The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 58

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Concerning the Province of Coloman[edit]

Coloman is a province towards the east, the people of which are Idolaters and have a peculiar language, and are subject to the Great Kaan. They are a [tall and] very handsome people, though in complexion brown rather than white, and are good soldiers.[1] They have a good many towns, and a vast number of villages, among great mountains, and in strong positions.[2]

When any of them die, the bodies are burnt, and then they take the bones and put them in little chests.

These are carried high up the mountains, and placed in great caverns, where they are hung up in such wise that neither man nor beast can come at them.

A good deal of gold is found in the country, and for petty traffic they use porcelain shells such as I have told you of before. All these provinces that I have been speaking of, to wit Bangala and Caugigu and Anin, employ for currency porcelain shells and gold. There are merchants in this country who are very rich and dispose of large quantities of goods. The people live on flesh and rice and milk, and brew their wine from rice and excellent spices.





  1. 1.0 1.1 The only MSS. that afford the reading Coloman or Choloman instead of Toloman or Tholoman, are the Bern MS., which has Coloman in the initial word of the chapter, Paris MS. 5649 (Pauthier's C) which has Coloman in the Table of Chapters, but not in the text, the Bodleian, and the Brandenburg MS. quoted in the last note. These variations in themselves have little weight. But the confusion between c and t in mediaeval MSS., when dealing with strange names, is so constant that I have ventured to make the correction, in strong conviction that it is the right reading. M. Pauthier indeed, after speaking of tribes called Lo on the south-west of China, adds, "on les nommait To-lo-man ('les nombreux Barbares Lo')." Were this latter statement founded on actual evidence we might retain that form which is the usual reading. But I apprehend from the manner in which M. Pauthier produces it, without corroborative quotation, that he is rather hazarding a conjecture than speaking with authority. Be that as it may, it is impossible that Polo's Toloman or Coloman should have been in the south of Kwangsi, where Pauthier locates it.

    On the other hand, we find tribes of both Kolo and Kihlau Barbarians (i.e. Man, whence KOLO-MAN or Kihlau-man) very numerous on the frontier of Kweichau. (See Bridgman's transl. of Tract on Meautsze, pp. 265, 269, 270, 272, 273, 274, 275, 278, 279, 280.) Among these the Kolo, described as No. 38 in that Tract, appear to me from various particulars to be the most probable representatives of the Coloman of Polo, notwithstanding the sentence with which the description opens: "Kolo originally called Luluh; the modern designation Kolo is incorrect." They are at present found in the prefecture of Tating (one of the departments of Kweichau towards the Yun-nan side). "They are tall, of a dark complexion, with sunken eyes, aquiline nose, wear long whiskers, and have the beard shaved off above the mouth. They pay great deference to demons, and on that account are sometimes called 'Dragons of Lo.' ... At the present time these Kolo are divided into 48 clans, the elders of which are called Chieftains (lit. 'Head-and-Eyes') and are of nine grades.... The men bind their hair into a tuft with blue cloth and make it fast on the forehead like a horn. Their upper dresses are short, with large sleeves, and their lower garments are fine blue. When one of the chieftains dies, all that were under him are assembled together clad in armour and on horseback. Having dressed his corpse in silk and woollen robes, they burn it in the open country; then, invoking the departed spirit, they inter the ashes. Their attachment to him as their sole master is such that nothing can drive or tempt them from their allegiance. Their large bows, long spears, and sharp swords, are strong and well-wrought. They train excellent horses, love archery and hunting; and so expert are they in tactics that their soldiers rank as the best among all the uncivilized tribes. There is this proverb: 'The Lo Dragons of Shwui-si rap the head and strike the tail,' which is intended to indicate their celerity in defence." (Bridgman, pp. 272-273.)

    The character Lo, here applied in the Chinese Tract to these people, is the same as that in the name of the Kwangsi Lo of M. Pauthier.

    I append a cut (opposite page) from the drawing representing these Kolo-man in the original work from which Bridgman translated, and which is in the possession of Dr. Lockhart.

    [I believe we must read To-lo-man. Man, barbarian, T'u-lao or Shan-tzu (mountaineers) who live in the Yunnanese prefectures of Lin-ngan, Cheng-kiang, etc. T'u-la-Man or T'u-la barbarians of the Mongol Annals. (Yuen-shi lei-pien, quoted by Deveria, p. 115.)--H.C.]

  2. 2.0 2.1 Magaillans, speaking of the semi-independent tribes of Kwei-chau and Kwang-si, says: "Their towns are usually so girt by high mountains and scarped rocks that it seems as if nature had taken a pleasure in fortifying them" (p. 43). (See cut at p. 131.)