Sir John Chardin's Travels in Persia
Written by Sir John Chardin
Edited by Janeen Richards (2000)
Born in Paris in a Hugenot (Protestant) family, Jean Chardin (1643-1713) undertook his travels to Persia because of his father's position as a jeweler and shareholder in the French East India Company. The younger Chardin set out in 1664, traveling through Turkey, the Black Sea, Georgia and Armenia. Soon after his arrival in Persia, he received a commission to create jewelry for Shah Abbas II, who died in 1666 and was succeeded by Shah Safi. After witnessing the latter's coronation, Chardin went on India and finally returned to Paris in 1670. In 1671, he published an account of the coronation and in the same year set off for Persia again, arriving in Isfahan in 1673 and remaining there for several years, before once more visiting India and returning home in 1677. With the persecution of the Hugenots in France, he moved to England in 1680. The first edition of his Travels appeared in 1686 and was followed over the next decades by several expanded editions. Chardin enjoys the reputation of being one of the best-informed European observers of Safavid Persia.
The text has been taken from Sir John Chardin, Travels in Persia 1673-1677 (London, Argonaut Press, 1927), which is a reprint of the two-volume London edition of 1720. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized. My notes or additions of words in the original text are in brackets. Numbers after heading titles are the page numbers from which these sections are taken. Selections have been grouped according to topics and do not reflect the order of the original text.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Education of Children
Government of Persia
Causes of Decreased Population
Letter Evaluating Trading Possibilities
King's Presents: Recording
The Nazir's Commission
Muscovites during a lavish reception
At the end of each section, clicking on [back] will return you to the Table of Contents.
Those men [Persians] are the most lavish men in the world, and the most careless of the morrow[...]. They cannot keep money and whatever riches fall to them, they waste all in a very little time. Let, for instance, the king give fifty or a hundred thousand Livres to any man, he lays it out in less than a fortnight, in buying slaves of both sexes; in hiring handsome wives; in setting up a noble equipage; in furnishing a house, or clothing himself richly: and so spends the whole sum so fast, without any regard to the time to come, that unless some new supplies intervene in two or three months time, our gentleman will be forced to sell again his whole equipage by piecemeal, beginning with his horses; then his needless servants; then his concubines and slaves; and lastly, even his own clothes...
The most commendable property of the manners of the Persians is their kindness to strangers; the reception and protection they afford them and their universal hospitality and toleration in regard to religion, except the clergy of the country, who, as in all other places, hate to a furious degree all those that differ from their opinions. The Persians are very civil, and very honest in matters of religion; so far that they allow those who have embraced theirs, to recant, and resume their former opinion; whereof, the Sadr, or priest, gives them an authentic certificate for safety sake, in which he calls them by the name of Apostat, which amongst them is the highest affront. They believe that all men's prayers are good and prevalent; therefore, in their illnesses and in other wants, they admit of and even desire the prayers of different religions. I have seen it practiced a thousand times. This is not to be imputed to their religious principles, though it allows all sorts of worship; but I impute it to the sweet temper of the nation, who are naturally averse to contest and cruelty.
The Persians having the character of wanton and profuse. One may easily believe them to be lazy also, those two properties being inseparable. Their aversion to labor is the most common occasion of their poverty. The Persians call the lazy and unactive men, Serguerdan, i.e. turning the head this way and that way. Their language is full of those circumlocutions; as for instance, to express a man reduced to a mendicant state, they say, "gouch negui micoret", (he eats his hunger).
The Persians never fight. All their anger, being not blustering and passionate, as in our country, goes off with ill language, and what's very praiseworthy is that what passion soever they may be in, and among whatever profligate wretches they may light, still they reverence God's name and he is never blasphemed. That nation cannot conceive how the Europeans, when they are in a passion, can disown God, though they themselves are very often guilty of taking His name in vain, without any need or provocation. Their usual oaths are: By the name of God, By the Spirits of the Prophets, By the Spirits, or Genius of the Dead, as the Romans swore, By the Genius of the Living. The gentleman and courtiers commonly swear By the King's Sacred Hand, which is the most inviolable oath. The common affirmations are: Upon my Head, Upon my Eyes.
Two opposite customs are commonly practiced by the Persians; that of praising God continually and talking of his attributes, and that of uttering curses, and obscene talk. Whether you see them at home, or meet them in the streets, going about business or a walking, you still hear them uttering some blessing or prayer, such as O most great God; O God most praiseworthy; O merciful God; O nursing father of Mankind; O God forgive me or help me. The least thing they set their hand to do, they say In the name of God, and they never speak of doing anything without adding If it pleases God. Lastly, they are the most devout and most constant worshippers of the Godhead; and at the same time come out of the same men's mouths a thousand obscene expressions. All ranks of men are infected with this odious vice. Their bawdy talk is taken from Arse and C--t, which modesty forbids one to name; and when they abuse one another , they invent some nasty trick of one another's wives, though they never saw or heard of them, or wish they may commit some nastiness. 'Tis so among the women, and when they have spent their stock of bawdy names, they begin to call one another atheists, idolaters, Jews, Christians, and to say to one another, "the Christians' dogs are better than thou, may'st thou serve for an offering to the dogs of the Franks."
Men of all ranks, as is before mentioned, are observed to use such filthy expressions, but not so common, and to that degree; for I must confess, that the mob is generally infected with it. The first time I waited on the Lord Steward of the king's household, in the year 1666, the Persian court being in Hyrcania, a man of distinction came to him about some business, the Lord Steward said to him, "Why don't you go to the First Minister, to whom I have already sent you back?" The man answered very modestly, " My Lord, I have been there, and he told me, that your Majesty (they give that title to the nobles as well as the king) is to determine matter." "Gaumicoret," answered he. I wondered to hear the Lord Steward speak in that manner of the First Minister; for the word Gau, signifies a turd, and micoret, he eats; that's the usual expression amongst them, to intimate a wrong or false answer.
That's one of the least faults of the Persians; they are besides, dissemblers, cheats, and the basest and most impudent flatterers in the world. They understand flattering very well and though they do it with modesty, yet they do it with an art and insinuation. You would say that they intend as they speak, and would swear to it; nevertheless, as soon as the occasion is over, such as a prospect of interest or a regard of compliance, you plainly see that all their compliments were very far from being sincere. They take an opportunity of praising men, when they come out of a house or pass by them, so that they may be heard, and they speak so seasonably that the praise seems to come naturally from them and carries no air of flattery along with it. Besides those vices which the Persians are generally addicted to, they are liars in the highest degree; they speak, swear and make false depositions upon the least consideration; they borrow and pay not; and if they can cheat, they seldom lose the opportunity. They are not to be trusted in service, nor in all other engagements without honesty in their trading, wherein they overreach one so ingeniously, that one cannot help being bubbled: greedy of riches, and of vain glory, of respect and reputation, which they endeavor to gain by all means possible. Being void of true virtue, they effect the show of it; whether out of a design to impose on themselves or the better to attain the ends of their vain glory, their ambition, and their wantonness. Hypocrisy is the common disguise they appear in; they would turn a league out of the way to avoid a bodily pollution; such as brushing as they go by a man of different religion and receiving one in their house in rainy weather, because the wet of his clothes pollutes whatever touches them, whether persons or goods. They walk gravely, make their prayers and purgations at set times and with the greatest show of devotion. They hold the wisest and godliest conversation possible, discoursing constantly of God's glory, and of His greatness in the noblest terms and with all the outward show of the most fervent faith. Although they be naturally disposed to good nature, hospitality, pity, contempt of the world, and of its riches, they affect themselves nevertheless, that they may appear to be possessed of a larger share of them than they really are. Whoever sees them only passing by, or in a visit, will always give them the best character in the world, but he that deals with them and pries into their affairs will find that there is little honesty in them, and that most of them are 'whited sepulchers', according to our Savior's expression, which I think the more proper here, because the Persians study particularly a strict observation of the law. That is the character and generality of the Persians, but there is without doubt an exception to that general depravation; for among some of the Persians there is as much justice, sincerity, virtue and piety to be found, as among those who profess the best religions. But the more one converses with that nation, the fewer one finds included in the exception, the number of truly honest and courteous Persians being very small.
