The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 62

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Concerning the Noble City of Sinjumatu[edit]

On leaving Tadinfu you travel three days towards the south, always finding numbers of noble and populous towns and villages flourishing with trade and manufactures. There is also abundance of game in the country, and everything in profusion.

When you have travelled those three days you come to the noble city of SINJUMATU, a rich and fine place, with great trade and manufactures. The people are Idolaters and subjects of the Great Kaan, and have paper-money, and they have a river which I can assure you brings them great gain, and I will tell you about it.

You see the river in question flows from the South to this city of Sinjumatu. And the people of the city have divided this larger river in two, making one half of it flow east and the other half flow west; that is to say, the one branch flows towards Manzi and the other towards Cathay. And it is a fact that the number of vessels at this city is what no one would believe without seeing them. The quantity of merchandize also which these vessels transport to Manzi and Cathay is something marvellous; and then they return loaded with other merchandize, so that the amount of goods borne to and fro on those two rivers is quite astonishing.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Friar Odoric, proceeding by water northward to Cambaluc about 1324-1325, says: "As I travelled by that river towards the east, and passed many towns and cities, I came to a certain city which is called SUNZUMATU, which hath a greater plenty of silk than perhaps any place on earth, for when silk is at the dearest you can still have 40 lbs. for less than eight groats. There is in the place likewise great store of merchandise," etc. When commenting on Odoric, I was inclined to identify this city with Lin-t'sing chau, but its position with respect to the two last cities in Polo's itinerary renders this inadmissible; and Murray and Pauthier seem to be right in identifying it with T'SI-NING CHAU. The affix Matu (Ma-t'eu, a jetty, a place of river trade) might easily attach itself to the name of such a great depot of commerce on the canal as Marco here describes, though no Chinese authority has been produced for its being so styled. The only objection to the identification with T'si-ning chau is the difficulty of making 3 days' journey of the short distance between Yen-chau and that city.

    Polo, according to the route supposed, comes first upon the artificial part of the Great Canal here. The rivers Wen and Sse (from near Yen-chau) flowing from the side of Shan-tung, and striking the canal line at right angles near T'si-ning chau, have been thence diverted north-west and south-east, so as to form the canal; the point of their original confluence at Nan-wang forming, apparently, the summit level of the canal. There is a little confusion in Polo's account, owing to his describing the river as coming from the south, which, according to his orientation, would be the side towards Hunan. In this respect his words would apply more accurately to the Wei River at Lin-t'sing (see Biot in J. As. ser. III. tom. xiv. 194, and J.N.C.B.R.A.S., 1866, p. ii; also the map with ch. lxiv.) [Father Gandar (Canal Imperial, p. 22, note) says that the remark of Marco Polo: "The river flows from the south to this city of Sinjumatu," cannot be applied to the Wen-ho nor to the Sse-ho, which are rivers of little importance and running from the east, whilst the Wei-ho, coming from the south-east, waters Lin-ts'ing, and answers well to our traveller's text.--H.C.] Duhalde calls T'si-ning chau "one of the most considerable cities of the empire"; and Nieuhoff speaks of its large trade and population. [Sir John F. Davis writes that Tsi-ning chau is a town of considerable dimensions.... "The ma-tow, or platforms, before the principal boats had ornamental gateways over them.... The canal seems to render this an opulent and flourishing place, to judge by the gilded and carved shops, temples, and public offices, along the eastern banks." (Sketches of China, I. pp. 255-257.)--H.C.]