperor then asked concerning the age of the world; and Wahab answered, that opinions varied on the subject, as some reckoned it to be six thousand years old, while some would not allow so many, and others extended it to a greater antiquity. Being asked why he had deserted his own king, to whom he was so near in blood; he gave information of the revolutions which had happened at Basra, which had forced him to fly to Siraff; where, hearing of the glory of the emperor of China, and the abundance of every thing in his empire, he had been impelled by curiosity to visit it; but that he intended soon to return to the kingdom of his cousin, where he should make a faithful report of the magnificence of China, the vast extent of its provinces, and of the kind usage he had met with. This seemed to please the emperor, who made him rich presents, and ordered him to be conducted to Canfu on post horses.[4] He wrote also to the governor of that city, commanding him to be treated with honour; and to the governors of the provinces through which he had to pass, to shew him every civility. He was treated handsomely during the remainder of his stay in China, plentifully supplied with all necessaries, and honoured with many presents.[5]

From the information of Ebn Wahab, we learn that Cumdan, where the emperor of China keeps his court, is a very large and extremely populous city, divided into two parts by a very long and broad street. That the emperor, his chief ministers, the supreme judge, the eunuchs, the soldiery, and all belonging to the imperial household, dwelt in that part of the city which is on the right hand eastward; and that the people were not admitted into that part of the city, which is watered by canals from different rivers, the borders of which are, planted with trees, and adorned by magnificent palaces. That portion of the city on the left hand, westwards from the great street, is inhabited by the ordinary kind of people, and the merchants, where also are great squares and markets for all the necessaries of life. At day-break every morning, the officers of the royal household, with the inferior servants, purveyors, and the domestics of the grandees of the court, come into that division of the city, some on horseback, and others on foot, to the public markets, and the shops of those who deal in all sorts of goods, where they buy whatever they want, and do not return again till their occasions call them back next morning. The city is very pleasantly situate in the midst of a most fertile soil, watered by several rivers, and hardly deficient in any thing except palm trees, which grow not there.

In our time a discovery has been made, of a circumstance quite new and unknown to our ancestors. No one ever imagined that the great sea which extends from the Indies to China had any communication with the sea of Syria. Yet we have heard, that in the sea of Rum, or the Mediterranean, there was found the wreck of an Arabian ship, which had been shattered by a tempest, in which all her men had perished. Her remains were driven by the wind and weather into the sea of the Chozars, and thence by the canal of the Mediterranean sea, and were at last thrown upon the coast of Syria. Hence it is evident, that the sea surrounds all the country of China and Sila or Cila, the uttermost parts of Turkestan, and the country of the Chozars, and that it communicates by the strait with that which washes the coast of Syria. This is proved by the structure of the wreck; of which the planks were not nailed or bolted, like all those built in the Mediterranean, or on the coast of Syria, but joined together in an extraordinary manner, as if sewed, and none but the ships of Siraff are so fastened. We have also heard it reported, that ambergris has been found on the coast of Syria, which seems hard to believe, and was unknown to former times. If this be true, it is impossible that amber should have been thrown up on the sea of Syria, but by the sea of Aden and Kolsum, which has communication with the seas where amber is found. And as God has put a separation between these seas, it must have necessarily been, that this amber was driven from the Indian Seas into the others, in the same direction with the vessel of Siraff.[6]

The province of Zapage is opposite to China, and distant from thence a month's sail or less, if the wind be fair. The king of this country is styled Mehrage, and his dominions are said to be 900 leagues in circumference, besides which, he commands over many islands which lie around; so that, altogether, this kingdom is above 1000 leagues in extent. One of these islands is called Serbeza, which is said to be 400 leagues in compass; another is called Rhami, which is 800 leagues round, and produces red-wood, camphor, and many other commodities. In the same kingdom is the island of Cala, which is the mid passage between China and the country of the Arabs. This island is 80 leagues in circumference, and to it they bring all sorts of merchandize, as aloes wood of several kinds, camphor, sandal wood, ivory, the wood called cabahi, ebony, red-wood, all sorts of spice, and many others; and at present the trade is carried on between this island and that of Oman. The Mehrage is sovereign over all these islands; and that of Zapage, in which he resides, is extremely fertile, and so populous, that the towns almost touch each other, no part of the land being uncultivated. The palace of the king or Mehrage, stands on a river as broad as the Tigris at Bagdat or Bassora; but the sea intercepts its course, and drives its waters back with the tide; yet during the ebb the fresh water flows out a good way into the sea. The river water is let into a small pond, close to the king's palace, and every morning the master of the household brings an ingot of gold, wrought in a particular manner, and throws it into the pond, in presence of the king. When the king dies, his successor causes all these ingots, which have been accumulating during the reign of his predecessor, to be taken out; and the sums arising from this great quantity of gold are distributed among the royal household, in certain proportions, according to their respective ranks, and the surplus is given to the poor.

