The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 50
Concerning the Province of Zardandan
When you have left Carajan and have travelled five days westward, you find a province called ZARDANDAN. The people are Idolaters and subject to the Great Kaan. The capital city is called VOCHAN.
The people of this country all have their teeth gilt; or rather every man covers his teeth with a sort of golden case made to fit them, both the upper teeth and the under. The men do this, but not the women [The men also are wont to gird their arms and legs with bands or fillets pricked in black, and it is done thus; they take five needles joined together, and with these they prick the flesh till the blood comes, and then they rub in a certain black colouring stuff, and this is perfectly indelible. It is considered a piece of elegance and the sign of gentility to have this black band.] The men are all gentlemen in their fashion, and do nothing but go to the wars, or go hunting and hawking. The ladies do all the business, aided by the slaves who have been taken in war.
And when one of their wives has been delivered of a child, the infant is washed and swathed, and then the woman gets up and goes about her household affairs, whilst the husband takes to bed with the child by his side, and so keeps his bed for 40 days; and all the kith and kin come to visit him and keep up a great festivity. They do this because, say they, the woman has had a hard bout of it, and 'tis but fair the man should have his share of suffering.
They eat all kinds of meat, both raw and cooked, and they eat rice with their cooked meat as their fashion is. Their drink is wine made of rice and spices, and excellent it is. Their money is gold, and for small change they use pig-shells. And I can tell you they give one weight of gold for only five of silver; for there is no silver-mine within five months' journey. And this induces merchants to go thither carrying a large supply of silver to change among that people. And as they have only five weights of silver to give for one of fine gold, they make immense profits by their exchange business in that country.
These people have neither idols nor churches, but worship the progenitor of their family, "for 'tis he," say they, "from whom we have all sprung."  They have no letters or writing; and 'tis no wonder, for the country is wild and hard of access, full of great woods and mountains which 'tis impossible to pass, the air in summer is so impure and bad; and any foreigners attempting it would die for certain. When these people have any business transactions with one another, they take a piece of stick, round or square, and split it, each taking half. And on either half they cut two or three notches. And when the account is settled the debtor receives back the other half of the stick from the creditor. 
And let me tell you that in all those three provinces that I have been speaking of, to wit Carajan, Vochan, and Yachi, there is never a leech. But when any one is ill they send for their magicians, that is to say the Devil-conjurors and those who are the keepers of the idols. When these are come the sick man tells what ails him, and then the conjurors incontinently begin playing on their instruments and singing and dancing; and the conjurors dance to such a pitch that at last one of them shall fall to the ground lifeless, like a dead man. And then the devil entereth into his body. And when his comrades see him in this plight they begin to put questions to him about the sick man's ailment. And he will reply: "Such or such a spirit hath been meddling with the man, for that he hath angered the spirit and done it some despite." Then they say: "We pray thee to pardon him, and to take of his blood or of his goods what thou wilt in consideration of thus restoring him to health." And when they have so prayed, the malignant spirit that is in the body of the prostrate man will (mayhap) answer: "The sick man hath also done great despite unto such another spirit, and that one is so ill-disposed that it will not pardon him on any account;"--this at least is the answer they get, an the patient be like to die. But if he is to get better the answer will be that they are to bring two sheep, or may be three; and to brew ten or twelve jars of drink, very costly and abundantly spiced. Moreover it shall be announced that the sheep must be all black-faced, or of some other particular colour as it may hap; and then all those things are to be offered in sacrifice to such and such a spirit whose name is given.  And they are to bring so many conjurors, and so many ladies, and the business is to be done with a great singing of lauds, and with many lights, and store of good perfumes. That is the sort of answer they get if the patient is to get well. And then the kinsfolk of the sick man go and procure all that has been commanded, and do as has been bidden, and the conjuror who had uttered all that gets on his legs again.
So they fetch the sheep of the colour prescribed, and slaughter them, and sprinkle the blood over such places as have been enjoined, in honour and propitiation of the spirit. And the conjurors come, and the ladies, in the number that was ordered, and when all are assembled and everything is ready, they begin to dance and play and sing in honour of the spirit. And they take flesh-broth and drink and lign-aloes, and a great number of lights, and go about hither and thither, scattering the broth and the drink and the meat also. And when they have done this for a while, again shall one of the conjurors fall flat and wallow there foaming at the mouth, and then the others will ask if he have yet pardoned the sick man? And sometimes he shall answer yea! and sometimes he shall answer no! And if the answer be no, they shall be told that something or other has to be done all over again, and then he will be pardoned; so this they do. And when all that the spirit has commanded has been done with great ceremony, then it shall be announced that the man is pardoned and shall be speedily cured. So when they at length receive such a reply, they announce that it is all made up with the spirit, and that he is propitiated, and they fall to eating and drinking with great joy and mirth, and he who had been lying lifeless on the ground gets up and takes his share. So when they have all eaten and drunken, every man departs home. And presently the sick man gets sound and well.
