The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 1/Chapter 44
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by , translated by Henry Yule
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Of the City of Campichu 
Campichu is also a city of Tangut, and a very great and noble one. Indeed it is the capital and place of government of the whole province of Tangut. The people are Idolaters, Saracens, and Christians, and the latter have three very fine churches in the city, whilst the Idolaters have many minsters and abbeys after their fashion. In these they have an enormous number of idols, both small and great, certain of the latter being a good ten paces in stature; some of them being of wood, others of clay, and others yet of stone. They are all highly polished, and then covered with gold. The great idols of which I speak lie at length. And round about them there are other figures of considerable size, as if adoring and paying homage before them.
Now, as I have not yet given you particulars about the customs of these Idolaters, I will proceed to tell you about them.
You must know that there are among them certain religious recluses who lead a more virtuous life than the rest. These abstain from all lechery, though they do not indeed regard it as a deadly sin; howbeit if any one sin against nature they condemn him to death. They have an Ecclesiastical Calendar as we have; and there are five days in the month that they observe particularly; and on these five days they would on no account either slaughter any animal or eat flesh meat. On those days, moreover, they observe much greater abstinence altogether than on other days.
Among these people a man may take thirty wives, more or less, if he can but afford to do so, each having wives in proportion to his wealth and means; but the first wife is always held in highest consideration. The men endow their wives with cattle, slaves, and money, according to their ability. And if a man dislikes any one of his wives, he just turns her off and takes another. They take to wife their cousins and their fathers' widows (always excepting the man's own mother), holding to be no sin many things that we think grievous sins, and, in short, they live like beasts.
Messer Maffeo and Messer Marco Polo dwelt a whole year in this city when on a mission.
Now we will leave this and tell you about other provinces towards the north, for we are going to take you a sixty days' journey in that direction.
- Campichiu is undoubtedly Kanchau, which was at this time, as Pauthier tells us, the chief city of the administration of Kansuh corresponding to Polo's Tangut. Kansuh itself is a name compounded of the names of the two cities Kan-chau and Suh-chau.
[Kanchau fell under the Tangut dominion in 1208. (Palladius, p. 10.) The Musulmans mentioned by Polo at Shachau and Kanchau probably came from Khotan.--H. C.]
The difficulties that have been made about the form of the name Campiciou, etc., in Polo, and the attempts to explain these, are probably alike futile. Quatremere writes the Persian form of the name after Abdurrazzak as Kamtcheou, but I see that Erdmann writes it after Rashid, I presume on good grounds, as Ckamidschu, i.e. Kamiju or Kamichu. And that this was the Western pronunciation of the name is shown by the form which Pegolotti uses, Camexu, i.e. Camechu. The p in Polo's spelling is probably only a superfluous letter, as in the occasional old spelling of dampnum, contempnere, hympnus, tirampnus, sompnour, Dampne Deu. In fact, Marignolli writes Polo's Quinsai as Campsay.
It is worthy of notice that though Ramusio's text prints the names of these two cities as Succuir and Campion, his own pronunciation of them appears to have been quite well understood by the Persian traveller Hajji Mahomed, for it is perfectly clear that the latter recognized in these names Suhchau and Kanchau. (See Ram. II. f. 14v.) The second volume of the Navigationi, containing Polo, was published after Ramusio's death, and it is possible that the names as he himself read them were more correct (e.g. Succiur, Campjou).
- This is the meaning of the phrase in the G. T.: "Ceste grande ydre gigent," as may be seen from Ramusio's giaciono distesi. Lazari renders the former expression, "giganteggia un idolo," etc., a phrase very unlike Polo. The circumstance is interesting, because this recumbent Colossus at Kanchau is mentioned both by Hajji Mahomed and by Shah Rukh's people. The latter say: "In this city of Kanchu there is an Idol-Temple 500 cubits square. In the middle is an idol lying at length which measures 50 paces. The sole of the foot is nine paces long, and the instep is 21 cubits in girth. Behind this image and overhead are other idols of a cubit (?) in height, besides figures of Bakshis as large as life. The action of all is hit off so admirably that you would think they were alive." These great recumbent figures are favourites in Buddhist countries still, e.g. in Siam, Burma, and Ceylon. They symbolise Sakya Buddha entering Nirvana. Such a recumbent figure, perhaps the prototype of these, was seen by Hiuen Tsang in a Vihara close to the Sal Grove at Kusinagara, where Sakya entered that state, i.e. died. The stature of Buddha was, we are told, 12 cubits; but Brahma, Indra, and the other gods vainly tried to compute his dimensions. Some such rude metaphor is probably embodied in these large images. I have described one 69 feet long in Burma (represented in the cut), but others exist of much greater size, though probably none equal to that which Hiuen Tsang, in the 7th century, saw near Bamian, which was 1000 feet in length! I have heard of but one such image remaining in India, viz. in one of the caves at Dhamnar in Malwa. This is 15 feet long, and is popularly known as "Bhim's Baby." (Cathay, etc., pp. cciii., ccxviii.; Mission to Ava, p. 52; V. et V. de H. T., p. 374: Cunningham's Archael. Reports, ii. 274; Tod, ii. 273.)