Komar is the country whence the aloes wood, which we call Hud al Komari, is brought; and it is a very populous kingdom, of which the inhabitants are very courageous. In this country, the boundless commerce with women is forbidden, and indeed it has no wine. The kingdoms of Zapage and Komar are about ten or twenty days easy sail from each other, and the kingdoms were in peace with other when the following event is said, in their ancient histories, to have occurred. The young and high-spirited king of Komar was one day in his palace, which looks upon a river much like the Euphrates, at the entrance, and is only a day's journey from the sea. One day, in a discourse with his prime minister, the conversation turned upon the glory and population of the kingdom of the Mehrage, and the multitude of its dependent islands, when the king of Komar expressed a wish to see the head of the Mehrage of Zapage on a dish before him. The minister endeavoured to dissuade him from so unjust and rash an attempt; but the king afterwards proposed the same exploit to the other officers of his court. Intelligence of this project was conveyed to the Mehrage, who was a wise and active prince, of consummate experience, and in the flower of his age; and who immediately ordered a thousand small ships to be fitted out, with all necessary arms and provisions, and manned with as many of his best troops as they were able to transport; carefully concealing the purpose of this armament, but giving out that he meant to visit the different islands under his authority, and even caused letters to be written to the tributary kings of these islands to prepare for his reception.

When every thing was in readiness, he sailed over to the kingdom of Komar, the king of which, and all his courtiers, were a set of effeminate creatures, who did nothing all day long but view their faces in mirrors, and pick their teeth. The Mehrage landed his troops without delay, and immediately invested the palace, in which the king was made prisoner, all his attendants having fled without fighting. Then the Mehrage caused proclamation to be made, granting entire security of life and property to all the inhabitants of the country; and seating himself on the throne, caused the captive king and the prime minister to be brought into his presence. Addressing himself to the fallen monarch, he demanded his reasons for entertaining a project so unjust, and beyond his power to execute, and what were his ultimate intentions if he had succeeded. To this the king of Komar made no answer; and the Mehrage ordered his head to be struck off. To the minister, the Mehrage made many compliments, for the good advice he had given his master, and ordered him to place the person who best deserved to succeed upon the vacant throne; and then departed to his own dominions, without doing the smallest violence or injury to the kingdom of Komar. The news of this action being reported to the kings of China and the Indies, added greatly to their respect for the Mehrage; and from that time, it has been the custom for the kings of Komar to prostrate themselves every morning towards the country of Zapage, in honour of the Mehrage[7].

All the kings of China and the Indies believe in the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, as an article of their religion, of which the following story, related by a person of credibility, is a singular instance. One of these princes having viewed himself in a mirror, after recovering from the small-pox, and noticing how dreadfully his face was disfigured, observed, that no person had ever remained in his body after such a change, and as the soul passes instantly into another body, he was determined to separate Ha soul from its present frightful body, that he might pass into another. Wherefore he commanded his nephew to mount the throne, and calling for a sharp and keen scymitar, ordered his own head to be cut off, that his soul might be set free, to inhabit a new body. His orders were complied with, and his body was burnt, according to the custom of the country.

Until the late revolution had reduced them to their present state of anarchy, the Chinese were wonderfully regular and exact in every thing relative to government; of which the following incident affords a striking example. A merchant of Chorassan,  who had dealt largely in Irak, and who embarked from thence for China,  with a quantity of goods,  had a dispute at Canfu with an eunuch, who was sent to purchase some ivory, and other goods for the emperor, and at length the dispute ran so high, that the merchant refused  to  sell him  his goods. This eunuch was keeper of the imperial treasury, and presumed so much on the favour and confidence which he enjoyed with his master, that he took his choice of all the goods he wanted from the merchant by force, regardless of every thing that the merchant could say. The merchant went privately from Canfu to Cumdan, the residence of the emperor, which is two months journey; and immediately went to the string of the bell,  mentioned in the former section, which he pulled. According to the custom of the country, he was conveyed to a place at the distance of ten days journey, where he was committed to prison for two months; after which he was brought before the viceroy of the province, who represented to him, that he had involved himself in a situation which would tend to his utter ruin, and even the loss of his life, if he did not speak out the real truth: Because there were ministers and governors appointed to distribute justice to all strangers, who were ready to see him righted; and if the nature of the wrongs, which he had to represent, did not appear such as to entitle him to this application to the emperor, he would assuredly be put to death, as a warning to others not to follow his example. The viceroy, therefore, advised him to withdraw his appeal, and to return immediately to Canfu. The rule on such occasions was, that, if the party should endeavour to recede after this exhortation, he would have received fifty blows of a bamboo, and have been immediately sent out of the country: but if he persisted in his appeal, he was immediately admitted to an audience of the emperor. The merchant strenuously persisted in his demand for justice, and was at length admitted to the presence of the emperor, to whom he related the injustice of the eunuch, in taking away his goods by force. Upon this, the merchant was thrown, into prison, and the emperor ordered his prime minister to write to the governor of Canfu, to make strict inquiry into the complaints which he had exhibited against the eunuch, and to make a faithful report of all the circumstances; and he, at the same time, gave similar orders to three other principal officers, to make the same inquiry, all separate and unknown to each other.

