The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter lxxvii.

[Further Particulars Concerning the Great City of Kinsay.1]

[The position of the city is such that it has on one side a lake of fresh and exquisitely clear water (already spoken of), and on the other a very large river. The waters of the latter fill a number of canals of all sizes which run through the different quarters of the city, carry away all impurities, and then enter the Lake; whence they issue again and flow to the Ocean, thus producing a most excellent atmosphere. By means of these channels, as well as by the streets, you can go all about the city. Both streets and canals are so wide and spacious that carts on the one and boats on the other can readily pass to and fro, conveying necessary supplies to the inhabitants.2

At the opposite side the city is shut in by a channel, perhaps 40 miles in length, very wide, and full of water derived from the river aforesaid, which was made by the ancient kings of the country in order to relieve the river when flooding its banks. This serves also as a defence to the city, and the earth dug from it has been thrown inwards, forming a kind of mound enclosing the city.3

In this part are the ten principal markets, though besides these there are a vast number of others in the different parts of the town. The former are all squares of half a mile to the side, and along their front passes the main street, which is 40 paces in width, and runs straight from end to end of the city, crossing many bridges of easy and commodious approach. At every four miles of its length comes one of those great squares of 2 miles (as we have mentioned) in compass. So also parallel to this great street, but at the back of the market places, there runs a very large canal, on the bank of which towards the squares are built great houses of stone, in which the merchants from India and other foreign parts store their wares, to be handy for the markets. In each of the squares is held a market three days in the week, frequented by 40,000 or 50,000 persons, who bring thither for sale every possible necessary of life, so that there is always an ample supply of every kind of meat and game, as of roebuck, red-deer, fallow-deer, hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, francolins, quails, fowls, capons, and of ducks and geese an infinite quantity; for so many are bred on the Lake that for a Venice groat of silver you can have a couple of geese and two couple of ducks. Then there are the shambles where the larger animals are slaughtered, such as calves, beeves, kids, and lambs, the flesh of which is eaten by the rich and the great dignitaries. 4

Those markets make a daily display of every kind of vegetables and fruits; and among the latter there are in particular certain pears of enormous size, weighing as much as ten pounds apiece, and the pulp of which is white and fragrant like a confection; besides peaches in their season both yellow and white, of every delicate flavour.5

Neither grapes nor wine are produced there, but very good raisins are brought from abroad, and wine likewise. The natives, however, do not much care about wine, being used to that kind of their own made from rice and spices. From the Ocean Sea also come daily supplies of fish in great quantity, brought 25 miles up the river, and there is also great store of fish from the lake, which is the constant resort of fishermen, who have no other business. Their fish is of sundry kinds, changing with the season; and, owing to the impurities of the city which pass into the lake, it is remarkably fat and savoury. Any one who should see the supply of fish in the market would suppose it impossible that such a quantity could ever be sold; and yet in a few hours the whole shall be cleared away; so great is the number of inhabitants who are accustomed to delicate living. Indeed they eat fish and flesh at the same meal.

All the ten market places are encompassed by lofty houses, and below these are shops where all sorts of crafts are carried on, and all sorts of wares are on sale, including spices and jewels and pearls. Some of these shops are entirely devoted to the sale of wine made from rice and spices, which is constantly made fresh and fresh, and is sold very cheap.

Certain of the streets are occupied by the women of the town, who are in such a number that I dare not say what it is. They are found not only in the vicinity of the market places, where usually a quarter is assigned to them, but all over the city. They exhibit themselves splendidly attired and abundantly perfumed, in finely garnished houses, with trains of waiting-women. These women are extremely accomplished in all the arts of allurement, and readily adapt their conversation to all sorts of persons, insomuch that strangers who have once tasted their attractions seem to get bewitched, and are so taken with their blandishments and their fascinating ways that they never can get these out of their heads. Hence it comes to pass that when they return home they say they have been to Kinsay or the City of Heaven, and their only desire is to get back thither as soon as possible.6

Other streets are occupied by the Physicians, and by the Astrologers, who are also teachers of reading and writing; and an infinity of other professions have their places round about those squares. In each of the squares there are two great palaces facing one another, in which are established the officers appointed by the King to decide differences arising between merchants, or other inhabitants of the quarter. It is the daily duty of these officers to see that the guards are at their posts on the neighbouring bridges, and to punish them at their discretion if they are absent.

