[Hirth Introduction]: It is well known that Zhongguo [China] is fortunate enough to possess a series of historical works comparing most favorably, in some of its parts, with the historical literature of any nation in the West. Since the Han, each dynasty has had its own history, compiled from its court chronicles, or Jih-li, during the succeeding reigns. The Jih-li, lit. "Daily Chronicles," must be considered the prime source of all the information contained in these histories. Whether these latter were impartial in the treatment of historical characters, whether they did not "turn black into white, or right into wrong, would, of course, depend greatly on the entries made in the Jih-li; but also upon the neutrality of the historian himself. If the assumption could be justified that a new dynasty, having by conquest gained the ascendency, regarded the succumbing dynasty as the enemy of its cause, we might perhaps expect but scant justice from those who had power over both the Chronicles and the compilers. There is, however, no ground for this suspicion when a lifetime has elapsed between the period described and that during which the history was written. One fact only strikes us as being possibly ascribable to prejudice on the part of historians, and that is, that the last ruler of a dynasty is generally described as either a very foolish or a very wicked character. Our present subject is, fortunately, scarcely affected at all by these considerations; and the less so, as, thanks to the uniform arrangement of these dynastic histories, the information regarding the various foreign nations with which the Court of Zhongguo had come into contact has been extracted from the Jih-li and collected separately in special geographical divisions of the work.
The Erh-Shih-ssu Shih or "Twenty-four Dynastic Histories," contain in all over 3,000 books, and a European scholar who would think of extracting from them notes on a subject similar to ours, would find this to be a Herculean labor were it not that the methodical mind of the Chinese writers had carefully put aside all he wants into special chapters regarding foreign countries. Thus we find chapters on the Hsiung-nu; on the South-Western barbarians (Man); on the country of Ta-wan, generally identified with the present Ferghana, in the Shih-chi of Ssu-ma Ch'ien, whose work opens the series of the Erh-shih-ssu Shah. Ssu-ma Ch'ien (d. c. 85 B.C.E.) did not attempt to carry his geographical notes farther than the countries with which Zhongguo had then come into immediate contact. His successor, Pan Ku, who, with his sister Chao, compiled the Ch'ien-han-shu [ "History
of the Former Han Dynasty,"] and who died 92 C.E., knows considerably more about the countries of Central and Western Asia. His geographical chapters, of which we possess a translation, betray the interest which had been taken in geographical enterprise since the death of Ssu-ma Ch'ien, and which must have naturally been increased in the author from the fact of his being the elder brother of Pan Ch'ao, the famous military traveller of that period. Pan Ku may have heard of his brother's expedition to the foreign territories in Western or Central Asia but he was no longer alive when Pan Ch'ao returned to Zhongguo in 102 C.E.. This may account for the fact that much of the information for which the Han must have been indebted to Pan Ch'ao's last expedition found its way into the Hou-han-shu, or "History of the After Han Dynasty," and not into Pan Ku's work.
The Hou-han-shu, compiled by Fan Yeh of the earlier Sung Dynasty (420-477 C.E.), is the first authority which gives us a certain number of details regarding the countries in the extreme west of Asia. The Hsi-yu-chuan, i.e., "Traditions regarding Western Countries," then became a regular feature in the dynastic histories, and is found under this or some similar designation in most of the subsequent Shih.
The Hsi-yu-chuan of the Hou-han-shu contains for the first time a description, consisting of 589 characters, of the westernmost amongst the countries described in Han literature previous to the Ming dynasty, the country of Ta-ts'in. In this description we find quite a number of facts regarding the situation of the country, its boundaries, capital, people, products, and industries, which would, apart from any collateral information derived from later histories, have furnished a sufficient basis for the identification of the country, had not an unfortunate prejudice at once taken possession of those European sinologues who investigated the subject, for they held to the opinion that Ta-ts'in, being the most powerful country described in the Far West, must necessarily be the Roman Etnpire in its full extent, with Rome as its capital. This theory has been especially defended by Visdelou and de Guignes, and recently by Bretschneider, Edkins, and von Richthofen. I must confess that I once shared that prejudice, and that when, two years ago, I commenced to collect the passages relating to this question, I did so for the purpose of supporting the arguments in favor of Rome and Italy. I soon found, however, that a close examination of the Han accounts, instead of substantiating my original views, induced me to abandon them altogether. In these records mention is made of the manufacture of storax, which has been shown by Hanbury to have been at all times confined to the Levant; of the use of crystal (glass) and precious stones as architectural ornaments; of foreign ambassadors being driven by post from the frontier to the capital; of the military system of the country, which was based on the division of ten and three; of the dangerous travelling, the roads being infested with tigers and lions, thus compelling wayfarers to resort to caravans. A consideration of this among other testimony forcibly suggested the idea that Ta-ts'in was not Rome itself, but one of its eastern provinces.