These officers, who are called of the right, of the left, and of the centre, according to their ranks, have the command of the imperial forces, under the prime minister; they are entrusted with the guard of the emperor's person: and when, he takes the field, on any military enterprise, or on any other account, these officers are stationed near him, each according to his rank. All of these made accordingly the strictest inquiries into the allegations of the merchant, and all separately gave in their reports, assuring the emperor that these complaints were just and well-founded: and these were followed and confirmed by many other informations. The eunuch was in consequence deprived of his office of treasurer, and all his effects were confiscated; on which occasion the emperor addressed him as follows; "Death ought to have been your doom, for giving occasion of complaint against me to this man, who hath come from Chorassan, which is on the borders of my empire. He hath been in the country of the Arabs, whence he came into the kingdoms of the Indies, and thence into my empire, seeking his advantage by trade; and you would have occasioned him to return across all these regions, saying to all the people in his way, that he had been abused and stripped of his substance in China. In consideration of your former services, and the rank you have held in my household, I grant your life; but as you have not discharged your duty in regard to the living, I will confer upon you the charge of the dead." The eunuch was accordingly sent to take the custody of the imperial tombs, and to remain there for the remainder of his life.

Before the late commotions, the good order observed in the administration of justice, and the majesty of their tribunals, were very admirable. To fill these, the Chinese chose men who were perfectly versant in the laws; men of sincerity, and zealous in the cause of justice, who were not to be biassed by the interference of the great, and who always administered the laws with impartiality, neither oppressing the poor, nor accepting bribes from the rich. When any one was to be promoted to the office of principal judge, he was previously sent to all the chief cities of the empire, to remain a month or two in each, inquiring minutely into the various customs and affairs of the people, and informing himself of all such persons as were worthy of being credited in their testimony, that his judgment might be regulated in the future discharge of his high office by this preliminary knowledge. After going through all the cities in this manner, and making some stay in those which are most considerable, he repaired to the imperial court, and was invested with the dignity of supreme judge. To him the nomination of all the other judges was confided, after acquainting the emperor with the names of all who, in his estimation, were most worthy of exercising jurisdiction in the various cities and provinces. Every day, the supreme judge causes proclamation to be made, that of any man has been wronged by the viceroy or governor, or by any of his relations or officers, or any other person, he shall receive ample justice. A viceroy or governor is never degraded, except by letters issued from the council, or divan of kings, and this is done only for some flagrant malversation, or for the refusal or delay of justice. The posts of judicature being conferred upon none but men of probity and justice, good order is efectually maintained.

The province of Chorassan is almost on the borders of China. From China to Sogd is about two months journey, through impracticable deserts of sand, where there is no water; for which reason the Chorassanians can make no irruptions into China. The most westerly province of China is Medu, which borders on Thibet, and the two nations are often at war. A person who had been in China, informed us, that he had seen a man at Canfu, who had traveled from Samare, all the way on foot, through all the cities in China, with a vessel of musk on his back for sale; which he might easily do, as the part of Thibet, which produces musk, is contiguous to China. The Chinese carry off as many of the animals which produce musk as they can procure; but the musk of Thibet is far better than that of China, because the animal feeds on aromatic plants in the mountains of Thibet, while in China it has to subsist upon the ordinary pastures; and because the inhabitants of Thibet preserve their pods of musk in its natural state of purity, while the Chinese adulterate all that gets into their hands; for which reason the musk of Thibet is in great request among the Arabs. The most exquisite of all the sorts of musk, is that which the musk animals leave behind them, in rubbing themselves on the rocks of their native mountains. The humour whence the musk is generated, falls down towards the navel of the animal, where it gathers into tumors like grumous blood; and when this tumor is ripe, it produces a painful itching, on which the animal rubs himself against rocks or stones till he bursts the tumor, and the contents run out and coagulate on the stone; after which, the wound heals, and the humour gathers again as before. There are men in Thibet who make it their business to collect this species of musk, which they preserve in bladders, and which, having ripened, naturally surpasses all others in goodness, just as ripe fruit exceeds in flavour that which is pulled green. There is another way of procuring musk, either by ensnaring the animals, or shooting them with arrows; but the hunters often cut out the bags before the musk is ripe or fully elaborated, in which case, the musk at first has a bad scent, till the humour thickens, after which it turns to good musk, though this sometimes takes a long while. The musk animal is like our roebuck, his skin and colour the same, with slender legs, and smooth slightly bent horns; having on each side two small white teeth, about half a finger-length, which rise about his muzzle, not much unlike the form of the teeth of the elephant, and by which he is distinguished from other roebucks.

