The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 48

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Concerning the Province of Carajan[edit]

When you have passed that River you enter on the province of CARAJAN, which is so large that it includes seven kingdoms. It lies towards the west; the people are Idolaters, and they are subject to the Great Kaan. A son of his, however, is there as King of the country, by name ESSENTIMUR; a very great and rich and puissant Prince; and he well and justly rules his dominion, for he is a wise man, and a valiant.

After leaving the river that I spoke of, you go five days' journey towards the west, meeting with numerous towns and villages. The country is one in which excellent horses are bred, and the people live by cattle and agriculture. They have a language of their own which is passing hard to understand. At the end of those five days' journey you come to the capital, which is called YACHI, a very great and noble city, in which are numerous merchants and craftsmen.[1]

The people are of sundry kinds, for there are not only Saracens and Idolaters, but also a few Nestorian Christians.[2] They have wheat and rice in plenty. Howbeit they never eat wheaten bread, because in that country it is unwholesome.[3] Rice they eat, and make of it sundry messes, besides a kind of drink which is very clear and good, and makes a man drunk just as wine does.

Their money is such as I will tell you. They use for the purpose certain white porcelain shells that are found in the sea, such as are sometimes put on dogs' collars; and 80 of these porcelain shells pass for a single weight of silver, equivalent to two Venice groats, i.e. 24 piccoli. Also eight such weights of silver count equal to one such weight of gold.[4]

They have brine-wells in this country from which they make salt, and all the people of those parts make a living by this salt. The King, too, I can assure you, gets a great revenue from this salt.[5]

There is a lake in this country of a good hundred miles in compass, in which are found great quantities of the best fish in the world; fish of great size, and of all sorts.

They reckon it no matter for a man to have intimacy with another's wife, provided the woman be willing.

Let me tell you also that the people of that country eat their meat raw, whether it be of mutton, beef, buffalo, poultry, or any other kind. Thus the poor people will go to the shambles, and take the raw liver as it comes from the carcase and cut it small, and put it in a sauce of garlic and spices, and so eat it; and other meat in like manner, raw, just as we eat meat that is dressed.[6]

Now I will tell you about a further part of the Province of Carajan, of which I have been speaking.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]




  1. 1.0 1.1 We have now arrived at the great province of CARAJAN, the KARAJANG of the Mongols, which we know to be YUN-NAN, and at its capital YACHI, which--I was about to add--we know to be YUN-NAN-FU. But I find all the commentators make it something else. Rashiduddin, however, in his detail of the twelve Sings or provincial governments of China under the Mongols, thus speaks: "10th, KARAJANG. This used to be an independent kingdom, and the Sing is established at the great city of YACHI. All the inhabitants are Mahomedans. The chiefs are Noyan Takin, and Yakub Beg, son of 'Ali Beg, the Beluch." And turning to Pauthier's corrected account of the same distribution of the empire from authentic Chinese sources (p. 334), we find: "8. The administrative province of Yun-nan.... Its capital, chief town also of the canton of the same name, was called Chung-khing, now YUN-NAN-FU," Hence Yachi was Yun-nan-fu. This is still a large city, having a rectangular rampart with 6 gates, and a circuit of about 6 1/2 miles. The suburbs were destroyed by the Mahomedan rebels. The most important trade there now is in the metallic produce of the Province. [According to Oxenham, Historical Atlas, there were ten provinces or sheng (Liao-yang, Chung-shu, Shen-si, Ho-nan, Sze-ch'wan, Yun-nan, Hu-kwang, Kiang-che, Kiang-si and Kan-suh) and twelve military governorships.--H.C.]

    Yachi was perhaps an ancient corruption of the name Yichau, which the territory bore (according to Martini and Biot) under the Han; but more probably Yichau was a Chinese transformation of the real name Yachi. The Shans still call the city Muang Chi, which is perhaps another modification of the same name.

    We have thus got Ch'eng-tu fu as one fixed point, and Yun-nan-fu as another, and we have to track the traveller's itinerary between the two, through what Ritter called with reason a terra incognita. What little was known till recently of this region came from the Catholic missionaries. Of late the veil has begun to be lifted; the daring excursion of Francis Garnier and his party in 1868 intersected the tract towards the south; Mr. T.T. Cooper crossed it further north, by Ta-t'sien lu, Lithang and Bathang; Baron v. Richthofen in 1872 had penetrated several marches towards the heart of the mystery, when an unfortunate mishap compelled his return, but he brought back with him much precious information.