Now that I have told you of the customs and naughty ways of that people, we will have done talking of them and their province, and I will tell you about others, all in regular order and succession.
- [Baber writes (Travels, p. 171) when arriving to the Lan-tsang kiang (Mekong River): "We were now on the border-line between Carajan and Zardandan: 'When you have travelled five days you find a province called Zardandan,' says Messer Marco, precisely the actual number of stages from Tali-fu to the present boundary of Yung-ch'ang. That this river must have been the demarcation between the two provinces is obvious; one glance into that deep rift, the only exit from which is by painful worked artificial zigzags which, under the most favourable conditions, cannot be called safe, will satisfy the most sceptical geographer. The exact statement of distance is a proof that Marco entered the territory of Yung-ch'ang." Captain Gill says (II. p. 343-344) that the five marches of Marco Polo "would be very long ones. Our journey was eight days, but it might easily have been done in seven, as the first march to Hsia-Kuan was not worthy of the name. The Grosvenor expedition made eleven marches with one day's halt--twelve days altogether, and Mr. Margary was nine or ten days on the journey. It is true that, by camping out every night, the marches might be longer; and, as Polo refers to the crackling of the bamboos in the fires, it is highly probable that he found no fine hostelries on this route. This is the way the traders still travel in Tibet; they march until they are tired, or until they find a nice grassy spot; they then off saddles, turn their animals loose, light a fire under some adjacent tree, and halt for the night; thus the longest possible distance can be performed every day, and the five days from Ta-li to Yung-Ch'ang would not be by any means an impossibility."--H.C.]
- Ramusio says that both men and women use this gold case. There can be no better instance of the accuracy with which Polo is generally found to have represented Oriental names, when we recover his real representation of them, than this name Zardandan. In the old Latin editions the name appeared as Ardandan, Ardadam, etc.; in Ramusio as Cardandan, correctly enough, only the first letter should have been printed C. Marsden, carrying out his systematic conversion of the Ramusian spelling, made this into Kardandan, and thus the name became irrecognizable. Klaproth, I believe, first showed that the word was simply the Persian ZAR-DANDAN, "Gold-Teeth," and produced quotations from Rashiduddin mentioning the people in question by that identical name. Indeed that historian mentions them several times. Thus: "North-west of China is the frontier of Tibet, and of the ZARDANDAN, who lie between Tibet and Karajang. These people cover their teeth with a gold case, which they take off when they eat." They are also frequently mentioned in the Chinese annals about this period under the same name, viz. Kin-Chi, "Gold-Teeth," and some years after Polo's departure from the East they originated a revolt against the Mongol yoke, in which a great number of the imperial troops were massacred. (De Mailla, IX. 478-479.)
[Baber writes (p. 159): "In Western Yuennan the betel-nut is chewed with prepared lime, colouring the teeth red, and causing a profuse expectoration. We first met with the practice near Tali-fu.
"Is it not possible that the red colour imparted to the teeth by the practice of chewing betel with lime may go some way to account for the ancient name of this region, 'Zar-dandan,' 'Chin-Ch'ih,' or 'Golden-Teeth'? Betel-chewing is, of course, common all over China; but the use of lime is almost unknown and the teeth are not necessarily discoloured.
"In the neighbourhood of Tali, one comes suddenly upon a lime-chewing people, and is at once struck with the strange red hue of their teeth and gums. That some of the natives used formerly to cover their teeth with plates of gold (from which practice, mentioned by Marco Polo, and confirmed elsewhere, the name is generally derived) can scarcely be considered a myth; but the peculiarity remarked by ourselves would have been equally noticeable by the early Chinese invaders, and seems not altogether unworthy of consideration. It is interesting to find the name 'Chin-Ch'ih' still in use.
"When Tu Wen-hsiu sent his 'Panthay' mission to England with tributary boxes of rock from the Tali Mountains, he described himself in his letter 'as a humble native of the golden-teeth country.'"--H.C.]
Vochan seems undoubtedly to be, as Martini pointed out, the city called by the Chinese YUNG-CH'ANG-FU. Some of the old printed editions read Unciam, i.e. Uncham or Unchan, and it is probable that either this or Vocian, i.e. VONCHAN, was the true reading, coming very close to the proper name, which is WUNCHEN. (See J.A.S.B. VI. 547.) [In an itinerary from Ava to Peking, we read on the 10th September, 1833: "Slept at the city Wun-tsheng (Chinese Yongtchang fu and Burmese Wun-zen)." (Chin. Rep. IX. p. 474):--Mr. F.W.K. Mueller in a study on the Pa-yi language from a Chinese manuscript entitled Hwa-i-yi-yue found by Dr. F. Hirth in China, and belonging now to the Berlin Royal Library, says the proper orthography of the word is Wan-chang in Pa-yi. (T'oung Pao, III. p. 20.) This helps to find the origin of the name Vochan.--H.C.] This city has been a Chinese one for several centuries, and previous to the late Mahomedan revolt its population was almost exclusively Chinese, with only a small mixture of Shans. It is now noted for the remarkable beauty and fairness of the women. But it is mentioned by Chinese authors as having been in the Middle Ages the capital of the Gold-Teeth. These people, according to Martini, dwelt chiefly to the north of the city. They used to go to worship a huge stone, 100 feet high, at Nan-ngan, and cover it annually with gold-leaf. Some additional particulars about the Kin-Chi, in the time of the Mongols, will be found in Pauthier's notes (p. 398).