The letters from the emperor of China, to the viceroys, governors, eunuchs, and lieutenants, are conveyed on post-horses, which are distinguished by cut tails, and these are disposed at regular stations, all over the empire, almost like the posts among the Arabs. In China, every man, from the emperor to the meanest of the people, makes water standing;[8] and for this purpose, persons of dignity have gilded hollow canes, a cubit long, to convey their water to a distance. They are of opinion, that pains in the kidneys, strangury, and even the stone, are occasioned by urining in a sitting posture, as the reins cannot free themselves absolutely from evil humours, except by evacuating in an erect position. They do not mould the heads of new born infants into a round form as we do, as they allege that this practice injures the brain, and impairs the senses. They suffer their hair to grow, which is carefully combed. The nation is divided into tribes, like those of the Arabs and some others, and no man ever marries in his own tribe: just as the children of Thummim among the Arabs never take a wife from that tribe. Or, for example, a man of the tribe of Robayat marries a daughter of the tribe Modzar, and a Modzar marries a Robayat; and they are of opinion, that such alliances add to the dignity and power of their children.

In the kingdom of the Balhara, and all the other kingdoms of the Indies, there are men who burn themselves in consequence of their belief in the doctrine of transmigration. When a man has come to this resolution, he asks leave of the king, which being obtained, he goes in procession round all the public squares of the city, and proceeds to the place appointed, where a pile of dry wood is ready for the purpose, having many persons all round to feed the fire, which blazes prodigiously. At last the person comes forward, preceded by a number of instruments, and moves round the pile in the midst of his friends and relations. During this ceremony, some person places on his head a garland of straw, or dry herbs, filled with burning coals, on which they pour sandrach, which takes fire as strongly as naphtha; notwithstanding of which, he continues his progress without betraying any sense of pain, or change of countenance, though the crown of his head be all on fire, and the stench of his burning flesh is felt all round. At length, he comes up to the pile, and throws himself in, where he is soon reduced to ashes. A credible person says, he once saw an Indian burn himself; and when he came near the pile, he drew out a cangiar, or sharp knife, with which he ripped himself open, and pulling out the lap of his liver with his left hand, cut off a piece of it with his cangiar, and gave it to one of his brothers, talking all the time with the most invincible contempt of death and torture, and at length leaped into the fire, in his passage to hell.

At the accession of some kings of the Indies, the following ceremony is observed: A large quantity of rice is dressed and spread out upon leaves of mousa, in presence of the king. Then three or four hundred persons come, of their own accord, without any constraint whatever; and after the king has eaten of the rice, he gives some of it to all that come forwards in succession, which they eat in his presence; and by this ceremony, they engage to burn themselves on the day when this king dies or is slain, and they punctually fulfil their promise.

In the mountainous parts of India, there are tribes who differ little from those we call Kanisians and Jelidians, and who are addicted to all manner of superstition and vice; between whom, and the inhabitants of the people [[places?]] on the coast, there subsists great emulation, each daring the others to imitate them in the performance of strange superstitious tortures. There once came a man from the mountains on this errand, who gathered a multitude of the inhabitants of the coast to the following strange exhibition, daring them to imitate him, or otherwise to acknowledge themselves overcome. He sat down in a place planted with canes, and caused a strong one to be forcibly bent down, to which he strongly fastened the hairs of his head. "Now," said he, "I am going to cut off my own head with this cangiar; and as soon as it is severed from my body, let go the cane, and when my head flies up into the air, I will laugh, and you shall hear me." But the people of the coast had not courage to imitate him.[9] The person who related this, did it without emotion or wonder; and in our times, these facts are generally known, as this part of the Indies is in the neighbourhood of the country of the Arabs, and we hear from thence every day.

In the Indies, they burn their dead; and it is customary for men and women to desire their families to throw them into the fire or to drown them, when they are grown old, or perceive themselves to sink under the pressure of disease, firmly believing that they are to return into other bodies. It has often happened, in the isle of Serendib, where there is a mine of precious stones in a mountain, a pearl-fishery, and other extraordinary things, that an Indian would come into the bazar or market-place, armed with a kris, and seize upon the most wealthy merchant there present, leading him out of the market, through a throng of people, holding the kris to his throat, while no one dared to attempt his rescue, as the Indian was sure, in such a case, to kill the merchant, and make away with himself; and when he had got the merchant out of the city, the Indian obliged him to redeem his life with a sum of money. To put an end to such outrages, an order was issued to seize such trespassers; but on attempting to execute this order, several merchants were killed, both Arabs and Indians, and the order was obliged to be repealed.

