The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 41

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Concerning the City of Kenjanfu[edit]

And when you leave the city of Cachanfu of which I have spoken, and travel eight days westward, you meet with cities and boroughs abounding in trade and industry, and quantities of beautiful trees, and gardens, and fine plains planted with mulberries, which are the trees on the leaves of which the silkworms do feed.[1] The people are all Idolaters. There is also plenty of game of all sorts, both of beasts and birds.

And when you have travelled those eight days' journey, you come to that great city which I mentioned, called KENJANFU.[2] A very great and fine city it is, and the capital of the kingdom of Kenjanfu, which in old times was a noble, rich, and powerful realm, and had many great and wealthy and puissant kings.[3] But now the king thereof is a prince called MANGALAI, the son of the Great Kaan, who hath given him this realm, and crowned him king thereof.[4] It is a city of great trade and industry. They have great abundance of silk, from which they weave cloths of silk and gold of divers kinds, and they also manufacture all sorts of equipments for an army. They have every necessary of man's life very cheap. The city lies towards the west; the people are Idolaters; and outside the city is the palace of the Prince Mangalai, crowned king, and son of the Great Kaan, as I told you before.

This is a fine palace and a great, as I will tell you. It stands in a great plain abounding in lakes and streams and springs of water. Round about it is a massive and lofty wall, five miles in compass, well built, and all garnished with battlements. And within this wall is the king's palace, so great and fine that no one could imagine a finer. There are in it many great and splendid halls, and many chambers, all painted and embellished with work in beaten gold. This Mangalai rules his realm right well with justice and equity, and is much beloved by his people. The troops are quartered round about the palace, and enjoy the sport (that the royal demesne affords).

So now let us quit this kingdom, and I will tell you of a very mountainous province called Cuncun, which you reach by a road right wearisome to travel.

[1] [2] [3]




  1. 1.0 1.1 ["Morus alba is largely grown in North China for feeding silkworms." (Bretschneider, Hist. of Bot. Disc. I. p. 4.)--H.C.]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Having got to sure ground again at Kenjanfu, which is, as we shall explain presently, the city of SI-NGAN FU, capital of Shen-si, let us look back at the geography of the route from P'ing-yang fu. Its difficulties are great.

    The traveller carries us two days' journey from P'ing-yang fu to his castle of the Golden King. This is called in the G. Text and most other MSS. Caicui, Caytui, or the like, but in Ramusio alone Thaigin. He then carries us 20 miles further to the Caramoran; he crosses this river, travels two days further, and reaches the great city Cachanfu; eight days more (or as in Ramusio seven) bring him to Si-ngan fu.

    There seems scarcely room for doubt that CACHANFU is the HO-CHUNG FU [the ancient capital of Emperor Shun--H.C.] of those days, now called P'U-CHAU FU, close to the great elbow of the Hwang Ho (Klaproth). But this city, instead of being two days west of the great river, stands near its eastern bank.

    [The Rev. C. Holcombe writes (pp. 64-65): "P'u-chau fu lies on a level with the Yellow River, and on the edge of a large extent of worthless marsh land, full of pools of brackish, and in some places, positively salt water.... The great road does not pass into the town, having succeeded in maintaining its position on the high ground from which the town has backslided.... The great road keeping to the bluff, runs on, turning first south, and then a trifle to the east of south, until the road, the bluff, and Shan-si, all end together, making a sudden plunge down a precipice and being lost in the dirty waters of the Yellow River."--H.C.]

    Not maintaining the infallibility of our traveller's memory, we may conceive confusion here, between the recollections of his journey westward and those of his return; but this does not remove all the difficulties.

    The most notable fortress of the Kin sovereigns was that of T'ungkwan, on the right bank of the river, 25 miles below P'u-chau fu, and closing the passage between the river and the mountains, just where the boundaries of Ho-nan, Shan-si, and Shen-si meet. It was constantly the turning-point of the Mongol campaigns against that Dynasty, and held a prominent place in the dying instructions of Chinghiz for the prosecution of the conquest of Cathay. This fortress must have continued famous to Polo's time--indeed it continues so still, the strategic position being one which nothing short of a geological catastrophe could impair,--but I see no way of reconciling its position with his narrative.