    Five days forward from Ch'eng-tu fu brought us on Tibetan ground. Five days backward from Yun-nan fu should bring us to the river Brius, with its gold-dust and the frontier of Caindu. Wanting a local scale for a distance of five days, I find that our next point in advance, Marco's city of Carajan undisputably Tali-fu, is said by him to be ten days from Yachi. The direct distance between the cities of Yun-nan and Ta-li I find by measurement on Keith Johnston's map to be 133 Italian miles. [The distance by road is 215 English miles. (See Baber, p. 191.)--H.C.] Taking half this as radius, the compasses swept from Yun-nan-fu as centre, intersect near its most southerly elbow the great upper branch of the Kiang, the Kin-sha Kiang of the Chinese, or "River of the Golden Sands," the MURUS USSU and BRICHU of the Mongols and Tibetans, and manifestly the auriferous BRIUS of our traveller. Hence also the country north of this elbow is CAINDU.

    I leave the preceding paragraph as it stood in the first edition, because it shows how near the true position of Caindu these unaided deductions from our author's data had carried me. That paragraph was followed by an erroneous hypothesis as to the intermediate part of that journey, but, thanks to the new light shed by Baron Richthofen, we are enabled now to lay down the whole itinerary from Ch'eng-tu fu to Yun-nan fu with confidence in its accuracy.

    The Kin-sha Kiang or Upper course of the Great Yang-tzu, descending from Tibet to Yun-nan, forms the great bight or elbow to which allusion has just been made, and which has been a feature known to geographers ever since the publication of D'Anville's atlas. The tract enclosed in this elbow is cut in two by another great Tibetan River, the Yarlung, or Yalung-Kiang, which joins the Kin-sha not far from the middle of the great bight; and this Yalung, just before the confluence, receives on the left a stream of inferior calibre, the Ngan-ning Ho, which also flows in a valley parallel to the meridian, like all that singular fascis of great rivers between Assam and Sze-ch'wan.

    This River Ngan-ning waters a valley called Kien-ch'ang, containing near its northern end a city known by the same name, but in our modern maps marked as Ning-yuan fu; this last being the name of a department of which it is the capital, and which embraces much more than the valley of Kien-ch'ang. The town appears, however, as Kien-ch'ang in the Atlas Sinensis of Martini, and as Kienchang-ouei in D'Anville. This remarkable valley, imbedded as it were in a wilderness of rugged highlands and wild races, accessible only by two or three long and difficult routes, rejoices in a warm climate, a most productive soil, scenery that seems to excite enthusiasm even in Chinamen, and a population noted for amiable temper. Towns and villages are numerous. The people are said to be descended from Chinese immigrants, but their features have little of the Chinese type, and they have probably a large infusion of aboriginal blood. [Kien-ch'ang, "otherwise the Prefecture of Ning-yuan, is perhaps the least known of the Eighteen Provinces," writes Mr. Baber. (Travels, p. 58.) "Two or three sentences in the book of Ser Marco, to the effect that after crossing high mountains, he reached a fertile country containing many towns and villages, and inhabited by a very immoral population, constitute to this day the only description we possess of Cain-du, as he calls the district." Baber adds (p. 82): "Although the main valley of Kien-ch'ang is now principally inhabited by Chinese, yet the Sifan or Menia people are frequently met with, and most of the villages possess two names, one Chinese, and the other indigenous. Probably in Marco Polo's time a Menia population predominated, and the valley was regarded as part of Menia. If Marco had heard that name, he would certainly have recorded it; but it is not one which is likely to reach the ears of a stranger. The Chinese people and officials never employ it, but use in its stead an alternative name, Chan-tu or Chan-tui, of precisely the same application, which I make bold to offer as the original of Marco's Caindu, or preferably Ciandu." --H.C.]

    This valley is bounded on the east by the mountain country of the Lolos, which extends north nearly to Yachau (supra, pp. 45, 48, 60), and which, owing to the fierce intractable character of the race, forms throughout its whole length an impenetrable barrier between East and West. [The Rev. Gray Owen, of Ch'eng-tu, wrote (Jour. China B.R.A.S. xxviii. 1893-1894, p. 59): "The only great trade route infested by brigands is that from Ya-chau to Ning-yuan fu, where Lo-lo brigands are numerous, especially in the autumn. Last year I heard of a convoy of 18 mules with Shen-si goods on the above-mentioned road captured by these brigands, muleteers and all taken inside the Lo-lo country. It is very seldom that captives get out of Lo-lo-dom, because the ransom asked is too high, and the Chinese officials are not gallant enough to buy out their unfortunate countrymen. The Lo-los hold thousands of Chinese in slavery; and more are added yearly to the number."--H.C.] Two routes run from Ch'eng-tu fu to Yun-nan; these fork at Ya-chau and thenceforward are entirely separated by this barrier. To the east of it is the route which descends the Min River to Siu-chau, and then passes by Chao-tong and Tong-chuan to Yun-nan fu: to the west of the barrier is a route leading through Kien-ch'ang to Ta-li fu, but throwing off a branch from Ning-yuan southward in the direction of Yun-nan fu.