In the mountains of Serendib, precious stones are found of various colours, red, green, and yellow,[10] most of which are washed from caverns or crevices, by rains and torrents. In these places, the king has officers to watch over the people who gather the precious stones. In some places, these are dug out of mines, like the ores of metals, and the rock has often to be broken to come at the precious stones which it contains. The king of Serendib makes laws concerning the religion and government of the country; and there are assemblies held of doctors and learned men, like those of Hadithis among the Arabs, to which the Indians repair, and write down what they hear of the lives of their prophets, and the expositions of their laws. In this island, there are temples in which great sums of money are expended on incense; and in one of these temples, there is a great idol all of pure gold, but concerning the weight of which travellers are not agreed. In the same island, there are great numbers of Jews, and persons of many other sects, even Tanouis, and Manichees, the kings permitting the free exercise of every religion. At the end of the island are vallies of great extent, extending quite to the sea, called Gab Serendib, of extreme beauty, and chequered with groves and plains, water and meads, and blessed with a wholesome air. A sheep may be there bought for half a dram, and for the same as much of their drink, made of palm-honey, boiled and prepared with tari, or toddi, as will suffice for many persons.

The inhabitants are much addicted to gaming, particularly draughts. Their other principal diversion is cock-fighting, their cocks being very large, and better provided with spurs than ordinary; and besides this, the Indians arm them with blades of iron, in the form of cangiars or daggers. On these combats, they bet gold and silver, lands or farms; and they game with such fury, that debauchees, and desperate people, often stake the ends of their fingers, when their other property is exhausted. While at play for this extraordinary stake, they have a fire by them, on which a small pot of walnut oil, or oil of sesamum, is kept boiling; and when one has won a game, he chops off the end of the loser's finger, who immediately dips the stump into the boiling oil, to stem the blood; and some will persist so obstinately, as to have all their fingers thus mutilated. Some even will take a burning wick, and apply it to some member, till the scent of the burnt flesh is felt all around, while the stoic continues to play, without betraying the least sense of pain. Both men and women are so exceedingly addicted to debauchery, that a foreign merchant has been known to send even for a king's daughter, to attend him at the fishing grounds, in quality of mistress; wherefore the Mahomedan doctors at Siraff, strictly warn young people not to go there.

In the Indies there are heavy rains, called jasara, which last incessantly day and night, for three months every year. The Indians prepare against these to the best of their power, as they shut themselves up in their houses during the whole time, all work being then performed within doors; and during this time, they are subject to ulcers in the soles of their feet, occasioned by the damps. Yet, these rains are of indispensable necessity; as, when they fail, the Indians are reduced to the utmost want, as their rice fields are watered only by the rains. It never rains during summer. The Indians have doctors, or devout men, named Bramins. They have poets also, who compose poems filled with the grossest flattery to their kings and great men. They have also astrologers, philosophers, soothsayers, men who observe the flight of birds, and others who pretend to the calculation of nativities, particularly at Kaduge, a great city in the kingdom of Gozar.[11]

There are certain men called Bicar, who go all their lives naked, and suffer their hair to grow till it hides their hinder parts. They also allow their nails to grow, till they become pointed and sharp like swords. Each has a string round his neck, to which hangs an earthen dish, and when hungry, they go to any house, whence the inhabitants cheerfully supply them with boiled rice. They have many laws and religious precepts, by which they imagine that they please God. Part of their devotion consists in building kans, or inns, on the highways, for the accommodation of travellers; where also certain pedlars, or small dealers, are established, from whom the passengers may purchase what they stand in need of. There are also public women, who expose themselves to travellers. Some of these are called women of the idol, the origin of which institution is this: when a woman has laid herself under a vow, that she may have children, if she happens to produce a handsome daughter, she carries her child to the bod,[12] so the idol is called. When this girl has attained the proper age, she takes an apartment in the temple, and waits the arrival of strangers, to whom she prostitutes herself for a certain hire, and delivers her gains to the priest for the support of the temple. All these things they reckon among their meritorious deeds. Praised be God who hath freed us from the sins which defile the people involved in unbelief!

Not very far from Almansur there is a famous idol called Multan, to which the Indians resort in pilgrimage, from the remotest parts. Some of the pilgrims bring the odoriferous wood called Hud ul Camruni, so called from Camrun, where there is excellent aloes-wood. Some of this is worth 200 dinars the mawn, and is commonly marked with a seal, to distinguish it from another kind of less value. This the devotees give to the priests, that it may be burnt before the idol, but merchants often buy it from these priests. There are some Indians, making profession of piety, who go in search of unknown islands, or those newly discovered, on purpose to plant cocoa nut trees, and to sink wells for the use of ships. There are people at Oman who cross to these islands that produce the cocoa nut trees, of planks made from which they build ships, sewing the planks with yarns made from the bark of the tree. The mast is made of the same wood, the sails are formed from the leaves, and the bark is worked up into cordage: and having thus completed their vessel, they load her with cocoa nuts, which they bring to Oman for sale.

