The Landscape Guide

Marco Polo on China's Royal Palace Gardens (in Beijing and Hangchow)

CHAPTER X. [Beijing] [Go to Note on Chinese Gardens]


[Note: CAMBALUC is the name by which the capital city of the great khan in China was known to Europe in the middle ages. It subsequently became known as Peking and then Beijing. The word CAMBALUC was the Mongol Khan-Balik, the city of the khan, or emperor. The palace Marco Polo describes is also known as the Forbidden City, the Former Imperial Palace and the Palace Museum. Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a Venetian and travelled to China on the Silk Road. He was in China from 1275-1291 and worked for Kublai Khan]

You must know that for three months of the year, to wit December, January, and February, the Great Kaan resides in the capital city of Cathay, which is called CAMBALUC, [and which is at the north-eastern extremity of the country]. In that city stands his great Palace, and now I will tell you what it is like.

It is enclosed all round by a great wall forming a square, each side of which is a mile in length; that is to say, the whole compass thereof is four miles. This you may depend on; it is also very thick, and a good ten paces in height, whitewashed and loop-holed all round.[NOTE 1] At each angle of the wall there is a very fine and rich palace in which the war-harness of the Emperor is kept, such as bows and quivers,[NOTE 2] saddles and bridles, and bowstrings, and everything needful for an army. Also midway between every two of these Corner Palaces there is another of the like; so that taking the whole compass of the enclosure you find eight vast Palaces stored with the Great Lord's harness of war.[NOTE 3] And you must understand that each Palace is assigned to only one kind of article; thus one is stored with bows, a second with saddles, a third with bridles, and so on in succession right round.[NOTE 4]

The great wall has five gates on its southern face, the middle one being the great gate which is never opened on any occasion except when the Great Kaan himself goes forth or enters. Close on either side of this great gate is a smaller one by which all other people pass; and then towards each angle is another great gate, also open to people in general; so that on that side there are five gates in all.[NOTE 5]

Inside of this wall there is a second, enclosing a space that is somewhat greater in length than in breadth. This enclosure also has eight palaces corresponding to those of the outer wall, and stored like them with the Lord's harness of war. This wall also hath five gates on the southern face, corresponding to those in the outer wall, and hath one gate on each of the other faces, as the outer wall hath also. In the middle of the second enclosure is the Lord's Great Palace, and I will tell you what it is like.[NOTE 6]

You must know that it is the greatest Palace that ever was. [Towards the north it is in contact with the outer wall, whilst towards the south there is a vacant space which the Barons and the soldiers are constantly traversing.[NOTE 7] The Palace itself] hath no upper story, but is all on the ground floor, only the basement is raised some ten palms above the surrounding soil [and this elevation is retained by a wall of marble raised to the level of the pavement, two paces in width and projecting beyond the base of the Palace so as to form a kind of terrace-walk, by which people can pass round the building, and which is exposed to view, whilst on the outer edge of the wall there is a very fine pillared balustrade; and up to this the people are allowed to come]. The roof is very lofty, and the walls of the Palace are all covered with gold and silver. They are also adorned with representations of dragons [sculptured and gilt], beasts and birds, knights and idols, and sundry other subjects. And on the ceiling too you see nothing but gold and silver and painting. [On each of the four sides there is a great marble staircase leading to the top of the marble wall, and forming the approach to the Palace.] [NOTE 8]

The Hall of the Palace is so large that it could easily dine 6000 people; and it is quite a marvel to see how many rooms there are besides. The building is altogether so vast, so rich, and so beautiful, that no man on earth could design anything superior to it. The outside of the roof also is all coloured with vermilion and yellow and green and blue and other hues, which are fixed with a varnish so fine and exquisite that they shine like crystal, and lend a resplendent lustre to the Palace as seen for a great way round.[NOTE 9] This roof is made too with such strength and solidity that it is fit to last for ever.

[On the interior side of the Palace are large buildings with halls and chambers, where the Emperor's private property is placed, such as his treasures of gold, silver, gems, pearls, and gold plate, and in which reside the ladies and concubines. There he occupies himself at his own convenience, and no one else has access.]

Between the two walls of the enclosure which I have described, there are fine parks and beautiful trees bearing a variety of fruits. There are beasts also of sundry kinds, such as white stags and fallow deer, gazelles and roebucks, and fine squirrels of various sorts, with numbers also of the animal that gives the musk, and all manner of other beautiful creatures,[NOTE 10] insomuch that the whole place is full of them, and no spot remains void except where there is traffic of people going and coming. [The parks are covered with abundant grass; and the roads through them being all paved and raised two cubits above the surface, they never become muddy, nor does the rain lodge on them, but flows off into the meadows, quickening the soil and producing that abundance of herbage.]

From that corner of the enclosure which is towards the north-west there extends a fine Lake, containing foison of fish of different kinds which the Emperor hath caused to be put in there, so that whenever he desires any he can have them at his pleasure. A river enters this lake and issues from it, but there is a grating of iron or brass put up so that the fish cannot escape in that way.[NOTE 11]

Moreover on the north side of the Palace, about a bow-shot off, there is a hill which has been made by art [from the earth dug out of the lake]; it is a good hundred paces in height and a mile in compass. This hill is entirely covered with trees that never lose their leaves, but remain ever green. And I assure you that wherever a beautiful tree may exist, and the Emperor gets news of it, he sends for it and has it transported bodily with all its roots and the earth attached to them, and planted on that hill of his. No matter how big the tree may be, he gets it carried by his elephants; and in this way he has got together the most beautiful collection of trees in all the world. And he has also caused the whole hill to be covered with the ore of azure,[NOTE 12] which is very green. And thus not only are the trees all green, but the hill itself is all green likewise; and there is nothing to be seen on it that is not green; and hence it is called the GREEN MOUNT; and in good sooth 'tis named well.[NOTE 13]

On the top of the hill again there is a fine big palace which is all green inside and out; and thus the hill, and the trees, and the palace form together a charming spectacle; and it is marvellous to see their uniformity of colour! Everybody who sees them is delighted. And the Great Kaan had caused this beautiful prospect to be formed for the comfort and solace and delectation of his heart.