[Education of Children--188-189]
After what I have been saying one will hardly be persuaded, that the Persians are so careful in the education of youth as they really are, which is very true, notwithstanding. The nobility, i.e., men of distinction, and substantial housekeeper's children, (for among the Persians there is no nobility strictly so called) are very well brought up. They commonly take in eunuchs to look after them who are instead of governors, and have them always in their sight, keeping them very strictly, and carrying them out only to visit their relations or to see the exercises performed, or the Solemnity of Feasts. And because they might not be spoiled at school or at the college, they are not sent thither, but have masters at home. They are likewise very careful that they don't converse with the servants, lest they should hear or see an immodest thing and that the servants carry themselves before them respectfully and discreetly. The common people bring up likewise their children carefully; they don't suffer them to ramble about the streets, to take ill courses, to learn to game and to quarrel, and learn roguish tricks. They are sent twice a day to school and when they come back, their parents keep them by them, to initiate them in their profession and in the business they are designed for. The youth[s] do not begin to come abroad into the world 'till they be past twenty, except they be married before; for in that case they are sooner set at liberty, and left to themselves. By the word married, I mean joined to a wife, or a spouse by contract; for at sixteen or seventeen, they give them a bedfellow, if they be amorous. They appear, at their entrance onto the world, wise, well bred, obliging, shame faced, little talkers, grave, mindful, and chaste in their life and conversation, but most of them take to ill courses soon and give themselves up to luxury. And for want of an estate or income to indulge their inclinations, they fall to unlawful practices, which offer themselves every minute and appear very plausible.
The Persians are the most civilized people of the East, and the greatest complimenters in the world. The polite men amongst them are upon a level with the politest men of Europe. Their airs [and] their countenance is very well composed; lovely, grave, majestical, and as fond as may be, they never fail complimenting one another about the precedency, either going out or coming into a house, or when they meet, but 'tis over presently. They look upon two things in our manners as very ridiculous, viz. contending so long as we do, who shall go first; and covering our head, to do honor to any man, which amongst them is a want of respect or a liberty which no body takes but with his inferiors or familiar friends. They observe the right and the left hand, but our left is their right, and so 'tis all over the east. They say, that Cyrus began first to place men on his left hand out of respect to them because that side is the weaker part of the body and the most exposed to danger.
They visit one another regularly on all occasions of mirth and sadness and at all solemn feasts. The rich wait then for the visits of the inferior people, which they return afterwards. The courtiers go and pay their compliments night and morning to the ministers, and wait upon them from their palace to court. They are led into large halls, where they set tobacco and coffee before them, till the lord, who is still on the woman's side, comes out. As soon as they see him, everyone rises and stands up in his own place; he goes by, bows his head to the company, and the company to him again, but much lower, then he goes and sits down in his usual place. He beckons to the company to sit down and when he is ready to go he rises, goes out first, and everyone follows him. The rich receive also in that manner their inferiors but they use more ceremony with their equals and their superiors. They wish they welcome before they sit down, and mind to sit down but after they are sat, and to rise after them when they go out. The master of the house sits always at the upper end and when he is willing to show anybody some particular respect, he beckons to him come and sit down by him; he does not offer him his place, for the person he offers it to would look upon it as an affront, but out of extraordinary respect to him, and goes and sits down beside the stranger below him.
When the person visited is in his hall, and is an eminent person, they behave themselves in this manner: the visitor goes in softly, steps to the next empty seat where he stands with his feet close to one another, his hands over one another in his girdle, stooping a little with his head with his eyes fixed, and a grave and thoughtful countenance till the master of the house beckons to him to sit down, which he never fails to do presently, either with his hand or with his head. When a man receives a visit from his superior, he rises as soon as he sees him come in and offers to meet him halfway. If he is visited by his equal, he rises halfway. If by an inferior somewhat deserving, he only makes a motion of rising. Visitors seldom rise if anybody comes into the room, except the master of the house doth it, or anybody has some particular reason of showing that respect to him that comes in. There is beside[s] much more ceremony observed in Persia at sitting down. Before men to whom respect is due, a man sits presently on his heels, with his knees and feet close to one another; before his equals, he sits easier; that is, he sits on his breech, his legs across, and his body upright. They call that posture tehazanou, i.e., sitting on four knees, because the knees and ankles lie flat on the ground: friends and familiar acquaintance say presently, "Sit down easy," i.e., cross your legs as you please: but unless they have sat half a day in the same place they don't shift their situation. The eastern people are not near so restless and so uneasy as we; they sit gravely and soberly, make no motion with their body, or very seldom, except it be to ease themselves, but they never make any to help their discourse. Our way upon that account suprises them strangely, for they don't believe that a man that is in his wits can be so full of action as we are. 'Tis also amongst them a great piece of rudeness for a man to show his toes when he sits. He must hide them under his gown.[....] Their usual way of saluting is with a nod, or laying their right hand on their mouth, which is the way among friends after a long absence. Lastly, they also kiss one another, and give a short embrace after a return from a long journey and on extraordinary occasions.
[Government of Persia--138-139]
A man would be strangely surprised in Persia who went thither prepossessed with the ideas given of it by ancient authors, particularly Arian, and Quintus Curtius, for to read their accounts of the luxury, effeminacy, delicacy and treasures of the Persians, one would imagine 'twas a country made up of gold and where the conveniences of life were in great plenty, and to be had for little or nothing. But whoever comes there finds it quite otherwise.[....] What way is there to reconcile these visible and seeming contradictions? This I will do without much difficulty, by relating two things, which I have found out to be the causes of this strange alteration. The first proceeds from the difference of their religion; the second arises from the difference of the government. The religion of the ancient Persians, who were Ignicoles, or worshippers of fire, laid upon them the strictest engagements to cultivate the land. For according to their maxims, it was a pious and meritorious action to plant a tree, to water a field, and to make a barren spot of earth yield fruit, whereas the philosophy of the Mohammedans tends only to enjoy the things of this world, while one is in it, without having any more regard to it than a highway through which one is to pass quickly. The government of those ancient people was likewise more just and adequate. The rights of proprietors to their lands and goods were inviolably sure and sacred. But at present the government is despotic and absolutely arbitrary. What moreover induces me to believe that all I have read of Persia in those ancient times is true and that it was beyond comparison more fertile and populous than it is at present, is from taking a review of what it has to come to within these six score years, from the beginning of the reign of Abbas the Great. He was a just and equitable prince and all his endeavors had this one tendency; to render his kingdom flourishing and his people happy. He found his empire all torn to pieces and usurped and the greatest part of it impoverished and pillaged. But it is scarced to be believed what effect his good government had throughout his dominions. To give the reader but barely one single instance of it; he brought into the capital city a colony of Armenians, who were a laborious and industrious people, and had nothing in the world when they came there, but in the space of thirty years they grew so exceeding rich that there were above threescore merchants among them who, one with another, were worth from a hundred thousand crowns to two millions in money and merchandise. As soon as the great prince ended this life, the prosperity of Persia ended likewise. The people began by little and little to go over to the Indies, during the two succeeding reigns; and at length, in the reign of Soleiman which began in 1667, their wealth and their plenty were found to be excessively diminished. The first time that I had come to Persia, was in the year 1665, in the reign of Abbas the Second, and my last in the year 1667 (sic), during the government of Soleiman, his son. Counting from that time to this, the riches seemed to be half diminished, with so little an interval as twelve years time only. Even the coin itself was altered. There was no such thing as good silver to be seen. The grandees being impoverished, exacted upon the people and peeled them of their fortunes. The people, to ward against the impressions of the great, were become cheats and sharpers, and from thence all the ill tricking ways that could be were introduced into the art of trade and commerce. There are too many examples throughout the world which show that even the fertility of the soil and the plenty of a country depends on the good order of a just and moderate government, and exactly regulated according to the laws. If Persia was inhabited by Turks, who are still more slothful and less engaged in the things of this life than the Persians and cruelly severe in their manner of government, it would still be more barren than it is; whereas, if it were in the hands of the Armenians or of those people called Ignicoles, one should quickly find it appear again in all its ancient glory and primitive splendor.
