Volume 1, Chapter 11, Sections 16-21 -- Travels of Marco Polo, through Tartary, China, the Islands of India, and most of Asia, from A. D. 1260 to 1295: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 16 -- Of the noble City of Quinsai, and of the vast Revenues drawn from thence by the Great Khan.

In a journey of three days from Vagiu, we find numbers of cities, castles, and villages, all well peopled and rich, the inhabitants being all idolaters and subject to the great khan. At the end of these three days journey, we come to Quinsay, or Guinsai, its name signifying the City of Heaven, to denote its excellence above all the other cities of the world, in which there are so much riches, and so many pleasures and enjoyments, that a person might conceive himself in paradise. In this great city, I, Marco, have often been, and have considered it with diligent attention, observing its whole state and circumstances, and setting down the same in my memorials, of which I shall here give a brief abstract. By common report, this city is an hundred miles in circuit.[1] The streets and lanes are very long and wide, and it has many large market places. On one side of the city there is a clear lake of fresh water, and on the other there is a great river, which enters into the city in many places, and carries away all the filth into the lake, whence it continues its course into the ocean. This abundant course of running water causes a healthful circulation of pure air, and gives commodious passage in many directions both by land and water, through those numerous canals, as by means of these and the causeways, by which they are bordered, carts and barks have free intercourse for the carriage of merchandize and provisions. It is said that there are twelve thousand bridges, great and small, in this city, and those over the principal canals are so high, that a vessel without her masts may go through underneath, while chariots and horses pass above.

On the other side of the city, there is a large canal forty miles[2] long, which incloses it on that side, being deep and full of water, made by the ancient kings, both to receive the overflowings of the river, and to fortify the city, and the earth which was dug out from this canal, is laid on the inside as a rampart of defence. There are ten great market places which are square, half a mile in each side.[3] The principal street is forty paces broad, having a canal in the middle with many bridges, and every four miles [Li] there is a market place, two miles [Li] in circuit. There is also one large canal behind the great street and the market places, on the opposite bank of which there are many storehouses of stone, where the merchants from India and other places lay up their commodities, being at hand and commodious for the markets. In each of these markets, the people from the country, to the number of forty or fifty thousand, meet three days in every week, bringing beasts, game, fowls, and in short every thing that can be desired for subsistence in profusion; and so cheap, that two geese, or four ducks, may be bought for a Venetian groat. Then follow the butcher markets, in which beef, mutton, veal, kid, and lamb, are sold to the great and rich, as the poor eat of all offal and unclean beasts without scruple. All sorts of herbs and fruits are to be had continually, among which are huge pears, weighing ten pounds each, white within, and very fragrant,[4] with yellow and white peaches of very delicate flavour.

Grapes do not grow in this country, but raisins are brought from other places. They likewise import very good wine; but that is not in so much esteem as with us, the people being contented with their own beverage, prepared from rice and spices. Every day there are brought up from the ocean, which is at the distance of twenty-five miles, such vast quantities of fish, besides those which are caught in the lake, that one would conceive they could never be consumed, yet, in a few hours all is gone. All these market places are encompassed with high houses, underneath which are shops for all kinds of artificers, and all kinds of merchandize, as spices, pearls, and jewels, and so forth, and in some the rice wine is sold. Many streets cross each other, leading into these markets; in some of which there are many cold baths, accommodated with attendants of both sexes, who are used to this employment from their infancy. In the same bagnios, there are chambers for hot baths, for such strangers as are not accustomed to bathe in cold water. The inhabitants bathe every day, and always wash before eating.

In other streets, there are such numbers of mercenary prostitutes, that I dare not pretend to say how many. These are found near the market places, and in all quarters of the city, in places appointed for their residence, where they shew themselves, pompously adorned and perfumed, attended by many servants, and having their houses richly furnished. They are very skilful in sports and dalliances, and in contriving pleasures to rob men of their senses. In other streets there are physicians and astrologers, and persons who teach to read and write, and an infinity of other trades. At each end of every market place, there is a palace or tribunal where judges, appointed by the khan, are stationed for determining any disputes which may happen between merchants and others; also, to superintend the guards upon the bridges, and other matters of police, punishing all who are negligent or disorderly. Along both sides of the principal street, there are great palaces with gardens; and between these the houses of artificers; and such multitudes are perpetually going to and fro in all the streets, that one would wonder how so vast a population could be provided in food. I was informed by an officer of the customs, that it appeared, by a very accurate computation, the daily expenditure of pepper in Quinsai, was forty-three soma, each soma being 223 pounds.[5] From this some idea may be formed of the immense quantities of victuals, flesh, wine, and spices, which are expended in that place. There are twelve principal companies or corporations, each of which has a thousand shops; and in each shop or factory, there are ten, fifteen, or twenty men at work, and in some forty under one master.[6]

The rich tradesmen do not work themselves, although the ancient laws ordained that the sons of all should follow the trades of their fathers, but the rich are permitted not to work with their own hands, but to keep shops and factories, superintending the labour of others in their particular trades. These rich people, and especially their wives, stand in their shops, well dressed, or rather sumptuously arrayed in rich silks, and adorned with valuable jewels. Their houses are well built, and richly furnished, and adorned with pictures and other ornaments of immense price; and they exercise their trades with great integrity. The whole inhabitants are idolaters, of a very fair complexion, and mostly dressed in silken garments, as silk is produced in great abundance in their neighbourhood, or brought from other places. They dwell together in great amity, insomuch, that the inhabitants of a street seem only to compose one family, and are particularly circumspect in their behaviour to females, as it would be reputed exceedingly disgraceful to use any indecorous language to a married woman. The natives are of a most peaceable disposition, and no way addicted to strife or quarrelling, and altogether unused to arms, which they do not even keep in their houses.

They are extremely hospitable to foreign merchants, whom they entertain kindly in their houses, giving them the best advice in regard to the conduct of their affairs: But they are by no means fond of the soldiers and guards of the great khan, as by their means they have been deprived of their natural kings and rulers. About the lake there are many fair buildings and palaces of the principal men, and numerous idol temples, with monasteries of idolatrous priests. There are two islands in the lake, on each of which is a palace, containing an incredible number of rooms, to which they resort on occasion of marriages and other festivals. In these palaces, abundance of plate, linens, and all other things necessary for such purposes, are kept up at the common expence, and sometimes 100 separate companies are accommodated at one time in the several apartments. In the lake also there are vast numbers of pleasure boats and barges, adorned with fair seats and tables under cover, being flat on the tops, where men stand to push the boats along with poles, as the lake is very shallow. These are all painted within, and have windows to open or shut at pleasure. Nothing in the world can be more pleasant or delightful than this lake, from its immense variety of rich objects on all sides; particularly the city ornamented with so many temples, monasteries, palaces, gardens, trees, barges, and innumerable people taking their recreations; for they ordinarily work only a part of each day, spending the remainder in parties of pleasure with their friends, or with women, either on the lake, or in driving through the city in chariots. All the streets are paved with stone, as are all the highways in the kingdom of Mangi, only a space on one side being left unpaved for the use of the foot posts. The principal street of Quinsai has a pavement of ten paces broad on each side, the middle being laid with gravel, and having channels in every place for conveying water, it is kept always perfectly clean. In this street there are innumerable long close chariots, each of which is accommodated with seats and silk cushions for six persons, who divert themselves by driving about the streets, or go to the public gardens, where they pass their time in fine walks, shady bowers, and the like, and return at night in the same chariots to the city.[7]