The country of the Zinges, or Negroes, is of vast extent.[13] These people commonly sow millet, which is the chief food of the negroes. They have also sugar-canes and other trees, but their sugar is very black. The negroes are divided among a great number of kings, who are eternally at war with each other. Their kings are attended by certain men called Moharamin, each of whom has a ring in his nose, and a chain round his neck. When about to join battle with the enemy, each of the Moharamin takes the end of his neighbour's chain and passes it through the ring in his own nose, by which the whole are chained together, so that no one can possibly run away. Deputies are then sent to endeavour to make peace, and if that is done, the chains are unfastened, and they retire without fighting. But otherwise, when once the sword is unsheathed, every one of these men must conquer or die on the spot.[14]

These people have a profound veneration for the Arabs; and when they meet any one, they fall down before him, saying, "This man comes from the land of dates," of which they are very fond. They have preachers among them, who harangue with wonderful ability and perseverance. Some of these profess a religious life, and are covered with the skins of leopards or apes. One of these men will gather a multitude of people, to whom he will preach all day long concerning God, or about the actions of their ancestors. From this country they bring the leopards skins, called Zingiet, which are very large and broad, and ornamented with red and black spots.

In this sea is the island of Socotra, whence come the best aloes. This island is near the land of the Zinges, or Negroes, and is likewise near Arabia; and most of its inhabitants are Christians, which is thus accounted for: When Alexander had subdued the empire of Persia, his preceptor, Aristotle, desired him to search out the island of Socotra, which afforded aloes, and without which the famous medicine Hiera,[15]could not be compounded; desiring him likewise to remove the natives and to plant there a colony of Greeks, who might supply Syria, Greece, and Egypt with aloes. This was done accordingly; and when God sent Jesus Christ into the world, the Greeks of this isle embraced the Christian faith, like the rest of their nation, and have persevered in it to this day, like all the other inhabitants of the islands.[16]

In the first book, no mention is made of the sea which stretches away to the right, as ships depart from Oman and the coast of Arabia, to launch out into the great sea: and the author describes only the sea on the left hand, in which are comprehended the seas of India and China. In this sea, to the right as you leave Oman, is the country of Sihar or Shihr, where frankincense grows, and other countries possessed by the nations of Ad, Hamyar, Jorham, and Thabatcha, who have the Sonna, in Arabic of very ancient date, but differing in many things from what is in the hands of the Arabs, and containing many traditions unknown to us. They have no villages, and live a very hard and miserably wandering life; but their country extends almost as far as Aden and Judda on the coast of Yaman, or Arabia the happy. From Judda, it stretches up into the continent, as far as the coast of Syria, and ends at Kolzum. The sea at this place is divided by a slip of land, which God hath fixed as a line of separation between the two seas.[17] From Kolzum the sea stretches along the coast of the Barbarians, to the west coast, which is opposite to Yaman, and then along the coast of Ethiopia, from whence we have the leopard skins of Barbary,[18] which are the best of all, and the most skilfully dressed; and lastly, along the coast of Zeilah, whence come excellent amber and tortoiseshell.

When the Siraff ships arrive in the Red Sea, they go no farther than Judda, whence their cargo is transported to Cairo, or Kahira, by ships of Kolsum, the pilots of which are acquainted with the navigation of the upper end of this sea, which is full of rocks up to the water's edge; because, also, along the coast there are no kings,[19] and scarcely any inhabitants; and because, every night ships are obliged to put into some place for safety, for fear of striking on the rocks, or must ride all night at anchor, sailing only in the day-time. This sea is likewise subject to very thick fogs, and to violent gales of wind, and is therefore of very dangerous navigation, and devoid of any safe or pleasant anchorage. It is not like the seas of India and China, whose bottom is rich with pearls and ambergris; whose mountains are stored with gold, precious stones, and ivory; whose coasts produce ebony, redwood, aloes, camphor, nutmegs, cloves, sandal, and all other spices and aromatics; where parrots and peacocks are birds of the forest, and in which musk and civet are collected in abundance: so productive, in short, are these shores of articles of infinite variety, and inestimable value, that it were vain to endeavour to make any enumeration.