[Causes of decreased population--129-130]
[Talking of the practice of removing large numbers of conquered peoples, as was common in this time] It was thought advisable in order to maintain their conquests to banish the better part of them and to transport the other into distant and different climates, where they perished little by little, like a strange plant. This is what the Persians have practiced, as well as the Turks for latter ages. They have already remarked in the Indies, which is a country very rich, fruitful and populous, the dreadful effect of this kind of politics; for in proportion, as the Great Mogul extends his empire by the conquest of Indian kingdoms and principalities, the people, and at the same time the plenty and riches decrease. One may add to this political reason some other natural ones for the depopulation of Persia, and among the rest, these three. First, the unhappy inclination which the Persians have to commit that abominable sin against nature with both sexes. Secondly, the immoderate luxury of the country. The women begin there to have children betimes, and continue fruitful but a little while, and as soon as they get on the wrong side of thirty, they are looked upon as old and superannuated. The men likewise begin to visit women too young, and to such an excess that though they enjoy several, they never have the more children for it. There also are a great many women who make themselves abortive, and take remedies against growing pregnant, because when they have been three or four months gone with child, their husbands take to other women, holding it for an act of turpitude and indecency to lie with a woman gone so far in her time. The third reason is that within this last century a great many Persians, and even entire families, have gone and settled in the Indies. As they are a handsomer, wiser and more polite people, beyond all comparison than the Mohammedan Indians, who are descended from the Tartars, in the country of Tamerlane, they all advance themselves in the Indies. The courts of the Mohammedan kings are all full of them, particularly that of Colconda and Vijapour. As soon as any of them are well established, they send for their families and friends, who go willingly where fortune invites them; especially into a country which is one of the most plentiful in the world and where clothes and food are sold cheaper than anywhere else soever.
After what I have said of the number and beauty of the Persian flowers, one would be very apt to imagine, that they must of course have the finest gardens in the world; but it is no such thing. On the contrary, I have found it to be a general rule that where nature is most easy and fruitful, they are very raw and unskilled in the art of gardening. This comes to pass, by reason that in those places, where nature plays so excellently the part of gardener, if I may be permitted to use the expression, art hath in a manner nothing to do. The gardens of the Persians commonly consist of one great walk, which parts the garden, and runs on in a straight line, bordered on each side by a row of plantanes, with a bason of water in the middle of it made proportional in bigness to the garden, and likewise of two other little sidewalks. The space between them is confusedly set with flowers and planted with fruit trees and rose bushes; and these are all the decorations they have. They don't know what parterres and green houses, what wildernesses and terraces and the other ornaments of our gardens are. The most particular reason one can assign to this, is that the Persians don't walk so much in gardens as we do, but content themselves with a bare prospect, and breathing the fresh air: for this end, they set themselves down in some part of the garden, at their first coming into it and never move from their seats till they are going out of it.
Trading is a very honorable profession in the East, as being the best of those that have any stability and are not so liable to change. 'Tis not to be wondered at, for it cannot be otherwise in kingdoms where on the one hand there is no title of nobility, and therefore little authority annexed to the birth, and where on the other hand, the form of government being altogether despotic and arbitrary, the authority annexed to places and employments cannot last longer than the employments themselves, which are likewise precarious. For which reason trading is much set by in that part of the world as a lasting and independent station. Another reason why it is valued is because the noblemen profess it, and the kings also; they have their deputies as the merchants have, and under the same denomination. They have most of them their trading ships and their store houses. The king of Persia, for instance, sells and sends to the neighboring kingdoms silk, brocades, and other rich goods, carpets and precious stones. The name of merchant is a name much respected in the east and is not allowed to shop keepers or dealers in trifling goods nor to those who trade not in foreign countries. 'Tis allowed only to such as employ deputies or factors in the remotest countries, and those men are sometimes raised to the highest ranks and are usually employed in embassies. There are merchants in Persia who have deputies in all parts of the world, and when those deputies are returned home, they wait on their master, under no better denomination than that of a servant, standing up always before them, and waiting at table, though some of those deputies are worth above threescore thousand crowns. In the Indies the laws are still more favorable to traders, for though they are much more numerous than in Persia, they are nevertheless more set by. The reason of this additional respect, is, because in the East, traders are sacred persons who are never molested even in time of war; and are allowed a free passage they and their effects, through the middle of armies. 'Tis upon their account especially that the roads are safe all over Asia, and especially in Persia. The Persians call a trader saudaguer, i.e., Gain monger.
The eastern merchants affect grandeur in trading. Notwithstanding they send their deputies into all parts and stay at home themselves, as in the center of their grand concern; they make no bargains themselves directly. There is no public place of exchange in their towns. The trade is carried on by stock jobbers, who are the subtlest, the cunningest, the slyest, the complaisantest, the patientest, and the most intriguing men of the whole society, having a valuable and insinuating tongue beyond expression. They are called delal, which answers to great talkers, that word being of a contrary signification to lal, i.e., Dumb. The Mohammedans have a proverb alluding to the name of those men, viz. That at the last day, delal lal, the stock jobbers, or talkers will be dumb; intimating that they will have nothing to say for themselves. 'Tis very curious to see them make bargains. After they have argued and discoursed a while before the seller, and commonly at his own house, they agree with their fingers about the price. They take hold of in another's right hand under a cloak or handkerchief, and entertain one another in that manner; the straight finger stands for ten, the bent finger for five, the finger end for one, the whole hand for a hundred, and the fist for a thousand. Thus they denote pounds, pence, and farthings, with a motion of their fingers. While they bargain they put on such a grave and steady countenance, that 'tis impossible to know in the least either what they think or say.
However, the Mohammedans are not the greatest traders in Asia, though they be dispersed almost in every part if it, and though their religion bears some sway in the larger part of it. Some of them are too effeminate, and some too severe to apply themselves to trade, especially foreign trading. Wherefore in Turkey, the Christians and Jews carry on the main foreign trade and in Persia the Christians and Indian gentiles. As to the Persians, they trade with their own countrymen, one province with another, and most of them trade with the Indians. The Armenians manage alone the whole European trade; the reason whereof is, because the Mohammedans cannot strictly observe their religion among the Christians, with relation to the outward purity it requires of them. For instance, their law forbids them to eat flesh either dressed or killed by a man of a different religion, and likewise to drink in the same cup with such a one; it forbids in some cases the touching persons of a contrary opinion, which is a thing almost impossible to keep among the Christians.
Another hindrance there is to the Mohammedan improvement of trade, viz. the forbidding usury and interest without any distinction. Mohammed broached his religion in a country whereof the whole riches and trade consisted in cattle and breeds of horses, where little money was seen, and where the trade was managed by way of exchange, as in former times. And as it appears by a thousand things of the Koran, that he did not foresee that it would be propagated throughout the world, he perceived no inconveniency in forbidding to lend money upon interest. The old commentators of his institution have not explained that prohibition, so that it has remained in force to this day. Thus their law allows no interest; but it allows changes, especially maritime changes upon any advantage whatsoever, as thirty or forty per cent profit or more. As to interest, the parties have the way of eluding the law just as they please. They go to the judge and borrower, holding in their hand a bag of money; one saith there is in it such a sum, though the interest agreed on be wanting in it. The judge without any further inquiry orders the writing to be drawn up; 'tis even enough, without so much precaution, to own before witnesses, that one has received so much (although less) to make the debt authentic.