You must know that beside the Palace (that we have been describing), i.e. the Great Palace, the Emperor has caused another to be built just like his own in every respect, and this he hath done for his son when he shall reign and be Emperor after him.[NOTE 14] Hence it is made just in the same fashion and of the same size, so that everything can be carried on in the same manner after his own death. [It stands on the other side of the lake from the Great Kaan's Palace, and there is a bridge crossing the water from one to the other.][NOTE 15] The Prince in question holds now a Seal of Empire, but not with such complete authority as the Great Kaan, who remains supreme as long as he lives.

Now I am going to tell you of the chief city of Cathay, in which these Palaces stand; and why it was built, and how.

NOTE 1.--[According to the _Ch'ue keng lu_, translated by Bretschneider, 25, "the wall surrounding the palace ... is constructed of bricks, and is 35 _ch'i_ in height. The construction was begun in A.D. 1271, on the 17th of the 8th month, between three and five o'clock in the afternoon, and finished next year on the 15th of the 3rd month."--H. C.]

NOTE 2.--_Tarcasci_ (G. T.) This word is worthy of note as the proper form of what has become in modern French _carquois_. The former is a transcript of the Persian _Tarkash_; the latter appears to be merely a corruption of it, arising perhaps clerically from the constant confusion of _c_ and _t_ in MSS. (See _Defrémery_, quoted by Pauthier, _in loco._) [Old French _tarquais_ (13th century), Hatzfeldt and Darmesteter's _Dict._ gives; "Coivres orent ceinz et tarchais." (WACE, _Rou_, III., 7698; 12th century).]

NOTE 3.--["It seems to me [Dr. Bretschneider] that Polo took the towers, mentioned by the Chinese author, in the angles of the galleries and of the Kung-ch'eng for palaces; for further on he states, that 'over each gate [of Cambaluc] there is a great and handsome palace.' I have little doubt that over the gates of Cambaluc, stood lofty buildings similar to those over the gates of modern Peking. These tower-like buildings are called _lou_ by the Chinese. It may be very likely, that at the time of Marco Polo, the war harness of the Khan was stored in these towers of the palace wall. The author of the _Ch'ue keng lu_, who wrote more than fifty years later, assigns to it another place." (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 32.) --H.C.]

[Illustration: IDEAL PLAN of the ANCIENT PALACES of the MONGOL EMPERORS AT KHANBALIGH according to Dr. Bretschneider]

NOTE 4.--The stores are now outside the walls of the "Prohibited City," corresponding to Polo's Palace-Wall, but within the walls of the "Imperial City." (_Middle Kingdom_, I. 61.) See the cut at p. 376.

NOTE 5.--The two gates near the corners apparently do not exist in the Palace now. "On the south side there are three gates to the Palace, both in the inner and the outer walls. The middle one is absolutely reserved for the entrance or exit of the Emperor; all other people pass in and out by the gate to the right or left of it." (_Trigautius_, Bk. I. ch. vii.) This custom is not in China peculiar to Royalty. In private houses it is usual to have three doors leading from the court to the guestrooms, and there is a great exercise of politeness in reference to these; the guest after much pressing is prevailed on to enter the middle door, whilst the host enters by the side. (See _Deguignes, Voyages_, I. 262.) [See also _H. Cordier's Hist. des Relat. de la Chine_, III. ch. x. _Audience Impériale_.]

["It seems Polo took the three gateways in the middle gate (_Ta-ming men_) for three gates, and thus speaks of five gates instead of three in the southern wall." (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 27, note.)--H. C.]
NOTE 6.--Ramusio's version here diverges from the old MSS. It makes the inner enclosure a mile square; and the second (the city of Taidu) six miles square, as here, but adds, at a mile interval, a third of eight miles square. Now it is remarkable that Mr. A. Wylie, in a letter dated 4th December 1873, speaking of a recent visit to Peking, says: "I found from various inquiries that there are several remains of a very much larger city wall, inclosing the present city; but time would not allow me to follow up the traces."

Pauthier's text (which I have corrected by the G. T.), after describing the _outer inclosure_ to be a _mile every way_, says that the inner inclosure lay at _an interval of a mile within it!_

[Dr. Bretschneider observes "that in the ancient Chinese works, three concentric inclosures are mentioned in connection with the palace. The innermost inclosed the _Ta-nei_, the middle inclosure, called _Kung-ch'eng_ or _Huang-ch'eng_, answering to the wall surrounding the present prohibited city, and was about 6 _li_ in circuit. Besides this there was an outer wall (a rampart apparently) 20 _li_ in circuit, answering to the wall of the present imperial city (which now has 18 _li_ in circuit)." The _Huang-ch'eng_ of the Yuen was measured by imperial order, and found to be 7 _li_ in circuit; the wall of the Mongol palace was 6 _li_ in circuit, according to the _Ch'ue keng lu_. (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 24.)--Marco Polo's mile could be approximately estimated = 2.77 Chinese _li_. (Ibid. 24, note.) The common Chinese _li_ = 360 _pu_, or 180 chang, or 1800 _ch'i_ (feet); 1 _li_ = 1894 English feet or 575 mètres; at least according to the old Venice measures quoted in _Yule's Marco Polo_, II., one pace = 5 feet. Besides the common _li_, the Chinese have another _li_, used for measuring fields, which has only 240 _pu_ or 1200 _ch'i_. This is the _li_ spoken of in the _Ch'ue keng lu_. (Ibid. 13, note.)--H. C.]

NOTE 7.--["Near the southern face of the wall are barracks for the Life Guards." (_Ch'ue keng lu_, translated by Bretschneider, 25.)--H. C.]

NOTE 8.--This description of palace (see opposite cut), an elevated basement of masonry with a superstructure of timber (in general carved and gilded), is still found in Burma, Siam, and Java, as well as in China. If we had any trace of the palaces of the ancient Asokas and Vikramadityas of India, we should probably find that they were of the same character. It seems to be one of those things that belonged to some ancient Panasiatic fashion, as the palaces of Nineveh were of a somewhat similar construction. In the Audience Halls of the Moguls at Delhi and Agra we can trace the ancient form, though the superstructure has there become an arcade of marble instead of a pavilion on timber columns.