It is well known that the Nestorian missionaries, whose existence in China during the 7th and 8th centuries C.E. is witnessed by the celebrated stone inscription found near the city of Hsi-an-fu in 1625 C.E., declare Ta-ts'in to be their native country, and the country in which Christ was born. This clearly points to Syria; and on this evidence several of those who were familiar with the subject have been induced to abandon the idea of Rome being the country sought for, in favor of Syria or a part of Syria (Judaea, Palestine). Paravey adopted that view in 1836; so, some twenty years later, did Wylie and Pauthier. But the reasons assigned by these three sinologues for their opinion rest mainly on the Nestorian inscription itself. They would not be valid in the eyes of those who consider this document a forgery, as did Voltaire, and recently Renan, neither of whom were sinologues, supported by K. F. Neumann and St. Julien, who were, and might have formed a better opinion on the matter but for their prejudice against those who held the opposite view. I am personally perfectly satisfied as to the genuineness of this inscription, and think it superfluous to add any new arguments to those brought forward by Wylie and Pauthier. What I wish to do, however, is to fill the gap left by those two writers by collecting such of the arguments in favor of the identity of Ta-ts'in with Syria as may be derived from ancient and medieval Han historical literature, altogether apart from the Nestorian inscription.
The prime source of the text of the Hsi-yu-chuan should, like that of the chronological chapters, been sought for in the daily notes made by the contemporaneous Court chroniclers. These, like the Tu-ch'a-yuan or Censors of the present dynasty, were allowed to have their own opinion on the actions of their government, and enjoyed the additional advantage of not having to openly remonstrate with their monarch, but keeping their historical records secret. When these were handed to the historian for publication, the monarchs whose actions were described were no longer alive or in power, and their family was excluded from government. Neither the Emperor nor any of his ministers had access to this part of the state archives. Such, at least, was the principle on which the daily chronicles were based, whatever transgressions of the rule may have taken place.
The information regarding foreign countries, we must assume, was entered in the chronicles from depositions made by the various foreigners arriving at the Court of China. Whether these were in the possession of credentials from their own monarchs, and if so, whether their credentials were, or could be, properly scrutinized, is an open question. It appears that the Han Courts were only too much inclined to look upon the presents brought to the capital as the essential part of a foreign mission, and that foreigners, especially foreigners coming from distant countries and arriving with curiosities of a certain value, were readily received as tribute-bearers adding to the glory of the most powerful empire. The accounts of the countries of Central and Western Asia contained in the dynastic histories exhibit a certain uniformity inasmuch as certain classes of geographical facts are represented in them with some regularity. It looks as if the foreigner, on or before being introduced at Court, was subjected to a kind of cross-examination, and that a uniform set of questions was addressed to him by means of one or several interpreters. Thus, if a merchant came from Ceylon to Annam, accompanied by a Ceylonese interpreter who understood Greek, the trading language of the Indian ports visited by western merchants, and thence proceeded to Chang-an (or Hsi-an-fu) with an Annamese who was familiar with the language spoken at Ceylon, and another Annamese who understood Han, these three interpreters would have been able to mediate at the examination. The questions asked were perhaps, of the following kind: (1) What is the name of your country? (2) Where is it situated? (3) How many li does it measure? (4) How many cities has it? (5) How many dependent states? (6) How is the capital built? (7) How many inhabitants live in the capital? (8) What are the products of your country? etc., etc., and finally, (9) What else can you tell us about your country? This, I presume, is the origin of the notes in the Jih-li; which we must assume to have been the basis of our Hsi-yu accounts. The historical writers did not, of course, confine their work to copying these chronicles. They were men of literary merit and, as masters of the historical style, had to arrange the facts they found simply stated into a sort of narrative. This involved that reports derived from other sources should not be despised. Hence the occasional episode commencing with "yu-yun", "it is said by some that, etc." The Ta-ts'in account in the Hou-han-shu especially, as I have already suggested, may have been enlarged by what was then known of the results of Kan Ying's enquiries, who had, in 97 C.E., been sent on a mission to Ta-ts'in by his chief, the general Pan Ch'ao. Kan Ying, it will be seen hereafter, only reached T'iao-chih [Babylonia], on the coast of the Persian Gulf,whence a regular traffic by sea was carried on to the Syrian port Aelana, in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the head of the Red Sea. Kan Ying, who came into immediate contact with the sailors who were in the habit of making that journey, has certainly had the best opportunity for collecting information regarding the object of his mission. But apart from this, it is very likely that at the Court of Parthia which, prior to the Romans taking possession of Syria again in 38 B.C.E., i.e., just 135 years before Kan Ying's journey, had ruled over that country for several years, information regarding Ta-ts'in could be easily obtained. This must have been prominently the case with Ta-ts'in products and articles of trade which came to Zhongguo [China] through Parthian hands.
