The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxxvii.

Of the Province of Pein.

Pein is a province five days in length, lying between east and north-east. The people are worshippers of Mahommet, and subjects of the Great Kaan. There are a good number of towns and villages, but the most noble is PEIN, the capital of the kingdom.1 There are rivers in this country, in which quantities of Jasper and Chalcedony are found.2 The people have plenty of all products, including cotton. They live by manufactures and trade. But they have a custom that I must relate. If the husband of any woman go away upon a journey and remain away for more than 20 days, as soon as that term is past the woman may marry another man, and the husband also may then marry whom he pleases.3

I should tell you that all the provinces that I have been speaking of, from Cascar forward, and those I am going to mention [as far as the city of Lop] belong to GREAT TURKEY.

NOTE 1. —“In old times,” says the Haft Iklím., “travellers used to go from Khotan to Cathay in 14 (?) days, and found towns and villages all along the road [excepting, it may be presumed, on the terrible Gobi], so that there was no need to travel in caravans. In later days the fear of the Kalmaks caused this line to be abandoned, and the circuitous one occupied 100 days.” This directer route between Khotan and China must have been followed by Fa-hian on his way to India; by Hiuen Tsang on his way back; and by Shah Rukh’s ambassadors on their return from China in 1421. The circuitous route alluded to appears to have gone north from Khotan, crossed the Tarimgol, and fallen into the road along the base of the Thian Shan, eventually crossing the Desert southward from Komul.

Former commentators differed very widely as to the position of Pein, and as to the direction of Polo’s route from Khotan. The information acquired of late years leaves the latter no longer open to doubt. It must have been nearly coincident with that of Hiuen Tsang.

The perusal of Johnson’s Report of his journey to Khotan, and the Itineraries attached to it, enabled me to feel tolerable certainty as to the position of Charchan (see next chapter), and as to the fact that Marco followed a direct route from Khotan to the vicinity of Lake Lop. Pein, then, was identical with PIMA,1 which was the first city reached by Hiuen Tsang on his return to China after quitting Khotan, and which lay 330 li east of the latter city.2 Other notices of Pima appear in Rémusat’s history of Khotan; some of these agree exactly as to the distance from the capital, adding that it stood on the banks of a river flowing from the East and entering the sandy Desert; whilst one account seems to place it at 500 li from Khotan. And in the Turkish map of Central Asia, printed in the Jahán Numá, as we learn from Sir H. Rawlinson, the town of Pím is placed a little way north of Khotan. Johnson found Khotan rife with stories of former cities overwhelmed by the shifting sands of the Desert, and these sands appear to have been advancing for ages; for far to the north-east of Pima, even in the 7th century, were to be found the deserted and ruined cities of the ancient kingdoms of Tuholo and Shemathona. “Where anciently were the seats of flourishing cities and prosperous communities,” says a Chinese author speaking of this region, “is nothing now to be seen but a vast desert; all has been buried in the sands, and the wild camel is hunted on those arid plains.”

Pima cannot have been very far from Kiria, visited by Johnson. This is a town of 7000 houses, lying east of Ilchi, and about 69 miles distant from it. The road for the most part lies through a highly cultivated and irrigated country, flanked by the sandy desert at three or four miles to the left. After passing eastward by Kiria it is said to make a great elbow, turning north; and within this elbow lie the sands that have buried cities and fertile country. Here Mr. Shaw supposes Pima lay (perhaps upon the river of Kiria). At Pima itself, in A. D. 644, there was a story of the destruction of a city lying further north, a judgment on the luxury and impiety of the people and their king, who, shocked at the eccentric aspect of a holy man, had caused him to be buried in sand up to the mouth.

(N. et E. XIV. 477; H. de la Ville de Khotan, 63–66; Klap. Tabl. Historiques, p. 182; Proc. R. G. S. XVI. 243.)