Silk is the staple commodity of Persia. They get some in the province of Georgia, of Khorasan and Karamania, but especially in Gilan, and Mazandaran, which is in Hyrcania. They compute that Persia brings yearly two and twenty thousand bales of silk, each bale weighing two hundred and seventy-six pound weight; the Gilan, ten thousand; the Mezanderan, two thousand; Media, and Bactria, three thousand a piece; that part of Caramania, called Qarabagh, and Georgia, each of them two thousand; and that account increases every year, because silk improves continually. There are four sorts of silk; the first, and the worst, is called shirvani, because it comes chiefly from Shirvan, a town of Media, near the Caspian Sea. It is a thick and rough silk, and the coarsest thread of the shell. It is what they call ardache in Europe. The second, which is a size better, is called karvari , i.e., an ass load, to denote that sort of silk which the unskillful buy. We call it legia, in our country, probably from the word Legian, a small town of Guilan, on the sea, where none but such a sort of silk is made. The third is called Ketcoda Pesend, as though one should say the citizen sort which name the Persians give to all things of a middling character. The fourth is called charbaffe, i.e., brocade silk, because the best silk is used for those rich goods. The abundance of the Persian silk exported is too well known to say much of it. The Dutch import of it into Europe to the value of near six hundred thousand livres yearly, by the Indian Sea. And all the Europeans who trade in Turkey import nothing more valuable than the Persian silks, for which they buy of the Armenians. The Muscovites import it likewise.
Some foreigners trade with the Persians for camel's hair, called testick, as has been said, and some Europeans for kids wool. They use it in Europe in [the] making of hats. The best wool of that sort, comes from Karamania, and from Quazvin, a famous city of Parthia.
Persia exports to the Indies [an] abundance of tobacco, all sorts of fruit: dried, pickled in vinegar and preserved, especially dates, marmalade, wines, distilled water, horses, Persian ware, feathers, Turkey leather of all colors, a great deal whereof is exported to Muscovy and other European countries. It exports to Turkey towards Babylon and Nineveh: tobacco, galls, thread, coarse goat's hair stuffs, mats, and all sorts of box work, and many other things. The exportation of steel and iron is forbidden in the kingdom, but it is exported notwithstanding. The Persians export likewise to Muscovy all sorts of silks and stuffs and sheep furs.
'Tis not to be supposed, however, that the Persians manage the trade with the same method and rules we use, or with half our skill. For instance, trading by commission and the way of change by letters, is little used; but as I have observed it, everyone goes to sell his own goods himself, or sends his deputies or children to do it. There are some Persian traders who have deputies in all parts of the world, as far as Sweden on the one side and China on the other side. That's the method of all the Orientalists, and it was that of the whole world before Europe was so stocked with people and towns that in some places they lay as it were a top of one another, in comparison with those of Asia. And there was no longer need of going oneself, or sending expresses, but one might reach to another, and hand things from one place to another safely.
[Letter evaluating trading possibilities--17-20]
[A letter to the Director of the French East India Company (FEIC) suggesting that they look to Japan and China rather than compete with the Dutch in the East Indies. Written by Francis Carron, who was to become the Envoy to Japan for the FEIC.]
I have with admiration heard of the enterprise of our great monarch touching the commerce of the East Indies, which is the same design that Harry the Great of glorious memory had concerted and resolved upon, in the year 1609, and which began to be put in execution by a merchant of Amsterdam whose name was Isaac le Maire,[...] who was a very able and mighty experienced man, when His Majesty put a stop to it. It is much to the king's glory that he is desirous of executing a design formed by his illustrious ancestors above fifty years ago, which, if it had taken due effect in those days had rendered France at present Mistress of Those Places Where the Spices are Gathered, and which are now in the possession of the Dutch Company but were at that time in the hands of the natives of [those countries].
It was in the year 1615 that this Dutch company appropriated to itself the Island of Ambonya where the clove grows. They did the same with Banda that produces the tree which bears nutmegs and mace in the year 1612 and has since in ten years time conquered that part of the Island of Ceylon where the cinnamon grows, beginning from the year 1635 to the year 1644, inclusively. This company, with these spices, carry on such a trade in the Indies and in Europe as brings in such immense gains that if it were to have no other trade but that alone, it would be sufficient to keep and maintain it. As on the contrary, if it were deprived of the possession of those spices it could not even subsist, much less aggrandize itself; experience showing sufficiently in the Portuguese and the English that the commerce of pepper, linen, silks, salt peter, indigo, drugs, and all other things which they bring into Europe do not yield them any considerable profit.
This makes me conjecture (without prejudice of the opinion of more able and penetrating persons) that the French Company will not be able to make any profits that will be worthy of its establishment. It will not be entirely deprived thereof, but far from being to be compared with those of the Dutch Company, they will be perhaps less than those of the English at present, or even of the Portuguese. These two nations have improved for a long time their trade in the Indies out of their mutual emulation and that of the Hollanders who deal with them both, wheresoever they are. Now the French will come last and make the fourth nation in the market. It will be forced to take the same way as the others in its commerce, having no other, and so, in all likelihood will not succeed any better than they.
There is another inconvenience, which is that the main part of the trade must be carried on by gold and silver, carried annually out of France to the Indies, unless there be a free and open commerce to China and Japan, which is what I would chiefly and principally aim at. The means of obtaining it is to send an honorable embassy in the name of the king to the great Cham of Tartary and King of China, and afterwards to the Emperor of Japan. There is a great deal of likelihood and much room to hope that the commerce would be obtained of them, provided that the envoys carried themselves with prudence and sagacity; their instructions to be drawn up with good advice and a great deal of attention and they must be very punctually followed and executed. The trade in Japan should likewise be carried out by Frenchmen of the reformed religion (no notice is taken of the religion of Europeans in any other place of the Indies, excepting only in Japan) and if contrary measures be taken, there is reason to fear that the trade of Japan cannot be obtained at all, or at least not to be kept up. It has been seen already what has happened to the Spanish and Portuguese, for endeavoring contrary to the prohibitions made against them to plant and propagate the Roman religion among the Japanese. It was for that that they were banished- the Spaniards in the year 1616 and Portuguese in the year 1639, upon the penalty of their lives and effects, never to return thither again. In opposition to which the Portuguese coming back upon an imagination of having that arrest repealed by instances and entreaties, all the embassy and the retinue were put to death to the number of 95, and the ship with all that was in it burnt; and this happened in the year 1640. It is therefore necessary that the trade should be carried out by persons who are not Romans, and likewise that the vessels which go thither should be free from all marks and tokens of the Romish religion.
If the French Company obtains the commerce of Japan, she will do very well and send home great profits, and in that case, a cargo must every year be sent to China, the greater part of which must consist of silver. From China another cargo must be taken of silks and stuffs, according to the quantities prescribed, which ought to be the value of between four and five [million livres]. This cargo will be sold off at Japan for ready money at 60 or 70 percent profit, and out of this product a fund must be drawn for a new purchase in China to the value of four [million] and the rest may be employed in the Indies to purchase pepper and cloths with other merchandises that are wanted; for the silks and silk stuffs of Bengal and China may be brought up for Europe, for they yield at least  percent. China can furnish what quantity one will thereof and Japan will consume as much of them as shall be carried thither. And this is the only trade that can enrich the French Company, provided it be freely granted them, wisely managed and seconded with the blessing of heaven.