    This road from Ch'eng-tu fu to Ta-li by Ya-chau and Ning-yuan appears to be that by which the greater part of the goods for Bhamo and Ava used to travel before the recent Mahomedan rebellion; it is almost certainly the road by which Kublai, in 1253, during the reign of his brother Mangku Kaan, advanced to the conquest of Ta-li, then the head of an independent kingdom in Western Yun-nan. As far as Ts'ing-k'i hien, 3 marches beyond Ya-chau, this route coincides with the great Tibet road by Ta-t'sien lu and Bathang to L'hasa, and then it diverges to the left.

    We may now say without hesitation that by this road Marco travelled. His Tibet commences with the mountain region near Ya-chau; his 20 days' journey through a devastated and dispeopled tract is the journey to Ning-yuan fu. Even now, from Ts'ing-k'i onwards for several days, not a single inhabited place is seen. The official route from Ya-chau to Ning-yuan lays down 13 stages, but it generally takes from 15 to 18 days. Polo, whose journeys seem often to have been shorter than the modern average, took 20. On descending from the highlands he comes once more into a populated region, and enters the charming Valley of Kien-ch'ang. This valley, with its capital near the upper extremity, its numerous towns and villages, its cassia, its spiced wine, and its termination southward on the River of the Golden Sands, is CAINDU. The traveller's road from Ningyuan to Yunnanfu probably lay through Hwei-li, and the Kin-sha Kiang would be crossed as already indicated, near its most southerly bend, and almost due north of Yun-nan fu. (See Richthofen as quoted at pp. 45-46.)

    As regards the name of CAINDU or GHEINDU (as in G.T.), I think we may safely recognise in the last syllable the do which is so frequent a termination of Tibetan names (Amdo, Tsiamdo, etc.); whilst the Cain, as Baron Richthofen has pointed out, probably survives in the first part of the name Kienchang.

    [Baber writes (pp. 80-81): "Colonel Yule sees in the word Caindu a variation of 'Chien-ch'ang,' and supposes the syllable 'du' to be the same as the termination 'du,' 'do,' or 'tu,' so frequent in Tibetan names. In such names, however, 'do' never means a district, but always a confluence, or a town near a confluence, as might almost be guessed from a map of Tibet.... Unsatisfied with Colonel Yule's identification, I cast about for another, and thought for a while that a clue had been found in the term 'Chien-t'ou' (sharp-head), applied to certain Lolo tribes. But the idea had to be abandoned, since Marco Polo's anecdote about the 'caitiff,' and the loose manners of his family, could never have referred to the Lolos, who are admitted even by their Chinese enemies to possess a very strict code indeed of domestic regulations. The Lolos being eliminated, the Si-fans remained; and before we had been many days in their neighbourhood, stories were told us of their conduct which a polite pen refuses to record. It is enough to say that Marco's account falls rather short of the truth, and most obviously applies to the Si-fan."

    Deveria (Front. p. 146 note) says that Kien-ch'ang is the ancient territory of Kiung-tu which, under the Han Dynasty, fell into the hands of the Tibetans, and was made by the Mongols the march of Kien-ch'ang (Che-Kong-t'u); it is the Caindu of Marco Polo; under the Han Dynasty it was the Kiun or division of Yueh-sui or Yueh-hsi. Deveria quotes from the Yuen-shi-lei pien the following passage relating to the year 1284: "The twelve tribes of the Barbarians to the south-west of Kien-tou and Kin-Chi submitted; Kien-tou was administered by Mien (Burma); Kien-tou submits because the Kingdom of Mien has been vanquished." Kien-tou is the Chien-t'ou of Baber, the Caindu of Marco Polo. (Melanges de Harlez, p. 97.) According to Mr. E.H. Parker (China Review, xix. p. 69), Yueh-hsi or Yueh-sui "is the modern Kien-ch'ang Valley, the Caindu of Marco Polo, between the Yalung and Yang-tzu Rivers; the only non-Chinese races found there now are the Si-fan and Lolos."--H.C.]