The San-kuo-chih, "Memoir of the Three Kingdoms," compiled by Ch'en Shou, who died 297 C.E., comprises the history of the three contemporaneous states of Wei, Shu, and Wu. That of Wei contains a meager account of some of the less distant countries, the incompleteness of which, as that of the whole work, caused the Emperor Wen-ti of the earlier Sung dynasty to order P'ei Sung-chih to compile a new edition, embodying into Ch'en Shou's text, which had been written but about 130 years prior to himself, whatever pertinent notes he could find in other contemporaneous authors. It is to this fact that we are indebted for the most detailed account we possess of the country of Ta-ts'in. P'ei Sung-chih's edition was submitted to the Emperor, as the Preface shows, in the sixth year of his reign, i.e., 429 C.E.. The work from which this geographical account is quoted is the Wei-lio, i.e., "Abridged History of the Wei Dynasty," by Yu Huan, which must have been written between the end of the Wei dynasty, i.e. 264 C.E., and the time when P'ei Sung-chih prepared his commentary, i.e. previous to 429 C.E.. I am not prepared to say whether this work exists at the present day, but I am inclined to believe that it does not, and that we must be contented with the extracts given from it in other works. The catalogue of the Imperial Library at Peking is silent upon the subject, whereas works compiled during the Ming dynasty, like the Pen-ts'ao-kang-mu, mention the title as that of one of the authorities consulted, and the Lei-shu, or encyclopedical works, quote under its name passages (relating to Ta-ts'in, for instance) which deviate somewhat from the text inserted into P'ei Sung-chih's commentary so as to make me think that another text of the Wei-lio has existed not too long ago. This assumption is strengthened in so far as Ma Tuan-lin's account of Ta-ts'in (ch. 339), which is identical with that of the Wei-lio in numerous details, contains certain extensions in the text, thus suggesting the idea that either Ma Tuan-lin has had before him a text of the Wei-lio more complete than that quoted in the San-kuo-chih is at the present day, or that both Ma Tuan-lin and the Wei-lio drew from one common source anterior to the latter. I have to say that Ma Tuan-lin here, as in his other geographical accounts, refrains from stating the name of the work from which he has drawn his information. Such as it is, the enlarged edition of the San-kuo-chih furnishes information regarding Ta-ts'in which is not only quite as complete, but also quite as old, as that of the Hsi-yu chapter in the Hou-han-shu. The Wei-lio account abounds with statements not found in the other standard histories, the authors of which apparently despised this compilation, if they were at all aware of its existence; and yet, if we allow for some confusion made in the geography of dependent states, in the directions of the compass, distances, etc., we find no cause to look at these accounts with more suspicion than at any of the other early records. Regarding these we cannot possibly expect greater accuracy in an ancient Han work than we find in an ancient western authority, say Ptolemy, especially if we consider what monstrous deviations from reality may be seen in the sketches of India and the whole East in maps as recent even as Edrisi's (1154 C.E.). The fact of Ma Tuan-lin's text being partly based on either the Wei-lio or some other text very similar to that of the Wei:lio shows that Han critics of high reputation did not always follow the example set by court historians.
The next history in the Han standard list is the Chin-shu, compiled by Fang Ch'iao, who died 648 C.E. Its Ta-ts'in account is mainly a reproduction of what we have learned in the Hou-han-shu, nor do we find much novel information in the following Shih, the Sung-shu, which is probably a century older than the former, since its author Shen Yo died in 513 C.E.. The Nan-ch'i-shu contains a short account of foreign countries which does not, however, extend as far as Ta-ts'in. The same remark would apply to the Liang-shu, compiled early during the 7th century C.E., but for a few pertinent notes in a description of India (Chung T'ien-chu) and a short account of the reception of a merchant from Ta-ts'in at the court of Sun-ch'tian, the founder of the Wu dynasty, in 226 C.E. I have searched for further details regarding this traveller in the older History of Wu contained in the San-kuo-chih, but without result. In going through the minor histories I found the first account of some value in the Wei-shu, the history of the northern Wei dynasty (386-359 C.E.). Although this
account repeats many of the statements of the Hou-han-shu and the Wei-lio, in accordance with the Han method observed up to the present day, by which all that was recognized as true hundreds of years ago must be true for ever, and thus may be quoted without further scrutiny, there are in it signs of independent information having been received in China since those earlier accounts were compiled. The history of the same dynasty (the northern Wei) is the subject of a later work, the Pei-shih, which contains an almost literal reproduction of what we find in the Wei-shu. Of the histories preceding the Pei-shih I merely mention the Sui-shu, embracing the period 581-617 C.E., because I found in it the first trace of the new name under which the country of Ta-ts'in was known thereafter, viz., Fu-lin. There is no description in this book of either Ta-ts'in or Fu-lin, but in an account of Persia (ch. 83), I found it stated that "Fu-lin is 4,500 li north-west of that country." The next important account is that of the Ch'iu T'ang-shu, i.e., the "Old History of the T'ang dynasty," which work was remodelled during the 11th century and republished