The Portuguese when they were the in the flower of their commerce, carried away yearly from Japan ten million in specie. The Chinese at the same time carried away twelve and the Hollanders three. This in all amounts to twenty-five million, and yet, non withstanding these drafts and exportations, money was not a whit the scarcer at Japan, nor the silks a jot dearer than in China. It is true that great empire was ruined by the war and devastaions of the Tartars. But in my opinion, it will be always very easy to lay out there four or five millions from year to year more. This trade would save the sending of silver out of France to the Indies, either for the purchase of what must be imported into Europe, or to supply what may be wanting sometimes in the gain of the three millions proposed to be [gotten] every year at Japan. Unless the commerce of China increased in its capital stock in such a manner that the gain expected always exceeded the sum proposed, and there would be no need of carrying silver out of France on any other account than the South Sea trade which is not very considerable. Till the motion of this wheel of commerce can be compassed, the French Company ought to be very attentive to its affairs in the beginning, and to have a great capital stock to carry on the traffic from China to Japan for the South Sea trade, for the expenses and the advances which are necessary to establish itself in the places of trade and in the staples. The company has need of one or two on the coast of the Indies for the South Sea trade. As for that of the North, the Isle of Bangka appears to be the most commodious. It may be had by way of purchase from the Great Matram, King of the island of Java. An ambassador should be sent to him on that account. This purchase would be a very advantageous thing to the company, because in all likelihood, the pepper, rice and all sorts of provisions for the mouth would flow in there from all sides and in greater abundance than to Batavia, whither all those commodities have constantly been carried hitherto, and because the Chinese (a people so serviceable and so tractable) who inhabit the territory of Batavia would infallibly come and fling themselves among the French to free themselves from the insupportable charges and taxes put upon them some years last past in that place by the Dutch Company, who treat them with extreme severity and rigor.
The staples or public marts on the Indian coast for the South Sea trade might be on the coast of Malabar and the other on the coast of Coromandel. There is upon this last coast a place called St. Thomas which may be had without any great difficulty. In the meantime, as the establishment of trade in the South is a great and important enterprise and the success of it depends on a wise and prudent conduct it is necessary to send out of hand, a deputation to the great Mogul. This deputation will settle things in those quarters and upon their arrival the commerce will be free and open to Surat, to the coast of Coromandel, and to Bengal- the three principle places of traffic. Pepper and cassalinga will without trouble be bought, and abundantly, even on the coast of Malabar, especially if the price thereof be raised ever so little. [....]
Paris, May 29, 1665.
[Persians] do nothing but out of a principle of interest, that is to say, out of hope or fear; and they cannot conceive that there should be such a country where people will do their duty from a motive of virtue only, without any recompense. It is quite the contrary with them. They are paid for everything, and beforehand, too. One can ask nothing of them but with a present in one's hand, and they have thereupon this proverb that one comes back from a judge as one went to him. As much as to say that if one goes there with an empty hand, one comes back without having any justice done one. The poorest and most miserable people never appear before a great man, or one from whom they would ask some favor, but at the same time they offer a present which is never refused, even by the greatest lords of the kingdom, such as fruit, fowls, lamb, etc. Everyone gives of that which he is possessed of most and of the profession which he is of, and those who have no profession give money. It is accounted an honor to receive these sorts of presents; they make them publicly and generally take that time when there is most company. This is the general custom throughout all the East and it may be one of the [most ancient] in the world. As this seems very mean and dishonest with the Europeans, I shall not add, that it is neither perhaps the most reasonable and I shall not take upon me to defend it. I shall only say that the Persians do the service always for which they take the present, and that they do it instantly, or the first opportunity that offers. They likewise make presents to their patrons and benefactors upon festivals and other such like solemn occasions, without asking any particular favor of them
[King's Presents: Recording--95]
The presents [given to the king] are consigned to the chief of the king's buttery, who is the superintendent of that apartment. The price is set thereupon some days after according to the valuation of the merchants, and those that are best skilled therein. Each part of the present is afterwards distributed to those of the king's officers, who have the charge of things of the same nature. The tapestry, for example, is delivered into the magazine of the place where the royal manufacture thereof is practiced. The arms and cannon are put in the arsenal, the jewels are laid up in the treasury, and so of the rest. The particular intendants of each respective apartment enter the same into their books. The present is likewise registered in the chamber of accompts belonging to the demesne, and it is enrolled in so many registers that it is impossible that any part thereof should be lost. If they had a mind to know, one by one, all the presents which have been made to the kings of Persia for these two hundred years, nothing would be easier, and the detail thereof readily found.
[It was customary for the king to give a garment, or calate, sometimes one piece of clothing, sometimes a whole outfit as a gesture to a visiting noblemen or envoy who had just completed business with the king]
It is not to be believed, the vast expense the king of Persia is at in these presents. The number of garments he thus bestows is infinite; his wardrobes are always kept full of them, and the nazir causes them to be delivered according to the king's pleasure. They are kept in separate magazines according to their respective sorts. The nazir only marks upon a ticket what magazine the garment which the king gives is to be taken out of. The officers of these magazines and wardrobes have a settled duty paid them out of these clothes, which amounts to half the value thereof. This duty or fee is the chief prerequisite of these officers, and when the king commands any habit to be given without taking fees, (which very rarely happens) he makes them good to the officers, so that they never lose them. It is the same in all the presents the king makes. If it be in ready money, the superintendent of the treasury takes five percent, which is shared among several officers of the king's household. The nazir has, for his particular share, two percent. If it be horses, the master of the horse has the like fee out of it; if it be of jewels, the chief of the goldsmiths has the same, and so of the others. To conclude, the king of Persia never dismisses any stranger till he has sent him a calate, and likewise one to each of the principal persons of his retinue, and to his interpreter.
At night I went to court to see several noblemen who owed me money. The king's high steward, the captain at the gate and the receiver of presents who were of the number, desired me to go to the envoy of the French company and to tell him that it was wondered at..court [why it was] that he would not pay the fees of the presents he had made to the king. That therein he was wrong informed of the customs of Persia, since all ambassadors and generally all those who make presents to the king from what place soever they come, pay those fees which were an established duty, and the chief prerequisite of their places and of the other officers, who had a share therein. That it was in vein he struggled not to pay them, for he would certainly find he must. [....] He answered me that he had given those lords to understand when he was first spoken to concerning that duty, that he was come to make a present to the king but had not brought anything for the officers, and that absolutely he would give them nothing, and prayed me to carry them that answer at my conveniency. [....] it was suggested to him that the nazir would free him from this pretended duty. That lord made some steps indeed in order there unto. He read to the king the petition which the envoy had presented to that purpose. On the other hand, the great men who were concerned therein preferred likewise their petitions in opposition to his; this difference made a noise. The first minister did not declare his opinion. The envoy alleged that his colleague, who had a greater liberty in his orders, was dead, but as for himself, he had no power to give anything beyond what was prescribed in his commission. The nobles alleged in their behalf the customs, and that this fee was a part of their salaries. At last the king's council ordered that the matter should be examined among the English, the Portuguese and the Hollanders, and that if it appeared that any ambassador or envoy of those nations had, at any time, been exempted from paying that duty, this envoy should likewise have the same favor. The interpreters of those nations were thereupon sent for, and the registers of the receiver of the presents were likewise brought and searched. At last they all agreed; that no European had ever been freed from that duty, and that the French envoy must do as the rest had done. They showed him [ ...]some favor and he came off for ten thousand eight hundred livres.
This duty is fifteen percent by constitution, but the abuses that have crept into it have made it amount to near five and twenty. The lord high steward has ten of it, which right he ought to share with the Yessaouls, who are the king's gentlemen in ordinary, and are four and twenty in number, but he gives them little or nothing out of it. The other fifteen percent are for the intendants of the galleries or magazines where the presents are laid up, as has been said. Thus the duties on the jewels which are presented to the king are for the chief of the treasury, and the chief of the goldsmiths, and so of the rest.
