The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Part ii. — Journey to the West and South-West of Cathay.

Chapter xxxv.

Here Begins the Description of the Interior of Cathay, and First of the River Pulisanghin.

Now you must know that the Emperor sent the aforesaid Messer Marco Polo, who is the author of this whole story, on business of his into the Western Provinces. On that occasion he travelled from Cambaluc a good four months’ journey towards the west.1 And so now I will tell you all that he saw on his travels as he went and returned.

Illustration: The Bridge of Pulisanghin. (Reduced from a Chinese original.)

“— et desus cest flum a un mout biaus pont de pieres: car sachiez qe pont n’a en tout le monde de si biaus ne son pareil.”

When you leave the City of Cambaluc and have ridden ten miles, you come to a very large river which is called PULISANGHIN, and flows into the ocean, so that merchants with their merchandise ascend it from the sea. Over this River there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals. The fashion of it is this: it is 300 paces in length, and it must have a good eight paces of width, for ten mounted men can ride across it abreast. It has 24 arches and as many water-mills, and ’tis all of very fine marble, well built and firmly founded. Along the top of the bridge there is on either side a parapet of marble slabs and columns, made in this way. At the beginning of the bridge there is a marble column, and under it a marble lion, so that the column stands upon the lion’s loins, whilst on the top of the column there is a second marble lion, both being of great size and beautifully executed sculpture. At the distance of a pace from this column there is another precisely the same, also with its two lions, and the space between them is closed with slabs of grey marble to prevent people from falling over into the water. And thus the columns run from space to space along either side of the bridge, so that altogether it is a beautiful object.2

NOTE 1. —[When Marco leaves the capital, he takes the main road, the “Imperial Highway,” from Peking to Si-ngan fu, via Pao-ting, Cheng-ting, Hwai-luh, Taï-yuan, Ping-yang, and T’ung-kwan, on the Yellow River. Mr. G. F. Eaton, writing from Han-chung (Jour. China Br. R. As. Soc. XXVIII. No. 1) says it is a cart-road, except for six days between Taí-yuan and Hwai-luh, and that it takes twenty-nine days to go from Peking to Si-ngan, a figure which agrees well with Polo’s distances; it is also the time which Dr. Forke’s journey lasted; he left Peking on the 1st May, 1892, reached Taï-yuan on the 12th, and arrived at Si-ngan on the 30th (Von Peking nach Ch’ang-an). Mr. Rockhill left Peking on the 17th December, 1888, reached T’aï-yuan on the 26th, crossed the Yellow River on the 5th January, and arrived at Si-ngan fu on the 8th January, 1889, in twenty-two days, a distance of 916 miles. (Land of the Lamas, pp. 372–374.) M. Grenard left Si-ngan on the 10th November and reached Peking on the 16th December, 1894 = thirty-six days; he reckons 1389 kilometres = 863 miles. (See Rev. C. Holcombe, Tour through Shan-hsi and Shen-hsi in Jour. North China Br.R.A.S.N.S. X. pp. 54–70.)— H.C.]

Illustration: The Bridge of Pulisanghin. (From the Livre des Merveilles.)

NOTE 2. — Pul-i-Sangín, the name which Marco gives the River, means in Persian simply (as Marsden noticed) “The Stone Bridge.” In a very different region the same name often occurs in the history of Timur applied to a certain bridge, in the country north of Badakhshan, over the Wakhsh branch of the Oxus. And the Turkish admiral Sidi ‘Ali, travelling that way from India in the 16th century, applies the name, as it is applied here, to the river; for his journal tells us that beyond Kulíb he crossed “the River Pulisangin.”

We may easily suppose, therefore, that near Cambaluc also, the Bridge, first, and then the River, came to be known to the Persian-speaking foreigners of the court and city by this name. This supposition is however a little perplexed by the circumstance that Rashiduddin calls the River the Sangín and that Sangkan-Ho appears from the maps or citations of Martini, Klaproth, Neumann, and Pauthier to have been one of the Chinese names of the river, and indeed, Sankang is still the name of one of the confluents forming the Hwan Ho.