All along the main street that we have spoken of, as running from end to end of the city, both sides are lined with houses and great palaces and the gardens pertaining to them, whilst in the intervals are the houses of tradesmen engaged in their different crafts. The crowd of people that you meet here at all hours, passing this way and that on their different errands, is so vast that no one would believe it possible that victuals enough could be provided for their consumption, unless they should see how, on every market-day, all those squares are thronged and crammed with purchasers, and with the traders who have brought in stores of provisions by land or water; and everything they bring in is disposed of.

To give you an example of the vast consumption in this city let us take the article of pepper; and that will enable you in some measure to estimate what must be the quantity of victual, such as meat, wine, groceries, which have to be provided for the general consumption. Now Messer Marco heard it stated by one of the Great Kaan’s officers of customs that the quantity of pepper introduced daily for consumption into the city of Kinsay amounted to 43 loads, each load being equal to 223 lbs. 7

The houses of the citizens are well built and elaborately finished; and the delight they take in decoration, in painting and in architecture, leads them to spend in this way sums of money that would astonish you.

The natives of the city are men of peaceful character, both from education and from the example of their kings, whose disposition was the same. They know nothing of handling arms, and keep none in their houses. You hear of no feuds or noisy quarrels or dissensions of any kind among them. Both in their commercial dealings and in their manufactures they are thoroughly honest and truthful, and there is such a degree of good will and neighbourly attachment among both men and women that you would take the people who live in the same street to be all one family.8

And this familiar intimacy is free from all jealousy or suspicion of the conduct of their women. These they treat with the greatest respect, and a man who should presume to make loose proposals to a married woman would be regarded as an infamous rascal. They also treat the foreigners who visit them for the sake of trade with great cordiality, and entertain them in the most winning manner, affording them every help and advice on their business. But on the other hand they hate to see soldiers, and not least those of the Great Kaan’s garrisons, regarding them as the cause of their having lost their native kings and lords.

On the Lake of which we have spoken there are numbers of boats and barges of all sizes for parties of pleasure. These will hold 10, 15, 20, or more persons, and are from 15 to 20 paces in length, with flat bottoms and ample breadth of beam, so that they always keep their trim. Any one who desires to go a-pleasuring with the women, or with a party of his own sex, hires one of these barges, which are always to be found completely furnished with tables and chairs and all the other apparatus for a feast. The roof forms a level deck, on which the crew stand, and pole the boat along whithersoever may be desired, for the Lake is not more than 2 paces in depth. The inside of this roof and the rest of the interior is covered with ornamental painting in gay colours, with windows all round that can be shut or opened, so that the party at table can enjoy all the beauty and variety of the prospects on both sides as they pass along. And truly a trip on this Lake is a much more charming recreation than can be enjoyed on land. For on the one side lies the city in its entire length, so that the spectators in the barges, from the distance at which they stand, take in the whole prospect in its full beauty and grandeur, with its numberless palaces, temples, monasteries, and gardens, full of lofty trees, sloping to the shore. And the Lake is never without a number of other such boats, laden with pleasure parties; for it is the great delight of the citizens here, after they have disposed of the day’s business, to pass the afternoon in enjoyment with the ladies of their families, or perhaps with others less reputable, either in these barges or in driving about the city in carriages.9

Of these latter we must also say something, for they afford one mode of recreation to the citizens in going about the town, as the boats afford another in going about the Lake. In the main street of the city you meet an infinite succession of these carriages passing to and fro. They are long covered vehicles, fitted with curtains and cushions, and affording room for six persons; and they are in constant request for ladies and gentlemen going on parties of pleasure. In these they drive to certain gardens, where they are entertained by the owners in pavilions erected on purpose, and there they divert themselves the livelong day, with their ladies, returning home in the evening in those same carriages.10

(FURTHER PARTICULARS OF THE PALACE OF THE KING FACFUR.)

The whole enclosure of the Palace was divided into three parts. The middle one was entered by a very lofty gate, on each side of which there stood on the ground-level vast pavilions, the roofs of which were sustained by columns painted and wrought in gold and the finest azure. Opposite the gate stood the chief Pavilion, larger than the rest, and painted in like style, with gilded columns, and a ceiling wrought in splendid gilded sculpture, whilst the walls were artfully painted with the stories of departed kings.