    The name in Ramusio's form might be merely that of the Dynasty, viz. Tai-Kin= Great Golden. But we have seen that Thaigin is not the only reading. That of the MSS. seems to point rather to some name like Kaichau. A hypothesis which has seemed to me to call for least correction in the text is that the castle was at the Ki-chau of the maps, nearly due west of P'ing-yang fu, and just about 20 miles from the Hwang Ho; that the river was crossed in that vicinity, and that the traveller then descended the valley to opposite P'u-chau fu, or possibly embarked and descended the river itself to that point. This last hypothesis would mitigate the apparent disproportion in the times assigned to the different parts of the journey, and would, I think, clear the text of error. But it is only a hypothesis. There is near Kichau one of the easiest crossing places of the River, insomuch that since the Shen-si troubles a large garrison has been kept up at Ki-chau to watch it. And this is the only direction in which two days' march, at Polo's rate, would bring him within 20 miles of the Yellow River. Whether there is any historic castle at Ki-chau I know not; the plan of that place in Duhalde, however, has the aspect of a strong position. Baron v. Richthofen is unable to accept this suggestion, and has favoured me with some valuable remarks on this difficult passage, which I slightly abridge:--

    "The difficulties are, (1) that for either reading, Thaigin or Caichu, a corresponding place can be found; (2) in the position of Cachanfu, setting both at naught.

    • Thaigin. There are two passages of the Yellow River near its great bend. One is at T'ungkwan, where I crossed it; the other, and more convenient, is at the fortress of Taiching-kwan, locally pronounced Taigin-kwan. This fortress, or rather fortified camp, is a very well-known place, and to be found on native maps; it is very close to the river, on the left bank, about 6 m. S.W. of P'u-chau fu. The road runs hence to Tung-chau fu and thence to Si-ngan fu. T'aiching-kwan could not possibly (at Polo's rate) be reached in 2 days from P'ing-yang fu.
    • Caichu. If this reading be adopted Marsden may be right in supposing Kiai-chau, locally Khaidju, to be meant. This city dominates the important salt marsh, whence Shan-si and Shen-si are supplied with salt. It is 70 or 80 m. from P'ing-yang fu, but could be reached in 2 days. It commands a large and tolerably populous plain, and is quite fit to have been an imperial residence.

    "May not the striking fact that there is a place corresponding to either name suggest that one of them was passed by Polo in going, the other in returning? and that, this being the only locality between Ch'eng-tu fu and Chu-chau where there was any deviation between the two journeys, his geographical ideas may have become somewhat confused, as might now happen to any one in like case and not provided with a map? Thus the traveller himself might have put into Ramusio's text the name of Thaigin instead of Caichu. From Kiai-chau he would probably cross the River at T'ungkwan, whilst in returning by way of Taiching-kwan he would pass through P'uchau-fu (or vice versa). The question as to Caichu may still be settled, as it must be possible to ascertain where the Kin resided." [Mr. Rockhill writes (Land of the Lamas, p. 17): "One hundred and twenty li south-south-west of the city is Kiai Chou, with the largest salt works in China." Richthofen has estimated that about 150,000 tons of salt are produced annually from the marshes around it.--H.C.]

  3. 3.0 3.1 The eight days' journey through richly cultivated plains run up the basin of the Wei River, the most important agricultural region of North-West China, and the core of early Chinese History. The loess is here more than ever predominant, its yellow tinge affecting the whole landscape, and even the atmosphere. Here, according to Baron v. Richthofen, originated the use of the word hwang "yellow," as the symbol of the Earth, whence the primeval emperors were styled Hwang-ti, "Lord of the Earth," but properly "Lord of the Loess."

    [The Rev. C. Holcombe (l.c. p. 66) writes: "From T'ung-kwan to Si-ngan fu, the road runs in a direction nearly due west, through a most lovely section of country, having a range of high hills upon the south, and the Wei River on the north. The road lies through one long orchard, and the walled towns and cities lie thickly along, for the most part at a little distance from the highway." Mr. Rockhill says (Land of the Lamas, pp. 19-20): "The road between T'ung-kwan and Si-ngan fu, a distance of 110 miles, is a fine highway--for China--with a ditch on either side, rows of willow-trees here and there, and substantial stone bridges and culverts over the little streams which cross it. The basin of the Wei ho, in which this part of the province lies, has been for thousands of years one of the granaries of China. It was the colour of its loess-covered soil, called 'yellow earth' by the Chinese, that suggested the use of yellow as the colour sacred to imperial majesty. Wheat and sorghum are the principal crops, but we saw also numerous paddy fields where flocks of flamingoes were wading, and fruit-trees grew everywhere."--H.C.]