[In 1274, the Burmese attacked Yung ch'ang, whose inhabitants were known under the name of Kin-Chi (Golden-Teeth). (E. Rocher, Princes du Yun-nan, p. 71.) From the Annals of Momein, translated by Mr. E.H. Parker (China Review, XX. p. 345), we learn that: "In the year 1271, the General of Ta-li was sent on a mission to procure the submission of the Burmese, and managed to bring a Burmese envoy named Kiai-poh back with him. Four years later Fu A-pih, Chief of the Golden-Teeth, was utilised as a guide, which so angered the Burmese that they detained Fu A-pih and attacked Golden-Teeth: but he managed to bribe himself free. A-ho, Governor of the Golden-Teeth, was now sent as a spy, which caused the Burmese to advance to the attack once more, but they were driven back by Twan Sin-cha-jih. These events led to the Burmese war," which lasted till 1301.
According to the Hwang-tsing Chi-kung t'u (quoted by Deveria, Front. p. 130), the Pei-jen were Kin-chi of Pa-y race, and were surnamed Min-kia-tzu; the Min-kia, according to F. Garnier, say that they come from Nan-king, but this is certainly an error for the Pei-jen. From another Chinese work, Deveeria (p. 169) gives this information: The Piao are the Kin-Chi; they submitted to the Mongols in the 13th century; they are descended from the people of Chu-po or Piao Kwo (Kingdom of Piao), ancient Pegu; P'u-p'iao, in a little valley between the Mekong and the Salwen Rivers, was the place through which the P'u and the Piao entered China.
The Chinese geographical work Fang-yu-ki-yao mentions the name of Kin-Chi Ch'eng, or city of Kin-Chi, as the ancient denomination of Yung-ch'ang. A Chinese Pa-y vocabulary, belonging to Professor Deveria, translates Kin-Chi by Wan-Chang (Yung-ch'ang). (Deveria, Front. p. 128.)--H.C.]
It has not been determined who are the representatives of these Gold-Teeth, who were evidently distinct from the Shans, not Buddhist, and without literature. I should think it probable that they were Kakhyens or Singphos, who, excluding Shans, appear to form the greatest body in that quarter, and are closely akin to each other, indeed essentially identical in race. The Singphos have now extended widely to the west of the Upper Irawadi and northward into Assam, but their traditions bring them from the borders of Yunnan. The original and still most populous seat of the Kakhyen or Singpho race is pointed out by Colonel Hannay in the Gulansigung Mountains and the valley of the eastern source of the Irawadi. This agrees with Martini's indication of the seat of the Kin-Chi as north of Yung-ch'ang. One of Hannay's notices of Singpho customs should also be compared with the interpolation from Ramusio about tattooing: "The men tattoo their limbs slightly, and all married females are tattooed on both legs from the ankle to the knee, in broad horizontal circular bands. Both sexes also wear rings below the knee of fine shreds of rattan varnished black" (p. 18). These rings appear on the Kakhyen woman in our cut.
The only other wild tribe spoken of by Major Sladen as attending the markets on the frontier is that of the Lissus already mentioned by Lieutenant Garnier (supra, ch. xlvii. note 6), and who are said to be the most savage and indomitable of the tribes in that quarter. Garnier also mentions the Mossos, who are alleged once to have formed an independent kingdom about Li-kiang fu. Possibly, however, the Gold-Teeth may have become entirely absorbed in the Chinese and Shan population.
The characteristic of casing the teeth in gold should identify the tribe did it still exist. But I can learn nothing of the continued existence of such a custom among any tribe of the Indo-Chinese continent. The insertion of gold studs or spots, which Buerck confounds with it, is common enough among Indo-Chinese races, but that is quite a different thing. The actual practice of the Zardandan is, however, followed by some of the people of Sumatra, as both Marsden and Raffles testify: "The great men sometimes set their teeth in gold, by casing with a plate of that metal the under row ... it is sometimes indented to the shape of the teeth, but more usually quite plain. They do not remove it either to eat or sleep." The like custom is mentioned by old travellers at Macassar, and with the substitution of silver for gold by a modern traveller as existing in Timor; but in both, probably, it was a practice of Malay tribes, as in Sumatra. (Marsden's Sumatra, 3rd ed., p. 52; Raffles's Java, I. 105; Bickmore's Ind. Archipelago.)