On certain days, sacred to his gods, the King Facfur1 used to hold a great court and give a feast to his chief lords, dignitaries, and rich manufacturers of the city of Kinsay. On such occasions those pavilions used to give ample accommodation for 10,000 persons sitting at table. This court lasted for ten or twelve days, and exhibited an astonishing and incredible spectacle in the magnificence of the guests, all clothed in silk and gold, with a profusion of precious stones; for they tried to outdo each other in the splendour and richness of their appointments. Behind this great Pavilion that faced the great gate, there was a wall with a passage in it shutting off the inner part of the Palace. On entering this you found another great edifice in the form of a cloister surrounded by a portico with columns, from which opened a variety of apartments for the King and the Queen, adorned like the outer walls with such elaborate work as we have mentioned. From the cloister again you passed into a covered corridor, six paces in width, of great length, and extending to the margin of the lake. On either side of this corridor were ten courts, in the form of oblong cloisters surrounded by colonnades; and in each cloister or court were fifty chambers with gardens to each. In these chambers were quartered one thousand young ladies in the service of the King. The King would sometimes go with the Queen and some of these maidens to take his diversion on the Lake, or to visit the Idol-temples, in boats all canopied with silk.

The other two parts of the enclosure were distributed in groves, and lakes, and charming gardens planted with fruit-trees, and preserves for all sorts of animals, such as roe, red-deer, fallow-deer, hares, and rabbits. Here the King used to take his pleasure in company with those damsels of his; some in carriages, some on horseback, whilst no man was permitted to enter. Sometimes the King would set the girls a-coursing after the game with dogs, and when they were tired they would hie to the groves that overhung the lakes, and leaving their clothes there they would come forth naked and enter the water and swim about hither and thither, whilst it was the King’s delight to watch them; and then all would return home. Sometimes the King would have his dinner carried to those groves, which were dense with lofty trees, and there would be waited on by those young ladies. And thus he passed his life in this constant dalliance with women, without so much as knowing what arms meant! And the result of all this cowardice and effeminacy was that he lost his dominion to the Great Kaan in that base and shameful way that you have heard.11

All this account was given me by a very rich merchant of Kinsay when I was in that city. He was a very old man, and had been in familiar intimacy with the King Facfur, and knew the whole history of his life; and having seen the Palace in its glory was pleased to be my guide over it. As it is occupied by the King appointed by the Great Kaan, the first pavilions are still maintained as they used to be, but the apartments of the ladies are all gone to ruin and can only just be traced. So also the wall that enclosed the groves and gardens is fallen down, and neither trees nor animals are there any longer.[NOTE 12]]

NOTE 1. — I have, after some consideration, followed the example of Mr. H. Murray, in his edition of Marco Polo, in collecting together in a separate chapter a number of additional particulars concerning the Great City, which are only found in Ramusio. Such of these as could be interpolated in the text of the older form of the narrative have been introduced between brackets in the last chapter. Here I bring together those particulars which could not be so interpolated without taking liberties with one or both texts.

The picture in Ramusio, taken as a whole, is so much more brilliant, interesting, and complete than in the older texts, that I thought of substituting it entirely for the other. But so much doubt and difficulty hangs over some passages of the Ramusian version that I could not satisfy myself of the propriety of this, though I feel that the dismemberment inflicted on that version is also objectionable.

NOTE 2. — The tides in the Hang-chau estuary are now so furious, entering in the form of a bore, and running sometimes, by Admiral Collinson’s measurement, 11–1/2 knots, that it has been necessary to close by weirs the communication which formerly existed between the River Tsien-tang on the one side and the Lake Si-hu and internal waters of the district on the other. Thus all cargoes are passed through the small city canal in barges, and are subject to transhipment at the river-bank, and at the great canal terminus outside the north gate, respectively. Mr. Kingsmill, to whose notices I am indebted for part of this information, is, however, mistaken in supposing that in Polo’s time the tide stopped some 20 miles below the city. We have seen (note 6, ch. lxv. supra) that the tide in the river before Kinsay was the object which first attracted the attention of Bayan, after his triumphant entrance into the city. The tides reach Fuyang, 20 miles higher. (N. and Q., China and Japan, vol. I. p. 53; Mid. Kingd. I. 95, 106; J.N.Ch.Br.R.A.S., December, 1865, p. 6; Milne, p. 295; Note by Mr. Moule).