under the name Hsin T'ang-shu or "New History of the T'ang dynasty." The account of Fu-lin---for under this name we have now to look for the ancient Ta-ts'in---contained in the latter supplements the former, and vice-versa, although many of the facts stated are identical apart from the difference in the style of language used in describing them. It may look pedantic to lay stress on two almost identical reports clothed in different language, but it is, in reality, quite necessary to make the most out of every Han sentence we can hunt up in ancient authors relating to one and the same fact. By pursuing this method we not only glean a number of minor facts which may be contained in one account while being omitted in the other, but we also succeed in overcoming many of the difficulties of the text. Many passages would be quite unintelligible to European and Han scholars alike, if we did not find the key for their correct meaning in parallel sentences conveying the same idea in different words. The final account in the Twenty-four Shih is that in the Ming Shih. Its main features are the tenor of a manifesto handed by the Emperor T'ai-tsu to a merchant from Fu-lin for transmission to his sovereign, and the mention of the first modern Christian missionary, Matthaeus Ricci, having arrived in China.
I am not aware of many descriptions of either Ta-ts'in or Fu-lin, which may be considered authorities, having appeared apart from those contained in the twenty-four dynastic histories. The Nestorian inscription (781 C.E.) contains an account of Ta-ts'in, drawn up in truly lapidary style; and the various encyclopedical works (Lei-shu) frequently allude to the country in quotations derived from minor works which are either lost, or not procurable, or forming part of a Ts'ung-shu or "Collection of Reprints," such as the Wu-Shih-wai-kuo-chuan, "Account of Foreign Countries at the Time of Wu,"---3rd century C.E., or the Nan-fang-ts'ao-mu-chuang, a work on the plants, etc., of southern countries.
Foremost amongst the Cyclopedias (though not classed with the Lei-shu by the Han ) is the Wen-hsien-t'ung-k'ao, the celebrated work of Ma Tuan-lin. Its chapters regarding foreign countries (ch. 324, seqq.) may be interesting enough to a Han reader who wishes to learn some of the wonderful tales told at one time or another of each country enumerated, but they are of little use to the critical student. A great part of Ma Tuan-lin's remarks anent Ta-ts'in is apparently derived from the Wei-lio or from some other records, perhaps even older than the Wei-lio but based on the same information as the latter, whereas other parts remind again of the Hou-han-shu. The wording of his text is often slightly altered from that of the text he copies as it may be traced in the literature now existing; it therefore serves in many cases as a sort of commentary to the texts of ancient records, for, as I have already intimated, many of the linguistic difficulties of the latter, which at first sight look quite unsurmountable, disappear if we see the same idea expressed in different words.
Some valuable information is contained in the Chu-fan-chih, an account of various foreign countries, by Chao Ju-kua of the Sung dynasty. I copied the text of the Fu-lin portion from an edition contained in a "collection of reprints" entitled Hsiao-chin-chi-yuan. A superficial comparison of the Chu-fan-chih with what has been said about Ta-ts'in and Fu-lin in former records will show that by far the greater part of Ju-kua's notes is derived from the Han and T'ang records. On the other hand, it must be admitted that certain notes look like independent statements, inasmuch as they cannot be discovered in any previous work. But even these we may suspect to have been copied from older books which may not exist now but may have been consulted by Chao Ju-kua. We possess no direct record as to the period during which this author lived or wrote, but in the Imperial Catalogue, 1. c., reference is made to a genealogical table in the Sung-shih, which contains his name, and from which it appears that he was a descendant from a member of the Imperial family of the Sung, whose real name was Chao, just as Hohenzollern is the name of the kings of Prussia, and that he was born after the eighth generation dating from T'ai-tsung, i.e., after the middle of the twelfth century. The "Catalogue" further states that, foreign ships being allowed to trade at the southern ports under the southern Sung dynasty, his position as Inspector of Salt Gabel brought him into frequent contact with foreigners who supplied him with accounts of the countries they came from. The title given him was that of Shih-po, which may be translated by "Superintendent of Sea Trade." The Hsu-wen-hsien-t'ung-k'ao, the continuation of Ma Tuan-lin's work, quoted in the Yuan-chien-lei-han, ch. 110, p. 33, states that the title Shih-po, in connection with the superintendence of salt and revenue matters, was first used in Fu-kien during the 14th year of Chih-yuan, and was abolished again in order to be replaced by the title Yen-yun-ssu, the term used at the present day for a Collector of Salt Taxes, in the 24th year of the same period. This may possibly give us a clue as to the time when Chao Ju-kua collected the information for his work; for the time during which alone the post said to have been held by him existed in Fu-kien, extends from 1277 to 1287 C.E.. Both time and locality seem to be in favor of the theory here advanced, of the principal information collected with regard to foreign countries during the Sung and Yuan period originating there and then. An official of the class described would most probably have been stationed at the port of Chinchew or Ch'uan-chou-fu, for some time the provincial capital.