When a child is born, the father notes down the exact point of time, and with this memorandum goes immediately to some astrologer, of whom there are many in every market place, to consult the destiny in regard to his future fortunes; and they use the same forms before celebrating their marriages, to ascertain the lucky times. When a person of note dies, the kindred clothe themselves in canvas or sackcloth, and accompany the body to the funeral, both men and women, people being employed to play on musical instruments, and singing all the way prayers to their idols; and being come to the place, they cast into the fire in which the body is burnt, many pieces of cotton paper, on which figures of slaves, horses, camels, stuffs of silk and gold, money, and all other things are painted, which, by this means, they believe the dead person will really possess in the next world; and they make a grand concert of music, under the idea of the joy with which the soul of their departed friend will be received by their idols in the other life which he is now to begin. As their timber houses are very liable to accidents by fire, there are stone towers in every street, to which they carry their goods for security on such occasions. On most of the bridges there are guard-houses, in which soldiers continuallv watch, five in each by day, and five by night, in case of any alarm or disturbance. In every guard-house there hangs a great bason,[8] on which the warders strike the successive hours, beginning one at sunrise, and beginning a new series at sunset. These guards patrole during the night, and if they see any light or fire in a house after the appointed time, or meet any person in the streets after legal hours, they cause them to answer before the judges or magistrates of the district. When a fire happens, the guards collect from their different stations to assist in quenching it, and to carry away the goods to the stone towers, or into the islands in the lake; for during the night none of the citizens are permitted to go out, except such as are in danger from fires.

The khan keeps always a large body of his best and most faithful soldiers for the security of the city, which is the largest and richest in the whole earth; and besides the small guard-houses on the bridges already mentioned, there are larger lodges built of wood all over the city, for the accommodation of parties of guards to preserve peace and order. On the reduction of Mangi to obedience, the khan divided it into nine great provinces, placing a viceroy in each, to administer the government, and to dispense justice. Every year each of these viceroys gives an account to the tribunals of the khan at Cambalu, of the revenues, and all other matters connected with his government; and every third year, the viceroy, and all the other officers are changed. The viceroy, who resides in Quinsai, commands over 140 other cities, all large, rich, and populous; nor is the extent of this government to be wondered at, as there are in Mangi 12,000 cities, all inhabited by rich and industrious people, in every one of which the khan maintains a garrison proportional to its greatness and importance, in some 1000 men, and even up to 10 or 20,000 men.[9] These are not all Tartars, for the Tartar soldiers are cavalry only, and are kept in places where there is conveniency for exercising their horses. The great majority of the troops in Mangi are Kathayans, and the garrisons in Kathay are composed of people from Mangi. Every third year, such a number of men fit to carry arms as are wanted, are selected for filling up the garrisons, and are sent to serve in places, at least twenty days journey from their homes; and, after serving four or five years, they are permitted to go home, and are replaced by fresh recruits. Most part of the revenues of the khan are expended in this way, and on the other necessary expences of government; and by this distribution of so powerful a military force, an army can be suddenly called together in the event of any town rebelling. In the city of Quinsai there is a constant garrison of 30,000 soldiers, and the smallest city in all Mangi contains at least 1000 regular troops. If any person is not able to work, he is carried to some hospital, of which there are many in Quinsai, founded by the ancient kings, and endowed with large revenues: But when they are well again, they must return to their labour.

I come next to speak of the palace of the late king Fanfur. His predecessors caused a large park to be inclosed with high walls, ten miles in circuit,[10] and divided within into three parts. That in the middle was entered by a gate leading to a range of large galleries or halls, whose roofs were sustained by pillars finely wrought and painted, and richly adorned with gold and azure. The smallest of these galleries was that nearest the gate of entrance, and they gradually became larger and fairer in succession, the most sumptuous being at the farthest end. The walls of all these apartments were elegantly painted with the portraits and histories of the former kings. Every year, on certain holidays dedicated to the idols, Fanfur used to hold open court, on which occasion he feasted his chief lords, the principal merchants, and rich artificers of Quinsai, 10,000 at a time in these halls, the feasts continuing for ten or twelve successive days, with incredible magnificence, every guest using his utmost endeavours to appear in the most pompous dresses. On one side of this magnificent range of galleries, there was a wall dividing it from a great cloistered court, having a terrace all round, set with pillars, communicating with which were the chambers of the king and queen, all curiously wrought, carved, gilded, and painted with the utmost splendour and magnificence.

From this cloister, a covered gallery, six paces wide, extended a great length all the way to the lake; and on each side of this gallery there were ten courts, answering to each other like cloisters, each having fifty chambers with their gardens, and in these there were 1000 concubines for the king's service. Sometimes with the queen, and sometimes with these concubines, the king used to go in his barge for recreation on the lake, or to visit the idol temples. The rest of the great inclosure was divided into graves, lakes, and gardens, in which all sorts of beasts of chase were kept, as stags, roebucks, hares, conies, and others, and there the king used to divert himself with his damsels, in chariots, or on horseback, no man being allowed to enter there. In this place the ladies hunted with dogs, and when wearied with sport they retired into the groves, and throwing off their garments, came forth naked, and fell to swimming in the lakes in the king's presence. Sometimes he banqueted in these groves, being served by his damsels. All of these particulars I learnt from an old rich merchant of Quinsai, who had been familiar with king Fanfur, and knew all the incidents of his life and reign, and had seen the palace in its most flourishing state; and he carried me to see it. The viceroy now resides there, the first described galleries remaining, still in their original state, but the chambers of the damsels are fallen to ruin; the walls also which encompassed the woods and gardens, are all fallen down, the beasts and trees are all gone, and all the other ornaments are destroyed.

Twenty-five miles from Quinsai we come to the ocean, between the east and the north-east, near which is a city called Gampu,[11] having an excellent port frequented by merchant ships from the Indies. While I Marco was in Quinsai, an account was taken for the great khan, of the revenues, and the number of inhabitants, and I saw that there were enrolled 160 toman of fires, reckoning for each fire a family dwelling in one house. Each toman is 10,000, which makes 1,600,000 families;[12] and for all this population there is only one Nestorian church, all the rest being idolaters. Every householder is obliged to have written over his door the names of every individual in his family, whether males or females, as also the number of horses, adding or effacing as the family increases or diminishes, and this rule is observed in all the cities of Mangi and Kathay. Those also who keep inns, must write down in a book the names of all their guests, with the day and hour of their arrival and departure; and these books are sent daily to the magistrates who preside at the market places. The revenues which accrue to the khan from Quinsai, and the other cities under its authority, are, first, from salt eight tomans of gold, every toman being 80,000 sazzi, and a sazzi is more than a gold florin, which will amount to six millions, and four hundred thousand ducats. The cause of this is, that being near the sea, there are many lakes or salines of sea water, which dry up and coagulate into salt in summer, and five other provinces in Mangi are supplied from the coast of Quinsai. This province produces plenty of sugar, which pays, like all other spices, three and a third in the hundred, which is likewise paid for rice-wine. All the twelve companies, which, we said before, have twelve thousand shops, and all merchants who bring goods hither by sea, or carry any away, pay a similar rate. Those who come from India or other remote countries, pay ten per cent. All breeding cattle, and all productions of the earth, as silk, rice, corn, and the like, pay to the khan. The whole computation being made in my presence, amounted yearly, besides the above mentioned produce from salt, to two hundred and ten tomans of gold, which are equal to sixteen millions and eight hundred thousand golden ducats.[13]

