The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxviii.

How the Great Kaan Causes Trees to Be Planted by the Highways.

The Emperor moreover hath taken order that all the highways travelled by his messengers and the people generally should be planted with rows of great trees a few paces apart; and thus these trees are visible a long way off, and no one can miss the way by day or night. Even the roads through uninhabited tracts are thus planted, and it is the greatest possible solace to travellers. And this is done on all the ways, where it can be of service. [The Great Kaan plants these trees all the more readily, because his astrologers and diviners tell him that he who plants trees lives long.1

But where the ground is so sandy and desert that trees will not grow, he causes other landmarks, pillars or stones, to be set up to show the way.]

NOTE 1. — In this Kúblái imitated the great King Asoka, or Priyadarsi, who in his graven edicts (circa B.C. 250) on the Delhi Pillar, says: “Along the high roads I have caused fig-trees to be planted, that they may be for shade to animals and men. I have also planted mango-trees; and at every half-coss I have caused wells to be constructed, and resting-places for the night. And how many hostels have been erected by me at various places for the entertainment of man and beast.” (J. A. S. B. IV. 604.) There are still remains of the fine avenues of Kúblái and his successors in various parts of Northern China. (See Williamson, i. 74.)

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