[In his second volume of The River of Golden Sand, Captain Gill has two chapters (viii. and ix.) with the title: In the footsteps of Marco Polo and of Augustus Margary devoted to The Land of the Gold-Teeth and The Marches of the Kingdom of Mien.--H.C.]
- This is precisely the account which Lieutenant Garnier gives of the people of Laos: "The Laos people are very indolent, and when they are not rich enough to possess slaves they make over to their women the greatest part of the business of the day; and 'tis these latter who not only do all the work of the house, but who husk the rice, work in the fields, and paddle the canoes. Hunting and fishing are almost the only occupations which pertain exclusively to the stronger sex." (Notice sur le Voyage d'Exploration, etc., p. 34.)
- This highly eccentric practice has been ably illustrated and explained by Mr. Tylor, under the name of the Couvade, or "Hatching," by which it is known in some of the Bearn districts of the Pyrenees, where it formerly existed, as it does still or did recently, in some Basque districts of Spain. [In a paper on La Couvade chez les Basques, published in the Republique Francaise, of 19th January, 1877, and reprinted in Etudes de Linguistique et a' Ethnographie par A. Hovelacque et Julien Vinson, Paris, 1878, Prof. Vinson quotes the following curious passage from the poem in ten cantos, Luciniade, by Sacombe, of Carcassonne (Paris and Nimes, 1790):
"En Amerique, en Corse, et chez l'Iberien,
En France meme encor chez le Venarnien,
Au pays Navarrois, lorsqu'une femme accouche,
L'epouse sort du lit et le mari se couche;
Et, quoiqu'il soit tres sain et d'esprit et de corps,
Contre un mal qu'il n'a point l'art unit ses efforts.
On le met au regime, et notre faux malade,
Soigne par l'accouchee, en son lit fait couvade:
On ferme avec grand soin portes, volets, rideaux;
Immobile, on l'oblige a rester sur le dos,
Pour etouffer son lait, qui gene dans sa course,
Pourrait en l'etouffant remonter vers sa source.
Un mari, dans sa couche, au medecin soumis,
Recoit, en cet etat, parents, voisins, amis,
Qui viennent l'exhorter a prendre patience
Et font des voeux au ciel pour sa convalescence."
Professor Vinson, who is an authority on the subject, comes to the conclusion that it is not possible to ascribe to the Basques the custom of the couvade.
Mr. Tylor writes to me that he "did not quite begin the use of this good French word in the sense of the 'man-child-bed' as they call it in Germany. It occurs in Rochefort, Iles Antilles, and though Dr. Murray, of the English Dictionary, maintains that it is spurious, if so, it is better than any genuine word I know of."--H.C.] "In certain valleys of Biscay," says Francisque-Michel, "in which the popular usages carry us back to the infancy of society, the woman immediately after her delivery gets up and attends to the cares of the household, whilst the husband takes to bed with the tender fledgeling in his arms, and so receives the compliments of his neighbours."
The nearest people to the Zardandan of whom I find this custom elsewhere recorded, is one called Langszi, a small tribe of aborigines in the department of Wei-ning, in Kweichau, but close to the border of Yun-nan: "Their manners and customs are very extraordinary. For example, when the wife has given birth to a child, the husband remains in the house and holds it in his arms for a whole month, not once going out of doors. The wife in the mean time does all the work in doors and out, and provides and serves up both food and drink for the husband, she only giving suck to the child." I am informed also that, among the Miris on the Upper Assam border, the husband on such occasions confines himself strictly to the house for forty days after the event.
The custom of the Couvade has especially and widely prevailed in South America, not only among the Carib races of Guiana, of the Spanish Main, and (where still surviving) of the West Indies, but among many tribes of Brazil and its borders from the Amazons to the Plate, and among the Abipones of Paraguay; it also exists or has existed among the aborigines of California, in West Africa, in Bouro, one of the Moluccas, and among a wandering tribe of the Telugu-speaking districts of Southern India. According to Diodorus it prevailed in ancient Corsica, according to Strabo among the Iberians of Northern Spain (where we have seen it has lingered to recent times), according to Apollonius Rhodius among the Tibareni of Pontus. Modified traces of a like practice, not carried to the same extent of oddity, are also found in a variety of countries besides those that have been named, as in Borneo, in Kamtchatka, and in Greenland. In nearly all cases some particular diet, or abstinence from certain kinds of food and drink, and from exertion, is prescribed to the father; in some, more positive and trying penances are inflicted.
Butler had no doubt our Traveller's story in his head when he made the widow in Hudibras allude in a ribald speech to the supposed fact that
--"Chineses go to bed
And lie in, in their ladies' stead."
The custom is humorously introduced, as Pauthier has noticed, in the Mediaeval Fabliau of Aucasin and Nicolete. Aucasin arriving at the castle of Torelore asks for the king and is told he is in child-bed. Where then is his wife? She is gone to the wars and has taken all the people with her. Aucasin, greatly astonished, enters the palace, and wanders through it till he comes to the chamber where the king lay:--
"En le canbre entre Aucasins
Li cortois et li gentis;
Il est venus dusqu'au lit
Alec u li Rois se gist.