[Miss E. Scidmore writes (China, p. 294): “There are only three wonders of the world in China — The Demons at Tungchow, the Thunder at Lungchow, and the Great Tide at Hangchow, the last, the greatest of all, and a living wonder to this day of ‘the open door,’ while its rivals are lost in myth and oblivion. . . . The Great Bore charges up the narrowing river at a speed of ten and thirteen miles an hour, with a roar that can be heard for an hour before it arrives.”— H.C.]

NOTE 3. — For satisfactory elucidation as to what is or may have been authentic in these statements, we shall have to wait for a correct survey of Hang-chau and its neighbourhood. We have already seen strong reason to suppose that miles have been substituted for li in the circuits assigned both to the city and to the lake, and we are yet more strongly impressed with the conviction that the same substitution has been made here in regard to the canal on the east of the city, as well as the streets and market-places spoken of in the next paragraph.

Chinese plans of Hang-chau do show a large canal encircling the city on the east and north, i.e., on the sides away from the lake. In some of them this is represented like a ditch to the rampart, but in others it is more detached. And the position of the main street, with its parallel canal, does answer fairly to the account in the next paragraph, setting aside the extravagant dimensions.

The existence of the squares or market-places is alluded to by Wassáf in a passage that we shall quote below; and the Masálak-al-Absár speaks of the main street running from end to end of the city.

On this Mr. Moule says: “I have found no certain account of market-squares, though the Fang,2 of which a few still exist, and a very large number are laid down in the Sung Map, mainly grouped along the chief street, may perhaps represent them. . . . The names of some of these (Fang) and of the Sze or markets still remain.”

Mr. Wylie sent Sir Henry Yule a tracing of the figures mentioned in the footnote; it is worth while to append them, at least in diagram.

diagram
No. 1. Plan of a Fang or Square.
No. 2. Plan of a Fang or Square in the South of the Imperial City of Si-ngan fu.
No. 3. Arrangement of Two–Fang Square, with four streets and 8 gates.

  1. The Market place.
  2. The Official Establishment.
  3. Office for regulating Weights.

Compare Polo’s statement that in each of the squares at Kinsay, where the markets were held, there were two great Palaces facing one another, in which were established the officers who decided differences between merchants, etc.

The double lines represent streets, and the ++ are gates.

NOTE 4. — There is no mention of pork, the characteristic animal food of China, and the only one specified by Friar Odoric in his account of the same city. Probably Mark may have got a little Saracenized among the Mahomedans at the Kaan’s Court, and doubted if ’twere good manners to mention it. It is perhaps a relic of the same feeling, gendered by Saracen rule, that in Sicily pigs are called i neri.

“The larger game, red-deer and fallow-deer, is now never seen for sale. Hog-deer, wild-swine, pheasants, water-fowl, and every description of ‘vermin’ and small birds, are exposed for sale, not now in markets, but at the retail wine shops. Wild-cats, racoons, otters, badgers, kites, owls, etc., etc., festoon the shop fronts along with game.” (Moule.)

NOTE 5. — Van Braam, in passing through Shan-tung Province, speaks of very large pears. “The colour is a beautiful golden yellow. Before it is pared the pear is somewhat hard, but in eating it the juice flows, the pulp melts, and the taste is pleasant enough.” Williams says these Shan-tung pears are largely exported, but he is not so complimentary to them as Polo: “The pears are large and juicy, sometimes weighing 8 or 10 pounds, but remarkably tasteless and coarse.” (V. Braam, II. 33–34; Mid. Kingd., I. 78 and II. 44). In the beginning of 1867 I saw pears in Covent Garden Market which I should guess to have weighed 7 or 8 lbs. each. They were priced at 18 guineas a dozen!

[“Large pears are nowadays produced in Shan-tung and Manchuria, but they are rather tasteless and coarse. I am inclined to suppose that Polo’s large pears were Chinese quinces, Cydonia chinensis, Thouin, this fruit being of enormous size, sometimes one foot long, and very fragrant. The Chinese use it for sweet-meats.” (Bretschneider, Hist. of Bot. Disc. I. p. 2.)— H.C.]