Marco Polo's visit to that neighborhood must have taken place soon after that period. The ports of Fu-kien were then, however, no longer in the hands of the Sung, who were driven by the advancing Mongols into the Kuang-tung province; and if the two facts, viz., that of Ju-kua's having been a member of the Sung family, and that of his having occupied the post referred to, can be proved, there is room for the suspicion that he may have maintained his position after the fall of his dynasty by voluntarily submitting to the Mongol enemy. According to the "Catalogue," the chapters regarding foreign countries in the Sung-Shih are partly based on the information contained in the Chu-fan-chih, as the latter work contained more geographical detail than the court archives.
The great cyclopedia in 5,000 volumes, the T'u-shu-chi-ch'eng, in its account of Ta-ts'in and Fu-lin, quotes about all that may be found with regard to the subject in the standard histories and other works, and, by naming the work from which each quotation is derived, becomes infinitely more useful than Ma Tuan-lin's compilation, whose labors, as well as all the cyclopedias published up to the time of K'ang-hsi, appear to be almost superseded by this work. Next to collecting oneself the original passages regarding any special subject, the study of this exhaustive digest will probably be found the most useful source of information; and it seems that those who have access to the T'u-shu-chi-ch'eng need not trouble much about the minor compilations. If such works as Ma Tuan-lin's, the Yuan-chien-lei-han, etc., yet play a conspicuous part in sinological research, it is because the larger work has not been accessible.
I have collected from the various historical works above referred to all the accounts of Ta-ts'in and Fu-lin written during the period extending from the Former Han dynasty up to that of the Ming, i.e., between the first and seventeenth centuries C.E., and also a few other texts which seemed necessary in order to understand certain clues as to the route leading to that country at certain periods. I now offer a set of translations of all these accounts, the greater part of which is translated for the first time, whereas those which had been previously translated by others have been thoroughly revised, and in some passages, sadly misunderstood by former translators, may pass as independent versions altogether.
From the Shih-Chi, ch. 123, 91 B.C.E..:
When the first embassy was sent from Zhongguo [China] to Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], the king of Ar-hsi ordered twenty thousand cavalry to meet them on the eastern frontier. The eastern frontier was several thousand li distant from the king's capital. Proceeding to the north one came across several tens of cities, with very many inhabitants, allied to that country. After the Han [Chinese] embassy had returned they [the Parthians] sent forth an embassy to follow the Han embassy to come and see the extent and greatness of the Han Empire. They offered to the Han court large birds'-eggs, and jugglers from Li-kan [Syria].
From the Ch'ien-han-shu, ch. 96A, (written c. 90 C.E.), for 91 B.C.E.:
When the emperor Wu-ti [140-86 B.C.E.] first sent an embassy to Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], the king ordered a general to meet him on the eastern frontier with twenty thousand cavalry. The eastern frontier was several thousand li distant from the king's capital. Proceeding to the north one came across several tens of cities, the inhabitants of which were allied with that country. As they sent forth an embassy to follow the Han [Chinese] embassy, they came to see the country of Zhongguo [China]. They offered to the Han court large birds'-eggs, and jugglers from Li-kan [Syria], at which His Majesty was highly pleased. The king of the country of Ar-hsi rules at the city of P'an-tou [Parthuva, or Hekatompylos]; its distance from Ch'ang-an is 11,600 li. The country is not subject to a tu-hu [governor]. It bounds north on K'ang-chu, east on Wu-i-shan-li, west on T'iao-chih [Babylonia]. The soil, climate, products, and popular customs are the same as those of Wu-i and Chi-pin. They also make coins of silver, which have the king's face on the obverse, and the face of his consort on the reverse. When the king dies, they cast new coins. They have the ta-ma-ch'uo [ostrich]. Several hundred small and large cities are subject to it, and the country is several thousand li in extent, that is, a very large country. It lies on the banks of the Kuei-shui [Oxus River]. The carts and ships of their merchants go to the neighboring countries. They write on parchment, and draw up documents in rows running sideways. In the east of Ar-hsi are the Ta-yueh-chih.
