Volume 1, Chapter 14 -- Itinerary of Pegoletti, between Asof and China, in 1355.[1]

In the year 1355, Francisco Balducci Pegoletti, an Italian, wrote a system of commercial geography, of great importance, considering the period in which it was written. Its title translated into English, is, "Of the Divisions of Countries, and of their Measures, Merchandize, and other things useful to be known by the Merchants of various parts of the World." All of this curious work which has any reference to our present undertaking, is the chapter which is entitled, "Guide or the Route from Tana to Kathay, with Merchandize, and back again." This is published entire by J. R. Forster, with several learned notes and illustrations, and is here reprinted.

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From Tana or Asof to Gintarchan or Astracan,[2] is twenty-five days journey with waggons drawn by oxen; but may be accomplished in ten or twelve days, if the waggons are drawn by horses. On the road one meets with a great number of armed Moccols, Moguls or Mongals. From Gintarchan to Sara[3] by the river, it is only one day's sail; but from Sara to Saracanco,[4] it takes eight days by water; one may, however, travel either by land or water, whichever is most agreeable; but it costs much less expence to go with merchandize by water. From Saracanco to Organci[5] is a journey of twenty days with loaded camels; and whoever travels with merchandize, will do well to go to Organci, as it is a very convenient place for the expeditious sale of goods. From Organci to Oltrarra,[6] it is thirty-five or forty days' journey, with camels: But in going direct from Saracanco to Oltrarra, it takes fifty days' journey; and if one has no merchandize, it is a better way than to go by Organci. From Oltrarra to Armalecco,[7] it is forty-five days' journey with loaded asses, and in this road, one meets every day with Moguls. From Armalecco to Camexu,[8] it is seventy days' journey on asses; and from Camexu to a river called the Kara Morin,[9] it is fifty days' journey on horses. From this river, the traveller may go to Cassai[10] to dispose of his silver there, as it is an excellent station for the expeditious sale of merchandize; and from Cassai, he may go through the whole land of Gattay or Kathay, with the money he has received at Cassai for his silver.[11] This money is of paper, and called balischi, four of which balischies are equal to one silver somno.[12] From Cassai to Galmalecco,[l3] which is the capital of the empire of Kathay, it is thirty days' journey.

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If the reader has any idea of the difficulty attendant on making out so many places, disguised by a vicious orthography, a difficulty, which is still more increased by the necessity there is for determining, with accuracy, the situation of these places, and their probable distances from each other, he will be ready to allow that the task is certainly not very trifling, nor to be accomplished without much labour. In the foregoing itinerary, Pegoletti certifies the existence of the paper money which had been previously mentioned by Rubraquis, Haitho, Marco Polo, and Oderic: Some of these authors describe it as having been fabricated of cotton paper; while others remark very justly, that it was made of the bark of the paper mulberry tree. Oderic calls it Balis, Pegoletti gives it the name of Balis-chi. A Jesuit named Gabriel de Magaillans, pretends that Marco Polo was mistaken in regard to this paper money; but the concurrent testimony of five other credible witnesses of the fact, is perfectly conclusive that this paper money did actually exist during the first Mogul dynasty, the descendants of Zinghis, called the legal tribe of Yu by the Chinese. On the downfall of that race it was abolished.

Supposing the station on the Kara-morin and Cassai to be the same, which is highly probable, the whole journey in this itinerary, from Asof to Pekin, extends to 276 days, besides nine days more by water, or 285 in all; so that allowing for delays, rests, accidents, and occasional trafficking, a whole year may fairly be allowed, and as much for the return.

[1] Forster, Voy. and Disc, in the North, p. 150.
[2] Gintarchan, or Zintarchan, is, by Josaphat Barbaro, called also Gitarchau; and Witsan, in his account of Northern and Eastern Tartary, says Astracan was called of old Citracan. By the Calmuks, it is called Hadschi-Aidar-Khan-Balgassun, or the city of Hadschi Aidar Khan, whence all these names are derived by an obvious corruption,  like the Greek: Eis tnae polis, or the city, by way of eminence, by which the Greeks distinguished Constantinople, and which the Turks have corrupted into Estambol, and Stambol.--Forst.
[3] Sara is undoubtedly the town of Saray, situated on the eastern arm of the Wolga, or Achtuba. The Astracan mentioned in the text by Pegoletti, was not on the spot where that city now stands; both that ancient Astracan and Saray having been destroyed by Timur Khan, or Tamerlane, as he is usually called, in the winter of 1395. The old town of Saray was at no great distance from ancient Astracan.--Forst.
[4] Saracanco is probably the town which formerly existed on the river Jaik or Ural, the remains of which are now known by the name of Saratschik.--Forst.
[5] The name of Organci is easily recognized In the town of Urgenz in Kheucaresm; which is named Dschordschanio by Abulfeda, and Korkang by the Persians. But there were two towns of this name, the greater and the lesser Urgenz, or Old and New Urgenz. The Old or Greater Urgenz was situated near to where the Gihon discharges its waters into lake Aral; the New or Iesser Urgenz is to be found near Chiwa, or Chiva, on the Gihon--Forst.
[6] Oltrarra is properly called Otrar, and also Farab, which latter name is to be found in Abulfeda. It is situate on the river Sihon or Sire. The Chinese, who cannot pronounce the letter r, call it Uotala.--Forst.
[7] Armalecco is the name of a small town called Almalig, which, according to Nassir Ettusi and Ulug-beg, is in Turkestan.  From the life of Timur Khan, by Shersfeddin Ali, it appears that Almalig is situated between the town of Taschkent and the river Irtiah, in the country of the Gete, and on the banks of the river Ab-eile, which discharges itself into the Sihon, or Sirr-Daria.--Forst.
[8] Came-xu is in all probability the name of Khame or Khami with the addition of xu, instead of Tcheou or Tsheu, which, in the Chinese language, signifies a town of the second rank.--Forst.
[9] Obviously the Kara-Moran, called Hoang-ho by the Chinese, or the Yellow River.--Forst.
[10] Cassai, or Kaway, seems to be the place called Kissen, on a lake of that name, near the northernmost winding branch of the Kara-moran, in Lat. 41º.50'. N. long. 107°. 40'. E.--Forst.
[11] It is curious to notice, in the writings, of this intelligent commercial geographer, and in the travels of Marco Polo, the peculiar advantages in commerce enjoyed by the Chinese at so early a period, of being paid in sliver for their commodities and manufactures. This practice, which prevailed so early as 1260, the era of the elder Polos, and even, in 851, when the Mahometan travellers visited Southern China, still continues in 1810.--E.
[12] The value of the silver somno is nowhere mentioned; but it is of no importance, as it would not enable us to institute any comparison of values whatsoever.--E.
[13] Gamalecco is undoubtedly Cambalu, Cambalig, or Khan-balig, otherwise Pekin; exactly as Gattay is substituted for Katay Kathay, or Cathay.--Forst.


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