[Illustration: Palace at Khan-baligh. (From the _Livre des Merveilles_.)]

["The _Ta-ming tien_ (Hall of great brightness) is without doubt what Marco Polo calls 'the Lord's Great Palace.'... He states, that it 'hath no upper story'; and indeed, the palace buildings which the Chinese call _tien_ are always of one story. Polo speaks also of a 'very fine pillared balustrade' (the _chu lang_, pillared verandah, of the Chinese author). Marco Polo states that the basement of the great palace 'is raised some ten palms above the surrounding soil.' We find in the _Ku kung i lu_: 'The basement of the Ta-ming tien is raised about 10 _ch'i_ above the soil.' There can also be no doubt that the Ta-ming tien stood at about the same place where now the _T'ai-ho tien_, the principal hall of the palace, is situated." (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 28, note.)

[Illustration: Winter Palace at Peking.]

The _Ch'ue keng lu_, translated by Bretschneider, 25, contains long articles devoted to the description of the palace of the Mongols and the adjacent palace grounds. They are too long to be reproduced here.--H. C.]

NOTE 9.--"As all that one sees of these palaces is varnished in those colours, when you catch a distant view of them at sunrise, as I have done many a time, you would think them all made of, or at least covered with, pure gold enamelled in azure and green, so that the spectacle is at once majestic and charming." (_Magaillans_, p. 353.)

NOTE 10.--[This is the _Ling yu_ or "Divine Park," to the east of the _Wan-sui shan_, "in which rare birds and beasts are kept. Before the Emperor goes to Shang-tu, the officers are accustomed to be entertained at this place." (_Ch'ue keng lu_, quoted by Bretschneider, 36.)--H. C.]

NOTE 11.--"On the west side, where the space is amplest, there is a lake very full of fish. It is in the form of a fiddle, and is an Italian mile and a quarter in length. It is crossed at the narrowest part, which corresponds to gates in the walls, by a handsome bridge, the extremities of which are adorned by two triumphal arches of three openings each.... The lake is surrounded by palaces and pleasure houses, built partly in the water and partly on shore, and charming boats are provided on it for the use of the Emperor when he chooses to go a-fishing or to take an airing." (Ibid. 282-283.) The marble bridge, as it now exists, consists of nine arches, and is 600 feet long. (_Rennie's Peking_, II. 57.)

Ramusio specifies another lake in the _city_, fed by the same stream before it enters the palace, and used by the public for watering cattle.

["The lake which Marco Polo saw is the same as the _T'ai-yi ch'i_ of our days. It has, however, changed a little in its form. This lake and also its name _T'ai-yi ch'i_ date from the twelfth century, at which time an Emperor of the Kin first gave orders to collect together the water of some springs in the hills, where now the summer palaces stand, and to conduct it to a place north of his capital, where pleasure gardens were laid out. The river which enters the lake and issues from it exists still, under its ancient name _Kin-shui_." (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 34.)--H. C.]

NOTE 12.--The expression here is in the Geog. Text, "_Roze de l'açur_," and in Pauthier's "_de rose et de l'asur_." _Rose Minerale_, in the terminology of the alchemists, was a red powder produced in the sublimation of gold and mercury, but I can find no elucidation of the term Rose of Azure. The Crusca Italian has in the same place _Terra dello Azzurro_. Having ventured to refer the question to the high authority of Mr. C. W. King, he expresses the opinion that _Roze_ here stands for _Roche_, and that probably the term _Roche de l'azur_ may have been used loosely for _blue-stone_, i.e. carbonate of copper, which would assume a green colour through moisture. He adds: "Nero, according to Pliny, actually used _chrysocolla_, the siliceous carbonate of copper, in powder, for strewing the circus, to give the course the colour of his favourite faction, the _prasine_ (or green). There may be some analogy between this device and that of Kúblái Khan." This parallel is a very happy one.

[Illustration: Mei Shan]

NOTE 13.--Friar Odoric gives a description, short, but closely agreeing in substance with that in the Text, of the Palace, the Park, the Lake, and the Green Mount.

A green mount, answering to the description, and about 160 feet in height, stands immediately in rear of the palace buildings. It is called by the Chinese _King-Shan_, "Court Mountain," _Wan-su-Shan_, "Ten Thousand Year Mount," and _Mei-Shan_, "Coal Mount," the last from the material of which it is traditionally said to be composed (as a provision of fuel in case of siege).[1] Whether this is Kúblái's Green Mount does not seem to be quite certain. Dr. Lockhart tells me that, according to the information he collected when living at Peking, it is not so, but was formed by the Ming Emperors from the excavation of the existing lake on the site which the Mongol Palace had occupied. There is another mount, he adds, adjoining the east shore of the lake, which must be of older date even than Kúblái, for a Dagoba standing on it is ascribed to the _Kin_.

[The "Green Mount" was an island called _K'iung-hua_ at the time of the Kin; in 1271 it received the name of _Wan-sui shan_; it is about 100 feet in height, and is the only hill mentioned by Chinese writers of the Mongol time who refer to the palace grounds. It is not the present _King-shan_, north of the palace, called also _Wan-sui-shan_ under the Ming, and now the _Mei-shan_, of more recent formation. "I have no doubt," says Bretschneider (_Peking_, l.c. 35), "that Marco Polo's handsome palace on the top of the Green Mount is the same as the _Kuang-han tien_" of the _Ch'ue keng lu_. It was a hall in which there was a jar of black jade, big enough to hold more than 30 piculs of wine; this jade had white veins, and in accordance with these veins, fish and animals have been carved on the jar. (Ibid. 35.) "The _Ku kung i lu_, in describing the _Wan-sui-shan_, praises the beautiful shady green of the vegetation there." (Ibid. 37.) --H. C.]

["Near the eastern end of the bridge (_Kin-ao yü-tung_ which crosses the lake) the visitor sees a circular wall, which is called _yüan ch'eng_ (round wall). It is about 350 paces in circuit. Within it is an imperial building _Ch'eng-kuang tien_, dating from the Mongol time. From this circular enclosure, another long and beautifully executed marble bridge leads northwards, to a charming hill, covered with shady trees, and capped by a magnificent white _suburga_." (_Bretschneider_, p. 22.)--H. C.]