    Turning to minor particulars, the Lake of Caindu in which the pearls were found is doubtless one lying near Ning-yuan, whose beauty Richthofen heard greatly extolled, though nothing of the pearls. [Mr. Hosie writes (Three Years, 112-113): "If the former tradition be true (the old city of Ning-yuan having given place to a large lake in the early years of the Ming Dynasty), the lake had no existence when Marco Polo passed through Caindu, and yet we find him mentioning a lake in the country in which pearls were found. Curiously enough, although I had not then read the Venetian's narrative, one of the many things told me regarding the lake was that pearls are found in it, and specimens were brought to me for inspection." The lake lies to the south-east of the present city.--H.C.] A small lake is marked by D'Anville, close to Kien-ch'ang, under the name of Gechoui-tang. The large quantities of gold derived from the Kin-sha Kiang, and the abundance of musk in that vicinity, are testified to by Martini. The Lake mentioned by Polo as existing in the territory of Yachi is no doubt the Tien-chi, the Great Lake on the shore of which the city of Yun-nan stands, and from which boats make their way by canals along the walls and streets. Its circumference, according to Martini, is 500 li. The cut (p. 68), from Garnier, shows this lake as seen from a villa on its banks. [Deveria (p. 129) quotes this passage from the Yuen-shi-lei pien: "Yachi, of which the U-man or Black Barbarians made their capital, is surrounded by Lake Tien-chi on three sides." Tien-chi is one of the names of Lake Kwen-ming, on the shore of which is built Yun-nan fu.--H.C.]

    Returning now to the Karajang of the Mongols, or Carajan, as Polo writes it, we shall find that the latter distinguishes this great province, which formerly, he says, included seven kingdoms, into two Mongol Governments, the seat of one being at Yachi, which we have seen to be Yun-nan fu, and that of the other at a city to which he gives the name of the Province, and which we shall find to be the existing Ta-li fu. Great confusion has been created in most of the editions by a distinction in the form of the name as applied to these two governments. Thus Ramusio prints the province under Yachi as Carajan, and that under Ta-li as Carazan, whilst Marsden, following out his system for the conversion of Ramusio's orthography, makes the former Karaian and the latter Karazan. Pauthier prints Caraian all through, a fact so far valuable as showing that his texts make no distinction between the names of the two governments, but the form impedes the recognition of the old Mongol nomenclature. I have no doubt that the name all through should be read Carajan, and on this I have acted. In the Geog. Text we find the name given at the end of ch. xlvii. Caragian, in ch. xlviii. as Carajan, in ch. xlix. as Caraian, thus just reversing the distinction made by Marsden. The Crusca has Charagia(n) all through.

    The name then was Kara-jang, in which the first element was the Mongol or Turki Kara, "Black." For we find in another passage of Rashid the following information: --"To the south-west of Cathay is the country called by the Chinese Dailiu or 'Great Realm,' and by the Mongols Karajang, in the language of India and Kashmir Kandar, and by us Kandahar. This country, which is of vast extent, is bounded on one side by Tibet and Tangut, and on others by Mongolia, Cathay, and the country of the Gold-Teeth. The King of Karajang uses the title of Mahara, i.e. Great King. The capital is called Yachi, and there the Council of Administration is established. Among the inhabitants of this country some are black, and others are white; these latter are called by the Mongols Chaghan-Jang ('White Jang')." Jang has not been explained; but probably it may have been a Tibetan term adopted by the Mongols, and the colours may have applied to their clothing. The dominant race at the Mongol invasion seems to have been Shans; and black jackets are the characteristic dress of the Shans whom one sees in Burma in modern times. The Kara-jang and Chaghan-jang appear to correspond also to the U-man and Pe-man, or Black Barbarians and White Barbarians, who are mentioned by Chinese authorities as conquered by the Mongols. It would seem from one of Pauthier's Chinese quotations (p. 388), that the Chaghan-jang were found in the vicinity of Li-kiang fu. (D'Ohsson, II. 317; J. R. Geog. Soc. III. 294.) [Dr. Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. p. 184) says that in the description of Yun-nan, in the Yuen-shi, "Cara-jang and Chagan-jang are rendered by Wu-man and Po-man (Black and White Barbarians). But in the biographies of Djao-a-k'o-p'an, A-r-szelan (Yuen-shi, ch. cxxiii.), and others, these tribes are mentioned under the names of Ha-la-djang and Ch'a-han-djang, as the Mongols used to call them; and in the biography of Wu-liang-ho t'ai. [Uriang kadai], the conqueror of Yun-nan, it is stated that the capital of the Black Barbarians was called Yach'i. It is described there as a city surrounded by lakes from three sides."--H.C.]