["The temple, in which M. Polo saw an idol of Buddha, represented in a lying position, is evidently Wo-fo-sze, i.e. 'Monastery of the lying Buddha.' It was built in 1103 by a Tangut queen, to place there three idols representing Buddha in this posture, which have since been found in the ground on this very spot." (Palladius, l.c. p. 10.)
Rubruck (p. 144) says, "A Nestorian, who had come from Cathay told me that in that country there is an idol so big that it can be seen from two days off." Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 144, note) writes, "The largest stone image I have seen is in a cave temple at Yung kan, about 10 miles north-west of Ta t'ung Fu in Shan-si. Pere Gerbillon says the Emperor K'ang hsi measured it himself and found it to be 57 chih high (61 feet). (Duhalde, Description, IV. 352.) I have seen another colossal statue in a cave near Pinchou in north-west Shan-si, and there is another about 45 miles south of Ning hsia Fu, near the left bank of the Yellow River. (Rockhill, Land of the Lamas, 26, and Diary, 47.) The great recumbent figure of the 'Sleeping Buddha' in the Wo Fo ssu, near Peking, is of clay." King Haython (Brosset's ed. p. 181) mentions the statue in clay, of an extraordinary height, of a God (Buddha) aged 3040 years, who is to live 370,000 years more, when he will be superseded by another god called Madri (Maitreya).--H. C.]
- Marco is now speaking of the Lamas, or clergy of Tibetan Buddhism. The customs mentioned have varied in details, both locally and with the changes that the system has passed through in the course of time.
The institutes of ancient Buddhism set apart the days of new and full moon to be observed by the Sramanas or monks, by fasting, confession, and listening to the reading of the law. It became usual for the laity to take part in the observance, and the number of days was increased to three and then to four, whilst Hiuen Tsang himself speaks of "the six fasts of every month," and a Chinese authority quoted by Julien gives the days as the 8th, 14th, 15th, 23rd, 29th, and 30th. Fabian says that in Ceylon preaching took place on the 8th, 14th, and 15th days of the month. Four is the number now most general amongst Buddhist nations, and the days may be regarded as a kind of Buddhist Sabbath. In the southern countries and in Nepal they occur at the moon's changes. In Tibet and among the Mongol Buddhists they are not at equal intervals, though I find the actual days differently stated by different authorities. Pallas says the Mongols observed the 13th, 14th, and 15th, the three days being brought together, he thought, on account of the distance many Lamas had to travel to the temple--just as in some Scotch country parishes they used to give two sermons in one service for like reason! Koeppen, to whose work this note is much indebted, says the Tibetan days are the 14th, 15th, 29th, 30th, and adds as to the manner of observance: "On these days, by rule, among the Lamas, nothing should be tasted but farinaceous food and tea; the very devout refrain from all food from sunrise to sunset. The Temples are decorated, and the altar tables set out with the holy symbols, with tapers, and with dishes containing offerings in corn, meal, tea, butter, etc., and especially with small pyramids of dough, or of rice or clay, and accompanied by much burning of incense-sticks. The service performed by the priests is more solemn, the music louder and more exciting, than usual. The laity make their offerings, tell their beads, and repeat Om mani padma hom," etc. In the concordat that took place between the Dalai-Lama and the Altun Khaghan, on the reconversion of the Mongols to Buddhism in the 16th century, one of the articles was the entire prohibition of hunting and the slaughter of animals on the monthly fast days. The practice varies much, however, even in Tibet, with different provinces and sects--a variation which the Ramusian text of Polo implies in these words: "For five days, or four days, or three in each month, they shed no blood," etc.
In Burma the Worship Day, as it is usually called by Europeans, is a very gay scene, the women flocking to the pagodas in their brightest attire. (H. T. Memoires, I. 6, 208; Koeppen, I. 563-564, II. 139, 307-308; Pallas, Samml. II. 168-169).
- These matrimonial customs are the same that are afterwards ascribed to the Tartars, so we defer remark.
- So Pauthier's text, "en legation." The G. Text includes Nicolo Polo, and says, "on business of theirs that is not worth mentioning," and with this Ramusio agrees.