In a plate attached to next chapter, I have drawn, on a small scale, the existing cities of Peking, as compared with the Mongol and Chinese cities in the time of Kúblái. The plan of the latter has been constructed (1) from existing traces, as exhibited in the Russian Survey republished by our War Office; (2) from information kindly afforded by Dr. Lockhart; and (3) from Polo's description and a few slight notices by Gaubil and others. It will be seen, even on the small scale of these plans, that the general arrangement of the palace, the park, the lakes (including that in the city, which appears in Ramusio's version), the bridge, the mount, etc., in the existing Peking, very closely correspond with Polo's indications; and I think the strong probability is that the Ming really built on the old traces, and that the lake, mount, etc., as they now stand, are substantially those of the Great Mongol, though Chinese policy or patriotism may have spread the belief that the foreign traces were obliterated. Indeed, if that belief were true, the Mongol Palace must have been very much out of the axis of the City of Kúblái, which is in the highest degree improbable. The _Bulletin de la Soc. de Geographie_ for September 1873, contains a paper on Peking by the physician to the French Embassy there. Whatever may be the worth of the meteorological and hygienic details in that paper, I am bound to say that the historical and topographical part is so inaccurate as to be of no value.

NOTE 14.--For son, read grandson. But the G. T. actually names the Emperor's son Chingkim, whose death our traveller has himself already mentioned.

[Illustration: Yuan ch'eng]

NOTE 15.--["Marco Polo's bridge, crossing the lake from one side to the other, must be identified with the wooden bridge mentioned in the _Ch'ue keng lu_. The present marble bridge spanning the lake was only built in 1392." "A marble bridge connects this island (an islet with the hall _I- t'ien tien_) with the _Wan-sui shan_. Another bridge, made of wood, 120 _ch'i_ long and 22 broad, leads eastward to the wall of the Imperial Palace. A third bridge, a wooden draw-bridge 470 _ch'i_ long, stretches to the west over the lake to its western border, where the palace _Hing-sheng kung_ [built in 1308] stands." (_Bretschneider_, _Peking_, 36.)--H. C.]

[1] Some years ago, in Calcutta, I learned that a large store of charcoal existed under the soil of Fort William, deposited there, I believe, in the early days of that fortress.

["The _Jihia_ says that the name of _Mei shan_ (Coal hill) was given to it from the stock of coal buried at its foot, as a provision in case of siege." (_Bretschneider, Peking_, 38.)--H. C.]

Go to Note on Chinese Gardens




[Note: Kinsay is now known as Hangchow and the place described by Marco Polo is the famous West Lake]