Ambergris is thrown upon this coast by the flux of the sea, but its origin is unknown. It is found on the coast of the Indies, but the best, which is of a bluish white, and in round lumps, is got upon the Barbarian coast: or on the confines of the land of the Negroes, towards Sihar and that neighbourhood. The inhabitants of that country have camels trained for the purpose, on which they ride along the shore in moonshine nights, and when the camels perceive a piece of amber, he bends his knees, on which the rider dismounts, and secures his prize. There is another kind which swims on the surface of the sea in great lumps, sometimes as big as the body of an ox, or somewhat less. When a certain fish, named Tal, of the whale tribe, sees these floating lumps, he swallows them, and is thereby killed; and when the people, who are accustomed to this fishery, see a whale floating on the surface, they know that this whale has swallowed ambergris, and going out in their boats, they dart their harpoons into its body, and tow it on shore, and split the animal down the back, to get out the ambergris. What is found about the belly of the whale is commonly spoiled by the wet, and has an unpleasant scent; but the ambergris which is not contaminated by the ordure in the belly of the whale, is perfectly good.[20]

It is not unusual to employ the vertebrae of this species of whale as stools; and it is said, there are many houses in the village of Tain, ten leagues from Siraff, in which the lintels of the doors are made of whale ribs. An eye-witness told me that he went to see a whale which had been cast ashore, near Siraff, and found the people mounting on its back by means of ladders; that they dug pits in different parts of his body, and when the sun had melted the grease into oil, they collected this, and sold it to the masters of ships, who mixed it up with some other matter, used by seamen for the purpose of serving the bottoms of their vessels, and securing the seams of the planks, to prevent or to stop leaks. This whale-oil sells for a great deal of money; and the bones of the whale are sold by the druggists of Bagdat and Bassora.

The pearl oyster is at first a small thin tender substance, resembling theleaves of the plant called Anjedana, and swims on the surface of the sea, where it sticks to the sides of ships under water. It there hardens, grows larger, and becomes covered by a shell; after which it becomes heavy, and falls to the bottom of the sea, where it subsists, and grows in a way of which we are ignorant. The included animal resembles a piece of red flesh, or like the tongue of an animal towards the root, having no bones, veins, or sinews. One opinion of the production of pearls in this shell-fish is, that the oyster rises to the surface when it rains, and, by gaping, catches the drops of rain, which harden into pearls. The more likely opinion is, that the pearls are generated within the body of the oyster, for most of them are fixed, and not moveable. Such as are loose are called seed pearls.

An Arab came once to Bassora with a pearl of great value, which he shewed to a merchant, and was astonished when he got so large a sum for it as an hundred drams of silver; with which he purchased corn to carry back to his own country. But the merchant carried his acquisition to Bagdad, where he sold it for a large sum of money, by which he was afterwards enabled to extend his dealings to a great amount. The Arab gave the following account of the way in which he had found this large pearl: Going one day along the shore, near Saman, in the district of Bahrein,[21] he saw a fox lying dead, with something hanging at his muzzle, which held him fast, which he discovered to be a white lucid shell, in which he found this pearl. He concluded that the oyster had been thrown ashore by a tempest, and lay with its shell open on the beach, when the fox, attracted by the smell, had thrust in his muzzle to get at the meat, on which the oyster closed its shell, and held him fast till he died: for it is a property of the oyster never to let go its hold, except forcibly opened by thrusting in an iron instrument between the shells, carefully guarding its included pearl, as a mother preserves her child.

The kings of the Indies wear ear-rings of gold, set with precious stones, and they wear collars of great value, adorned with gems of various colours, chiefly green and red; yet pearls are most esteemed, and their value surpasses that of all other jewels, and these they hoard up in their treasuries, with their most precious things. The grandees of their courts, their great officers, and the military commanders, wear similar jewels in their collars. Their dress is a kind of half vest, and they carry parasols made of peacocks feathers to shade them from the sun, and are surrounded by great trains of servants.

Among the Indians, there are certain people who never eat two out of the same dish or even at the same table, on account of some religious opinion. When these come to Siraf, and are invited by our considerable merchants, were there a hundred of them more or less, they must each have a separate dish, without the least communication with the rest. Their kings and principal persons have fresh tables made for them every day, with little dishes and plates wove of the cocoa nut leaf, out of which they eat their victuals. And when their meal is over, the table dishes and plates are all thrown into the water, together with the fragments of their food; so that they must have a fresh service for every meal.

To the Indies the merchants used formerly to carry the dinars, called sindiat, or gold coins of the Sind, which passed there for three of our dinars, or even more. Thither also were carried emeralds from Egypt, which were much used for setting in rings.