    Regarding Rashiduddin's application of the name Kandahar or Gandhara to Yun-nan, and curious points connected therewith, I must refer to a paper of mine in the J.R.A.Society (N.S. IV. 356). But I may mention that in the ecclesiastical translation of the classical localities of Indian Buddhism to Indo-China, which is current in Burma, Yun-nan represents Gandhara,[5] and is still so styled in state documents (Gandalarit).

    What has been said of the supposed name Caraian disposes, I trust, of the fancies which have connected the origin of the Karens of Burma with it. More groundless still is M. Pauthier's deduction of the Talains of Pegu (as the Burmese call them) from the people of Ta-li, who fled from Kublai's invasion.

  2. 2.0 2.1 The existence of Nestorians in this remote province is very notable [see Bonin, J. As. XV. 1900, pp. 589-590.--H.C.] and also the early prevalence of Mahomedanism, which Rashiduddin intimates in stronger terms. "All the inhabitants of Yachi," he says, "are Mahomedans." This was no doubt an exaggeration, but the Mahomedans seem always to have continued to be an important body in Yun-nan up to our own day. In 1855 began their revolt against the imperial authority, which for a time resulted in the establishment of their independence in Western Yun-nan under a chief whom they called Sultan Suleiman. A proclamation in remarkably good Arabic, announcing the inauguration of his reign, appears to have been circulated to Mahomedans in foreign states, and a copy of it some years ago found its way through the Nepalese agent at L'hasa, into the hands of Colonel Ramsay, the British Resident at Katmandu.[6]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wheat grows as low as Ava, but there also it is not used by natives for bread, only for confectionery and the like. The same is the case in Eastern China. (See ch. xxvi. note 4, and Middle Kingdom, II. 43.)
  4. 4.0 4.1 The word piccoli is supplied, doubtfully, in lieu of an unknown symbol. If correct, then we should read "24 piccoli each" for this was about the equivalent of a grosso. This is the first time Polo mentions cowries, which he calls porcellani. This might have been rendered by the corresponding vernacular name "Pig-shells," applied to certain shells of that genus (Cypraea) in some parts of England. It is worthy of note that as the name porcellana has been transferred from these shells to China-ware, so the word pig has been in Scotland applied to crockery; whether the process has been analogous, I cannot say.

    Klaproth states that Yun-nan is the only country of China in which cowries had continued in use, though in ancient times they were more generally diffused. According to him 80 cowries were equivalent to 6 cash, or a half-penny. About 1780 in Eastern Bengal 80 cowries were worth 3/8th of a penny, and some 40 years ago, when Prinsep compiled his tables in Calcutta (where cowries were still in use a few years ago, if they are not now), 80 cowries were worth 3/10 of a penny.

    At the time of the Mahomedan conquest of Bengal, early in the 13th century, they found the currency exclusively composed of cowries, aided perhaps by bullion in large transactions, but with no coined money. In remote districts this continued to modern times. When the Hon. Robert Lindsay went as Resident and Collector to Silhet about 1778, cowries constituted nearly the whole currency of the Province. The yearly revenue amounted to 250,000 rupees, and this was entirely paid in cowries at the rate of 5120 to the rupee. It required large warehouses to contain them, and when the year's collection was complete a large fleet of boats to transport them to Dacca. Before Lindsay's time it had been the custom to count the whole before embarking them! Down to 1801 the Silhet revenue was entirely collected in cowries, but by 1813, the whole was realised in specie. (Thomas, in J.R.A.S. N.S. II. 147; Lives of the Lindsays, III. 169, 170.)

    Klaproth's statement has ceased to be correct. Lieutenant Garnier found cowries nowhere in use north of Luang Prabang; and among the Kakhyens in Western Yun nan these shells are used only for ornament. [However, Mr. E. H. Parker says (China Review, XXVI. p. 106) that the porcelain money still circulates in the Shan States, and that he saw it there himself.--H.C.]

  5. 5.0 5.1 See ch. xlvii. note 4. Martini speaks of a great brine-well to the N.E. of Yaogan (W.N.W. of the city of Yun-nan), which supplied the whole country round.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Two particulars appearing in these latter paragraphs are alluded to by Rashiduddin in giving a brief account of the overland route from India to China, which is unfortunately very obscure: "Thence you arrive at the borders of Tibet, where they eat raw meat and worship images, and have no shame respecting their wives." (Elliot, I. p. 73.)