The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter V.

Of the Great Country Called Chamba.

You must know that on leaving the port of Zayton you sail west-south-west for 1500 miles, and then you come to a country called CHAMBA,1 a very rich region, having a king of its own. The people are Idolaters and pay a yearly tribute to the Great Kaan, which consists of elephants and nothing but elephants. And I will tell you how they came to pay this tribute.

It happened in the year of Christ 1278 that the Great Kaan sent a Baron of his called, Sagatu with a great force of horse and foot against this King of Chamba, and this Baron opened the war on a great scale against the King and his country.

Now the King [whose name was Accambale] was a very aged man, nor had he such a force as the Baron had. And when he saw what havoc the Baron was making with his kingdom he was grieved to the heart. So he bade messengers get ready and despatched them to the Great Kaan. And they said to the Kaan: “Our Lord the King of Chamba salutes you as his liege-lord, and would have you to know that he is stricken in years and long hath held his realm in peace. And now he sends you word by us that he is willing to be your liegeman, and will send you every year a tribute of as many elephants as you please. And he prays you in all gentleness and humility that you would send word to your Baron to desist from harrying his kingdom and to quit his territories. These shall henceforth be at your absolute disposal, and the King shall hold them of you.”

When the Great Kaan had heard the King’s ambassage he was moved with pity, and sent word to that Baron of his to quit that kingdom with his army, and to carry his arms to the conquest of some other country; and as soon as this command reached them they obeyed it. Thus it was then that this King became vassal of the Great Kaan, and paid him every year a tribute of 20 of the greatest and finest elephants that were to be found in the country.

But now we will leave that matter, and tell you other particulars about the King of Chamba.

You must know that in that kingdom no woman is allowed to marry until the King shall have seen her; if the woman pleases him then he takes her to wife; if she does not, he gives her a dowry to get her a husband withal. In the year of Christ 1285, Messer Marco Polo was in that country, and at that time the King had, between sons and daughters, 326 children, of whom at least 150 were men fit to carry arms.2

There are very great numbers of elephants in this kingdom, and they have lignaloes in great abundance. They have also extensive forests of the wood called Bonús, which is jet-black, and of which chessmen and pen-cases are made. But there is nought more to tell, so let us proceed.3

NOTE 1. —+The name CHAMPA is of Indian origin, like the adjoining Kamboja and many other names in Indo–China, and was probably taken from that of an ancient Hindu city and state on the Ganges, near modern Bhágalpúr. Hiuen Tsang, in the 7th century, makes mention of the Indo–Chinese state as Mahachampa (Pèl. Boudd, III. 83.)

The title of Champa down to the 15th century seems to have been applied by Western Asiatics to a kingdom which embraced the whole coast between Tong-king and Kamboja, including all that is now called Cochin China outside of Tong-king. It was termed by the Chinese Chen–Ching. In 1471 the King of Tong-king, Lê Thanh-tong, conquered the country, and the genuine people of Champa were reduced to a small number occupying the mountains of the province of Binh Thuan at the extreme south-east of the Coch. Chinese territory. To this part of the coast the name Champa is often applied in maps. (See J.A. sér. II. tom. xi. p. 31, and J. des Savans, 1822, p. 71.) The people of Champa in this restricted sense are said to exhibit Malay affinities, and they profess Mahomedanism. [“The Mussulmans of Binh–Thuan call themselves Bani or Orang Bani, ‘men mussulmans,’ probably from the Arabic beni ‘the sons,’ to distinguish them from the Chams Djat ‘of race,’ which they name also Kaphir or Akaphir, from the Arabic word kafer ‘pagans.’ These names are used in Binh–Thuan to make a distinction, but Banis and Kaphirs alike are all Chams. . . . In Cambodia all Chams are Mussulmans.” (E. Aymonier, Les Tchames, p. 26.) The religion of the pagan Chams of Binh–Thuan is degenerate Brahmanism with three chief gods, Po–Nagar, Po–Romé, and Po–Klong-Garaï. (Ibid., p. 35.)— H.C.] The books of their former religion they say (according to Dr. Bastian) that they received from Ceylon, but they were converted to Islamism by no less a person than ‘Ali himself. The Tong-king people received their Buddhism from China, and this tradition puts Champa as the extreme flood-mark of that great tide of Buddhist proselytism, which went forth from Ceylon to the Indo–Chinese regions in an early century of our era, and which is generally connected with the name of Buddaghosha.

The prominent position of Champa on the route to China made its ports places of call for many ages, and in the earliest record of the Arab navigation to China we find the country noticed under the identical name (allowing for the deficiencies of the Arabic Alphabet) of Sanf or Chanf. Indeed it is highly probable that the [Greek: Zába] or [Greek: Zábai] of Ptolemy’s itinerary of the sea-route to the Sinae represents this same name.