Pardevant lui s'arestit
Si parla, Oes que dist;
Diva fau, que fais-tu ci?
Dist le Rois, Je gis d'un fil,
Quant mes mois sera complis,
Et ge serai bien garis,
Dont irai le messe oir
Si comme mes ancessor fist," etc.
Aucasin pulls all the clothes off him, and cudgels him soundly, making him promise that never a man shall lie in again in his country.
This strange custom, if it were unique, would look like a coarse practical joke, but appearing as it does among so many different races and in every quarter of the world, it must have its root somewhere deep in the psychology of the uncivilised man. I must refer to Mr. Tylor's interesting remarks on the rationale of the custom, for they do not bear abridgment. Professor Max Mueller humorously suggests that "the treatment which a husband receives among ourselves at the time of his wife's confinement, not only from mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and other female relations, but from nurses, and from every consequential maid-servant in the house," is but a "survival," as Mr. Tylor would call it, of the couvade; or at least represents the same feeling which among those many uncivilised nations thus drove the husband to his bed, and sometimes (as among the Caribs) put him when there to systematic torture.
(Tylor Researches, 288-296; Michel, Le Pays Basque, p. 201; Sketches of the Meau-tsze, transl. by Bridgman in J. of North China Br. of R. As. Soc., p. 277; Hudibras, Pt. III., canto I. 707; Fabliaus et Contes par Barbazan, ed. Meon, I. 408-409; Indian Antiq. III. 151; Mueller's Chips, II. 227 seqq.; many other references in TYLOR, and in a capital monograph by Dr. H.H. Ploss of Leipzig, received during revision of this sheet: 'Das Mannerkindbett.' What a notable example of the German power of compounding is that title!)
[This custom seems to be considered generally as a survival of the matriarchate in a society with a patriarchal regime. We may add to the list of authorities on this subject: E. Westermarck, Hist. of Human Marriage, 106, seqq.; G. A. Wilken, De Couvade bij de Volken v.d. Indischen Archipel, Bijdr. Ind. Inst., 5th ser., iv. p. 250. Dr. Ernest Martin, late physician of the French Legation at Peking, in an article on La Couvade en Chine (Revue Scientifique, 24th March, 1894), gave a drawing representing the couvade from a sketch by a native artist.
In the China Review (XI. pp. 401-402), "Lao Kwang-tung" notes these interesting facts: "The Chinese believe that certain actions performed by the husband during the pregnancy of his wife will affect the child. If a dish of food on the table is raised by putting another dish, or anything else below it, it is not considered proper for a husband, who is expecting the birth of a child, to partake of it, for fear the two dishes should cause the child to have two tongues. It is extraordinary that the caution thus exercised by the Chinese has not prevented many of them from being double-tongued. This result, it is supposed, however, will only happen if the food so raised is eaten in the house in which the future mother happens to be. It is thought that the pasting up of the red papers containing antithetical and felicitous sentences on them, as at New Year's time, by a man under similar circumstances, and this whether the future mother sees the action performed or not, will cause the child to have red marks on the face or any part of the body. The causes producing naevi materni have probably been the origin of such marks, rather than the idea entertained by the Chinese that the father, having performed an action by some occult mode, influences the child yet unborn. A case is said to have occurred in which ill effects were obviated, or rather obliterated, by the red papers being torn down, after the birth of the infant, and soaked in water, when as the red disappeared from the paper, so the child's face assumed a natural hue. Lord Avebury also speaks of la couvade as existing among the Chinese of West Yun-Nan. (Origin of Civilisation and Primitive Condition of Man, p. 18)."
Dr. J.A.H. Murray, editor of the New English Dictionary, wrote, in The Academy, of 29th October, 1892, a letter with the heading of Couvade, The Genesis of an Anthropological Term, which elicited an answer from Dr. E.B. Tylor (Academy, 5th November): "Wanting a general term for such customs," writes Dr. Tylor, "and finding statements in books that this male lying-in lasted on till modern times, in the south of France, and was there called couvade, that is brooding or hatching (couver), I adopted this word for the set of customs, and it has since become established in English." The discussion was carried on in The Academy, 12th and 19th November, 10th and 17th December; Mr. A.L. Mayhew wrote (12th November): "There is no doubt whatever that Dr. Tylor and Professor Max Mueller (in a review of Dr. Tylor's book) share the glory of having given a new technical sense to an old provincial French word, and of seeing it accepted in France, and safely enshrined in the great Dictionary of Littre."