A day's journey from Quinsai to the south-east, we pass the whole way through houses, villages, fine gardens, and abundant cultivation, and then come to a fine city called Tapin-zu. Three days hence is Uguiu, and two days farther, we still ride past castles, cities, and well cultivated fields, so near adjoining, that the whole seems, to travellers, like one continued city; in this district are great canes, fifteen paces long, and four palms thick. Two days farther is the large and handsome city of Congui, and travelling thence for four days, through places well filled with industrious people, having plenty of beeves, buffaloes, goats, and swine, but no sheep, we come to the city of Zengian, which is built on a hill in the middle of a river, which, after encompassing it, divides into two branches, one of which runs to the south-east and the other to the north-west. Three days journey thence, through a most pleasant country, exceedingly well inhabited, we come to the large city of Gieza, which is the last in the kingdom of Quinsai, After this we enter into another province of the kingdom of Mangi called Concha, the principal city of which is Fugiu,[14] by which you travel six days journey south-east, through hills and dales, always finding inhabited places, and plenty of beasts, fowls, and game, and some strong lions are found in the mountains and forests. Ginger, galingal, and other spices, grow here in great plenty, and there is an herb, of which the fruit has the same colour, smell, and effect with saffron, which it is not, and is much used in their meats,[15] The inhabitants are idolaters, and subjects of the great khan, and eat man's flesh, if the person has not died of disease, even considering it as better flavoured than any other. When they go into the fields, they shave to the ears, and paint their faces with azure. All their soldiers serve on foot, except the captains, who are on horseback, and their arms are swords and lances. They are very cruel, and when they kill an enemy, they immediately drink his blood, and afterwards eat his flesh.

After six days' journey is Quelinfu, a great city with three bridges, each of which is eight paces broad, and above an hundred paces long. The men are great merchants and manufacturers, and the women are fair and delicately shaped. The country produces plenty of ginger and galingal, and great abundance of silk and cotton. I was told, but saw them not, that they have hens without feathers, hairy like cats, which yet lay eggs, and are good to eat.[16] In this part of the country there are many lions, which make the ways very dangerous. After three days' journey, we arrive in a populous country inhabited by idolaters, who make great quantities of silk stuffs. The chief city is Unguem, near which abundance of sugar is produced, and sent from thence to Cambalu. Before the reduction of this country by the great Khan, the inhabitants of this country could only manufacture a bad kind of sugar, by boiling down the juice of the cane into a black paste; but certain inhabitants from Babylonia, taught them to refine it by means of the ashes of a certain tree.[17] Fifteen miles farther is the city of Cangiu, still in the province of Concha, and here the Khan has always an army in readiness for keeping the country under subjection. Through this city there runs a river of a mile broad, with handsome buildings on both sides, and the river is constantly covered with vessels carrying sugar and other goods. This river disembogues itself at the distance of five days journey south-east from Cangiu, into the sea at Zaitum all the country between being extremely pleasant, and abounding in trees and shrubs of camphor. Zaitum is a famous port, and much frequented by ships with rich cargoes from India, for the supply of Mangi and Kathay, and from this port the productions of these regions are dispersed all over India. At this port such quantities of pepper are imported, that what comes through Alexandria into our western world is not to be compared to it, being hardly an hundredth part. The concourse of merchants to this famous emporium is incredible, as it is one of the most commodious ports in the whole world, and is exceedingly productive in revenue to the great Khan, who receives ten in the hundred of all merchandize. The merchants pay likewise so high for freights, that not above a half of their cargoes remains to themselves for sale, and yet of that moiety they make immense profits. The inhabitants of Zaitum are idolaters, and much given to pleasure, and in it there are many artizans employed in embroidery and arras-work.[18]

This river is large, wide, and swift, one arm of it reaching to Quinsai, and the other to Zaitum,[19] and at the parting of these branches, the city of Tringui is situated, where porcelain dishes are made.[20] I was told of a certain earth which is cast up into conical heaps, and left exposed to the weather for thirty or forty years without stirring; after which, refined by time, it is made into dishes, which are painted and baked in furnaces; and so cheap is this manufacture, that eight of these dishes may be bought for one Venetian groat.[21] From this province of Concha, the great Khan derives nearly as great a revenue as he does from Quinsai. In these two provinces I travelled, but in none of die other provinces of Mangi; in all of which one language Is used, with considerable variety in dialect, and but one kind of writing.

[1] There are two Chinese measures called Li; of the greater there are 200 to a degree of latitude, and of the smaller 250. It is possible that Marco may have mistaken one or other of these measures for miles; either of which suppositions would reduce the bounds of Quinsai to some decent moderation, being thirty-four miles for the greater, and twenty-seven miles for the smaller li, yet a large city on even the latter substitution. Koan-sing, which may likewise be written Quan-sing, all Chinese names in alphabetical characters, being quite of arbitrary orthography, is the only place which can be supposed the same with Quinsai. But similarity of sounds is a very uncertain guide. From other circumstances in the text, the modern Kua-hing may have once been Quinsay.--E.
[2] Calculating by Li, this extent will be reduced to eleven or thirteen miles.--E.
[3] By the same reduction, these squares will be reduced to half a quarter of a mile in the sides.--E.
[4] Probably a mistaken translation or transcription for melons, pumpkins, or gourds.--E.
[5] This amounts to more than one sixth of an ounce daily for a population of a million, including infants. A thing utterly incredible, and which must arise from some corruption of the text. It exceeds 9000 tons yearly. Perhaps, instead of pepper, the original had salt.--E.
[6] This alone would give a working population exceeding a million, including the women, children, and aged, belonging to these. But populous as the country certainly is, the Chinese, in all ages, from Polo down to Staunton, have imposed those ridiculously exaggerated accounts upon all inquisitive travellers. This subject will be discussed in that division of this work, which particularly relates to China.--E.
[7] The contrast between the cleanness and splendour of Quinsay and the gloomy dirt of European cities in the thirteenth century is very striking. China then enjoyed hackney coaches, tea gardens, and hilarity; while the delights of European capitals were processions of monks among perpetual dunghills in narrow crooked lanes.--E.
[8] Probably meaning a gong.--E.
[9] There must be some corruption in the text here; for even Chinese exaggeration could hardly venture upon this computation, which would extend the garrisons in Mangi alone to many millions.--E.
[10] If Li, from 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 miles.--E.
[11] Supposing Kua-hing to have been Quan-sai, no city appears in the direction indicated in the text for the situation of Gampu. But if we might venture to suppose north-east an error for south, the city of Hanfcheou is nearly at the distance mentioned by Marco, and stands at the bottom of a deep bay of the ocean, in a very convenient situation for trade, communicating with Kua-hing by the great canal--E.
[12] Multiplying this number of families by five, would give a population of eight millions of individuals of every age and sex. Fortunately Marco permits us to suppose that this population belonged to the viceroyalty, or province over which Quinsai presided.--E.
[13] Either this computation, or that of the duty on salt, is erroneous. If 8 tomans are 6,400,000 ducats, 210 tomans would amount to 168,000,000, instead of the sum in the text. If the latter computation be right, 16,800,000 ducats from 210 tomans; the duty on salt, or 8 tomans, ought only to have been 640,000 ducats, which appears to be the truth. The whole revenue, therefore, of the province, will be 17,440,000 ducats, equal to L. 2,911,250 Sterling, at 3s. 7d. the ducat.--E.
[14] Besides the utter discrepancy of these names to those of any cities now in China, it appears obvious, that the direction of the itinerary in the text is erroneous or corrupted. We have been already on the ocean or bay of Nankin, the eastern boundary of China and of the land; yet the text persists continually to travel south-east, which is impossible. The direction of the itinerary must have been westwards, probably south-west.--E.
[15] This was probably Turmeric, so much used in the Eastern cookery, though it is the root which is employed.--E.
[16] Obviously what are now called Friesland, but more properly frizzled hens.--E.
[17] In the manufacture of sugar it is necessary to neutralize a certain redundant acid in the juice of the cane, by a fit proportion of some alkaline ingredient to enable the sugar to crystallize: The ordinary temper, as it is called, for this purpose, in the West Indies, is lime, but any alkali will produce nearly the same effect. This subject will be fully elucidated in that part of our work which is peculiarly appropriated to the sugar colonies in the West Indies,--E.
[18] There can hardly be a doubt that the Zaitum of Marco is the modern Canton; yet from the causes already mentioned in several notes, it is next to an impossibility to trace the route or itinerary from Quinsai to this place.--E.
[19] This is an obvious error, corruption, or interpolation; for on no conceivable hypothesis of the situations of Quinsai and Zaitum, can any river be found in China which answers to this description.--E.
[20] This is the only hint in Marco, of the peculiarly famous manufacture of China, from which all the best earthen ware of Europe has acquired this name as par excellence. From this circumstance, and from the fame of Nankin for this manufacture, I strongly suspect that this passage has been foisted in by some ignorant or careless editor in a wrong place.--E.
[21] It is singular that Marco should make no mention whatever of the peculiar beverage of the Chinese, tea, though particularly described both in name and use, by the Mahometan travellers in the ninth century, four hundred years earlier, as used in all the cities of China.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 17 -- Of the island of Zipangu, and of the unsuccessful attempts made by the Tartars for its Conquest.