    Kenjanfu, or, as Ramusio gives it, Quenzanfu, is SI-NGAN FU, or as it was called in the days of its greatest fame, Chang-ngan, probably the most celebrated city in Chinese history, and the capital of several of the most potent dynasties. It was the metropolis of Shi Hwang-ti of the T'sin Dynasty, properly the first emperor and whose conquests almost intersected those of his contemporary Ptolemy Euergetes. It was, perhaps, the Thinae of Claudius Ptolemy, as it was certainly the Khumdan of the early Mahomedans, and the site of flourishing Christian Churches in the 7th century, as well as of the remarkable monument, the discovery of which a thousand years later disclosed their forgotten existence. Kingchao-fu was the name which the city bore when the Mongol invasions brought China into communication with the west, and Klaproth supposes that this was modified by the Mongols into KENJANFU. Under the latter name it is mentioned by Rashiduddin as the seat of one of the Twelve Sings or great provincial administrations, and we find it still known by this name in Sharifuddin's history of Timur. The same name is traceable in the Kansan of Odoric, which he calls the second best province in the world, and the best populated Whatever may have been the origin of the name Kenjanfu, Baron v. Richthofen was, on the spot, made aware of its conservation in the exact form of the Ramusian Polo. The Roman Catholic missionaries there emphatically denied that Marco could ever have been at Si-ngan fu, or that the city had ever been known by such a name as Kenjan-fu. On this the Baron called in one of the Chinese pupils of the Mission, and asked him directly what had been the name of the city under the Yuen Dynasty. He replied at once with remarkable clearness: "QUEN-ZAN-FU." Everybody present was struck by the exact correspondence of the Chinaman's pronunciation of the name with that which the German traveller had adopted from Ritter. [The vocabulary Hwei Hwei (Mahomedan) of the College of Interpreters at Peking transcribes King chao from the Persian Kin-chang, a name it gives to the Shen-si province. King chao was called Ngan-si fu in 1277. (Deveria, Epigraphie, p. 9.) Ken-jan comes from Kin-chang = King-chao = Si-ngan fu.--H.C.]

    Martini speaks, apparently from personal knowledge, of the splendour of the city, as regards both its public edifices and its site, sloping gradually up from the banks of the River Wei, so as to exhibit its walls and palaces at one view like the interior of an amphitheatre. West of the city was a sort of Water Park, enclosed by a wall 30 li in circumference, full of lakes, tanks, and canals from the Wei, and within this park were seven fine palaces and a variety of theatres and other places of public diversion. To the south-east of the city was an artificial lake with palaces, gardens, park, etc., originally formed by the Emperor Hiaowu (B.C. 100), and to the south of the city was another considerable lake called Fan. This may be the Fanchan Lake, beside which Rashid says that Ananda, the son of Mangalai, built his palace.

    The adjoining districts were the seat of a large Musulman population, which in 1861-1862 [and again in 1895 (See Wellby, Tibet, ch. XXV.) --H.C.] rose in revolt against the Chinese authority, and for a time was successful in resisting it. The capital itself held out, though invested for two years; the rebels having no artillery. The movement originated at Hwachau, some 60 miles east of Si-ngan fu, now totally destroyed. But the chief seat of the Mahomedans is a place which they call Salar, identified with Hochau in Kansuh, about 70 miles south-west of Lanchau-fu, the capital of that province. [Mr. Rockhill (Land of the Lamas, p. 40) writes: "Colonel Yule, quoting a Russian work, has it that the word Salar is used to designate Ho-chou, but this is not absolutely accurate. Prjevalsky (Mongolia, II. 149) makes the following complicated statement: 'The Karatangutans outnumber the Mongols in Koko-nor, but their chief habitations are near the sources of the Yellow River, where they are called Salirs; they profess the Mohammedan religion, and have rebelled against China.' I will only remark here that the Salar have absolutely no connection with the so-called Kara-tangutans, who are Tibetans. In a note by Archimandrite Palladius, in the same work (II. 70), he attempts to show a connection between the Salar and a colony of Mohammedans who settled in Western Kan-Suh in the last century, but the Ming shih (History of the Ming Dynasty) already makes mention of the Salar, remnants of various Turkish tribes (Hsi-ch'iang) who had settled in the districts of Ho-chou, Huang-chou, T'ao-chou, and Min-chou, and who were a source of endless trouble to the Empire. (See Wei Yuen, Sheng-wu-ki, vii. 35; also Huang ch'ing shih kung t'u, v. 7.) The Russian traveller, Potanin, found the Salar living in twenty-four villages, near Hsuen-hua t'ing, on the south bank of the Yellow River. (See Proc.R.G.S. ix. 234.) The Annals of the Ming Dynasty (Ming Shih, ch. 330) say that An-ting wei, 1500 li south-west of Kan-chou, was in old times known as Sa-li Wei-wu-ehr. These Sari Uigurs are mentioned by Du Plan Carpin, as Sari Huiur. Can Sala be the same as Sari?"