Now as to the origin of the word; we have seen above that Rochefort was the first to use the expression faire la couvade. This author, or at least the author (see Barbier, Ouvrages anonymes) of the Histoire naturelle ... des Iles Antilles, which was published for the first time at Rotterdam, in 1658, 4to., writes: "C'est qu'au meme tems que la femme est delivree le mary se met au lit, pour s'y plaindre et y faire l'acouchee: coutume, qui bien que Sauvage et ridicule, se trouve neantmoins a ce que l'on dit, parmy les paysans d'vne certaine Province de France. Et ils appellent cela faire la couvade. Mais ce qui est de facheus pour le pauvre Caraibe, qui s'est mis au lit au lieu de l'acouchee, c'est qu'on luy fait faire diete dix on douze jours de suite, ne luy donnant rien par jour qu'vn petit morceau de Cassave, et un peu d'eau dans la quelle on a aussi fait boueillir un peu de ce pain de racine.... Mais ils ne font ce grand jeusne qu'a la naissance de leur premier enfant ..." (II. pp. 607-608).
Lafitau (Maeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains, I. pp. 49-50) says on the authority of Rochefort: "Je la trouve chez les Iberiens ou les premiers Peuples d'Espagne ... elle est aujourd'hui dans quelques unes de nos Provinces d'Espagne."
The word couvade, forgotten in the sense of lying-in bed, recalled by Sacombe, has been renovated in a happy manner by Dr. Tylor.
As to the custom itself, there can be no doubt of its existence, in spite of some denials. Dr. Tylor, in the third edition of his valuable Early History of Mankind, published in 1878 (Murray), since the last edition of The Book of Ser Marco Polo, has added (pp. 291 seqq.) many more proofs to support what he had already said on the subject.
There may be some strong doubts as to the couvade in the south of France, and the authors who speak of it in Bearn and the Basque Countries seem to have copied one another, but there is not the slightest doubt of its having been and of its being actually practised in South America. There is a very curious account of it in the Voyage dans le Nord du Bresil made by Father Yves d'Evreux in 1613 and 1614 (see pp. 88-89 of the reprint, Paris, 1864, and the note of the learned Ferdinand Denis, pp. 411-412). Compare with Durch Central-Brasilien ... im Jahre 1884 von K.v. den Steinen. But the following extract from Among the Indians of Guiana.... By Everard im Thurn (1883), will settle, I think, the question:
"Turning from the story of the day to the story of the life, we may begin at the beginning, that is, at the birth of the children. And here, at once, we meet with, perhaps, the most curious point in the habits of the Indians; the couvade or male child-bed. This custom, which is common to the uncivilized people of many parts of the world, is probably among the strangest ever invented by the human brain. Even before the child is born, the father abstains for a time from certain kinds of animal food. The woman works as usual up to a few hours before the birth of the child. At last she retires alone, or accompanied only by some other women, to the forest, where she ties up her hammock; and then the child is born. Then in a few hours--often less than a day--the woman, who, like all women living in a very unartificial condition, suffers but little, gets up and resumes her ordinary work. According to Schomburgk, the mother, at any rate among the Macusis, remains in her hammock for some time, and the father hangs his hammock, and lies in it, by her side; but in all cases where the matter came under my notice, the mother left her hammock almost at once. In any case, no sooner is the child born than the father takes to his hammock and, abstaining from every sort of work, from meat and all other food, except weak gruel of cassava meal, from smoking, from washing himself, and, above all, from touching weapons of any sort, is nursed and cared for by all the women of the place. One other regulation, mentioned by Schomburgk, is certainly quaint; the interesting father may not scratch himself with his finger-nails, but he may use for this purpose a splinter, specially provided, from the mid-rib of a cokerite palm. This continues for many days, and sometimes even weeks. Couvade is such a wide-spread institution, that I had often read and wondered at it; but it was not until I saw it practised around me, and found that I was often suddenly deprived of the services of my best hunters or boat-hands, by the necessity which they felt, and which nothing could persuade them to disregard, of observing couvade, that I realized its full strangeness. No satisfactory explanation of its origin seems attainable. It appears based on a belief in the existence of a mysterious connection between the child and its father-far closer than that which exists between the child and its mother,--and of such a nature that if the father infringes any of the rules of the couvade, for a time after the birth of the child, the latter suffers. For instance, if he eats the flesh of a water-haas (Capybara), a large rodent with very protruding teeth, the teeth of the child will grow as those of the animal; or if he eats the flesh of the spotted-skinned labba, the child's skin will become spotted. Apparently there is also some idea that for the father to eat strong food, to wash, to smoke, or to handle weapons, would have the same result as if the new-born babe ate such food, washed, smoked, or played with edged tools" (pp. 217-219.)
I have to thank Dr. Edward B. Tylor for the valuable notes he kindly sent me.--H.C.]
- "The abundance of gold in Yun-nan is proverbial in China, so that if a man lives very extravagantly they ask if his father is governor of Yun-nan." (Martini, p. 140.)