When you have left the city of Changan and have travelled for three days through a splendid country, passing a number of towns and villages, you arrive at the most noble city of Kinsay, a name which is as much as to say in our tongue "The City of Heaven," as I told you before.[NOTE 1]
And since we have got thither I will enter into particulars about its magnificence; and these are well worth the telling, for the city is beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world. In this we shall speak according to the written statement which the Queen of this Realm sent to Bayan the conqueror of the country for transmission to the Great Kaan, in order that he might be aware of the surpassing grandeur of the city and might be moved to save it from destruction or injury. I will tell you all the truth as it was set down in that document. For truth it was, as the said Messer Marco Polo at a later date was able to witness with his own eyes. And now we shall rehearse those particulars.
First and foremost, then, the document stated the city of Kinsay to be so great that it hath an hundred miles of compass. And there are in it twelve thousand bridges of stone, for the most part so lofty that a great fleet could pass beneath them. And let no man marvel that there are so many bridges, for you see the whole city stands as it were in the water and surrounded by water, so that a great many bridges are required to give free passage about it. [And though the bridges be so high the approaches are so well contrived that carts and horses do cross them.[NOTE 2]]
The document aforesaid also went on to state that there were in this city twelve guilds of the different crafts, and that each guild had 12,000 houses in the occupation of its workmen. Each of these houses contains at least 12 men, whilst some contain 20 and some 40,--not that these are all masters, but inclusive of the journeymen who work under the masters. And yet all these craftsmen had full occupation, for many other cities of the kingdom are supplied from this city with what they require.
The document aforesaid also stated that the number and wealth of the merchants, and the amount of goods that passed through their hands, was so enormous that no man could form a just estimate thereof. And I should have told you with regard to those masters of the different crafts who are at the head of such houses as I have mentioned, that neither they nor their wives ever touch a piece of work with their own hands, but live as nicely and delicately as if they were kings and queens. The wives indeed are most dainty and angelical creatures! Moreover it was an ordinance laid down by the King that every man should follow his father's business and no other, no matter if he possessed 100,000 bezants.[NOTE 3]
Inside the city there is a Lake which has a compass of some 30 miles: and all round it are erected beautiful palaces and mansions, of the richest and most exquisite structure that you can imagine, belonging to the nobles of the city. There are also on its shores many abbeys and churches of the Idolaters. In the middle of the Lake are two Islands, on each of which stands a rich, beautiful and spacious edifice, furnished in such style as to seem fit for the palace of an Emperor. And when any one of the citizens desired to hold a marriage feast, or to give any other entertainment, it used to be done at one of these palaces. And everything would be found there ready to order, such as silver plate, trenchers, and dishes [napkins and table-cloths], and whatever else was needful. The King made this provision for the gratification of his people, and the place was open to every one who desired to give an entertainment. [Sometimes there would be at these palaces an hundred different parties; some holding a banquet, others celebrating a wedding; and yet all would find good accommodation in the different apartments and pavilions, and that in so well ordered a manner that one party was never in the way of another.[NOTE 4]]
The houses of the city are provided with lofty towers of stone in which articles of value are stored for fear of fire; for most of the houses themselves are of timber, and fires are very frequent in the city.
The people are Idolaters; and since they were conquered by the Great Kaan they use paper-money. [Both men and women are fair and comely, and for the most part clothe themselves in silk, so vast is the supply of that material, both from the whole district of Kinsay, and from the imports by traders from other provinces.[NOTE 5]] And you must know they eat every kind of flesh, even that of dogs and other unclean beasts, which nothing would induce a Christian to eat.
Since the Great Kaan occupied the city he has ordained that each of the 12,000 bridges should be provided with a guard of ten men, in case of any disturbance, or of any being so rash as to plot treason or insurrection against him. [Each guard is provided with a hollow instrument of wood and with a metal basin, and with a time-keeper to enable them to know the hour of the day or night. And so when one hour of the night is past the sentry strikes one on the wooden instrument and on the basin, so that the whole quarter of the city is made aware that one hour of the night is gone. At the second hour he gives two strokes, and so on, keeping always wide awake and on the look out. In the morning again, from the sunrise, they begin to count anew, and strike one hour as they did in the night, and so on hour after hour.
Part of the watch patrols the quarter, to see if any light or fire is burning after the lawful hours; if they find any they mark the door, and in the morning the owner is summoned before the magistrates, and unless he can plead a good excuse he is punished. Also if they find any one going about the streets at unlawful hours they arrest him, and in the morning they bring him before the magistrates. Likewise if in the daytime they find any poor cripple unable to work for his livelihood, they take him to one of the hospitals, of which there are many, founded by the ancient kings, and endowed with great revenues.[NOTE 6] Or if he be capable of work they oblige him to take up some trade. If they see that any house has caught fire they immediately beat upon that wooden instrument to give the alarm, and this brings together the watchmen from the other bridges to help to extinguish it, and to save the goods of the merchants or others, either by removing them to the towers above mentioned, or by putting them in boats and transporting them to the islands in the lake. For no citizen dares leave his house at night, or to come near the fire; only those who own the property, and those watchmen who flock to help, of whom there shall come one or two thousand at the least.]
Moreover, within the city there is an eminence on which stands a Tower, and at the top of the tower is hung a slab of wood. Whenever fire or any other alarm breaks out in the city a man who stands there with a mallet in his hand beats upon the slab, making a noise that is heard to a great distance. So when the blows upon this slab are heard, everybody is aware that fire has broken out, or that there is some other cause of alarm.
The Kaan watches this city with especial diligence because it forms the head of all Manzi; and because he has an immense revenue from the duties levied on the transactions of trade therein, the amount of which is such that no one would credit it on mere hearsay.
All the streets of the city are paved with stone or brick, as indeed are all the highways throughout Manzi, so that you ride and travel in every direction without inconvenience. Were it not for this pavement you could not do so, for the country is very low and flat, and after rain 'tis deep in mire and water. [But as the Great Kaan's couriers could not gallop their horses over the pavement, the side of the road is left unpaved for their convenience. The pavement of the main street of the city also is laid out in two parallel ways of ten paces in width on either side, leaving a space in the middle laid with fine gravel, under which are vaulted drains which convey the rain water into the canals; and thus the road is kept ever dry.][NOTE 7]