I shall now leave the country of Mangi, and proceed to discourse of India the greater, the middle, and lesser; in which I have been, both in the service of the great khan, and also on our return home along with the queen, who was sent from Kathay to Argon. The ships which are built in the kingdom of Mangi are made of fir, having only one deck, on which are built twenty cabins, more or less, according to their size, each for one merchant. They have each a good rudder, and four masts, with four sails, which they raise or let down at pleasure, but some have only two masts. Some of the largest ships have thirteen divisions in the inside, made of boards let into each other, so that if, by the blow of a whale, or by touching on a rock, water should get into one of these divisions, it can go no farther, and the leak being found, is soon stopped. They are all built double, or have two courses of boards, one within the other, both of which are well caulked with oakum, and nailed with iron; but they are not pitched, as they have no pitch in Mangi, instead of which they are payed all over with the oil of a certain tree, mixed up with lime and chopped hemp which binds faster than pitch or lime. The largest of these ships have three hundred marines, others two hundred, or an hundred and fifty, according to their size; and they carry from five to six thousand bags of pepper. In ancient times they used to build larger ships than now; but owing to the great numbers of islands and shoals in some places of these seas, they now build them less.[1] Besides their sails, they use oars occasionally to propel these ships, four men being employed to each oar. The larger ships are usually attended by two or three of a smaller size, able to carry a thousand bags of pepper, and having sixty mariners in each; and these smaller ships are sometimes employed to tow the greater vessels. Each of the larger ships has ten small boats for fishing and other services, which are fastened aloft on their sides, and let down when wanted for use. After having been employed for a year, these ships are sheathed all over, so that they then have three courses of boards: and they proceed in this manner till they sometimes hare six courses, alter which they are broken up.

Zipangu[2] is a very large island on the east, and fifteen hundred miles distant from the shores of Mangi. The people of this island are of a white complexion and of gentle manners, and have a king of their own. They have gold in great plenty, as Jew merchants report thither, and no gold is allowed to be exported. Such as have traded to this island speak of the king's palace as being covered over with gold as our churches are with lead, and that the windows and floors are likewise of gold. It abounds in pearls, and is amazingly rich. Hearing of the vast opulence of this island, Kublai Khan sent two of his barons, Abasa and Vensaasin,[3] with a fleet and a great army, to attempt the conquest. Sailing from Zaitum and Quinsai,[4] they arrived safely on the island, but falling out between themselves, they were only able to take one city, all the garrison of which they beheaded, except eight persons, who could not be wounded with steel, because each had an enchanted stone inclosed between the skin and flesh of their right arms. These men were beaten to death with clubs, by order of the generals. Soon after this a violent north wind arose, which flew so hard as greatly to endanger the ships, some of which were lost, and others blown out to sea. On this, the whole army re-embarked, and sailed to an uninhabited island, at the distance of about ten miles: But the tempest continuing, many of the ships were wrecked, and about thirty thousand of the people escaped on shore, without arms or provisions; the two generals with a few of the principal persons, returning home. After this tempest ceased, the people of Zipangu sent over an army, in a fleet of ships, to seize the Tartars; but having landed without any order, the Tartars took the advantage of a rising ground in the middle of the island, under cover, of which, they wheeled suddenly round between the Zipanguers and the ships, which had been left unmanned, with all their streamers displayed. In these ships, the Tartars sailed to a principal city of Zipangu, into which they were admitted without any suspicion, finding hardly any within its walls except women, the men being all absent on the expedition into the uninhabited island. The Zipanguers collected a new fleet and army to besiege the city, and the Tartars, receiving no succour, were constrained to surrender, after a defence of six months, on terms by which their lives were spared. This happened in the year 1264.[5] For the bad conduct of the two commanders, the great khan ordered one to be beheaded, and sent the other to the desert island of Zerga, in which malefactors are punished by sewing them up in the new flayed hide of a buffalo, which shrinks so much in drying, as to put them to exquisite torture, and brings them to a miserable death.

The idols in Zipangu and the adjoining islands are strangely made, some having the head of a bull, others of a hog, or a dog, and in other most monstrous fashions. Some have heads with four faces, others three heads on one neck, while some have faces on their shoulders. Some have four arms, others ten, or even an hundred arms; and that idol is reputed the most powerful, and is held in greatest reverence, which has the greatest number. When asked the reason of making their idols in such distorted and ridiculous forms, they answer that such is the custom which has been handed down from their ancestors. It is reported of these islanders, that they eat such of their enemies as they take prisoners; esteeming human flesh a peculiar dainty. The sea in which Zipangu lies is called the sea of Chi or Chin, or the sea over against Mangi, which is called Chan or Chint, in the language of that island. This sea is so large, that mariners who have frequented it, say it contains seven thousand four hundred and forty islands, most of them inhabited; and that in ail those islands there is no tree which is not odoriferous, or does not bear fruit, or is not useful in some other respects. In them likewise there are great abundance of spices of various kinds, especially black arid white pepper, and lignum aloes.[6] The ships of Zaitum are a whole year on their voyage to and from Zipangu, going there during the winter, and returning again in summer, as there are two particular winds which regularly prevail in these seasons. Zipangu is far distant from India. But I will now leave Zipangu, because I never was there, as it is not subject to the khan, and shall now return to Zaitum and the voyage from thence to India.