Polo has told us that in Eastern Yun-nan the exchange was 8 of silver for one of gold (ch. xlviii.); in the Western division of the province 6 of silver for one of gold (ch. xlix.); and now, still nearer the borders of Ava, only 5 of silver for one of gold. Such discrepancies within 15 days' journey would be inconceivable, but that in both the latter instances at least he appears to speak of the rates at which the gold was purchased from secluded, ignorant, and uncivilised tribes. It is difficult to reconcile with other facts the reason which he assigns for the high value put on silver at Vochan, viz., that there was no silver-mine within five months' journey. In later days, at least, Martini speaks of many silver-mines in Yun-nan, and the "Great Silver Mine" (Bau-dwen gyi of the Burmese) or group of mines, which affords a chief supply to Burma in modern times, is not far from the territory of our Traveller's Zardandan. Garnier's map shows several argentiferous sites in the Valley of the Lan-t'sang.
In another work I have remarked at some length on the relative values of gold and silver about this time. In Western Europe these seem to have been as 12 to 1, and I have shown grounds for believing that in India, and generally over civilised Asia, the ratio was 10 to 1. In Pauthier's extracts from the Yuen-shi or Annals of the Mongol Dynasty, there is an incidental but precise confirmation of this, of which I was not then aware. This states (p. 321) that on the issue of the paper currency of 1287 the official instructions to the local treasuries were to issue notes of the nominal value of two strings, i.e. 2000 wen or cash, for every ounce of flowered silver, and 20,000 cash for every ounce of gold. Ten to 1 must have continued to be the relation in China down to about the end of the 17th century if we may believe Lecomte; but when Milburne states the same value in the beginning of the 19th he must have fallen into some great error. In 1781 Sonnerat tells us that formerly gold had been exported from China with a profit of 25 per cent., but at that time a profit of 18 to 20 per cent, was made by importing it. At present the relative values are about the same as in Europe, viz. 1 to 15-1/2 or 1 to 16; but in Canton, in 1844, they were 1 to 17; and Timkowski states that at Peking in 1821 the finest gold was valued at 18 to 1. And as regards the precise territory of which this chapter speaks I find in Lieutenant Bower's Commercial Report on Sladen's Mission that the price of pure gold at Momein in 1868 was 13 times its weight in silver (p. 122); whilst M. Garnier mentions that the exchange at Ta-li in 1869 was 12 to 1 (I. 522).
Does not Shakspeare indicate at least a memory of 10 to 1 as the traditional relation of gold to silver when he makes the Prince of Morocco, balancing over Portia's caskets, argue: <poem> "Or shall I think in silver she's immured, Being ten times undervalued to tried gold? O sinful thought." <poem> In Japan, at the time trade was opened, we know from Sir R. Alcock's work the extraordinary fact that the proportionate value set upon gold and silver currency by authority was as 3 to 1.
(Cathay, etc., p. ccl. and p. 442; Lecomte, II. 91; Milburne's Oriental Commerce, II. 510; Sonnerat, II. 17; Hedde, Etude, Pratique, etc., p. 14; Williams, Chinese Commercial Guide, p. 129; Timkowski, II. 202; Alcock, I. 281; II. 411, etc.)
- Mr. Lay cites from a Chinese authority a notice of a tribe of "Western Miautsze," who "in the middle of autumn sacrifice to the Great Ancestor or Founder of their Race." (The Chinese as they are, p. 321.)
- Dr. Anderson confirms the depressing and unhealthy character of the summer climate at Momein, though standing between 5000 and 6000 feet above the sea (p. 41).
- "Whereas before," says Jack Cade to Lord Say, "our forefathers had no books but score and tally, thou hast caused printing to be used." The use of such tallies for the record of contracts among the aboriginal tribes of Kweichau is mentioned by Chinese authorities, and the French missionaries of Bonga speak of the same as in use among the simple tribes in that vicinity. But, as Marsden notes, the use of such rude records was to be found in his day in higher places and much nearer home. They continued to be employed as records of receipts in the British Exchequer till 1834, "and it is worthy of recollection that the fire by which the Houses of Parliament were destroyed was supposed to have originated in the over-heating of the flues in which the discarded tallies were being burnt." I remember often, when a child, to have seen the tallies of the colliers in Scotland, and possibly among that class they may survive. They appear to be still used by bakers in various parts of England and France, in the Canterbury hop-gardens, and locally in some other trades. (Martini, 135; Bridgman, 259, 262; Eng. Cyclop. sub v. Tally; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. X. 485.)
[According to Father Crabouillet (Missions Cath. 1873, p. 105), the Lolos use tallies for their contracts; Dr. Harmand mentions (Tour du Monde, 1877, No. VII.) the same fact among the Khas of Central Laos; and M. Pierre Lefevre-Pontalis Populations du nord de l'Indo-Chine, 1892, p. 22, from the J. As. says he saw these tallies among the Khas of Luang-Prabang.--H.C.]