From the Hou-Han-Shu, chs. 86, 88 (written 5th Century C.E.), for 25 - 220 C.E.:
During the 9th year [of Yung-yuan, 97 C.E.] the barbarian tribes outside the frontier and the king of the country of Shan [Armenia], named Yung-yu-tiao, sent twofold interpreters, and was endowed with state jewels. Ho-ti [Emperor, 89-106 C.E.] conferred a golden seal with a purple ribbon, and the small chiefs were granted seals, ribbons, and money. During the 1st year of Yung-ning [120 C.E.] the king of the country of Shan, named Yung-yu-tiao, again sent an embassy who, being received to His Majesty's presence, offered musicians and jugglers. The latter could conjure, spit fire, bind and release their limbs without assistance, change the heads of cows and horses, and were clever at dancing with up to a thousand balls. They said themselves: "We are men from the west of the sea; the west of the sea is the same as Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria]. In the south-west of the country of Shan one passes through to Ta-ts'in." At the beginning of the following year they played music at court before An-ti [Emperor, 107-126 C.E.], when Yung-yu-tiao was invested as a Ta-tu-wei [tributary prince] of the Han [Chinese] empire by being granted a seal and a ribbon with gold and silver silk embroidered emblems, every one of which had its own meaning. The city [Hira] of the country of T'iao-chih [Babylonia] is situated on a peninsula; its circumference is over forty li and it borders on the western sea [Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean]. The waters of the sea crookedly surround it. In the east, and north-east, the road is cut off; only in the north-west there is access to it by means of a land-road. The country is hot and low. It produces lions, rhinoceros, feng-niu [Zebu, Bos indicus], peacocks, and large birds [ostriches?] whose eggs are like urns. If you turn to the north and then towards the east again go on horseback some sixty days, you come to Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], to which afterwards it became subject as a vassal state under a military governor who had control of all the small cities. The country of Ar-hsi has its residence at the city of Ho-tu [Hekatompylos], it is 25,000 li distant from Lo-yang. In the north it bounds on K'ang-chu, and in the south, on Wu-i-shan-li. The size of the country is several thousand li. There are several hundred small cities with a vast number of inhabitants and soldiers. On its eastern frontier is the city of Mu-lu [Avestan "Mouru", modern Merv], which is called Little Ar-hsi [Parthia Minor]. It is 20,000 li distant from Lo-yang. In the first year of Chang-ho, of the Emperor Chang-ti [87 C.E.], they sent an embassy offering lions and fu-pa. The fu-pa has the shape of a lin [unicorn], but has no horn. In the 9th year of Yung-yŁan of Ho-ti [97 C.E.] the tu-hu [governor] Pan Ch'ao sent Kan-ying as an ambassador to Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], who arrived in T'iao-chih [Babylonia], on the coast of the great sea [Persian Gulf]. When about to take his passage across the sea, the sailors of the western frontier of Ar-hsi told Kan-ying: "The sea [Indian Ocean] is vast and great; with favorable winds it is possible to cross within three months---but if you meet slow winds, it may also take you two years. It is for this reason that those who go to sea take on board a supply of three years' provisions. There is something in the sea which is apt to make man home-sick, and several have thus lost their lives." When Kan-ying heard this, he stopped. In the 13th year [101 C.E.] the king of Ar-hsi, Man-k'u, again offered as tribute lions and large birds [ostriches] from T'iao-chih, which henceforth were named Ar-hsi-chiao [Parthian birds]. From Ar-hsi you go west 3,400 li to the country of Uk-man [Ecbatana, modern Hamadan]; from Uk-man you go west 3,600 li to the country of Si-pan [Ktesiphon]; from Si-pan you go south, crossing a river [or by river], and again south-west to the country of Yu-lo, 960 li, the extreme west frontier of An-hsi; from here you travel south by sea, and so reach Ta-ts'in [at Aelana, modern Elat]. In this country there are many of the precious and rare things of the western sea [Red Sea/Indian Ocean]. The country of Ta-ts'in is also called Li-kan and, as being situated on the western part of the sea, Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e., "country of the western part of the sea"]. Its territory amounts to several thousand li; it contains over four hundred cities, and of dependent states there are several times ten. The defences of cities are made of stone. The postal stations and mile-stones on the roads are covered with plaster. There are pine and cypress trees and all kinds of other trees and plants. The people are much bent on agriculture, and practice the planting of trees and the rearing of silk-worms. They cut the hair of their heads, wear embroidered clothing, and drive in small carriages covered with white canopies; when going in or out they beat drums, and hoist flags, banners, and pennants. The precincts of the walled city in which they live measure over a hundred li in circumference. In the city there are five palaces, ten li distant from each other. In the palace buildings they use crystal [glass?] to make pillars; vessels used in taking meals are also so made. The king goes to one palace a day to hear cases. After five days he has completed his round. As a rule, they let a man with a bag follow the king's carriage. Those who have some matter to submit, throw a petition into the bag. When the king arrives at the palace, he examines into the rights and wrongs of the matter. The official documents are under the control of thirty-six chiang [generals?] who conjointly discuss government affairs. Their kings are not permanent rulers, but they appoint men of merit. When a severe calamity visits the country, or untimely rain-storms, the king is deposed and replaced by another. The one relieved from his duties submits to his degradation without a murmur. The inhabitants of that country are tall and well-proportioned, somewhat like the Han [Chinese], whence they are called Ta-ts'in. The country contains much gold, silver, and rare precious stones, especially the "jewel that shines at night," "the moonshine pearl," the hsieh-chi-hsi, corals, amber, glass, lang-kan [a kind of coral], chu-tan [cinnabar ?], green jadestone [ching-pi], gold-embroidered rugs and thin silk-cloth of various colors. They make gold-colored cloth and asbestos cloth. They further have "fine cloth," also called Shui-yang-ts'ui [i.e., down of the water-sheep]; it is made from the cocoons of wild silk-worms. They collect all kinds of fragrant substances, the juice of which they boil into su-ho [storax]. All the rare gems of other foreign countries come from there. They make coins of gold and silver. Ten units of silver are worth one of gold. They traffic by sea with Ar-hsi and T'ien-chu [India], the profit of which trade is ten-fold. They are honest in their transactions, and there are no double prices. Cereals are always cheap. The budget is based on a well-filled treasury. When the embassies of neighboring countries come to their frontier, they are driven by post to the capital, and, on arrival, are presented with golden money. Their kings always desired to send embassies to Zhongguo [China], but the Ar-hsi wished to carry on trade with them in Han silks, and it is for this reason that they were cut off from communication. This lasted till the ninth year of the Yen-hsi period during the emperor Huan-ti's reign [166 C.E.] when the king of Ta-ts'in, An-tun [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus], sent an embassy who, from the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam] offered ivory, rhinoceros horns, and tortoise shell. From that time dates the direct intercourse with this country. The list of their tribute contained no jewels whatever, which fact throws doubt on the tradition. It is said by some that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui ["weak water"--probably the Dead Sea] and the Liu-sha ["flying sands, desert"] near the residence of the Hsi-wang-mu ["mother of the western king"], where the sun sets. The Ch'ien-han-shu says: "From T'iao-chih [Babylonia] west, going over 200 days, one is near the place where the sun sets"; this does not agree with the present book. Former embassies from Zhongguo all returned from Wu-i; there were none who came as far as T'iao-chih. It is further said that, coming from the land-road of Ar-hsi, you make a round at sea and, taking a northern turn, come out from the western part of the sea, whence you proceed to Ta-ts'in.
The country is densely populated; every ten li [of a road] are marked by a t'ing; thirty li by a chih [resting-place]. One is not alarmed by robbers, but the road becomes unsafe by fierce tigers and lions who will attack passengers, and unless these be travelling in caravans of a hundred men or more, or be protected by military equipment, they may be devoured by those beasts. They also say there is a flying bridge [the bridge over the Euphrates at Zeugma] of several hundred li, by which one may cross to the countries north of the sea. The articles made of rare precious stones produced in this country are sham curiosities and mostly not genuine, whence they are not here mentioned.
From the Wei-lio (written before 429 C.E.), for 220-264 C.E.:
Formerly T'iao-chih [Babylonia] was wrongly believed to be in the west of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria]; now its real position is known to be east. Formerly it was also wrongly believed to be stronger than Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia]; now it is changed into a vassal state said to make the western frontier of Ar-hsi. Formerly it was, further, wrongly believed that the Jo-shui [Dead Sea] was in the west of T'iao-chih; now the Jo-shui is believed to be in the west of Ta-ts'in. Formerly it was wrongly believed that, going over two hundred days west of T'iao-chih, one came near the place where the sun sets; now, one comes near the place where the sun sets by going west of Ta-ts'in. The country of Ta-ts'in, also called Li-kan [Syria], is on the west of the great sea [Indian Ocean] west of Ar-hsi and T'iao-chih. From the city of Ar-ku [Uruku, modern Warka] , on the boundary of Ar-hsi one takes passage in a ship and, traversing the west of the sea, with favorable winds arrives [at Aelana, modern Elat, on the Gulf of Aqaba] in two months; with slow winds, the passage may last a year, and with no wind at all, perhaps three years. This country is on the west of the sea whence it is commonly called Hai-hsi [Egypt]. There is a river [the Nile] coming out from the west of this country, and there is another great sea [the Mediterranean]. In the west of the sea there is the city of Ali-san [Alexandria]. Before one arrives in the country one goes straight north from the city of U-tan [Aden]. In the south-west one further travels by a river which on board ship one crosses in one day [again the Nile]; and again south-west one travels by a river which is crossed in one day [still the Nile]. There are three great divisions of the country [Delta, Heptanomis, Thebaid]. From the city of Ar-ku one goes by land due north to the north of the sea; and again one goes due west to the west of the sea; and again you go due south to arrive there. At the city of Ali-san, you travel by river on board ship one day, then make a round at sea, and after six days' passage on the great sea [the Mediterranean], arrive in this country. There are in the country in all over four hundred smaller cities; its size is several thousand li in all directions of the compass. The residence of their king lies on the banks of a river estuary [Antioch-on-the-Orontes]. They use stone in making city walls. In this country there are the trees sung [pine], po[cypress], huai [sophora?], tzu [a kind of euphorbia?]; bamboos, rushes, poplars, willows, the wu-t'ung tree, and all kinds of other plants. The people are given to planting on the fields all kinds of grain. Their domestic animals are: the horse, the donkey, the mule, the camel, and the mulberry silk-worm. There are many jugglers who can issue fire from their mouths, bind and release themselves, and dance on twenty balls. In this country they have no permanent rulers, but when an extraordinary calamity visits the country, they elect as king a worthier man, while discharging the old king, who does not even dare to feel angry at this decision. The people are tall, and upright in their dealings, like the Han [Chinese], but wear foreign dress; they call their country another "Middle Kingdom" [probably from "Mediterranean" or "Middle of the Land"].