[1] In this passage, in the edition of Harris, the sense seems obscurely to insinuate that this had been occasioned by the sea having broken down or overwhelmed certain lands or islands, producing numbers of smaller islands and extensive shoals.--E.
[2] Zipangu, Zipangri, or Cimpagu, is Japan without any doubt.--E.
[3] Named Abataa and Yonsaintin by Pinkerton, from the Trevigi edition. The latter Ven-san-sui, or Von-sain-cin, by his name seems to have been a Chinese.--E.
[4] Called Caicon, or Jaiton in the Trevigi edition. Caicon is not very far removed from the sound of Cangtong or Canton, which has already been considered to be the Zaitum of the text.--E.
[5] A.D. 1269, according to the Trevigi edition.--E.
[6] Marco obviously extends this sea and these islands to all those of the Chinese sea and the Indian ocean, from Sumatra in the SW. to Japan in the NE.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 18 -- Account of Various Countries, Provinces, Islands, and Cities in the Indies.

Sailing from Zaitum, 1500 miles to the south westwards, we pass a gulf called Cheinan,[1] which extends two months sail to the northward, still confining on the south-east[2] of Mangi, and elsewhere, with Ania and Toloman, and other provinces mentioned formerly. Within it are infinite islands all in a manner inhabited,[3] and in them is found abundance of gold, and they trade with each other. This gulf seems like another world; and after 1500 miles sailing, is the rich and great country of Ziambar.[4] The people are idolaters, and pay an yearly tribute to the great khan of twenty elephants, and great quantities of aloes wood. In the year 1268, hearing of the riches of this country, the khan sent one of his generals, named Segatu, to invade it, Acambute, who was then king of the country, was old, and chose to avoid the dangers and miseries of war, by agreeing to pay the before-mentioned tribute. In Ziambar there are many woods of black ebony, of great value.

Sailing thence for 1500 miles, betwixt the south and southeast, we came to Java,[5] which is considered by mariners to be the largest island in the world, being above 3000 miles in circumference. It is governed by a king who pays tribute to none; as, owing to the length and danger of the voyage, the great khan has made no attempt to annex it to his vast dominions. The merchants of Zaitum and Mangi, bring from thence abundance of gold and spices. South and south-westwards six hundred miles, are the islands of Sondur and Condur, both desolate, of which Sondur is the larger.[6] Fifty miles south-east from them is a rich and great province, or island, called Lochae.[7] The people are idolaters, and have both a king and language of their own. In it there grows great plenty of Brazil wood; and it has much gold, many elephants, wild beasts, and fowls, and an excellent fruit called bercias, as large as lemons. The country is mountainous and savage, and the king permits no person to come into his dominions, lest they should get acquainted with the county and attempt its conquest. It produces abundance of porcelain shells, which are transported to other places, where they serve as money.

Five hundred miles southward from Lochae, is the isle of Pentan,[8] a savage place, which produces sweet trees in all its woods. For sixty miles of this voyage, between Lochae and Pentan, the sea in many places is only four fathoms deep. Thirty miles to the south-east from Pentan, is the island and kingdom of Malaiur,[9] which has a king and a peculiar language of its own, and has a great trade carried on in spices from Pentan. One hundred miles south-east is Java the less,[10] which is about two thousand miles in circuit, and is divided into eight kingdoms, each having its own language. I was in six of these kingdoms, of which I shall give some account, omitting those I did not see.

One of these kingdoms is Felech or Ferlach, in which the formerly idolatrous inhabitants of the cities have been converted to the Mahometan religion, in consequence of much trade and intercourse with the Saracens; but the mountaineers are very savage, eating human flesh, and living upon every kind of unclean food, and they worship all day what they first happen to meet in the morning. The next kingdom is called Basma, which has a language peculiar to itself, the people living without law or religion like beasts: But they sometimes send hawks to the khan, who lays claim to the sovereignty of the whole island. Besides wild elephants, there are unicorns in this country, which are much less than elephants, being haired like the buffalo, but their feet are like those of die elephant. These animals have one horn in the middle of their foreheads; but they hurt no one with this weapon, using only their tongue and knee, for they trample and press any one down with their feet and knees, and their tongue is beset with long sharp prickles, with which they tear a person to pieces. The head is like that of a wild boar, which the animal, carries hanging down to the ground. They are filthy beasts that love to stand and wallow in the mire, and they do not in the least resemble those unicorns which are said to be found in some other parts of the world, which allow themselves to be taken by maids.[11] In this country, there are many apes of different kinds, some of them, being black with faces like men, which they put into boxes, preserved with spices; these they sell to merchants, who carry them to various parts of the world, and pass them for pigmies or little men. This country likewise produces large goshawks, as black as ravens, which are excellent for sport.

Samare or Samara is the next kingdom, in which I remained for five months against my will, in consequence of bad weather,[12] during all which time, none of the stars in the constellation of the great-bear were seen. Being forced to remain here for five months. I landed with 2000 men, and erected fortifications to defend us against any unforeseen attack from the savage cannibals of the island, with whom we established a trade for provisions. They have excellent wine, both red and white, made from the palm tree, which is a very wholesome beverage, as it is medicinal for consumption, the dropsy, and for disorders of the spleen. They have likewise abundance of fine fish, and eat of all sorts of flesh, without making any difference. Their coco-nuts are as large as a mans head, and the middle of them is full of a pleasant liquor, better than wine.

Dragoian[13] is another of those kingdoms claimed by the khan, which has a king and a peculiar language. I was told of an abominable custom in this country; that when any one is sick, his relatives send to inquire at the sorcerers if he is to recover. If they answer no, the kindred then send for a person, whose office it is to strangle the sick person, whom they immediately cut in pieces and devour, even to the marrow of their bones, for they allege, that if any part were to remain, worms would breed in it, which would be in want of food, and would therefore die, to the great torture of the soul of the dead person. They afterwards carry away the bones, and conceal them carefully in caves in the mountains, that no beast may touch them. If they can lay their hands on any stranger, they treat him in the same barbarous manner.

Lambri is the fifth kingdom of Java-minor, or Sumatra, in which is great plenty of Brazil wood, some of the seeds of which I brought to Venice, but they would not vegetate, as the climate was too cold for them. In this country there are great numbers of unicorns or rhinoceroses, and plenty of other beasts and birds. Fanfur is the sixth kingdom, having the best camphor, which Is sold weight for weight with gold. In that kingdom, they make a kind of meal from great and long trees, as thick as two men are able to fathom. Having taken off the thin bark, the wood within is only about three fingers thick, all the rest being pith, from which the meal is made. This pith is broken to pieces, and stirred among water, the light dross swimming, and being thrown away, while the finer parts settle at the bottom, and is made into paste.[14] I brought some of this to Venice, which tastes not much unlike barley bread. The wood of this tree is so heavy as to sink in water like iron, and of it they make excellent lances, but being very heavy, they are under the necessity of making them short. These are hardened in the fire, and sharpened, and when so prepared, they will pierce through armour easier than if made of iron. About 150 miles to the northward of Lambri, there are two islands, one called Nocueran and the other Angaman,[l5] in the former of which the inhabitants live like beasts, and go entirely naked, but have excellent trees, such as cloves, red and white sanders, coco-nuts, Brazil, and various spices in the other island the inhabitants are equally savage, and are said to have the heads and teeth of dogs.