[ He just returned from an audience with the nazir to explain the reason of his coming to Persia, to sell the King some jewels]
When I left that lord's house I went to pay a visit to Zerguer bachi who is the head of all the goldsmiths and jewelers in the kingdom and intendant over all the works of gold and silver and precious stones that are made for the king. He puts the price upon every thing that is sold at court, out of which he has a right of two percent [brokerage] and one percent for what is sold of those kinds throughout the town. It is easy to judge from hence, the indispensable necessity I was under, of obtaining his favor in this affair. I asked his pardon for not being so diligent as I ought to have been in seeking the opportunity to pay my respects to him, telling him among other things, that I knew very well the success of my business depended on him. He answered me, that I had done very well to have shown him in private what I had brought for the king before I had seen the nazir because we might have talked about the price, by which means he could better have told me how to have set the value. In the meantime that it was never the worse as it happened, for the nazir and he were very good friends, and reposed a mutual confidence in each other. That for his part he had never given any cause for merchants to complain of his proceedings, and that he would give me none, nor be any hindrance to me in selling the whole. I thanked him heartily, assuring him at the same time that I would not fail of making him some acknowledgments. That's a thing one must never forget to have at one's tongue's end in Persia. "I take no present from anybody", replied he, "for the services that I do them. I am an honest man, and am content with my right of two percent out of what is sold." After he said that, he caused me to be served with coffee, and some flowers, and entertained me till it was pretty late at night. The grandees in Persia are more ready and officious than in any place in the world to forward the communication of those things that will please the king; but you must be very careful who you chose for your introductor; for if I had addressed myself first to this man, for example, the nazir, who is the king's overseer, that is to say his great minister, principal agent, and superintendent, would have highly resented it, pretending that everything that was to be laid before the king ought to come directly to him first.
On the 7th, at three in the afternoon, I ordered all my jewels that were specified in a memorandum I had given the nazir the day before, to be carried in a box to his house. He was with the king, who had sent for him and returned about five o'clock. The president of the Divan, one of the principal officers of the crown, the head of the goldsmiths and several other lords of the court were with him. He viewed them all, piece by piece, and compared them with the memorandum, and putting them all into the box again, he affixed his own seal to the lock and sent it to his wardrobe. All this he did with a negligent air and a very great indifference; but that was affected as well by reason of the company then present, as that I might take no advantage by discerning in the least which he thought to be the finest and best done. I was not at all discouraged at his acting thus, knowing the manner of the Persians on such occasions, and with what ease and address they fashion and comport themselves according as their interest requires. After that lord had dispatched some affairs, he inquired of me if I had brought no more than what he had seen. I answered him that I had still some jewels left by me, which I did not think worth the king's seeing. "Bring me," said he, "all that you have a mind to sell in this kingdom. His Majesty must have the first sight of them, and if you act otherwise, you will create [for] yourself trouble, and me too." I answered, that what I had left, I would bring the next morning without fail.
Upon the 11th the nazir sent me several horsemen, to conduct me to his palace when he should be come back from the king. He had there got an assembly together of the most skillful jewelers in the city, Mohammedans, Armenians, and Indians, to the number of eighteen or twenty.[....] The nazir coming in caused all my jewels to be brought forth. What the king had made choice of were in a large gold basin of china fluted. I was in a manner thunderstruck when I cast my eyes on what the king had set apart, which was not one quarter of what I had brought. I became pale and without motion. The nazir perceived it, and was touched thereat. I was just by him, he therefore leaned towards me and said in a low voice, "You afflict yourself that the king has liked only a small part of your jewels. I protest to you that I have done more than I ought, to create in him a liking to them all, and to make him take at least one- half of them; but I could not succeed therein because your large pieces, as the saber, the poynard and the looking-glass are not well made according to the fashion of the country. However compose your mind you shall sell them if it pleases God." These words pronounced with tenderness, brought me out of the consternation into which I had been cast without perceiving it myself. I was much surprised, and very much afflicted that the nazir had been sensible thereof. However, I recovered myself as well as I could without disguising at the same time too much, the displeasure I had and which was so well grounded seeing that the great pains which I had taken for four years together, instead of making my fortune, and heaping honor upon me, as the late king of Persia had promised me, were like to afford me nothing but losses and fresh labor.
[....] At one o'clock dinner was served up, which was very noble and nicely dressed, and that being over, the nazir dismissed the appraisers, having taken their valuation in writing. Then making me sit near him, he told me that there was no great difference betwixt the price I asked and that which the valuers had set; that it would be impossible to conclude anything, unless I abated at least one half. That he had told me himself, and caused me to be told to consider the low rate to which jewels and precious stones were fallen, by reason the king did not mind them and the poverty of the court, which was not in the condition to buy any of me. That the times of the late king were over, and that had it not been for his solicitations with the king, he would not so much as have looked at my jewels, so that I could not expect to make any great gains, as I might have done formerly. That he was altogether surprised at the excessive rates I set upon my things, and that according to what the Armenians (who are constantly going to, and coming from Europe) had valued them at ( and they could not but know very well the current price of precious stones) he found I had a mind to gain two for one. The nazir seasoned his discourse with so many civilities and protestations of good will to serve me, that to tell the truth I fell into his snares, and took all those dexterous fetches, for openness and sincerity of the heart. I therefore began to talk to him very ingenuously likewise. I first thanked him for all his favors, protesting I would forever remember them, and then told him, "That though in truth I did not find my account in losing my jewels after so long and fatiguing a journey, attending with so many dangers, and so great an expense, and undertaken by the special order and for the service of a great king; yet I did not flatter myself with the hopes of any great gain, and that to be plain with him, I would be contented to let them go at five and twenty percent." Here he took me at my word, and so quickly that I found immediately that I had been too forward. He said, that five and twenty percent was too reasonable a gain to be refused me, that I should declare frankly, and upon my faith, the prime cost of each thing and it should be paid me with that profit. I would have been glad to have recalled my words, apprehending some cheat, but I did not see which way I could do it. I made answer that if good assurances were given me for the performances of the agreement, I would declare what they cost me, even upon my oath, if it was required. The nazir told me he had knowledge enough of me to believe me without my swearing, and that for his part he swore by Ali, (he is the great saint of the Persian sect) by God, and by his religion, he would keep his word with me. Here the chief of the goldsmiths interrupted him and said that I was in the wrong to require an oath from the nazir of Persia. Other lords who were also present exclaimed likewise against it. I told them I did not require any such thing, and that his bare word would satisfy me. Hereupon I was forced to declare the true price I had given for each thing in a new memorial. I was advised not to be very exact therein, but I rejected the proposition.
When the chief of the goldsmiths and the nazir had seen this new memorial, they exclaimed strangely against one part of the articles and told me that I overvalued several of the jewels. This discourse surprised me and made me grow warm. I could not forbear saying, that it was very wrongful.. They called my oath in question, after they had sworn to believe my bare word. The nazir put an end to the difference by saying he would present a petition to the king about this affair, making at the same time great protestations that it should not be wanting of his endeavors if I did not sell, but that I should think of lowering the price of my jewels. I then got up, and gave many thanks to the lord for his kindness and especially for his having vouchsafed to be eight hours taken up with my business, which I looked upon to be a mighty favor. He seemed to relish that part of my thanks, which was exactly true, for it was then above five o'clock in the evening.
On the 12th, the nazir sent for me very early. I made haste, thinking it was about my jewels I was sent for, but I was mistaken. It was to see a rough diamond of seventy carats that the king had a mind to buy. It was a rough cut, and already had all of its form. The nazir told me that the king fancied that diamond and had ordered him to show it [to] me, to know if there was any defect in the water and clearness. I told him that I had not skill enough in diamonds to give my opinion on such large a stone, but that my companion was a very knowing man in those things. He judged it to be of the first water and perfectly clear. It belonged to the provost of the Armenians of Julpha, which is part of the suburbs of Ispahan, where they are settled. The king for 3,150 tomans ready money, which amounts to about 50,000 crowns! This stone would have been worth in Europe 100,000 crowns, and is the finest diamond that can be seen of that weight.