[By Sanghin, Polo renders the Chinese Sang-kan, by which name the River Hun-ho is already mentioned, in the 6th century of our era. Hun-ho is also an ancient name; and the same river in ancient books is often called Lu–Kou River also. All these names are in use up to the present time; but on modern Chinese maps, only the upper part of the river is termed Sang–Kan ho, whilst south of the inner Great Wall, and in the plain, the name of Hun-ho is applied to it. Hun ho means “Muddy River,” and the term is quite suitable. In the last century, the Emperor K’ien-lung ordered the Hun-ho to be named Yung-ting ho, a name found on modern maps, but the people always call it Hun ho (Bretschneider, Peking, p. 54.)— H.C.]

The River is that which appears in the maps as the Hwan Ho, Hun-ho, or Yongting Ho, flowing about 7 miles west of Peking towards the south-east and joining the Pe–Ho at Tientsin; and the Bridge is that which has been known for ages as the Lu-kou-Kiao or Bridge of Lukou, adjoining the town which is called in the Russian map of Peking Feuchen, but in the official Chinese Atlas Kung–Keih-cheng. (See Map at ch. xi. of Bk. II. in the first Volume.) [“Before arriving at the bridge the small walled city of Kung-ki cheng is passed. This was founded in the first half of the 17th century. The people generally call it Fei-ch’eng” (Bretschneider, Peking, p. 50.)— H.C.] It is described both by Magaillans and Lecomte, with some curious discrepancies, whilst each affords particulars corroborative of Polo’s account of the character of the bridge. The former calls it the finest bridge in China. Lecomte’s account says the bridge was the finest he had yet seen. “It is above 170 geometrical paces (850 feet) in length. The arches are small, but the rails or side-walls are made of a hard whitish stone resembling marble. These stones are more than 5 feet long, 3 feet high, and 7 or 8 inches thick; supported at each end by pilasters adorned with mouldings and bearing the figures of lions. . . . The bridge is paved with great flat stones, so well joined that it is even as a floor.”

Magaillans thinks Polo’s memory partially misled him, and that his description applies more correctly to another bridge on the same road, but some distance further west, over the Lieu-li Ho. For the bridge over the Hwan Ho had really but thirteen arches, whereas that on the Lieu-li had, as Polo specifies, twenty-four. The engraving which we give of the Lu-kou K’iao from a Chinese work confirms this statement, for it shows but thirteen arches. And what Polo says of the navigation of the river is almost conclusive proof that Magaillans is right, and that our traveller’s memory confounded the two bridges. For the navigation of the Hwan Ho, even when its channel is full, is said to be impracticable on account of rapids, whilst the Lieu-li Ho, or “Glass River,” is, as its name implies, smooth, and navigable, and it is largely navigated by boats from the coal-mines of Fang-shan. The road crosses the latter about two leagues from Cho-chau. (See next chapter.)

Illustration: Bridge of Lu-ku k’iao

[The Rev. W.S. Ament (M. Polo in Cambaluc, p. 116–117) remarks regarding Yule’s quotation from Magaillans that “a glance at Chinese history would have explained to these gentlemen that there was no stone bridge over the Liu Li river till the days of Kia Tsing, the Ming Emperor, 1522 A.D., or more than one hundred and fifty years after Polo was dead. Hence he could not have confounded bridges, one of which he never saw. The Lu Kou Bridge was first constructed of stone by She Tsung, fourth Emperor of the Kin, in the period Ta Ting 1189 A.D., and was finished by Chang Tsung 1194 A.D. Before that time it had been constructed of wood, and had been sometimes a stationary and often a floating bridge. The oldest account [end of 16th century] states that the bridge was pu 200 in length, and specifically states that each pu was 5 feet, thus making the bridge 1000 feet long. It was called the Kuan Li Bridge. The Emperor, Kia Tsing of the Ming, was a great bridge builder. He reconstructed this bridge, adding strong embankments to prevent injury by floods. He also built the fine bridge over the Liu Li Ho, the Cho Chou Bridge over the Chü Ma Ho. What cannot be explained is Polo’s statement that the bridge had twenty-four arches, when the oldest accounts give no more than thirteen, there being eleven at the present time. The columns which supported the balustrade in Polo’s time rested upon the loins of sculptured lions. The account of the lions after the bridge was repaired by Kia Tsing says that there are so many that it is impossible to count them correctly, and gossip about the bridge says that several persons have lost their minds in making the attempt. The little walled city on the east end of the bridge, rightly called Kung Chi, popularly called Fei Ch’eng, is a monument to Ts’ung Ch’êng, the last of the Ming, who built it, hoping to check the advance of Li Tzu ch’eng, the great robber chief who finally proved too strong for him.”— H.C.]