[1] Probably the gulph of Siam.--E.
[2] South-west, certainly.--E.
[3] The inlands in the gulf of Siam are small, and not numerous; so that the passage is probably corrupted; and may have been in the original, "that, leaving the gulf of Cheinan on the north, they left infinite islands, &c; on the south." After all, the gulf of Cheinan may mean the whole sea of China.--E.
[4] It is difficult to say precisely what division of farther India is here meant by Ziambar. 1500 miles would carry us to the coast of Malaya; but 1500 li, or about 500 miles reach only to the coast of Cochin-China, or it may be Tsiompa. Ziambar, in the editions, is variously written Ciambau, Ciariban, and Ziambar.--E.
[5] The direction of the voyage is here obviously erroneous, it must have been between the south and the south-west, or south-south-west. In the Trevigi edition, the Java of this part of our text is Lava, and according to Valentine, Lava is the name of the principal city and kingdom in Borneo; which at all events must be the island here mentioned by Marco.--E.
[6] According to the Trevigi edition, as reported by Pinkerton, these islands are only seven miles from Lava or Borneo. At about seventy miles distance to the south-west, there are two islands named Caremata and Soorooto, which may be those mentioned in the text.--E.
[7] Called Lochach in some of the editions, and said to be 200 miles from Sondor and Condur. Whether this may be Ma-lacca or Ma-laya, it is impossible to determine.--E.
[8] In the Trevigi edition only five miles, and the island is called Pentara. This may possibly be the island of Bintang in the south-eastern entrance of the straits of Malacca.--E.
[9] Most probably the kingdom of Malacca. From the Trevigi edition Pinkerton calls this Malonir, and curiously identifies Pepetam, Pentara, or Pentan, as the name of the city and kingdom of Malonir or Malaiur.--E.
[10] If right in our former conjectures, the island spoken of in the text must be Sumatra not that now called Java. Indeed, the mention immediately afterwards of the islands of Nocueran and Angaman 150 miles to the north, which can only he the Nicobar and Andaman islands, establish the identity of Java-minor, here called Java the less, and Sumatra.--E.
[11] The animal here described under the name of unicorn is the Rhinoceros monoceros, or one-horned rhinoceros of naturalists; but the single horn is placed a little above the nose, not on the middle of the forehead, as here erroneously described by Marco.--E
[12] He had evidently missed the Monsoon, and had to await its return. From this kingdom or division of the island, it probably acquired the name of Sumatra, by which it is known in modern geography. From the circumstance in the text of not seeing the great bear, it is probable that Marco was stopped near the south-eastern extremity of the island. What is here translated the great bear, Pinkerton calls, from the Trevigi edition del Maistro. The polar star was invisible of course.--E.
[13] Called Deragola by Pinkerton, from the Trevigi edition.--E.
[14] He here distinctly indicates the manufacture of sego.--E.
[15] Nicobar and Andaman, on the east side of the bay of Bengal; called Necunera and Namgama in the Trevigi edition.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 19 -- Of the Island of Ceylon, and various parts of Hither India.

Sailing from Angaman 1000 miles west, and a little to the south, we come to the island of Zelan or Ceylon, which is 2400 miles in circumference; but was anciently 3600 miles round, as appears from the former charts of the country, the north winds having occasioned the sea to destroy a great part of it. This is the finest island in the world, and its king is called Sendernaz. The men and women are idolaters, and go entirely naked, except a small cloth before them. They grow no corn except rice; and they have plenty of oil of sesame, milk, flesh, palm wine, Brazil wood, the best rubies in the world, sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and other gems. The king of the island is said to have the finest ruby that ever was seen, as long as the hand, and as thick as a man's wrist, without spot or blemish, and glowing like a fire. Cublai-Khan once sent to purchase this ruby, offering the value of a city for it; but the king answered that he would not part with it for all the treasure in the world, because it had belonged to his ancestors. The men of this island are unfit for soldiers, and hire others when they have occasion to go to war.

There is a high mountain in Ceylon, to the top of which no one can ascend without the assistance of iron chains, and on which the Saracens report that the sepulchre of Adam is situated; but the idolaters say that it is the body of Sogomon Burchan, the first founder of idol worship, son of a king of the island, who betook himself to a recluse life of religious contemplation on the top of this mountain, from whence no pleasures or persuasions could induce him to withdraw. After his death, his father caused an image of him to be made of solid gold, and commanded all his subjects to adore him as their god: and hence they say is the origin of idol worship. People come here in pilgrimage from remote regions, and there his fore-teeth, and a dish which he used, are solemnly exhibited as holy relics. As the Saracens pretend that these belonged to Adam, Cublai-Khan was induced, in 1281, to send ambassadors to the king of this country, who obtained the dish, two teeth, and some of the hairs of Sogomon Barchan: These the great khan caused to be received without the city with great reverence and solemnity, by the whole people of Cambalu, and brought into his presence with great honour.

Sixty miles to the west of Ceylon is Moabar.[1] This is no island, but lies on the firm continent, which may be called the greater India. In it there are four kings, the principal one of whom is Sinder Candi, in whose kingdom they fish for pearls, between Ceylon and Moabar, in a bay where the sea does not exceed ten or twelve fathoms deep. Here the divers descend to the bottom, and in bags or nets which are tied about their bodies, bring up the oysters which contain the pearls. On account of certain great fish which kill the divers, they hire bramins to charm them from doing harm, and these have the twentieth part of the pearls, the king getting the tenth part,[2] These oysters are only found from the beginning of April to the end of May in this place; but from the beginning of September to the middle of October, they are got in another place, about three hundred miles distant. The king of this country goes naked, like the rest of his subjects, except that he wears some honourable marks of distinction, as a collar of precious stones about his neck, and a thread of silk hanging down to his breast, on which are strung 104 large fine pearls, by which he counts his prayers as with a rosary. These prayers are merely the word Pacaupa, repeated 104 times over. He wears a sort of bracelets on three places of his arms and on his legs, and rings on all his fingers and toes. This king has a thousand concubines, and if any woman pleases his fancy, he takes her away from whoever she may happen to belong to. He once did this unjust deed to his own brother, in consequence of which a civil war had nearly ensued; but as their mother threatened to cut off her own breasts if they continued their enmity, they were reconciled. He has a numerous guard of horsemen, who are under a vow, when he dies, to throw themselves into the fire in which his body is consumed, that they may serve him in the next world.

This prince, and the other kings of Moabar, buy their horses from Ormus and other parts, as their country produces none, or if any happen to be bred there, they are ugly and useless.[3] Condemned persons often offer themselves to die in honour of a particular idol; on which the devotee puts himself to death with twelve knives, giving himself twelve deep wounds in various parts of his body, calling out aloud on the infliction of each, that he does this in honour of such or such an idol; and the last of all is through his own heart, after which his body is burned by his kindred. The women of this country voluntarily burn themselves along with the bodies of their deceased husbands, and those who neglect to do this are held in disrepute. They worship idols, and most of them hold cows in such high veneration, that they would not eat their holy flesh for any consideration on earth. A certain tribe is called Gaui, who feed upon such oxen as die of themselves, but never kill any. These Gaui are descended from the people who slew St. Thomas, and dare not enter the shrine in which his body is preserved. The people of this country sit on carpets on the ground, using no chairs or stools. Their only grain is rice. They are not a martial people, and kill no animals; but when they are inclined for animal food, they get the Saracens or some other people to kill for them. Both men and women wash themselves twice a-day, and always before eating; and those who neglect this ceremony are reputed heretics. They never touch their meat with their left hands, which they only employ for wiping themselves, or other unclean purposes. Each drinks from his own pot, neither do they allow it to touch their mouths, but hold it above, and pour in the drink; and to strangers who have no pot, they pour liquor into their hands, from which they must drink, as they will not allow their pots to be touched by any other person.