In the afternoon I went again to the nazir; he told me he had not dared to speak to the king about my business, by reason of the excessive price I set my jewels at. He then renewed his protestations and the same remonstrances which he had made to me the day before. I was provoked beyond measure at such a procedure, which seemed to me to be so unworthy and mean as not to be expressed. However, I did not draw from thence any ill omen as knowing the genius of the country. I told the nazir for [an] answer, that I was in despair to find that he would neither believe my word nor my oath. He flew into a passion at these words, and very sharply asked me whether I was a prophet that people should be under an obligation to believe my word? I was seized with so strong an inclination to laugh at that pleasant repartee, that I could not forbear. The nazir, turning to the company with an air of anger said, pointing to me, "By God the French are altogether extravagant! They pretend their word should pass for an oracle, as if they were not men and sinners." I made answer without being startled, "That in reality, we were men, but that in our countries, as it was knavish to give false words in point of commerce, so a greater affront could not be put upon a merchant than to accuse him thereof."
On the 13th, by break of day, one of the king's goldsmiths came and told me from the chief of the goldsmiths, that the nazir would send for me the same day or the next day after and would give me back whatever we had bargained for, for the king himself or his friends, but that I should not show any surprise or displeasure thereat, but put on a good countenance, because it was a feint to make me lower my price and that it would not be eight days before they were all retaken back again. I sent my hearty thanks to the chief of the goldsmiths for the obligation I had to him for so particular a favor; but I was much more obliged to the nazir, because it was he that caused the advertisement to be given me, as I was afterwards informed. This may serve for a good pattern of the fidelity of the ministers of state in the East. One may say in one sense that all that is done in those countries is a reciprocal cheat.
[The nazir told him at dinner that the king wanted to forget about the purchase and return Chardin's jewels, and that the only thing Chardin could do at that point would be to sell his jewels to the nazir for part money and part silk. Chardin refused and they argued.] I was two hours before this minister arguing the matter, but without any success, and I could not but wonder that so great a minister, who had such business upon his hands, and of so much importance, could spare so much time in playing a part, so little suitable to his dignity. But all is gesture and fiction, thorough artifice and cunning in those Oriental courts as I have frequently observed.
On the 25th, I at last concluded my affair (thanks be to God) with the nazir. The chief of the goldsmiths settled the bargain. I shall not say anything of the deceits, tricks, wiles, disputes, threats and promises with which I was plagued for ten days, and particularly on this; to make me lower the price of that little the king had a mind to have. I was so weary of all the indirect means the nazir made use of to compass his ends that I was even ashamed of them for his own sake, and often doubted whether he counterfeited or acted seriously. I at last told him, that rather than see him spend his spirits in clamors, transports and anger at me, I begged he would give me back my jewels. "What will you do with them?" said he hastily again. " I can easily hinder you from selling any of them, or from carrying them to the Indies. " I made answer that I feared nothing like that from his equity. What provoked him the most, as he said, was that I kept firm to my first agreement without the least abatement. He had put himself into so violent [a] passion an hour before we concluded, that one would have thought he was going to devour me, and indeed I should have dreaded some bad consequences from so vehement an indignation if I had not been well acquainted with the Persian's manner of acting on the like occasions.
What I had most difficulty to bear was the reproaches of the courtiers who were there present, who imagining that, according to the practice of the Oriental merchants, I had not spoken the truth at first, found it very strange I should stick so stiffly to my first word. Some of them ascribed it to my first obstinacy, and others to an over greediness of excessive gain. The nazir finding he could not prevail upon me by any means whatever, made a show as if he would give me all back again. He sent for my things and delivered them to me. As I was receiving them, he was sent for to the king. He went away, whispering something to the chief of the goldsmiths. This man, who as I have already observed, was an honest, good old man, taking me into a chamber apart, said to me, "It is time to put and end to this affair. I am myself weary of these extravagant feints. Yield up something of your right, how just soever it may be, and do not push the nazir to an extremity. Consider that it is in his power to make you sell more of your jewels. If your largest pieces are left you, whether will you carry them? What other king besides ours can buy them of you? Believe me, and let me terminate the difference by dividing it betwixt you. You must have, according to your account, about seventeen hundred tomans. The nazir will give you but twelve hundred. Now I conclude the bargain at fifteen hundred." (this is about seven thousand pistoles) I had so great a mind to make an end that I was ravished with the proposition; but it was requisite to contain myself and to seem not to be pleased. I answered the chief of the goldsmiths with my thanks for the pains he took for my interest, but told him the Nazir had very bad ways with him, suffering himself to be transported to that degree to call me names. [....]
In an hours' time the Nazir returned. The chief of the goldsmiths began to entreat him aloud, that he would rise to a reasonable price and sacrifice a thousand pistoles in consideration of the pains I had taken, which deserved a great deal more. The Nazir, who still played the counterfeit part, flew into a passion at him and asked him if he would insure my jewels to be worth that, and why, after having valued them but at fifty thousand livres, he now bid him give me seventy thousand. "I have appraised the merchandise," said the chief of the goldsmiths, "according to the rate it bears at this present in the city, and not according to its true value. The decay of commerce since the death of the late king has lowered the value of the jewels [by] one half. I acted on the foot of that diminution, without having any regard to the beauty, the choice, or the rare collection and well sorting together of the stones, all of which I leave to your consideration." There were some few words more on both sides concerning the present which I pretended to from the king. At last the chief of the goldsmiths took me by the hand, and looking at the high steward, told him, "I give your word to Aga Chardin for fifteen hundred tomans, with a royal garment, (it has been often observed that it is so they call those habits which the king gives) and a horse, which things he accepts as a full and just payment for the jewels which the king takes of him."
The Nazir immediately caused two pieces of eighteen sous each to be given me in way of earnest, and beckoning me to come near him, he told me with a cheerful and serene countenance, as different from that he put on before as white is from black, as the saying is. " We will now live in an undisguised friendship. I was obliged to act as I did with you for the king's advantage, whose wealth I have the honor to manage. If I acted otherwise, I should rob him of the bread I eat. Besides, I have a head to lose. But I love you, and you shall be sensible thereof hereafter. " Having spoken to me in this obliging manner, he asked me whether I would have an order upon the farmer general of the customs of the gulf of Persia. " You will reap great advantage thereby," says he, "since you design for the Indies, for this money shall be all carried to Bandar Abass and you will have nothing to do but put it on shipboard." I had already reflected on the assignment I was to ask. Indeed it would have been very advantageous at Bandar Abass, but I apprehended that when I should be there at the distance of fifty days journey from the court, I might meet with some cavils or extortion's, either to retard the payment of the money, or else procure a present. I therefore desired my assignment might be made upon the Hollanders, which the Nazir presently granted without reply, for which I thought myself very much obliged to him. I went away from him pretty late, very well satisfied with my success, and praising God that I had not been so unhappy as most people thought I should be. The Nazir said to me as I went out, that non withstanding we had bargained, he would have me come to him every day, especially at dinner time.
Perhaps I may have been tedious in relating so at length my negotiations with the Nazir, but I chose to do it because narratives of this kind are better to inform the intelligent of the genius of the country than the most exact descriptions that can be given thereof. The procedure of all the Oriental states is full as sordid and niggardly; nay, I have seen a great deal worse at the court of the great Mogul, although it be, as one may say, the center of all the riches in the world.