As regards the “yellow and white” peaches, Marsden supposes the former to be apricots. Two kinds of peach, correctly so described, are indeed common in Sicily, where I write; — and both are, in their raw state, equally good food for i neri! But I see Mr. Moule also identifies the yellow peach with “the hwang-mei or clingstone apricot,” as he knows no yellow peach in China.

NOTE 6. —“E non veggono mai l’ora che di nuovo possano ritornarvi;” a curious Italian idiom. (See Vocab. It. Univ. sub. v. “vedere”.)

NOTE 7. — It would seem that the habits of the Chinese in reference to the use of pepper and such spices have changed. Besides this passage, implying that their consumption of pepper was large, Marco tells us below (ch. lxxxii.) that for one shipload of pepper carried to Alexandria for the consumption of Christendom, a hundred went to Zayton in Manzi. At the present day, according to Williams, the Chinese use little spice; pepper chiefly as a febrifuge in the shape of pepper-tea, and that even less than they did some years ago. (See p. 239, infra, and Mid. Kingd., II. 46, 408.) On this, however, Mr. Moule observes: “Pepper is not so completely relegated to the doctors. A month or two ago, passing a portable cookshop in the city, I heard a girl-purchaser cry to the cook, ‘Be sure you put in pepper and leeks!’”

NOTE 8. — Marsden, after referring to the ingenious frauds commonly related of Chinese traders, observes: “In the long continued intercourse that has subsisted between the agents of the European companies and the more eminent of the Chinese merchants . . . complaints on the ground of commercial unfairness have been extremely rare, and on the contrary, their transactions have been marked with the most perfect good faith and mutual confidence.” Mr. Consul Medhurst bears similar strong testimony to the upright dealings of Chinese merchants. His remark that, as a rule, he has found that the Chinese deteriorate by intimacy with foreigners is worthy of notice;3 it is a remark capable of application wherever the East and West come into habitual contact. Favourable opinions among the nations on their frontiers of Chinese dealing, as expressed to Wood and Burnes in Turkestan, and to Macleod and Richardson in Laos, have been quoted by me elsewhere in reference to the old classical reputation of the Seres for integrity. Indeed, Marco’s whole account of the people here might pass for an expanded paraphrase of the Latin commonplaces regarding the Seres. Mr. Milne, a missionary for many years in China, stands up manfully against the wholesale disparagement or Chinese character (p. 401).

NOTE 9. — Semedo and Martini, in the 17th century, give a very similar account of the Lake Si-hu, the parties of pleasure frequenting it, and their gay barges. (Semedo, pp. 20–21; Mart. p. 9.) But here is a Chinese picture of the very thing described by Marco, under the Sung Dynasty: “When Yaou Shunming was Prefect of Hangchow, there was an old woman, who said she was formerly a singing-girl, and in the service of Tung-p’o Seen-sheng.4 She related that her master, whenever he found a leisure day in spring, would invite friends to take their pleasure on the lake. They used to take an early meal on some agreeable spot, and, the repast over, a chief was chosen for the company of each barge, who called a number of dancing-girls to follow them to any place they chose. As the day waned a gong sounded to assemble all once more at ‘Lake Prospect Chambers,’ or at the ‘Bamboo Pavilion,’ or some place of the kind, where they amused themselves to the top of their bent, and then, at the first or second drum, before the evening market dispersed, returned home by candle-light. In the city, gentlemen and ladies assembled in crowds, lining the way to see the return of the thousand Knights. It must have been a brave spectacle of that time.” (Moule, from the Si-hu-Chi, or “Topography of the West Lake.”) It is evident, from what Mr. Moule says, that this book abounds in interesting illustration of these two chapters of Polo. Barges with paddle-wheels are alluded to.

NOTE 10. — Public carriages are still used in the great cities of the north, such as Peking. Possibly this is a revival. At one time carriages appear to have been much more general in China than they were afterwards, or are now. Semedo says they were abandoned in China just about the time that they were adopted in Europe, viz. in the 16th century. And this disuse seems to have been either cause or effect of the neglect of the roads, of which so high an account is given in old times. (Semedo; N. and Q. Ch. and Jap. I. 94.)

Deguignes describes the public carriages of Peking, as “shaped like a palankin, but of a longer form, with a rounded top, lined outside and in with coarse blue cloth, and provided with black cushions” (I. 372). This corresponds with our author’s description, and with a drawing by Alexander among his published sketches. The present Peking cab is evidently the same vehicle, but smaller.

