The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter lix.

Concerning the Province of Cuiju.

Cuiju is a province towards the East.1 After leaving Coloman you travel along a river for 12 days, meeting with a good number of towns and villages, but nothing worthy of particular mention. After you have travelled those twelve days along the river you come to a great and noble city which is called FUNGUL.

The people are Idolaters and subject to the Great Kaan, and live by trade and handicrafts. You must know they manufacture stuffs of the bark of certain trees which form very fine summer clothing.2 They are good soldiers, and have paper-money. For you must understand that henceforward we are in the countries where the Great Kaan’s paper-money is current.

Illustration: The Koloman after a Chinese drawing

“Coloman est une provence vers levant

El sunt mult belles jens et ne

sunt mie bien blances mes biunz

El sunt bien homes d’armes”

The country swarms with lions to that degree that no man can venture to sleep outside his house at night.3 Moreover, when you travel on that river, and come to a halt at night, unless you keep a good way from the bank the lions will spring on the boat and snatch one of the crew and make off with him and devour him. And but for a certain help that the inhabitants enjoy, no one could venture to travel in that province, because of the multitude of those lions, and because of their strength and ferocity.

But you see they have in this province a large breed of dogs, so fierce and bold that two of them together will attack a lion.4 So every man who goes a journey takes with him a couple of those dogs, and when a lion appears they have at him with the greatest boldness, and the lion turns on them, but can’t touch them for they are very deft at eschewing his blows. So they follow him, perpetually giving tongue, and watching their chance to give him a bite in the rump or in the thigh, or wherever they may. The lion makes no reprisal except now and then to turn fiercely on them, and then indeed were he to catch the dogs it would be all over with them, but they take good care that he shall not. So, to escape the dogs’ din, the lion makes off, and gets into the wood, where mayhap he stands at bay against a tree to have his rear protected from their annoyance. And when the travellers see the lion in this plight they take to their bows, for they are capital archers, and shoot their arrows at him till he falls dead. And ’tis thus that travellers in those parts do deliver themselves from those lions.

They have a good deal of silk and other products which are carried up and down, by the river of which we spoke, into various quarters.5

You travel along the river for twelve days more, finding a good many towns all along, and the people always Idolaters, and subject to the Great Kaan, with paper-money current, and living by trade and handicrafts. There are also plenty of fighting men. And after travelling those twelve days you arrive at the city of Sindafu of which we spoke in this book some time ago.6

From Sindafu you set out again and travel some 70 days through the provinces and cities and towns which we have already visited, and all which have been already particularly spoken of in our Book. At the end of those 70 days you come to Juju where we were before.7

From Juju you set out again and travel four days towards the south, finding many towns and villages. The people are great traders and craftsmen, are all Idolaters, and use the paper-money of the Great Kaan their Sovereign. At the end of those four days you come to the city of Cacanfu belonging to the province of Cathay, and of it I shall now speak.

NOTE 1. — In spite of difficulties which beset the subject (see Note 6 below) the view of Pauthier, suggested doubtingly by Marsden, that the Cuiju of the text is KWEI-CHAU, seems the most probable one. As the latter observes, the reappearance of paper money shows that we have got back into a province of China Proper. Such, Yun nan, recently conquered from a Shan prince, could not be considered. But, according to the best view we can form, the traveller could only have passed through the extreme west of the province of Kwei-chau.

The name of Fungul, if that be a true reading, is suggestive of Phungan, which under the Mongols was the head of a district called PHUNGAN-LU. It was founded by that dynasty, and was regarded as an important position for the command of the three provinces Kwei-chau, Kwang-si, and Yun-nan. (Biot, p. 168; Martini, p. 137.) But we shall explain presently the serious difficulties that beset the interpretation of the itinerary as it stands.

NOTE 2. — Several Chinese plants afford a fibre from the bark, and some of these are manufactured into what we call grass-cloths. The light smooth textures so called are termed by the Chinese Hiapu or “summer cloths.” Kwei-chau produces such. But perhaps that specially intended is a species of hemp (Urtica Nivea?) of which M. Perny of the R.C. Missions says, in his notes on Kwei-chau: “It affords a texture which may be compared to batiste. This has the notable property of keeping so cool that many people cannot wear it even in the hot weather. Generally it is used only for summer clothing.” (Dict. des Tissus, VII. 404; Chin. Repos. XVIII. 217 and 529; Ann. de la Prop. de la Foi, XXXI. 137.)

NOTE 3. — Tigers of course are meant. (See supra, vol. i. p. 399.) M. Perny speaks of tigers in the mountainous parts of Kwei-chau. (Op. cit. 139.)

NOTE 4. — These great dogs were noticed by Lieutenant (now General) Macleod, in his journey to Kiang Hung on the great River Mekong, as accompanying the caravans of Chinese traders on their way to the Siamese territory. (See Macleod’s Journal, p. 66.)

NOTE 5. — The trade in wild silk (i.e. from the oak-leaf silkworm) is in truth an important branch of commerce in Kwei-chau. But the chief seat of this is at Tsuni-fu, and I do not think that Polo’s route can be sought so far to the eastward. (Ann. de la Prop. XXXI. 136; Richthofen, Letter VII. 81.)