Justice is severely administered for crimes; and in some cases, a creditor has a singular manner of compelling payment, by drawing a circle round his debtor, out of which he must not stir till he has satisfied his creditor, or given security for the debt, under the pain of death. I, Marco, once saw the king on horseback thus encircled, by a merchant whom he had long put off with delays; and the king would not come out of the circle, which the merchant had drawn; till he had sent for the means of paying the merchant, all the people who were present highly applauding the king's justice. They are very scrupulous of drinking wine, and those who are addicted to that practice, are held disreputable and unworthy of being admitted as witnesses; which is the case likewise with those who go to sea, as they reckon them desperate persons. They look on letchery as no sin. In the months of June, July, and August, they have no rains, and it is excessively hot, insomuch that they could not live if it were not for the refreshing winds which blow from the sea. They have many physiognomists and soothsayers, who observe omens from birds and beasts, and other signs. These people consider one hour in every day of the week as unlucky, which they name Choiach, and which is different on all the days, all of which are carefully recorded in their books, and they are curious observers of nativities. At thirteen years of age, their boys are put out to gain their living, who go about buying and selling, by means of a small stock given them to begin with. In the pearl season, these boys will buy a few pearls, and sell them again for a small profit to the merchants, who are unable to endure the sun. What gain they get they bring to their mothers, to lay out for them, as it is not lawful for them to live at their father's cost. Their daughters are dedicated to the service of the idols, and appointed by the priests to sing and dance in presence of the idols; and they frequently set victuals before the idols for some time, as if they would eat, singing all the while, when they fall to eat themselves, and then return home. The great men have a kind of litters, made of large canes artificially wrought, which are fixed in some high situation, to avoid being bitten by tarantulas,[4] and other vermin, and for the benefit of fresh air.

The sepulchre of St. Thomas is in a small city, not much frequented by merchants, but very much by Christians and Saracens, on account of devotion. The Saracens hold him as a great prophet or holy man, and call him Ananias. The Christians take of a red earth which is found in the place where he was slain, which they mix with water, and administer to the sick with great reverence. It happened in the year 1288, that a great prince, who had more rice than he had room to keep it in, chose to make bold with that room in St. Thomas's church in which pilgrims are received, and converted it into a granary: But he was so terrified by a vision of St. Thomas in the night following, that he was glad to remove it with great speed. The inhabitants are black, although not born so, but by constantly anointing themselves with the oil of jasmine they become quite black, which they esteem a great beauty, insomuch, that they paint their idols black, and represent the devil as white. The cow worshippers carry with them to battle some of the hairs of an ox, as a preservative against dangers.

[1] This Pinkerton calls Moabar on the margin, and Nachabar in the text, of his dissertation on the Trevigi edition of Marco Polo, very justly observing that it refers to Coromandel, or the Carnatic below the gauts. Harris erroneously substitutes Malabar. Moabar and Madura may have a similar origin, as may Nachabar and Nega-patnam.--E.
[2] The fish here alluded to are sharks; and the same custom of employing bramins to defend the fishermen, by conjuration, against this formidable enemy, is continued to the present day.--E.
[3] Mr Pinkerton, from the Trevigi edition, has this passage as follows: "The king of Vor, one of the princes of Nacbabar, purchases about 10,000 horses yearly from the country of Cormos, formerly mentioned, each horse costing five sazi of gold."--E.
[4] Tarantulas is assuredly, a mistake here for centipedes and scorpions, which are common all over India.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 20 -- Of the Kingdom of Murfili, and the Diamond Mines, and some other Countries of India.

Murfili or Monsul[1] is five hundred miles northwards from Moabar, and is inhabited by idolaters. In the mountains of this country there are diamonds, which the people search for after the great rains. They afterwards ascend these mountains in the summer, though with great labour, on account of the excessive heat, and find abundance of these precious stones among the gravel; and are on these occasions much exposed to danger from the vast numbers of serpents which shelter themselves in the holes and caverns of the rocks, in which the diamonds are found in greatest abundance. Among other methods of obtaining the diamonds, they make, use of the following artifice. There are great numbers of white eagles, which rest in the upper parts of these rocks for the sake of feeding on the serpents, which are found at the bottom of the deep vallies and precipices where the men dare not go. They therefore throw pieces of raw meat down into these deep places, which the eagles seeing, stoop for, and seize with all the little stones and gravel which adhere to them. The people afterwards search the eagles' nests when they leave them, and carefully pick out all the little stones they can find, and even carefully examine the eagles dung in quest of diamonds.[2] The kings and great men of the country keep all the largest and finest diamonds that are procured from these mines, and allow the merchants to sell the rest.

Lac is westwards from the shrine of St. Thomas, from whence the Bramins have their original [[=origin]], who are the honestest merchants in the world, and will not lie on any account. They faithfully keep anything committed to their charge, or as brokers, they will sell or barter merchandize for others, with great fidelity. They are known by a cotton thread, which they wear over their shoulders, and tied under their arms across their breast. They have but one wife, are great astrologers, of great abstinence, and live to great ages. They constantly chew a certain herb, which keeps their teeth good and helps digestion. There are certain religious persons among them called Tangui, who live with great austerity, going altogether naked; their principal worship is addressed to cows, of which they wear a small brass image on their foreheads, and they make an ointment of ox bones, with which they anoint themselves very devoutly. They neither kill nor eat any living creature, and even abstain from green herbs, or fresh roots till dried, esteeming every thing that lives to have a soul. They use no dishes, but lay their victuals on dry leaves. They ease themselves in the sands, and they disperse it, lest it should breed worms, which might die for want of food. Some of these people are said to live to 150 years of age, and when they die their bodies are burned.

Cael is a great city governed by Aster, one of the four brethren,[3] who is very rich and kind to merchants. He is said to have three hundred concubines. All the people this country are continually chewing a leaf called Tembul,[4] with lime and spices. Coulam[5] is 500 miles south-west from Moabar, being chiefly inhabited by idolaters, who are very much addicted to venery, and marry their near kindred, and even their own sisters. It also contains Jews and Christians, who have a peculiar language. They have pepper, Brazil, indigo, black lions, parrots of many kinds, some white as snow, some azure, and others red, peacocks very different from ours, and much larger, and their fruits are very large. In this country there are many astrologers and physicians. In Camari, there are apes so large, that they seem like men, and here we again came in sight of the north star. Delai has a king, and its inhabitants have a peculiar language[6] and are idolaters. Ships from Mangi come here for trade.

Malabar is a kingdom in the west, in which, and in Guzerat[7], there are many pirates, who sometimes put to sea with an hundred sail of vessels, and rob merchants. In these expeditions they take their wives and children to sea along with them, where they remain all summer. In Guzerat there is great abundance of cotton, which grows on trees six fathoms high, that last for twenty years; but after twelve years old, the cotton of these trees is not good for spinning; and is only fit for making quilts.

Canhau is a great city, having plenty of frankincense, and carrying on a great trade in horses. In Cambaia is much indigo, buckram, and cotton. Semenath or Sebeleth, is a kingdom of idolaters, who are very good people, and greatly occupied in trade. Resmacoran is a great kingdom of idolaters and Saracens, and is the last province towards the north in the Greater India. Near this there are said to be two islands, one inhabited by men and the other by women; the men visiting their wives only during the months of March, April, and May, and then returning to their own island; and it is reported that the air of that country, admits of no other procedure. The women keep their sons till twelve years old, and then send them to their fathers. These people are Christians, having a bishop, who is subject to the archbishop of Socotora; they are good fishermen, and have great store of amber. The archbishop of Socotora[8] is not subject to the Pope, but to a prelate called Zatulia, who resides at Bagdat. The people of Socotora are said to be great enchanters, though excommunicated for the practice by their prelate, and are reported to raise contrary winds to bring back the ships of those who have wronged them, that they may obtain satisfaction.