NOTE 11. — The character of the King of Manzi here given corresponds to that which the Chinese histories assign to the Emperor Tu–Tsong, in whose time Kúblái commenced his enterprise against Southern China, but who died two years before the fall of the capital. He is described as given up to wine and women, and indifferent to all public business, which he committed to unworthy ministers. The following words, quoted by Mr. Moule from the Hang–Chau Fu–Chi, are like an echo of Marco’s: “In those days the dynasty was holding on to a mere corner of the realm, hardly able to defend even that; and nevertheless all, high and low, devoted themselves to dress and ornament, to music and dancing on the lake and amongst the hills, with no idea of sympathy for the country.” A garden called Tseu-king (“of many prospects”) near the Tsing-po Gate, and a monastery west of the lake, near the Lingin, are mentioned as pleasure haunts of the Sung Kings.

NOTE 12. — The statement that the palace of Kingszé was occupied by the Great Kaan’s lieutenant seems to be inconsistent with the notice in De Mailla that Kúblái made it over to the Buddhist priests. Perhaps Kúblái’s name is a mistake; for one of Mr. Moule’s books (Jin-ho-hien-chi) says that under the last Mongol Emperor five convents were built on the area of the palace.

Mr. H. Murray argues, from this closing passage especially, that Marco never could have been the author of the Ramusian interpolations; but with this I cannot agree. Did this passage stand alone we might doubt if it were Marco’s; but the interpolations must be considered as a whole. Many of them bear to my mind clear evidence of being his own, and I do not see that the present one may not be his. The picture conveyed of the ruined walls and half-obliterated buildings does, it is true, give the impression of a long interval between their abandonment and the traveller’s visit, whilst the whole interval between the capture of the city and Polo’s departure from China was not more than fifteen or sixteen years. But this is too vague a basis for theorising.

Mr. Moule has ascertained by maps of the Sung period, and by a variety of notices in the Topographies, that the palace lay to the south and south-east of the present city, and included a large part of the fine hills called Fung-hwang Shan or Phoenix Mount,5 and other names, whilst its southern gate opened near the Ts’ien-T’ang River. Its north gate is supposed to have been the Fung Shan Gate of the present city, and the chief street thus formed the avenue to the palace.

By the kindness of Messrs. Moule and Wylie, I am able to give a copy of the Sung Map of the Palace (for origin of which see list of illustrations). I should note that the orientation is different from that of the map of the city already given. This map elucidates Polo’s account of the palace in a highly interesting manner.

[Father H. Havret has given in p. 21 of Variétés Sinologiques, No. 19, a complete study of the inscription of a chwang, nearly similar to the one given here, which is erected near Ch’êng-tu. — H.C.]

Before quitting KINSAY, the description of which forms the most striking feature in Polo’s account of China, it is worth while to quote other notices from authors of nearly the same age. However exaggerated some of these may be, there can be little doubt that it was the greatest city then existing in the world.

Illustration: Stone Chwang, or Umbrella Column, on site of “Brahma’s Temple,” Hang-chau.

Illustration: South Part of KING-SZÉ, with the SUNG PALACE, from a Chinese reprint of a Plan dated circa A.D. 1270

Friar Odoric (in China about 1324–1327):—“Departing thence I came unto the city of CANSAY, a name which signifieth the ‘City of Heaven.’ And ’tis the greatest city in the whole world, so great indeed that I should scarcely venture to tell of it, but that I have met at Venice people in plenty who have been there. It is a good hundred miles in compass, and there is not in it a span of ground which is not well peopled. And many a tenement is there which shall have 10 or 12 households comprised in it. And there be also great suburbs which contain a greater population than even the city itself. . . . This city is situated upon lagoons of standing water, with canals like the city of Venice. And it hath more than 12,000 bridges, on each of which are stationed guards, guarding the city on behalf of the Great Kaan. And at the side of this city there flows a river near which it is built, like Ferrara by the Po, for it is longer than it is broad,” and so on, relating how his host took him to see a great monastery of the idolaters, where there was a garden full of grottoes, and therein many animals of divers kinds, which they believed to be inhabited by the souls of gentlemen. “But if any one should desire to tell all the vastness and great marvels of this city, a good quire of stationery would not hold the matter, I trow. For ’tis the greatest and noblest city, and the finest for merchandize that the whole world containeth.” (Cathay, 113 seqq.)