[The Nazir's commission--91]
On the 18th, I fixed a price for eleven thousand livres worth of jewels with the nazir. I reckoned to give him three thousand, as well as his right of two percent for what I had sold to the king as by way of acknowledging his good offices, but I was mightily surprised to find that he pretended to have eight thousand. This he signified to me by his first secretary and by the chief of the goldsmiths. He observed from the place where he was, with what air I should receive the proposition. I therefore told these gentlemen, with all the usual exaggerations of the country, that the nazir might, if he pleased, take all that I was worth, because it was impossible for me to make a sufficient acknowledgment of all his favors to me; but as I had lost a great deal in the bargain I had sold to the king, it was impossible for me to give him what he required without ruining myself entirely. These figures are used in Persia in the common way of speaking and on the most trivial occasions; and it is customary for a man from whom you take a penny to cry out immediately that you set his house on fire. The chief of the goldsmiths, shaking his head at this answer whispered to me thus, " It is vain to think to get off with words. The person with whom you have to do will not be paid with them. He is a man that, for a penny, would strip a beggar in the streets. More especially at this present, he having been lately drained by the vast expenses he has been at for his son's wedding, for which reason strain yourself a little. Reflect that the nazir has served you, and that it is in his power to do you further kindness in what you still have left to sell." It is easy to judge how much this speech perplexed me. I not only seriously considered that this nobleman might do me great services, but also that it was in his power to do me as great diskindnesses, if he should take a fancy to it. I desired the chief of the goldsmiths, therefore, to entreat the nazir to accept four thousand livres, which I would give with all my heart. He would not be satisfied therewith, but caused me to be spoken to again, to persuade me to take five thousand livres for the eleven thousand worth which he had of mine in jewels. As he saw that I opposed it, he told me very coolly that he could not, nor would not force me, and that I might take back my jewels, and dispose of them as I pleased.
I was very much troubled to resolve what I should do in this critical juncture, being on the one side spurred on by acknowledgment and fear and on the other, not being able to determine myself to make such large presents. While I was in this doubtful state, the chief of the goldsmiths took me aside and told me not to lose the friendship of the nazir for a hundred pistoles, he being in great favor with the king. In fine, I resolved to be a loser, and therefore desired the chief of the goldsmiths to accommodate the matter at a five thousand livres present. This was accordingly done, and the nazir sent for two thousand crowns which were paid me down before him. He caressed me very much afterwards, and invited me to follow the king in the progress he was going to make to Qazvin, which is the ancient Arsatia, promising that the prince should allow me a pension and defray my charges......
On the 20th, I went and paid a visit to the chief of the goldsmiths and carried him five hundred crowns for his right of two percent. He was content therewith, and told me, amongst other things, that for his part he hated the cheating tricks of the Persians; that he took what was his due and did not desire any more.
[Muscovites during a lavish reception by the king in 1673--88]
As soon as the ambassadors were entered, the whole assembly was served with a collation of fruits, both green and dried, and all sorts of sweet meats, wet and dry. These collations are commonly served up in basins, much larger than those which are used in our countries. They are made of wood or lacquered and painted very delicately, and will hold five and twenty or thirty china plates. Each person has one of these basins set before him, and sometimes two or three, according as it is intended to do him honor. At the upper end of the hall right against the entrance there was a buffet, one part of which was set out with fifty large flagons of gold filled with several sorts of wine. Some of these flagons were enameled, and others were thick set with precious stones and some were covered with pearls. And the other part was garnished with between three and fourscore cups, and a great many salvers of the same sort. Some of these cups will hold three pints; they are large and flat-bottomed, mounted on a foot about two inches high only. No other part of the world can afford anything more magnificent and rich or more splendid and bright. The ambassadors drank no wine; only the Muscovite was served with some of his own country brandy. I was surprised that they gave no wine to that ambassador, being the king himself drank largely, as well as most of the grandees. I asked one of the nobleman there present the reason thereof. He answered me, that it was out of grandeur and the better to preserve the respect due to his royal majesty; and then smiling, he told me further that it was still kept in memory what one of his countrymen had done in a solemn audience, which he had of the late king. I presently desired to be informed what that was. He told me that in the year 1664, two Muscovite extraordinary ambassadors at the audience the king gave them, drank so excessively that they quite lost their senses. The king drank [to] their master's health and would needs have them pledge it in a cup that held about two pints. The second ambassador, not being able to digest so much wine, had a pressing inclination to vomit, and not knowing where to disembogue, he took his great sable cap which he half filled. It is well known that the Muscovites wear large and high caps. His colleague, who was above him, and the secretary of the embassy, who was below him, enraged at so foul an action done in the presence of the king of Persia, and of the whole court, reprimanded him and jogged him with their elbows, to remind him of going out. But he, being very drunk, and not knowing either what was said to him nor what he himself did, clapped his cap upon his head, which presently covered him all over with nastiness. The king and all the assembly broke into a loud laughter thereat, which lasted about half an hour, during which time the companions of the filthy Muscovite were forcing him by dint of blows with their fists to rise and go out. The king was not at all angry; he only broke up the assembly and said as he went away that the Muscovites were the Uzbeks of the Franks. He thereby intimated that as among the Mohammedans there is no nation so nasty, so meanly educated, nor so clownish as the Uzbeks (who are the Tartars along the River Oxus). So among the Europeans there was not any that equaled the Muscovites in those foul qualities.
On the 2nd, I went in the morning to the chiracone, which is the king's side board to see it packed up for the journey. The intendant or overseer thereof, who is called in Persia chi-rachi-bachi, which is to say the chief of the purveyors of wine, was so kind as to show me all the finest things that he had in his keeping. It consisted of several sets of dozens of spoons, of vessels, cups, salvers, dishes, basins, large tankards, water pots, boats, bottles, spitting pots, all which were of gold; either enameled with precious stones or curiously garnished with pearls. There is nothing there but fine gold, either delicately wrought or finely set. It is incredible; the vast quantity and the value of this plate. There are cups so large that one cannot hold them in one hand when they are full. There are also drinking cups made like ladles which are frequently used at the king's table, and all are called azar-peche, that is to say, a thousand chimeras. This is to express that one is so drunk when one has taken off some of them that one's head is in confusion. Some of these cups hold only half a pint; the largest hold three pints, the ordinary ones hold a quart. What seemed most royal to me was a dozen of spoons a foot long, and large in proportion made to drink broth out of; and other liquors. The bowl of the spoon was of gold enameled, the handle was covered with rubies, the end was a large diamond of about six carats. This dozen of spoons might be worth sixteen thousand crowns. One must not wonder that the handle of them is a foot long, because throughout the East they eat on the ground, and not upon tables. One would be obliged to stoop too low to take up the broth if the spoons were not so long. The greatest part of all of these pieces are old fashioned. Without seeing one's self, the vast quantity there is of them, there is no believing what can be said thereof. I have tried several times to know to what value the whole might amount in the registers, for it is set down and exactly known, but I could never find it out. All the answer I could get was that it was worth an immense sum, and that the account thereof was infinite. I am persuaded
After what I have seen of it that there is to the worth of several millions. The head butler told me one day that the king's buffet contained four thousand pieces or utensils, all of gold, or embellished with gold and precious stones, as I have already said. This lord gave me a dinner and made me drink several sorts of wine and brandy- so much that my head turned round in a quarter of an hour; for those wines are mighty strong and the brandy is still more violent. If the brandy is not as strong as the spirits of wine, it does not please in Persia. The wine that is most esteemed there is that which is most intoxicating, and fuddles soonest. He treated me like a Persian, thinking it was entertaining me finely to make me drunk presently. Wine in the Persian language is called cherab, a term which in its entomology denotes all sorts of liquor. The word sherbet, and that of syrup, come from that of cherab, which the devout Mohammedans have in such an abhorrence by reason wine intoxicates, that it is a piece of ill breeding to pronounce it in their presence.