[1] Muis in the Trevigi edition, according to Pinkerton, and which, he says, is 1000 miles, instead of the 500 in the text. This certainly refers to Golconda. The districts of India have been continually changing their names with changes of dominion; and one or other of these names given by Marco to the diamond country, may at one time have been the designation of some town or district at the mines--E.
[2] One would suppose we were here reading a fragment of the adventures of Sinbad the sailor, from the Arabian Nights. But on this and a few other similar occasions in the narrative of Marco, it is always proper to notice carefully what he says on his own knowledge, and what he only gives on the report of others.--E.
[3] This obscure expression seems to imply, that Aster was one of the four kings in Moabar, or the Carnatic.--E.
[4] Now called Betel, and still universally used in India in the same manner.--E
[5] Coulam may possibly be Cochin or Calicut, on the Malabar coast as being south-west from Moabar or Coromandel, and having Jews and Christians; as the original trade from the Red Sea to India was on this coast.--E.
[6] Camari or Comati, and Delai or Orbai, are obviously the names of towns and districts on the Malabar coast going north from Coulain. Yet Comari may refer to the country about Cape Comorin.--E.
[7] According to Pinkerton, these are called Melibar and Gesurach in the Trevigi edition, and he is disposed to consider the last as indicating Geriach, because of the pirates. But there seems no necessity for that nicety, as all the north-western coast of India has always been addicted to maritime plunder or piracy.--E.
[8] Socotora is called Scorsia or Scoria in the Trevigi edition.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 11, Section 21 -- Of Madagascar, Ethiopia, Abyssinia, and several other Countries.[1]

A thousand miles south from Socotora is Magaster[2] or Madagascar, one of the largest and richest islands in the world,[3] 3000 miles in circumference, which is inhabited by Saracens, and governed by four old men. The currents of the sea in those parts are of prodigious force. The people live by merchandize, and sell vast quantifies of elephants' teeth.[4] Mariners report strange stories of a prodigiously large bird like an eagle, called Ruch, said to be found in this country.

Zensibar or Zanguebar, is also said to be of great extent, and inhabited by a very deformed people; and the country abounds in elephants and antelopes, and a species of sheep very unlike to ours.

I have heard from mariners and skilful pilots, much versant in the Indian seas, and have seen in their writings, that these seas contain 12,700 islands, inhabited or desert.

In the Greater India, which is between Moabar or the Coromandel coast on the east, round to Chesmacoran on the north-west, there are thirteen kingdoms. India Minor is from Ziambo to Murfili,[5] in which are eight kingdoms and many islands.

The second or Middle India is called Abascia,[6] of which the chief king is a Christian, who has six other kings subject to his authority, three of whom are Christians and three of them Mahometans; there are also Jews in his dominions. St. Thomas, after preaching in Nubia, came to Abascia, where he preached for some time, and then went to Moabar or Coromandel. The Abyssinians are valiant soldiers, always at war with the sultan of Aden and the people of Nubia. I was told, that in 1288, the great emperor of the Abyssinians was extremely desirous to have visited Jerusalem; but being dissuaded from the attempt, on account of the Saracen kingdoms which were in the way, he sent a pious bishop to perform his devotions for him at the holy sepulchre. On his return, the bishop was made prisoner by the sultan of Aden, and circumcised by force. On this affront, the Abyssinian monarch raised an army, with which he defeated the sultan and two other Saracen kings, and took and destroyed the city of Aden. Abyssinia is, rich in gold. Escier, subject to Aden, is forty miles distant to the south-east, and produces abundance of fine white frankincense, which is procured by making incisions in the bark of certain small trees, and is a valuable merchandize. Some of the people on that coast, from want of corn, use fish, which they have in great abundance, instead of bread, and also feed their beasts on fish. They are most abundantly taken in the months of March, April, and May.

I now return to some provinces more to the north, where many Tartars dwell, who have a king called Caidu, of the race of Zingis, but who is entirely independent. These Tartars, observant of the customs of their ancestors, dwell not in cities, castles, or fortresses, but continually roam about, along with their king, in the plains and forests, and are esteemed true Tartars. They have no corn of any kind, but have multitudes of horses, cattle, sheep, and other beasts, and live on flesh and milk, in great peace. In their country there are white bears of large size, twenty palms in length; very large wild asses, little beasts called rondes, from which we have the valuable fur called sables, and various other animals producing fine furs, which the Tartars are very skilful in taking. This country abounds in great lakes, which are frozen over, except for a few months in every year, and in summer it is hardly possible to travel, on account of marshes and waters; for which reason, the merchants who go to buy furs, and who have to travel for fourteen days through the desert, have wooden houses at the end of each days journey, where they barter with the inhabitants, and in winter they travel in sledges without wheels, quite flat at the bottom, and rising semicircularly at the top, and these are drawn by great dogs, yoked in couples, the sledgeman only with his merchant and furs, sitting within.[7]

Beyond these Tartars is a country reaching to the extremest north, called the Obscure land, because the sun never appears during the greatest part of the winter months, and the air is perpetually thick and darkish, as is the case with us sometimes in hazy mornings. The inhabitants are pale and squat, and live like beasts, without law, religion, or king. The Tartars often rob them of their cattle during the dark months; and lest they might lose their way in these expeditions they ride on mares which have sucking foals, leaving these at the entrance of the country, under a guard; and when they have got possession of any booty, they give the reins to the mares, which make the best of their way to rejoin their foals. In their long-continued summer[8], these northern people take many of the finest furs, some of which are carried into Russia, which is a great country near that northern land of darkness. The people in Russia have fair complexions, and are Greek Christians, paying tribute to the king of the Tartars in the west, on whom they border. In the eastern parts of Russia there is abundance of fine furs, wax, and mines of silver; and I am told the country reaches to the northern ocean, in which there are islands which abound in falcons and ger-falcons.

[1] This concluding section may be considered as a kind of appendix, in which Marco has placed several unconnected hearsay notices of countries where he never had been personally.--E.
[2] Mandeigascar in the Trevigi edition, and certainly meant for Madagascar.--E.
[3] Madagascar has no pretensions to riches or trade, and never had; so that Marco must have been imposed upon by some Saracen or Arab mariner. Its size, climate, and soil certainly fit it for becoming a place of vast riches and population; but it is one almost continued forest, inhabited by numerous independent and hostile tribes of barbarians. Of this island, a minute account will appear in an after part of this work.--E.
[4] There are no elephants in Madagascar, yet these teeth might have been procured from southern Africa.--E.
[5] By India Minor he obviously means what is usually called farther India, or India beyond the Ganges, from the frontiers of China to Moabar, or the north part of the Coromandel coast, including the islands.--E.
[6] Abyssinia, here taken in the most extended sense, including all the western coast of the Red Sea, and Eastern Africa.--E.
[7] This paragraph obviously alludes to the Tartar kingdom of Siberia.--E.
[8] The summer in this northern country of the Samojeds is extremely short; but the expression here used, must allude to the long-continued summer day, when, for several months, the sun never sets.--E.


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