You must know also that the city of Kinsay has some 3000 baths, the water of which is supplied by springs. They are hot baths, and the people take great delight in them, frequenting them several times a month, for they are very cleanly in their persons. They are the finest and largest baths in the world; large enough for 100 persons to bathe together.[NOTE 8]
And the Ocean Sea comes within 25 miles of the city at a place called GANFU, where there is a town and an excellent haven, with a vast amount of shipping which is engaged in the traffic to and from India and other foreign parts, exporting and importing many kinds of wares, by which the city benefits. And a great river flows from the city of Kinsay to that sea-haven, by which vessels can come up to the city itself. This river extends also to other places further inland.[NOTE 9]
Know also that the Great Kaan hath distributed the territory of Manzi into nine parts, which he hath constituted into nine kingdoms. To each of these kingdoms a king is appointed who is subordinate to the Great Kaan, and every year renders the accounts of his kingdom to the fiscal office at the capital.[NOTE 10] This city of Kinsay is the seat of one of these kings, who rules over 140 great and wealthy cities. For in the whole of this vast country of Manzi there are more than 1200 great and wealthy cities, without counting the towns and villages, which are in great numbers. And you may receive it for certain that in each of those 1200 cities the Great Kaan has a garrison, and that the smallest of such garrisons musters 1000 men; whilst there are some of 10,000, 20,000 and 30,000; so that the total number of troops is something scarcely calculable. The troops forming these garrisons are not all Tartars. Many are from the province of Cathay, and good soldiers too. But you must not suppose they are by any means all of them cavalry; a very large proportion of them are foot-soldiers, according to the special requirements of each city. And all of them belong to the army of the Great Kaan.[NOTE 11]
I repeat that everything appertaining to this city is on so vast a scale, and the Great Kaan's yearly revenues therefrom are so immense, that it is not easy even to put it in writing, and it seems past belief to one who merely hears it told. But I _will_ write it down for you.
First, however, I must mention another thing. The people of this country have a custom, that as soon as a child is born they write down the day and hour and the planet and sign under which its birth has taken place; so that every one among them knows the day of his birth. And when any one intends a journey he goes to the astrologers, and gives the particulars of his nativity in order to learn whether he shall have good luck or no. Sometimes they will say _no_, and in that case the journey is put off till such day as the astrologer may recommend. These astrologers are very skilful at their business, and often their words come to pass, so the people have great faith in them.
They burn the bodies of the dead. And when any one dies the friends and relations make a great mourning for the deceased, and clothe themselves in hempen garments,[NOTE 12] and follow the corpse playing on a variety of instruments and singing hymns to their idols. And when they come to the burning place, they take representations of things cut out of parchment, such as caparisoned horses, male and female slaves, camels, armour suits of cloth of gold (and money), in great quantities, and these things they put on the fire along with the corpse, so that they are all burnt with it. And they tell you that the dead man shall have all these slaves and animals of which the effigies are burnt, alive in flesh and blood, and the money in gold, at his disposal in the next world; and that the instruments which they have caused to be played at his funeral, and the idol hymns that have been chaunted, shall also be produced again to welcome him in the next world; and that the idols themselves will come to do him honour. [NOTE 13]
Furthermore there exists in this city the palace of the king who fled, him who was Emperor of Manzi, and that is the greatest palace in the world, as I shall tell you more particularly. For you must know its demesne hath a compass of ten miles, all enclosed with lofty battlemented walls; and inside the walls are the finest and most delectable gardens upon earth, and filled too with the finest fruits. There are numerous fountains in it also, and lakes full of fish. In the middle is the palace itself, a great and splendid building. It contains 20 great and handsome halls, one of which is more spacious than the rest, and affords room for a vast multitude to dine. It is all painted in gold, with many histories and representations of beasts and birds, of knights and dames, and many marvellous things. It forms a really magnificent spectacle, for over all the walls and all the ceiling you see nothing but paintings in gold. And besides these halls the palace contains 1000 large and handsome chambers, all painted in gold and divers colours.
Moreover, I must tell you that in this city there are 160 _tomans_ of fires, or in other words 160 _tomans_ of houses. Now I should tell you that the _toman_ is 10,000, so that you can reckon the total as altogether 1,600,000 houses, among which are a great number of rich palaces. There is one church only, belonging to the Nestorian Christians.
There is another thing I must tell you. It is the custom for every burgess of this city, and in fact for every description of person in it, to write over his door his own name, the name of his wife, and those of his children, his slaves, and all the inmates of his house, and also the number of animals that he keeps. And if any one dies in the house then the name of that person is erased, and if any child is born its name is added. So in this way the sovereign is able to know exactly the population of the city. And this is the practice also throughout all Manzi and Cathay. [NOTE 14]
[Illustration: Plan of the City of SI-NGAN-FU]
And I must tell you that every hosteler who keeps an hostel for travellers is bound to register their names and surnames, as well as the day and month of their arrival and departure. And thus the sovereign hath the means of knowing, whenever it pleases him, who come and go throughout his dominions. And certes this is a wise order and a provident.
NOTE 1.--Kinsay represents closely enough the Chinese term _King-sze_, "capital," which was then applied to the great city, the proper name of which was at that time Lin-ngan and is now HANG-CHAU, as being since 1127 the capital of the Sung Dynasty. The same term _King-sze_ is now on Chinese maps generally used to designate Peking. It would seem, however, that the term adhered long as a quasi-proper name to Hang-chau; for in the Chinese Atlas, dating from 1595, which the traveller Carletti presented to the Magliabecchian Library, that city appears to be still marked with this name, transcribed by Carletti as _Camse_; very near the form _Campsay_ used by Marignolli in the 14th century.
[Illustration: The ancient Lun ho-ta Pagoda at Hang-chau.]
NOTE 2.--+The Ramusian version says: "Messer Marco Polo was frequently at this city, and took great pains to learn everything about it, writing down the whole in his notes." The information being originally derived from a Chinese document, there might be some ground for supposing that 100 miles of circuit stood for 100 _li_. Yet the circuit of the modern city is stated in the official book called _Hang-chau Fu-Chi_ or topographical history of Hang-chau, at only 35 _li_. And the earliest record of the wall, as built under the Sui by Yang-su (before A.D. 606), makes its extent little more (36 _li_ and 90 paces.)[1] But the wall was reconstructed by Ts'ien Kiao, feudal prince of the region, during the reign of Chao Tsung, one of the last emperors of the T'ang Dynasty (892), so as to embrace the Luh-ho-ta Pagoda, on a high bluff over the Tsien-tang River,[2] 15 _li_ distant from the present south gate, and had then a circuit of 70 _li_. Moreover, in 1159, after the city became the capital of the Sung emperors, some further extension was given to it, so that, even exclusive of the suburbs, the circuit of the city may have been not far short of 100 _li_. When the city was in its glory under the Sung, the Luh-ho-ta Pagoda may be taken as marking the extreme S.W. Another known point marks approximately the chief north gate of that period, at a mile and a half or two miles beyond the present north wall. The S.E. angle was apparently near the river bank. But, on the other hand, the _waist_ of the city seems to have been a good deal narrower than it now is. Old descriptions compare its form to that of a slender-waisted drum (dice-box or hour-glass shape).