[Dutreuil de Rhins and Grenard took the road from Khotan to Charchan; they left Khotan on the 4th May, 1893, passed Kiria, Nia, and instead of going direct to Charchan through the desert, they passed Kara Say at the foot of the Altyn tâgh, a route three days longer than the other, but one which was less warm, and where water, meat, milk, and barley could be found. Having passed Kapa, they crossed the Karamuren, and went up from Achan due north to Charchan, where they stayed three months. Nowhere do they mention Pein, or Pima, for it appears to be Kiria itself, which is the only real town between Khotan and the Lobnor. Grenard says in a note (p. 54, vol. ii.): “Pi-mo (Keria) recalls the Tibetan byé-ma, which is pronounced Péma, or Tchéma, and which means sand. Such is perhaps also the origin of Pialma, a village near Khotan, and of the old name of Charchan, Tché-mo-to-na, of which the two last syllables would represent grong (pronounce tong = town), or kr’om (t’om = bazaar). Now, not only would this etymology be justified because these three places are indeed surrounded with sand remarkably deep, but as they were the first three important places with which the Tibetans met coming into the desert of Gobi, either by the route of Gurgutluk and of Polor, or by Karakoram and Sandju, or by Tsadam, and they had thus as good a pretext to call them ‘towns of sand’ as the Chinese had to give to T’unhwang the name of Shachau, viz. City of Sand. Kiria is called Ou-mi, under the Han, and the name of Pi-mo is found for the first time in Hiuen Tsang, that is to say, before the Tibetan invasions of the 8th century. It is not possible to admit that the incursion of the Tu-ku-hun in the 5th century could be the cause of this change of name. The hypothesis remains that Pi-mo was really the ancient name forced by the first Tibetan invaders spoken of by legend, that Ou-mi was either another name of the town, or a fancy name invented by the Chinese, like Yu-t’ien for Khotan, Su-lo for Kashgar. . . . ” Sir T. D. Forsyth (J. R. G. S., XLVII., 1877, p. 3) writes: “I should say that Peim or Pima must be identical with Kiria.”— H. C.]

NOTE 2. — The Jasper and Chalcedony of our author are probably only varieties of the semi-precious mineral called by us popularly Jade, by the Chinese , by the Eastern Turks Kásh, by the Persians Yashm, which last is no doubt the same word with [Greek: íaspis], and therefore with Jásper. The Greek Jaspis was in reality, according to Mr. King, a green Chalcedony.

The Jade of Turkestan is largely derived from water-rolled boulders fished up by divers in the rivers of Khotan, but it is also got from mines in the valley of the Karákásh River. “Some of the Jade,” says Timkowski, “is as white as snow, some dark green, like the most beautiful emerald (?), others yellow, vermilion, and jet black. The rarest and most esteemed varieties are the white speckled with red and the green veined with gold.” (I. 395.) The Jade of Khotan appears to be first mentioned by Chinese authors in the time of the Han Dynasty under Wu-ti (B.C. 140–86). In A.D. 541 an image of Buddha sculptured in Jade was sent as an offering from Khotan; and in 632 the process of fishing for the material in the rivers of Khotan, as practised down to modern times, is mentioned. The importation of Jade or from this quarter probably gave the name of Kia-yü Kwan or “Jade Gate” to the fortified Pass looking in this direction on the extreme N. W. of China Proper, between Shachau and Suhchau. Since the detachment from China the Jade industry has ceased, the Musulmans having no taste for that kind of virtù. (H. de la V. de Khotan, 2, 17, 23; also see J. R. G. S. XXXVI. 165, and Cathay, 130, 564; Ritter, II. 213; Shaw’s High Tartary, pp. 98, 473.)

[On the 11th January, 1895, Dr. Sven Hedin visited one of the chief places where Jade is to be found. It is to the north-east of Khotan, in the old bed of the Yurun Kash. The bed of the river is divided into claims like gold-fields; the workmen are Chinese for the greater part, some few are Musulmans.

Grenard (II. pp. 186–187) says that the finest Jade comes from the high Karákásh (black Jade) River and Yurungkásh (white Jade); the Jade River is called Su-tásh. At Khotan, Jade is polished up by sixty or seventy individuals belonging to twenty-five workshops.

“At 18 miles from Su-chau, Kia-yu-kwan, celebrated as one of the gates of China, and as the fortress guarding the extreme north-west entrance into the empire, is passed.” (Colonel M. S. Bell, Proc. R. G. S. XII. 1890, p. 75.)

According to the Chinese characters, the name of Kia-yü Kwan does not mean “Jade Gate,” and as Mr. Rockhill writes to me, it can only mean something like “barrier of the pleasant Valley.”— H. C.]

NOTE 3. — Possibly this may refer to the custom of temporary marriages which seems to prevail in most towns of Central Asia which are the halting-places of caravans, and the morals of which are much on a par with those of seaport towns, from analogous causes. Thus at Meshid, Khanikoff speaks of the large population of young and pretty women ready, according to the accommodating rules of Shiah Mahomedanism, to engage in marriages which are perfectly lawful, for a month, a week, or even twenty-four hours. Kashgar is also noted in the East for its chaukans, young women with whom the traveller may readily form an alliance for the period of his stay, be it long or short. (Khan. Mém. p. 98; Russ. in Central Asia, 52; J. A. S. B. XXVI. 262; Burnes, III. 195; Vigne, II. 201.)

1 Pein may easily have been miscopied for Pem which is indeed the reading of some MSS. Ramusio has Peym.

2 M. Vivien de St. Martin, in his map of Hiuen Tsang’s travels, places Pima to the west of Khotan. Though one sees bow the mistake originated, there is no real ground for this in either of the versions of the Chinese pilgrim’s journey. (See Vie et Voyages, p. 288, and Mémoires, vol. ii. 242–243.)

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/polo/marco/travels/book1.37.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24