The Archbishop of Soltania (circa 1330):—“And so vast is the number of people that the soldiers alone who are posted to keep ward in the city of Cambalec are 40,000 men by sure tale. And in the city of CASSAY there be yet more, for its people is greater in number, seeing that it is a city of very great trade. And to this city all the traders of the country come to trade; and greatly it aboundeth in all manner of merchandize.” (Ib. 244–245.)

John Marignolli (in China 1342–1347):—“Now Manzi is a country which has countless cities and nations included in it, past all belief to one who has not seen them. . . . And among the rest is that most famous city of CAMPSAY, the finest, the biggest, the richest, the most populous, and altogether the most marvellous city, the city of the greatest wealth and luxury, of the most splendid buildings (especially idol-temples, in some of which there are 1000 and 2000 monks dwelling together), that exists now upon the face of the earth, or mayhap that ever did exist.” (Ib. p. 354.) He also speaks, like Odoric, of the “cloister at Campsay, in that most famous monastery where they keep so many monstrous animals, which they believe to be the souls of the departed” (384). Perhaps this monastery may yet be identified. Odoric calls it Thebe. [See A. Vissière, Bul. Soc. Géog. Com., 1901, pp. 112–113. — H.C.]

Turning now to Asiatic writers, we begin with Wassáf (A.D. 1300):—

“KHANZAI is the greatest city of the cities of Chín,

“‘Stretching like Paradise through the breadth of Heaven.

“Its shape is oblong, and the measurement of its perimeter is about 24 parasangs. Its streets are paved with burnt brick and with stone. The public edifices and the houses are built of wood, and adorned with a profusion of paintings of exquisite elegance. Between one end of the city and the other there are three Yams (post-stations) established. The length of the chief streets is three parasangs, and the city contains 64 quadrangles corresponding to one another in structure, and with parallel ranges of columns. The salt excise brings in daily 700 balish in paper-money. The number of craftsmen is so great that 32,000 are employed at the dyer’s art alone; from that fact you may estimate the rest. There are in the city 70 tomans of soldiers and 70 tomans of rayats, whose number is registered in the books of the Dewán. There are 700 churches (Kalísíá) resembling fortresses, and every one of them overflowing with presbyters without faith, and monks without religion, besides other officials, wardens, servants of the idols, and this, that, and the other, to tell the names of which would surpass number and space. All these are exempt from taxes of every kind. Four tomans of the garrison constitute the night patrol. . . . Amid the city there are 360 bridges erected over canals ample as the Tigris, which are ramifications of the great river of Chín; and different kinds of vessels and ferry-boats, adapted to every class, ply upon the waters in such numbers as to pass all powers of enumeration. . . . The concourse of all kinds of foreigners from the four quarters of the world, such as the calls of trade and travel bring together in a kingdom like this, may easily be conceived.” (Revised on Hammer’s Translation, pp. 42–43.)

The Persian work Nuzhát-al-Kulúb:—“KHINZAI is the capital of the country of Máchín. If one may believe what some travellers say, there exists no greater city on the face of the earth; but anyhow, all agree that it is the greatest in all the countries in the East. Inside the place is a lake which has a circuit of six parasangs, and all round which houses are built. . . . The population is so numerous that the watchmen are some 10,000 in number.” (Quat. Rash. p. lxxxviii.)

The Arabic work Masálak-al-Absár:—“Two routes lead from Khanbalik to KHINSÁ, one by land, the other by water; and either way takes 40 days. The city of Khinsá extends a whole day’s journey in length and half a day’s journey in breadth. In the middle of it is a street which runs right from one end to the other. The streets and squares are all paved; the houses are five-storied (?), and are built with planks nailed together,” etc. (Ibid.)

Ibn Batuta:—“We arrived at the city of KHANSÁ. . . . This city is the greatest I have ever seen on the surface of the earth. It is three days’ journey in length, so that a traveller passing through the city has to make his marches and his halts!.. It is subdivided into six towns, each of which has a separate enclosure, while one great wall surrounds the whole,” etc. (Cathay, p. 496 seqq.)