Under the Mongols the walls were allowed to decay; and in the disturbed years that closed that dynasty (1341-1368) they were rebuilt by an insurgent chief on a greatly reduced compass, probably that which they still retain. Whatever may have been the facts, and whatever the origin of the estimate, I imagine that the ascription of 100 miles of circuit to Kinsay had become popular among Westerns. Odoric makes the same statement. Wassáf calls it 24 parasangs, which will not be far short of the same amount. Ibn Batuta calls the _length_ of the city three days' journey. Rashiduddin says the enceinte had a _diameter_ of 11 parasangs, and that there were three post stages between the two extremities of the city, which is probably what Ibn Batuta had heard. The _Masálak-al-Absár_ calls it _one_ day's journey in length, and half a day's journey in breadth. The enthusiastic Jesuit Martini tries hard to justify Polo in this as in other points of his description. We shall quote the whole of his remarks at the end of the chapters on Kinsay.
[Dr. F. Hirth, in a paper published in the _T'oung Pao_, V. pp. 386-390 (_Ueber den Shiffsverkehr von Kinsay zu Marco Polo's Zeit_), has some interesting notes on the maritime trade of Hang-chau, collected from a work in twenty books, kept at the Berlin Royal Library, in which is to be found a description of Hang-chau under the title of _Mêng-liang-lu_, published in 1274 by Wu Tzu-mu, himself a native of this city: there are various classes of sea-going vessels; large boats measuring 5000 _liao_ and carrying from five to six hundred passengers; smaller boats measuring from 2 to 1000 _liao_ and carrying from two to three hundred passengers; there are small fast boats called _tsuan-fêng_, "wind breaker," with six or eight oarsmen, which can carry easily 100 passengers, and are generally used for fishing; sampans are not taken into account. To start for foreign countries one must embark at Ts'wan-chau, and then go to the sea of Ts'i-chau (Paracels), through the Tai-hsü pass; coming back he must look to Kwen-lun (Pulo Condor).--H.C.]
The 12,000 bridges have been much carped at, and modern accounts of Hang-chau (desperately meagre as they are) do not speak of its bridges as notable. "There is, indeed," says Mr. Kingsmill, speaking of changes in the hydrography about Hang-chau, "no trace in the city of the magnificent canals and bridges described by Marco Polo." The number was no doubt in this case also a mere popular saw, and Friar Odoric repeats it. The sober and veracious John Marignolli, alluding apparently to their statements, and perhaps to others which have not reached us, says: "When authors tell of its ten thousand noble bridges of stone, adorned with sculptures and statues of armed princes, it passes the belief of one who has not been there, and yet peradventure these authors tell us no lie." Wassáf speaks of 360 bridges only, but they make up in size what they lack in number, for they cross canals as big as the Tigris! Marsden aptly quotes in reference to this point excessively loose and discrepant statements from modern authors as to the number of bridges in Venice. The great _height_ of the arches of the canal bridges in this part of China is especially noticed by travellers. Barrow, quoted by Marsden, says: "Some have the piers of such an extraordinary height that the largest vessels of 200 tons sail under them without striking their masts."
[Illustration: Plan of the Imperial City of Hangchow in the 13th Century. (From the Notes of the Right Rev. G.E. Moule.)]
Mr. Moule has added up the lists of bridges in the whole department (or _Fu_) and found them to amount to 848, and many of these even are now unknown, their approximate sites being given from ancient topographies. The number _represented_ in a large modern map of the city, which I owe to Mr. Moule's kindness, is III.
NOTE 3.--Though Rubruquis (p. 292) says much the same thing, there is little trace of such an ordinance in modern China. Père Parrenin observes: "As to the hereditary perpetuation of trades, it has never existed in China. On the contrary, very few Chinese will learn the trade of their fathers; and it is only necessity that ever constrains them to do so." (_Lett. Edif._ XXIV. 40.) Mr. Moule remarks, however, that P. Parrenin is a little too absolute. Certain trades do run in families, even of the free classes of Chinese, not to mention the disfranchised boatmen, barbers, chair-coolies, etc. But, except in the latter cases, there is no compulsion, though the Sacred Edict goes to encourage the perpetuation of the family calling.
NOTE 4.--This sheet of water is the celebrated SI-HU, or "Western Lake," the fame of which had reached Abulfeda, and which has raised the enthusiasm even of modern travellers, such as Barrow and Van Braam. The latter speaks of _three_ islands (and this the Chinese maps confirm), on each of which were several villas, and of causeways across the lake, paved and bordered with trees, and provided with numerous bridges for the passage of boats. Barrow gives a bright description of the lake, with its thousands of gay, gilt, and painted pleasure boats, its margins studded with light and fanciful buildings, its gardens of choice flowering shrubs, its monuments, and beautiful variety of scenery. None surpasses that of Martini, whom it is always pleasant to quote, but here he is too lengthy. The most recent description that I have met with is that of Mr. C. Gardner, and it is as enthusiastic as any. It concludes: "Even to us foreigners ... the spot is one of peculiar attraction, but to the Chinese it is as a paradise." The Emperor K'ien Lung had erected a palace on one of the islands in the lake; it was ruined by the T'ai-P'ings. Many of the constructions about the lake date from the flourishing days of the T'ang Dynasty, the 7th and 8th centuries.
Polo's ascription of a circumference of 30 miles to the lake, corroborates the supposition that in the compass of the city a confusion had been made between miles and _li_, for Semedo gives the circuit of the lake really as 30 _li_. Probably the document to which Marco refers at the beginning of the chapter was seen by him in a Persian translation, in which _li_ had been rendered by _mil_. A Persian work of the same age, quoted by Quatremère (the _Nuzhát al-Kultúb_, gives the circuit of the lake as six parasangs, or some 24 miles, a statement which probably had a like origin).
Polo says the lake was _within_ the city. This might be merely a loose way of speaking, but it may on the other hand be a further indication of the former existence of an extensive outer wall. The Persian author just quoted also speaks of the lake as within the city. (_Barrow's Autobiog._, p. 104; _V. Braam_, II. 154; _Gardner_ in _Proc. of the R. Geog. Soc._, vol. xiii. p. 178; _Q. Rashid_, p. lxxxviii.) Mr. Moule states that popular oral tradition does enclose the lake within the walls, but he can find no trace of this in the Topographies.
Elsewhere Mr. Moule says: "Of the luxury of the (Sung) period, and its devotion to pleasure, evidence occurs everywhere. Hang-chow went at the time by the nickname of the melting-pot for money. The use, at houses of entertainment, of _linen and silver plate_ appears somewhat out of keeping in a Chinese picture. I cannot vouch for the linen, but here is the plate.... 'The most famous Tea-houses of the day were the _Pa-seen_ ("8 genii"), the "Pure Delight", the "Pearl", the "House of the Pwan Family," and the "Two and Two" and "Three and Three" houses (perhaps rather "Double honours" and "Treble honours"). In these places they always set out bouquets of fresh flowers, according to the season.... At the counter were sold "Precious thunder Tea", Tea of fritters and onions, or else Pickle broth; and in hot weather wine of snow bubbles and apricot blossom, or other kinds of refrigerating liquor. _Saucers, ladles, and bowls were all of pure, silver_!' (_Si-Hu-Chi_.)"