[“It is true,” Sir Henry Yule wrote since (1882), “that Champa, as known in later days, lay to the east of the Mekong delta, whilst Zabai of the Greeks lay to the west of that and of the [Greek: méga akrotaérion]— the Great Cape, or C. Cambodia of our maps. Crawford (Desc. Ind. Arch. p. 80) seems to say that the Malays include under the name Champa the whole of what we call Kamboja. This may possibly be a slip. But it is certain, as we shall see presently, that the Arab Sanf — which is unquestionably Champa — also lay west of the Cape, i.e. within the Gulf of Siam. The fact is that the Indo–Chinese kingdoms have gone through unceasing and enormous vicissitudes, and in early days Champa must have been extensive and powerful, for in the travels of Hiuen Tsang (about A.D. 629) it is called mahâ-Champa. And my late friend Lieutenant Garnier, who gave great attention to these questions, has deduced from such data as exist in Chinese Annals and elsewhere, that the ancient kingdom which the Chinese describe under the name of Fu-nan, as extending over the whole peninsula east of the Gulf of Siam, was a kingdom of the Tsiam or Champa race. The locality of the ancient port of Zabai or Champa is probably to be sought on the west coast of Kamboja, near the Campot, or the Kang-kao of our maps. On this coast also was the Komâr and Kamârah of Ibn Batuta and other Arab writers, the great source of aloes-wood, the country then of the Khmer or Kambojan People.” (Notes on the Oldest Records of the Sea–Route to China from Western Asia, Proc.R.G.S. 1882, pp. 656–657.)

M. Barth says that this identification would agree well with the testimony of his inscription XVIII. B., which comes from Angkor and for which Campa is a part of the Dakshinapatha, of the southern country. But the capital of this rival State of Kamboja would thus be very near the Trêang province where inscriptions have been found with the names of Bhavavarman and of Icanavarman. It is true that in 627, the King of Kamboja, according to the Chinese Annals (Nouv. Mél. As. I. p. 84), had subjugated the kingdom of Fu-nan identified by Yule and Garnier with Campa. Abel Rémusat (Nouv. Mél. As. I. pp. 75 and 77) identifies it with Tong-king and Stan. Julien (J. As. 4° Sér. X. p. 97) with Siam. (Inscrip. Sanscrites du Cambodge, 1885, pp. 69–70, note.)

Sir Henry Yule writes (l.c. p. 657): “We have said that the Arab Sanf, as well as the Greek Zabai, lay west of Cape Cambodia. This is proved by the statement that the Arabs on their voyage to China made a ten days’ run from Sanf to Pulo Condor.” But Abulfeda (transl. by Guyard, II. ii. p. 127) distinctly says that the Komar Peninsula (Khmer) is situated west of the Sanf Peninsula; between Sanf and Komar there is not a day’s journey by sea.

We have, however, another difficulty to overcome.

I agree with Sir Henry Yule and Marsden that in ch. vii. infra, p. 276, the text must be read, “When you leave Chamba,” instead of “When you leave Java.” Coming from Zayton and sailing 1500 miles, Polo arrives at Chamba; from Chamba, sailing 700 miles he arrives at the islands of Sondur and Condur, identified by Yule with Sundar Fúlát (Pulo Condore); from Sundar Fúlát, after 500 miles more, he finds the country called Locac; then he goes to Pentam (Bintang, 500 miles), Malaiur, and Java the Less (Sumatra). Ibn Khordâdhbeh’s itinerary agrees pretty well with Marco Polo’s, as Professor De Goeje remarks to me: “Starting from Mâit (Bintang), and leaving on the left Tiyuma (Timoan), in five days’ journey, one goes to Kimèr (Kmer, Cambodia), and after three days more, following the coast, arrives to Sanf; then to Lukyn, the first point of call in China, 100 parasangs by land or by sea; from Lukyn it takes four days by sea and twenty by land to go to Kanfu.” [Canton, see note, supra p. 199.] (See De Goeje’s Ibn Khordâdhbeh, p. 48 et seq.) But we come now to the difficulty. Professor De Goeje writes to me: “It is strange that in the Relation des Voyages of Reinaud, p. 20 of the text, reproduced by Ibn al Fakîh, p. 12 seq., Sundar Fúlát (Pulo Condore) is placed between Sanf and the China Sea (Sandjy); it takes ten days to go from Sanf to Sundar Fúlát, and then a month (seven days of which between mountains called the Gates of China.) In the Livre des Merveilles de l’Inde (pp. 85, 86) we read: ‘When arrived between Sanf and the China coast, in the neighbourhood of Sundar Fúlát, an island situated at the entrance of the Sea of Sandjy, which is the Sea of China. . . . ’ It would appear from these two passages that Sanf is to be looked for in the Malay Peninsula. This Sanf is different from the Sanf of Ibn Khordâdhbeh and of Abulfeda.” (Guyard’s transl. II. ii. 127.)