NOTE 6. — We have now got back to Sindafu, i.e. Ch’êng-tu fu in Sze-çh’wan, and are better able to review the geography of the track we have been following. I do not find it possible to solve all its difficulties.

The different provinces treated of in the chapters from lv. to lix. are strung by Marco upon an easterly, or, as we must interpret, north-easterly line of travel, real or hypothetical. Their names and intervals are as follows: (1) Bangala; whence 30 marches to (2) Caugigu; 25 marches to (3) Anin; 8 marches to (4) Toloman or Coloman; 12 days in Cuiju along a river to the city of (5) Fungul, Sinugul (or what not); 12 days further, on or along the same river, to (6) Ch’êng-tu fu. Total from Bangala to Ch’êng-tu fu 87 days.

I have said that the line of travel is real or hypothetical, for no doubt a large part of it was only founded on hearsay. We last left our traveller at Mien, or on the frontier of Yun-nan and Mien. Bangala is reached per sallum with no indication of interval, and its position is entirely misapprehended. Marco conceives of it, not as in India, but as being, like Mien, a province on the confines of India, as being under the same king as Mien, as lying to the south of that kingdom, and as being at the (south) western extremity of a great traverse line which runs (north) east into Kwei-chau and Sze-ch’wan. All these conditions point consistently to one locality; that, however, is not Bengal but Pegu. On the other hand, the circumstances of manners and products, so far as they go, do belong to Bengal. I conceive that Polo’s information regarding these was derived from persons who had really visited Bengal by sea, but that he had confounded what he so heard of the Delta of the Ganges with what he heard on the Yun-nan frontier of the Delta of the Irawadi. It is just the same kind of error that is made about those great Eastern Rivers by Fra Mauro in his Map. And possibly the name of Pegu (in Burmese Bagóh) may have contributed to his error, as well as the probable fact that the Kings of Burma did at this time claim to be Kings of Bengal, whilst they actually were Kings of Pegu.

Caugigu. — We have seen reason to agree with M. Pauthier that the description of this region points to Laos, though we cannot with him assign it to Kiang-mai. Even if it be identical with the Papesifu of the Chinese, we have seen that the centre of that state may be placed at Muang Yong not far from the Mekong; whilst I believe that the limits of Caugigu must be drawn much nearer the Chinese and Tungking territory, so as to embrace Kiang Hung, and probably the Papien River. (See note at p. 117.)

As regards the name, it is possible that it may represent some specific name of the Upper Laos territory. But I am inclined to believe that we are dealing with a case of erroneous geographical perspective like that of Bangala; and that whilst the circumstances belong to Upper Laos, the name, read as I read it, Caugigu (or Cavgigu), is no other than the Kafchikúe of Rashiduddin, the name applied by him to Tungking, and representing the KIAOCHI-KWÊ of the Chinese. D’Anville’s Atlas brings Kiaochi up to the Mekong in immediate contact with Che-li or Kiang Hung. I had come to the conclusion that Caugigu was probably the correct reading before I was aware that it is an actual reading of the Geog. Text more than once, of Pauthier’s A more than once, of Pauthier’s C at least once and possibly twice, and of the Bern MS.; all which I have ascertained from personal examination of those manuscripts.1

1 A passing suggestion of the identity of Kafchi Kué and Caugigu is made by D’Ohsson, and I formerly objected. (See Cathay, p. 272.)

Anin or Aniu. — I have already pointed out that I seek this in the territory about Lin-ngan and Homi. In relation to this M. Garnier writes: “In starting from Muang Yong, or even if you prefer it, from Xieng Hung (Kiang Hung of our maps), . . . it would be physically impossible in 25 days to get beyond the arc which I have laid down on your map (viz. extending a few miles north-east of Homi). There are scarcely any roads in those mountains, and easy lines of communication begin only after you have got to the Lin-ngan territory. In Marco Polo’s days things were certainly not better, but the reverse. All that has been done of consequence in the way of roads, posts, and organisation in the part of Yun-nan between Lin-ngan and Xieng Hung, dates in some degree from the Yuen, but in a far greater degree from K’ang-hi.” Hence, even with the Ramusian reading of the itinerary, we cannot place Anin much beyond the position indicated already.

Illustration: Script thaï of Xieng-hung.

Koloman. — We have seen that the position of this region is probably near the western frontier of Kwei-chau. Adhering to Homi as the representative of Anin, and to the 8 days’ journey of the text, the most probable position of Koloman would be about Lo-ping which lies about 100 English miles in a straight line north-east from Homi. The first character of the name here is again the same as the Lo of the Kolo tribes.

Beyond this point the difficulties of devising an interpretation, consistent at once with facts and with the text as it stands, become insuperable.

The narrative demands that from Koloman we should reach Fungul, a great and noble city, by travelling 12 days along a river, and that Fungul should be within twelve days’ journey of Ch’êng-tu fu, along the same river, or at least along rivers connected with it.