"In Illustration of this custom I have to relate what follows. In the year 1863 the Tsaubwa (or Prince) of a Shan Province adjoining Yun-nan was in rebellion against the Burmese Government. He wished to enter into communication with the British Government. He sent a messenger to a British Officer with a letter tendering his allegiance, and accompanying this letter was a piece of bamboo about five inches long. This had been split down the middle, so that the two pieces fitted closely together, forming a tube in the original shape of the bamboo. A notch at one end included the edges of both pieces, showing that they were a pair. The messenger said that if the reply were favourable one of the pieces was to be returned and the other kept. I need hardly say the messenger received no written reply, and both pieces of bamboo were retained." (MS. Note by Sir Arthur Phayre.)
- Compare Mr. Hodgson's account of the sub-Himalayan Bodos and Dhimals: "All diseases are ascribed to supernatural agency. The sick man is supposed to be possessed by one of the deities, who racks him with pain as a punishment for impiety or neglect of the god in question. Hence not the mediciner, but the exorcist, is summoned to the sick man's aid." (J.A.S.B. XVIII. 728.)
- Mr. Hodgson again: "Libations of fermented liquor always accompany sacrifice--because, to confess the whole truth, sacrifice and feast are commutable words, and feasts need to be crowned with copious potations." (Ibid.)
- And again: "The god in question is asked what sacrifice he requires? a buffalo, a hog, a fowl, or a duck, to spare the sufferer; ... anxious as I am fully to illustrate the topic, I will not try the patience of my readers by describing all that vast variety of black victims and white, of red victims and blue, which each particular deity is alleged to prefer." (Ibid. and p. 732.)
- The same system of devil-dancing is prevalent among the tribes on the Lu-kiang, as described by the R.C. Missionaries. The conjurors are there called Mumos. (Ann. de la Prop. de la Foi, XXXVI. 323, and XXXVII. 312-313.)
"Marco's account of the exorcism of evil spirits in cases of obstinate illness exactly resembles what is done in similar cases by the Burmese, except that I never saw animals sacrificed on such occasions." (Sir A. Phayre.)
Mouhot says of the wild people of Cambodia called Stiens: "When any one is ill they say that the Evil Spirit torments him; and to deliver him they set up about the patient a dreadful din which does not cease night or day, until some one among the bystanders falls down as if in a syncope, crying out, 'I have him,--he is in me,--he is strangling me!' Then they question the person who has thus become possessed. They ask him what remedies will save the patient; what remedies does the Evil Spirit require that he may give up his prey? Sometimes it is an ox or a pig; but too often it is a human victim." (J.R.G.S. XXXII. 147.)
See also the account of the Samoyede Tadibei or Devil-dancer in Klaproth's Magasin Asiatique (II. 83).
In fact these strange rites of Shamanism, devil-dancing, or what not, are found with wonderful identity of character among the non-Caucasian races over parts of the earth most remote from one another, not only among the vast variety of Indo-Chinese Tribes, but among the Tamulian tribes of India, the Veddahs of Ceylon, the races of Siberia, and the red nations of North and South America. Hinduism has assimilated these "prior superstitions of the sons of Tur" as Mr. Hodgson calls them, in the form of Tantrika mysteries, whilst, in the wild performance of the Dancing Dervishes at Constantinople, we see perhaps again the infection of Turanian blood breaking out from the very heart of Mussulman orthodoxy.
Dr. Caldwell has given a striking account of the practice of devil-dancing among the Shanars of Tinnevelly, which forms a perfect parallel in modern language to our Traveller's description of a scene of which he also had manifestly been an eye-witness: "When the preparations are completed and the devil-dance is about to commence, the music is at first comparatively slow; the dancer seems impassive and sullen, and he either stands still or moves about in gloomy silence. Gradually, as the music becomes quicker and louder, his excitement begins to rise. Sometimes, to help him to work himself up into a frenzy, he uses medicated draughts, cuts and lacerates himself till the blood flows, lashes himself with a huge whip, presses a burning torch to his breast, drinks the blood which flows from his own wounds, or drains the blood of the sacrifice, putting the throat of the decapitated goat to his mouth. Then, as if he had acquired new life, he begins to brandish his staff of bells, and to dance with a quick but wild unsteady step. Suddenly the afflatus descends; there is no mistaking that glare, or those frantic leaps. He snorts, he stares, he gyrates. The demon has now taken bodily possession of him, and though he retains the power of utterance and motion, both are under the demon's control, and his separate consciousness is in abeyance. The bystanders signalise the event by raising a long shout, attended with a peculiar vibratory noise, caused by the motion of the hand and tongue, or the tongue alone. The devil-dancer is now worshipped as a present deity, and every bystander consults him respecting his diseases, his wants, the welfare of his absent relatives, the offerings to be made for the accomplishment of his wishes, and in short everything for which superhuman knowledge is supposed to be available." (Hodgson, J.R.As.Soc. XVIII. 397; The Tinnevelly Shanars, by the Rev. R. Caldwell, B.A., Madras, 1849, pp. 19-20.)