It does not strike me from these passages that Sanf must be looked for in the Malay Peninsula. Indeed Professor G. Schlegel, in a paper published in the T’oung Pao, vol. x., seems to prove that Shay-po (Djava), represented by Chinese characters, which are the transcription of the Sanskrit name of the China Rose (Hibiscus rosa sinensis), Djavâ or Djapâ, is not the great island of Java, but, according to Chinese texts, a state of the Malay Peninsula; but he does not seem to me to prove that Shay-po is Champa, as he believes he has done.

However, Professor De Goeje adds in his letter, and I quite agree with the celebrated Arabic scholar of Leyden, that he does not very much like the theory of two Sanf, and that he is inclined to believe that the sea captain of the Marvels of India placed Sundar Fúlát a little too much to the north, and that the narrative of the Relation des Voyages is inexact.

To conclude: the history of the relations between Annam (Tong-king) and her southern neighbour, the kingdom of Champa, the itineraries of Marco Polo and Ibn Khordâdhbêh as well as the position given to Sanf by Abulfeda, justify me, I think, in placing Champa in that part of the central and southern indo-Chinese coast which the French today call Annam (Cochinchine and Basse–Cochinchine), the Binh–Thuan province showing more particularly what remains of the ancient kingdom.

Since I wrote the above, I have received No. 1 of vol. ii. of the Bul. de l’Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient, which contains a note on Canf et Campa, by M.A. Barth. The reasons given in a note addressed to him by Professor De Goeje and the work of Ibn Khordâdhbeh have led M.A. Barth to my own conclusion, viz. that the coast of Champa was situated where inscriptions have been found on the Annamite coast. — H.C.]

The Sagatu of Marco appears in the Chinese history as Sotu, the military governor of the Canton districts, which he had been active in reducing.

In 1278 Sotu sent an envoy to Chen-ching to claim the king’s submission, which was rendered, and for some years he sent his tribute to Kúblái. But when the Kaan proceeded to interfere in the internal affairs of the kingdom by sending a Resident and Chinese officials, the king’s son (1282) resolutely opposed these proceedings, and threw the Chinese officials into prison. The Kaan, in great wrath at this insult, (coming also so soon after his discomfiture in Japan), ordered Sotu and others to Chen-ching to take vengeance. The prince in the following year made a pretence of submission, and the army (if indeed it had been sent) seems to have been withdrawn. The prince, however, renewed his attack on the Chinese establishments, and put 100 of their officials to death. Sotu then despatched a new force, but it was quite unsuccessful, and had to retire. In 1284 the king sent an embassy, including his grandson, to beg for pardon and reconciliation. Kúblái, however, refused to receive them, and ordered his son Tughan to advance through Tong-king, an enterprise which led to a still more disastrous war with that country, in which the Mongols had much the worst of it. We are not told more.

Here we have the difficulties usual with Polo’s historical anecdotes. Certain names and circumstances are distinctly recognisable in the Chinese Annals; others are difficult to reconcile with these. The embassy of 1284 seems the most likely to be the one spoken of by Polo, though the Chinese history does not give it the favourable result which he ascribes to it. The date in the text we see to be wrong, and as usual it varies in different MSS. I suspect the original date was MCCLXXXIII.

One of the Chinese notices gives one of the king’s names as Sinhopala, and no doubt this is Ramusio’s Accambale (Açambale); an indication at once of the authentic character of that interpolation, and of the identity of Champa and Chen-ching.

[We learn from an inscription that in 1265 the King of Champa was Jaya–Sinhavarman II., who was named Indravarman in 1277, and whom the Chinese called Che li Tseya Sinho phala Maha thiwa (Çri Jaya Sinha varmma maha deva). He was the king at the time of Polo’s voyage. (A. Bergaigne, Ancien royaume de Campa, pp. 39–40; E. Aymonier, les Tchames et leurs religious, p. 14.)— H.C.]

There are notices of the events in De Mailla (IX. 420–422) and Gaubil (194), but Pauthier’s extracts which we have made use of are much fuller.

Elephants have generally formed a chief part of the presents or tribute sent periodically by the various Indo–Chinese states to the Court of China.