In advancing from the south-west guided by the data afforded by the texts, we have not been able to carry the position of Fungul (Sinugul, or what not of G.T. and other MSS.) further north than Phungan. But it is impossible that Ch’êng-tu fu should have been reached in 12 days from this point. Nor is it possible that a new post in a secluded position, like Phungan, could have merited to be described as “a great and noble city.”

Baron v. Richthofen has favoured me with a note in which he shows that in reality the only place answering the more essential conditions of Fungul is Siu-chau fu at the union of the two great branches of the Yang-tzu, viz. the Kin-sha Kiang, and the Min–Kiang from Ch’eng-tu fu. (1) The distance from Siu-chau to Ch’eng-tu by land travelling is just about 12 days, and the road is along a river. (2) In approaching “Fungul” from the south Polo met with a good many towns and villages. This would be the case along either of the navigable rivers that join the Yang-tzu below Siu-chau (or along that which joins above Siu-chau, mentioned further on). (3) The large trade in silk up and down the river is a characteristic that could only apply to the Yang-tzu.

These reasons are very strong, though some little doubt must subsist until we can explain the name (Fungul, or Sinugul) as applicable to Siu-chau.2 And assuming Siu-chau to be the city we must needs carry the position of Coloman considerably further north than Lo-ping, and must presume the interval between Anin and Coloman to be greatly understated, through clerical or other error. With these assumptions we should place Polo’s Coloman in the vicinity of Wei-ning, one of the localities of Kolo tribes.

2 Cuiju might be read Ciuju — representing Siuchau, but the difficulty about Fungul would remain.

From a position near Wei-ning it would be quite possible to reach Siu-chau in 12 days, making use of the facilities afforded by one or other of the partially navigable rivers to which allusion has just been made.

“That one,” says M. Garnier in a letter, “which enters the Kiang a little above Siu-chau fu, the River of Lowa-tong, which was descended by our party, has a branch to the eastward which is navigable up to about the latitude of Chao-tong. Is not this probably Marco Polo’s route? It is to this day a line much frequented, and one on which great works have been executed; among others two iron suspension bridges, works truly gigantic for the country in which we find them.”

Illustration: Iron Suspension Bridge at Lowatong. (From Garnier.)

An extract from a Chinese Itinerary of this route, which M. Garnier has since communicated to me, shows that at a point 4 days from Wei-ning the traveller may embark and continue his voyage to any point on the great Kiang.

We are obliged, indeed, to give up the attempt to keep to a line of communicating rivers throughout the whole 24 days. Nor do I see how it is possible to adhere to that condition literally without taking more material liberties with the text.

My theory of Polo’s actual journey would be that he returned from Yun-nan fu to Ch’êng-tu fu through some part of the province of Kwei-chau, perhaps only its western extremity, but that he spoke of Caugigu, and probably of Anin, as he did of Bangala, from report only. And, in recapitulation, I would identify provisionally the localities spoken of in this difficult itinerary as follows: Caugigu with Kiang Hung; Anin with Homi; Coloman with the country about Wei-ning in Western Kwei-chau; Fungul or Sinugul with Siu-chau.

[This itinerary is difficult, as Sir Henry Yule says. It takes Marco Polo 24 days to go from Coloman or Toloman to Ch’êng-tu. The land route is 22 days from Yun-nan fu to Swi-fu, via Tung-ch’wan and Chao-t’ung. (J. China B.R.A.S. XXVIII. 74–75.) From the Toloman province, which I place about Lin-ngan and Cheng-kiang, south of Yun-nan fu, Polo must have passed a second time through this city, which is indeed at the end of all the routes of this part of South–Western China. He might go back to Sze-ch’wan by the western route, via Tung-ch’wan and Chao-t’ung to Swi-fu, or, by the eastern, easier and shorter route by Siuen-wei chau, crossing a corner of the Kwei-chau province (Wei-ning), and passing by Yun-ning hien to the Kiang, this is the route followed by Mr. A. Hosie in 1883 and by Mr. F.S.A. Bourne in 1885, and with great likelihood by Marco Polo; he may have taken the Yun-ning River to the district city of Na-ch’i hien, which lies on the right bank both of this river and of the Kiang; the Kiang up to Swi-fu and thence to Ch’êng-tu. I do not attempt to explain the difficulty about Fungul.

I fully agree with Sir H. Yule when he says that Polo spoke of Caugigu and of Bangala, probably of Anin, from report only. However, I believe that Caugigu is the Kiao–Chi kwé of the Chinese, that Anin must be read Aniu, that Aniu is but a transcription of Nan-yué that both Nan-yué and Kiao–Chi represent Northern Annam, i.e. the portion of Annam which we call Tung-king. Regarding the tattooed inhabitants of Caugigu, let it be remembered that tattooing existed in Annam till it was prohibited by the Chinese during the occupation of Tung-king at the beginning of the 15th century. — H.C.]

NOTE 7. — Here the traveller gets back to the road-bifurcation near Juju, i.e. Chochau (ante p. 11), and thence commences to travel southward.

Illustration: Fortified Villages on Western frontier of Kweichau. (From Garnier.)

“Chastians ont-il grant quantité en grandismes montagnes et fortres.”

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