The Bridge of Lu-kou is mentioned more than once in the history of the conquest of North China by Chinghiz. It was the scene of a notable mutiny of the troops of the Kin Dynasty in 1215, which induced Chinghiz to break a treaty just concluded, and led to his capture of Peking.

This bridge was begun, according to Klaproth, in 1189, and was five years a-building. On the 17th August, 1688, as Magaillans tells us, a great flood carried away two arches of the bridge, and the remainder soon fell. [Father Intorcetta, quoted by Bretschneider (Peking, p. 53), gives the 25th of July, 1668, as the date of the destruction of the bridge, which agrees well with the Chinese accounts. — H.C.] The bridge was renewed, but with only nine arches instead of thirteen, as appears from the following note of personal observation with which Dr. Lockhart has favoured me:

“At 27 li from Peking, by the western road leaving the gate of the Chinese city called Kwang-‘an-man, after passing the old walled town of Feuchen, you reach the bridge of Lo–Ku-Kiao. As it now stands it is a very long bridge of nine arches (real arches) spanning the valley of the Hwan Ho, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. The bridge is built of green sandstone, and has a good balustrade with short square pilasters crowned by small lions. It is in very good repair, and has a ceaseless traffic, being on the road to the coal-mines which supply the city. There is a pavilion at each end of the bridge with inscriptions, the one recording that K’anghi (1662–1723) built the bridge, and the other that Kienlung (1736–1796) repaired it.” These circumstances are strictly consistent with Magaillans’ account of the destruction of the mediaeval bridge. Williamson describes the present bridge as about 700 feet long, and 12 feet wide in the middle part.

[Dr. Bretschneider saw the bridge, and gives the following description of it: “The bridge is 350 ordinary paces long and 18 broad. It is built of sandstone, and has on either side a stone balustrade of square columns, about 4 feet high, 140 on each side, each crowned by a sculptured lion over a foot high. Beside these there are a number of smaller lions placed irregularly on the necks, behind the legs, under the feet, or on the back of the larger ones. The space between the columns is closed by stone slabs. Four sculptured stone elephants lean with their foreheads against the edge of the balustrades. The bridge is supported by eleven arches. At each end of the bridge two pavilions with yellow roofs have been built, all with large marble tablets in them; two with inscriptions made by order of the Emperor K’ang-hi (1662–1723); and two with inscriptions of the time of K’ien-lung (1736–1796). On these tablets the history of the bridge is recorded.” Dr. Bretschneider adds that Dr. Lockhart is also right in counting nine arches, for he counts only the waterways, not the arches resting upon the banks of the river. Dr. Forke (p. 5) counts 11 arches and 280 stone lions. — H.C.]

(P. de la Croix, II. 11, etc.; Erskine’s Baber, p. xxxiii.; Timour’s Institutes, 70; J. As. IX. 205; Cathay, 260; Magaillans, 14–18, 35; Lecomte in Astley, III. 529; J. As. sér. II. tom. i. 97–98; D’Ohsson, I. 144.)

Illustration: Bridge of Lu ku Kiao

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