[In a Chinese work published in the 14th century, by an Annamite, under the title of Ngan-nan chi lio, and translated into French by M. Sainson (1896), we read (p. 397): “Elephants are found only in Lin-y; this is the country which became Champa. It is the habit to have burdens carried by elephants; this country is today the Pu-cheng province.” M. Sainson adds in a note that Pu-cheng, in Annamite Bó chanh quân, is today Quang-binh, and that, in this country, was placed the first capital (Dong-hoi) of the future kingdom of Champa thrown later down to the south. — H.C.]

[The Chams, according to their tradition, had three capitals: the most ancient, Shri–Banoeuy, probably the actual Quang–Binh province; Bal–Hangov, near Hué; and Bal–Angoué, in the Binh–Dinh province. In the 4th century, the kingdom of Lin-y or Lâm-âp is mentioned in the Chinese Annals. — H.C.]

NOTE 2. — The date of Marco’s visit to Champa varies in the MSS.: Pauthier has 1280, as has also Ramusio; the G.T. has 1285; the Geographic Latin 1288. I incline to adopt the last. For we know that about 1290, Mark returned to Court from a mission to the Indian Seas, which might have included this visit to Champa.

The large family of the king was one of the stock marvels. Odoric says: “ZAMPA is a very fine country, having great store of victuals and all good things. The king of the country, it was said when I was there [circa 1323], had, what with sons and with daughters, a good two hundred children; for he hath many wives and other women whom he keepeth. This king hath also 14,000 tame elephants. . . . And other folk keep elephants there just as commonly as we keep oxen here” (pp. 95–96). The latter point illustrates what Polo says of elephants, and is scarcely an exaggeration in regard to all the southern Indo–Chinese States. (See note to Odoric u.s.)

NOTE 3. — Champa Proper and the adjoining territories have been from time immemorial the chief seat of the production of lign-aloes or eagle-wood. Both names are misleading, for the thing has nought to do either with aloes or eagles; though good Bishop Pallegoix derives the latter name from the wood being speckled like an eagle’s plumage. It is in fact through Aquila, Agila, from Aguru, one of the Sanskrit names of the article, whilst that is possibly from the Malay Kayu (wood)-gahru, though the course of the etymology is more likely to be the other way; and [Greek: Alóae] is perhaps a corruption of the term which the Arabs apply to it, viz. Al-‘Ud, “The Wood.”

[It is probable that the first Portuguese who had to do with eagle-wood called it by its Arabic name, aghaluhy, or malayalam, agila; whence páo de’ aguila “aguila wood.” It was translated into Latin as lignum aquilae, and after into modern languages, as bois d’aigle, eagle-wood, adlerholz, etc. (A. Cabaton, les Chams, p. 50.) Mr. Groeneveldt (Notes, pp. 141–142) writes: “Lignum aloes is the wood of the Aquilaria agallocha, and is chiefly known as sinking incense. The Pen-ts’au Kang-mu describes it as follows: ‘Sinking incense, also called honey incense. It comes from the heart and the knots of a tree and sinks in water, from which peculiarity the name sinking incense is derived. . . . In the Description of Annam we find it called honey incense, because it smells like honey.’ The same work, as well as the Nan-fang Ts’au-mu Chuang, further informs us that this incense was obtained in all countries south of China, by felling the old trees and leaving them to decay, when, after some time, only the heart, the knots, and some other hard parts remained. The product was known under different names, according to its quality or shape, and in addition to the names given above, we find fowl bones, horse-hoofs, and green cinnamon; these latter names, however, are seldom used.”— H.C.]

The fine eagle-wood of Champa is the result of disease in a leguminous tree, Aloexylon Agallochum; whilst an inferior kind, though of the same aromatic properties, is derived from a tree of an entirely different order, Aquilaria Agallocha, and is found as far north as Silhet.

The Bonus of the G.T. here is another example of Marco’s use, probably unconscious, of an Oriental word. It is Persian Abnús, Ebony, which has passed almost unaltered into the Spanish Abenuz. We find Ibenus also in a French inventory (Douet d’Arcq, p. 134), but the Bonús seems to indicate that the word as used by the Traveller was strange to Rusticiano. The word which he uses for pen-cases too, Calamanz, is more suggestive of the Persian Kalamdán than of the Italian Calamajo.

“Ebony is very common in this country (Champa), but the wood which is the most precious, and which is sufficiently abundant, is called ‘Eagle-wood,’ of which the first quality sells for its weight in gold; the native name Kínam,” (Bishop Louis in J.A.S.B. VI. 742; Dr. Birdwood, in the Bible Educator, I. 243; Crawford’s Dict.)

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