[1] From the description of this place afterwards, in the travels of Ebn Wahab, in this article, it appears to have been Nankin.--E.
[2] The chronology of the Chinese history is attended with extreme difficulty. According to Du Halde: In the reign of the emperor Hi Tseng, the 18th of the Tsong dynasty, the empire fell into great confusion, in consequence of heavy taxations, and a great famine occasioned by the inundation of the rivers, and the ravages of locusts. These things caused many insurrections, and a rebel, named Hoan Tsia put himself at the head of the malcontents, and drove the emperor from the imperial city. But he was afterwards defeated, and the emperor restored. It must be owned that there are about twenty years difference between the time of the rebellion mentioned in the text, and the date of the great revolt, as assigned by Du Halde; but whether the mistake lies in the Arabian manuscript, or in the difficulties of Chinese chronology, I cannot take upon me to determine; yet both stories probably relate to the same event.--Harris.
[3] According to Abulpharagius, one Abu Said revolted against the Khaliff Al Mohated, in the year of the hegira, 285, A.D. 893, and laid waste Bassora. This date agrees with the story of Ebn Wahab in the text.--Harris.
[4] From this circumstance, it appears probable that the great canal of China was not then constructed.--E.
[5] Some circumstances in this very interesting detail have been a little curtailed. If Abu Zaid had been a man of talents, he might surely have acquired and transmitted more useful information from this traveller; who indeed seems to have been a poor drivelling zelot.--E.
[6] There is a vast deal of error in this long paragraph. It certainly was impossible to ascertain the route or voyage of the wreck, which was said to have been cast away on the coast of Syria. If it could have been ascertained to have come from the sea of the Chozars, or the Euxine, by the canal of Constantinople, and the Egean, into the gulf of Syria, and actually was utterly different from the build of the Mediterranean, it may or must have been Russian. If it certainly was built at Siraff, some adventurous Arabian crew must have doubled the south of Africa from the east, and perished when they had well nigh immortalized their fame, by opening up the passage by sea from Europe to India: And as the Arabian Moslems very soon navigated to Zanguebar, Hinzuan, and Madagascar, where their colonies still remain, this list is not impossible, though very unlikely. The ambergris may have proceeded from a sick cachalot that had wandered into the Mediterranean.
The north-east passage around the north of Asia and Europe, which is adduced by the commentator, in Harris's Collection, is now thoroughly known to be impracticable.--E.
[7] It is difficult to say anything certain of the countries to which this story relates; which may have been some of the islands now called Philipines, or perhaps some of the islands in the straits of Sunda.--Harris.
Such is the opinion of the editor of Harris's Collection. But I am disposed, especially from the rivers mentioned, to consider Zapage as Pegu; and that Malacca, Sumatra, and Java, were the dependent islands; and particularly, that Malacca, as the great mart of early trade, though actually no island, was the Cala of Abu Zeid. Siam, or Cambodia may have been the kingdom of Komar.--E.
[8] This alludes to the custom of the Arabs, and other orientals, to squat upon this occasion.--E.
[9] It is presumable, that this was a mere bravado, in the full confidence that no one would be found sufficiently foolhardy to engage to follow the example. It is needless to say, that the promise of laughing aloud could not have been performed; so that any one might have safely accepted the challenge, conditioning for the full performance of the vaunt.--E.
[10] Rubies, emeralds, and topazes.--E.
[11] Obviously Canoge, in Bengal.--E.
[12] Buddah, the principal god of an extensive sect, now chiefly confined to Ceylon, and India beyond the Ganges.--E.
[13] The author makes here an abrupt transition to the eastern coast of Africa, and calls it the country of the Zinges; congeneric with the country of Zanguebar, and including Azania, Ajen, and Adel, on the north; and Inhambane, Sabia, Sofala, Mocaranga, Mozambique, and Querimba, to the south; all known to, and frequented by the Arabs.--E.
[14] This incredible story may have originated from an ill-told account of the war bulls of the Caffres, exaggerated into fable, after the usual manner of the Arabs, always fond of the marvellous.--E.
[15] It is somewhat singular to find this ancient Arabian author mentioning the first word of the famous Hiera Picra, or Holy Powder; a compound stomachic purge of aloes and spices, probably combined by the ancients with many other ingredients, as it is by the moderns with rhubarb, though now only given in tincture or solution with wine or spirits. The story of Alexander rests only on its own Arabian basis.--E.
[16] Meaning, doubtless, the isles of the Mediterranean.--E.
[17] Referring, obviously, to the Isthmus of Suez.--E.
[18] This does not refer to the coast of Barbary in the Mediterranean, but must mean the coast of the barbarian Arabs or Bedouins.--E.
[19] This singular expression probably signifies that the inhabitants are without law or regular government.--E.
[20] This curious account of the origin of ambergris, was revived again about twenty-five years ago, and published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, as a new discovery. The only difference in the modern account of the matter is, that the ambergris originates within the alimentary canal of the whale, in consequence, probably, of some disease; and that the lumps which are found afloat, or cast on shore, had been extruded by these animals.--E.
[21] Bahrein is an island in the Persian gulf, on the Arabian shore, still celebrated for its pearl fishery.--E.


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