    "Mohammedans," says Mr. Rockhill (Ibid. p. 39), "here are divided into two sects, known as 'white-capped Hui-hui,' and 'black-capped Hui-hui.' One of the questions which separate them is the hour at which fast can be broken during the Ramadan. Another point which divides them is that the white-capped burn incense, as do the ordinary Chinese; and the Salar condemn this as Paganish. The usual way by which one finds out to which sect a Mohammedan belongs is by asking him if he burns incense. The black-capped Hui-hui are more frequently called Salar, and are much the more devout and fanatical. They live in the vicinity of Ho-chou, in and around Hsuen-hua t'ing, their chief town being known as Salar Pakun or Paken."

    Ho-chou, in Western Kan-Suh, about 320 li (107 miles) from Lan-chau, has a population of about 30,000 nearly entirely Mahomedans with 24 mosques; it is a "hot-bed of rebellion." Salar-pa-kun means "the eight thousand Salar families," or "the eight thousands of the Salar." The eight kiun (Chinese t'sun? a village, a commune) constituting the Salar pa-kun are Ka-tzu, the oldest and largest, said to have over 1300 families living in it, Chang-chia, Nemen, Ch'ing-shui, Munta, Tsu-chi, Antasu and Ch'a-chia. Besides these Salar kiun there are five outer (wai) kiun: Ts'a-pa, Ngan-ssu-to, Hei-ch'eng, Kan-tu and Kargan, inhabited by a few Salar and a mixed population of Chinese and T'u-ssu: each of these wai-wu kiun has, theoretically, fifteen villages in it. Tradition says that the first Salar who came to China (from Rum or Turkey) arrived in this valley in the third year of Hung-wu of the Ming (1370). (Rockhill, Land of the Lamas, Journey; Grenard, II. p. 457)--H.C.] (Martini; Cathay, 148, 269; Petis de la Croix, III. 218; Russian paper on the Dungen, see supra, vol. i. p. 291; Williamson's North China, u.s.; Richthofen's Letters, and MS. Notes.)

  4. 4.0 4.1 Mangalai, Kublai's third son, who governed the provinces of Shen-si and Sze-ch'wan, with the title of Wang or king (supra ch. ix. note 2), died in 1280, a circumstance which limits the date of Polo's journey to the west. It seems unlikely that Marco should have remained ten years ignorant of his death, yet he seems to speak of him as still governing.

    [With reference to the translation of the oldest of the Chinese-Mongol inscriptions known hitherto (1283) in the name of Ananda, King of Ngan-si, Professor Deveria (Notes d'Epigraphie Mongolo-Chinoise, p. 9) writes: "In 1264, the Emperor Kublai created in this region [Shen si] the department of Ngan-si chau, occupied by ten hordes of Si-fan (foreigners from the west). All this country became in 1272, the apanage of the Imperial Prince Mangala; this prince, third son of Kublai, had been invested with the title of King of Ngan-si, a territory which included King-chao fu (modern Si-ngan fu). His government extended hence over Ho-si (west of the Yellow River), the T'u-po (Tibetans), and Sze-ch'wan. The following year (1273) Mangala received from Kublai a second investiture, this of the Kingdom of Tsin, which added to his domain part of Kan-Suh; he established his royal residence at K'ia-ch'eng (modern Ku-yuan) in the Liu-p'an shan, while King-chao remained the centre of the command he exercised over the Mongol garrisons. In 1277 this prince took part in military operations in the north; he died in 1280 (17th year Che Yuan), leaving his principality of Ngan-si to his eldest son Ananda, and this of Tsin to his second son Ngan-tan Bu-hoa. Kublai, immediately after the death of his son Mangala, suppressed administrative autonomy in Ngan-si." (Yuan-shi lei pien).--H.C.]