Let us conclude with a writer of a later age, the worthy Jesuit Martin Martini, the author of the admirable Atlas Sinensis, one whose honourable zeal to maintain Polo’s veracity, of which he was one of the first intelligent advocates, is apt, it must be confessed, a little to colour his own spectacles:—“That the cosmographers of Europe may no longer make such ridiculous errors as to the QUINSAI of Marco Polo, I will here give you the very place. [He then explains the name.] . . . And to come to the point; this is the very city that hath those bridges so lofty and so numberless, both within the walls and in the suburbs; nor will they fall much short of the 10,000 which the Venetian alleges, if you count also the triumphal arches among the bridges, as he might easily do because of their analogous structure, just as he calls tigers lions;.. or if you will, he may have meant to include not merely the bridges in the city and suburbs, but in the whole of the dependent territory. In that case indeed the number which Europeans find it so hard to believe might well be set still higher, so vast is everywhere the number of bridges and of triumphal arches. Another point in confirmation is that lake which he mentions of 40 Italian miles in circuit. This exists under the name of Si-hu; it is not, indeed, as the book says, inside the walls, but lies in contact with them for a long distance on the west and south-west, and a number of canals drawn from it do enter the city. Moreover, the shores of the lake on every side are so thickly studded with temples, monasteries, palaces, museums, and private houses, that you would suppose yourself to be passing through the midst of a great city rather than a country scene. Quays of cut stone are built along the banks, affording a spacious promenade; and causeways cross the lake itself, furnished with lofty bridges, to allow of the passage of boats; and thus you can readily walk all about the lake on this side and on that. ’Tis no wonder that Polo considered it to be part of the city. This, too, is the very city that hath within the walls, near the south side, a hill called Ching-hoang6 on which stands that tower with the watchmen, on which there is a clepsydra to measure the hours, and where each hour is announced by the exhibition of a placard, with gilt letters of a foot and a half in height. This is the very city the streets of which are paved with squared stones: the city which lies in a swampy situation, and is intersected by a number of navigable canals; this, in short, is the city from which the emperor escaped to seaward by the great river Ts’ien-T’ang, the breadth of which exceeds a German mile, flowing on the south of the city, exactly corresponding to the river described by the Venetian at Quinsai, and flowing eastward to the sea, which it enters precisely at the distance which he mentions. I will add that the compass of the city will be 100 Italian miles and more, if you include its vast suburbs, which run out on every side an enormous distance; insomuch that you may walk for 50 Chinese li in a straight line from north to south, the whole way through crowded blocks of houses, and without encountering a spot that is not full of dwellings and full of people; whilst from east to west you can do very nearly the same thing.” (Atlas Sinensis, p. 99.)

And so we quit what Mr. Moule appropriately calls “Marco’s famous rhapsody of the Manzi capital”; perhaps the most striking section of the whole book, as manifestly the subject was that which had made the strongest impression on the narrator.

1 Fanfur, in Ramusio.

2 See the mention of the I-ning Fang at Si-ngan fu, supra, p. 28. Mr. Wylie writes that in a work on the latter city, published during the Yuen time, of which he has met with a reprint, there are figures to illustrate the division of the city into Fang, a word “which appears to indicate a certain space of ground, not an open square . . . but a block of buildings crossed by streets, and at the end of each street an open gateway.” In one of the figures a first reference indicates “the market place,” a second “the official establishment,” a third “the office for regulating weights.” These indications seem to explain Polo’s squares. (See Note 3, above.)

3 Foreigner in Far Cathay, pp. 158, 176.

4 A famous poet and scholar of the 11th century.

5 Mr. Wylie, after ascending this hill with Mr. Moule, writes: “It is about two miles from the south gate to the top, by a rather steep road. On the top is a remarkably level plot of ground, with a cluster of rocks in one place. On the face of these rocks are a great many inscriptions, but so obliterated by age and weather that only a few characters can be decyphered. A stone road leads up from the city gate, and another one, very steep, down to the lake. This is the only vestige remaining of the old palace grounds. There is no doubt about this being really a relic of the palace. . . . You will see on the map, just inside the walls of the Imperial city, the Temple of Brahma. There are still two stone columns standing with curious Buddhist inscriptions. . . . Although the temple is entirely gone, these columns retain the name and mark the place. They date from the 6th century, and there are few structures earlier in China.” One is engraved above, after a sketch by Mr. Moule.

6 See the plan of the city with last chapter.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/polo/marco/travels/book2.77.html

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