[Illustration: Plan of the Metropolitan City of Hangchow in the 13th Century. (From the Notes of the Right Rev. G.E. Moule.)
1-17, Gates; 18, _Ta-nuy_, Central Palace; 19, _Woo-Foo_, The Five Courts; 20, _T'aï Miao_, The Imperial Temple; 21, _Fung-hwang shan_, Phoenix Hill; 22, _Shih fuh she_, Monastery of the Sacred Fruit; 25-30, Gates; 31, _T'ien tsung yen tsang_ T'ien tsung Salt Depot; 2, _T'ien tsung tsew koo_, T'ien tsung Wine Store; 33, _Chang she_, The Chang Monastery; 34, _Foo che_, Prefecture; _Foo hio_, Prefectural Confucian Temple.]
NOTE 5.--This is still the case: "The people of Hang-chow dress gaily, and are remarkable among the Chinese for their dandyism. All, except the lowest labourers and coolies, strutted about in dresses composed of silk, satin, and crape.... 'Indeed' (said the Chinese servants) 'one can never tell a rich man in Hang-chow, for it is just possible that all he possesses in the world is on his back.'" (_Fortune_, II. 20.) "The silk manufactures of Hang-chau are said to give employment to 60,000 persons within the city walls, and Hu-chau, Kia-hing, and the surrounding villages, are reputed to employ 100,000 more." (_Ningpo Trade Report_, January 1869, comm. by Mr. N. B. Dennys.) The store-towers, as a precaution in case of fire, are still common both in China and Japan.
NOTE 6.--Mr. Gardner found in this very city, in 1868, a large collection of cottages covering several acres, which were "erected, after the taking of the city from the rebels, by a Chinese charitable society for the refuge of the blind, sick, and infirm." This asylum sheltered 200 blind men with their families, amounting to 800 souls; basket-making and such work was provided for them; there were also 1200 other inmates, aged and infirm; and doctors were maintained to look after them. "None are allowed to be absolutely idle, but all help towards their own sustenance." (_Proc. R.G.Soc._ XIII. 176-177.) Mr. Moule, whilst abating somewhat from the colouring of this description, admits the establishment to be a considerable charitable effort. It existed before the rebellion, as I see in the book of Mr. Milne, who gives interesting details on such Chinese charities. (_Life in China_, pp. 46 seqq.)
NOTE 7.--The paved roads of Manzi are by no means extinct yet. Thus, Mr. Fortune, starting from Chang-shan (see below, ch. lxxix.) in the direction of the Black-Tea mountains, says: "The road on which we were travelling was well paved with granite, about 12 feet in width, and perfectly free from weeds." (II. 148). Garnier, Sladen, and Richthofen speak of well-paved roads in Yun-Nan and Sze-ch'wan.
The Topography quoted by Mr. Moule says that in the year 1272 the Governor renewed the pavement of the Imperial road (or Main Street), "after which nine cars might move abreast over a way perfectly smooth, and straight as an arrow." In the Mongol time the people were allowed to encroach on this grand street.
NOTE 8.--There is a curious discrepancy in the account of these baths. Pauthier's text does not say whether they are hot baths or cold. The latter sentence, beginning, "They are hot baths" (_estuves_), is from the G. Text. And Ramusio's account is quite different: "There are numerous baths of cold water, provided with plenty of attendants, male and female, to assist the visitors of the two sexes in the bath. For the people are used from their childhood to bathe in cold water at all seasons, and they reckon it a very wholesome custom. But in the bath-houses they have also certain chambers furnished with hot water, for foreigners who are unaccustomed to cold bathing, and cannot bear it. The people are used to bathe daily, and do not eat without having done so." This is in contradiction with the notorious Chinese horror of cold water for any purpose.
A note from Mr. C. Gardner says: "There are numerous public baths at Hang-chau, as at every Chinese city I have ever been in. In my experience natives always take _hot_ baths. But only the poorer classes go to the public baths; the tradespeople and middle classes are generally supplied by the bath-houses with hot water at a moderate charge."
NOTE 9.--The estuary of the Ts'ien T'ang, or river of Hang-chau, has undergone great changes since Polo's day. The sea now comes up much nearer the city; and the upper part of the Bay of Hang-chau is believed to cover what was once the site of the port and town of KANP'U, the Ganpu of the text. A modern representative of the name still subsists, a walled town, and one of the depôts for the salt which is so extensively manufactured on this coast; but the present port of Hang-chau, and till recently the sole seat of Chinese trade with Japan, is at _Chapu_, some 20 miles further seaward.
It is supposed by Klaproth that KANP'U was the port frequented by the early Arab voyagers, and of which they speak under the name of _Khánfú_, confounding in their details Hang-chau itself with the port. Neumann dissents from this, maintaining that the Khanfu of the Arabs was certainly Canton. Abulfeda, however, states expressly that Khanfu was known in his day as _Khansá_ (i.e. Kinsay), and he speaks of its lake of fresh water called _Sikhu_ (Si-hu). [Abulfeda has in fact two Khânqû (Khanfû): Khansâ with the lake which is Kinsay, and one Khanfû which is probably Canton. (See _Guyard's transl._, II., ii., 122-124.)--H.C.] There seems to be an indication in Chinese records that a southern branch of the Great Kiang once entered the sea at Kanp'u; the closing of it is assigned to the 7th century, or a little later.
[Dr. F. Hirth writes (_Jour. Roy. As. Soc._, 1896, pp. 68-69): "For centuries Canton must have been the only channel through which foreign trade was permitted; for it is not before the year 999 that we read of the appointment of Inspectors of Trade at Hang-chou and Ming-chou. The latter name is identified with Ning-po." Dr. Hirth adds in a note: "This is in my opinion the principal reason why the port of _Khanfu_, mentioned by the earliest Muhammadan travellers, or authors (Soleiman, Abu Zeid, and Maçoudi), cannot be identified with Hang-chou. The report of Soleiman, who first speaks of _Khanfu_, was written in 851, and in those days Canton was apparently the only port open to foreign trade. Marco Polo's _Ganfu_ is a different port altogether, viz. _Kan-fu_, or _Kan-pu_, near Hang-chou, and should not be confounded with _Khanfu_."--H.C.]
The changes of the Great Kiang do not seem to have attracted so much attention among the Chinese as those of the dangerous Hwang-Ho, nor does their history seem to have been so carefully recorded. But a paper of great interest on the subject was published by Mr. Edkins, in the _Journal of the North China Branch of the R.A.S._ for September 1860 [pp. 77-84], which I know only by an abstract given by the late Comte d'Escayrac de Lauture. From this it would seem that about the time of our era the Yang-tzu Kiang had three great mouths. The most southerly of these was the Che-Kiang, which is said to have given its name to the Province still so called, of which Hang-chau is the capital. This branch quitted the present channel at Chi-chau, passed by Ning-Kwé and Kwang-té, communicating with the southern end of a great group of lakes which occupied the position of the T'ai-Hu, and so by Shih-men and T'ang-si into the sea not far from Shao-hing. The second branch quitted the main channel at Wu-hu, passed by I-hing (or I-shin) communicating with the northern end of the T'ai-Hu (passed apparently by Su-chau), and then bifurcated, one arm entering the sea at Wu-sung, and the other at Kanp'u. The third, or northerly branch is that which forms the present channel of the Great Kiang. These branches are represented hypothetically on the sketch-map attached to ch. lxiv. supra.
(_Kingsmill_, u.s. p. 53; _Chin. Repos._ III. 118