They always wished to send embassies to Zhongguo [China], but the Ar-hsi [Parthians] wanted to make profit out of their trade with us, and would not allow them to pass their country. They can read foreign books. They regulate by law public and private matters. The palace buildings are held sacred. They hoist flags, beat drums, use small carriages with white canopies, and have postal stations like the Han. Coming from Ar-hsi you make a round at sea and, in the north, come to this country. The people live close together. They have no robbers and thieves; but there are fierce tigers and lions that will attack travellers, and unless these go in caravans, they cannot pass the country. They have several times ten small kings. The residence of their king is over a hundred li in circuit. They have official archives. The king has five palaces, ten li apart from each other. The king hears the cases of one palace in the morning till being tired at night; the next morning he goes to another palace; in five days he has completed his round. Thirty-six generals always consult upon public matters; if one general does not go to the meeting, they do not consult. When the king goes out he usually gets one of his suite to follow him with a leather bag, into which petitioners throw a statement of their cases; on arrival at the palace, the king examines into the merits of each case. They use crystal in making the pillars of palaces as well as implements of all kinds. They make bows and arrows.
The following dependent small states are enumerated separately, viz., the kings of Ala-san [Alexandria-Euphrates, or Charax Spasinu], Lu-fen [Nikephorium], Ch'ieh-lan [Palmyra], Hsien-tu [Damascus], Si-fu [Emesa], and Ho-lat [Hira]; and of other small kingdoms there are very many; it is impossible to enumerate them one by one. The country produces fine ch'ih [hemp or hemp cloth]. They make gold and silver money; one coin of gold is worth ten of silver. They weave fine cloth, and say they use the down of water-sheep in making it; it is called Hai-hsi-pu [cloth from the west of the sea]. In this country all the domestic-animals come out of the water. Some say that they do not only use sheep's wool, but also the bark of trees [vegetable fiber?] and the silk of wild silk-worms in weaving cloth, and the Ch'u-shu, the T'a-teng, and Chi-chang class of goods [serge or plush rugs?] of their looms are all good; their colors are of brighter appearance than are the colors of those manufactured in the countries on the east of the sea. Further, they were always anxious to get Han silk for severing it in order to make hu-ling [damask, gauze?], for which reason they frequently trade by sea with the countries of Ar-hsi. The sea-water being bitter and unfit for drinking is the cause that but few travellers come to this country. The hills in this country produce inferior jade-stones of nine colors, viz., blue, carnation, yellow, white, black, green, crimson, red, and purple. The Chiu-se-shih[nine-colored stones] which are now found in the I-wu-shan belong to this category. During the third year of Yang-chia [134 C.E.] the king and minister of Su-le [Kashgar?] presented to the court each a golden girdle beset with blue stones [lapis lazuli] from Hai-hsi, and the Chin-hsi-yu-chiu-t'u says: the rare stones coming from the countries of Chi-pin [Afghanistan?] and T'iao-chih [Babylonia] are inferior jadestones.
The following products are frequently found in Ta-ts'in: Gold. Silver. Copper. Iron. Lead.
Tin. Tortoises. White horses. Red hair. Hsieh-chi-hsi. Tortoise shell. Black bears. Ch'ih-ch'ih.P'i-tu-shu. Large conches. Ch'e-ch'u. Carnelian stones. Southern gold. King-fishers' gems. Ivory.
Fu-ts'ai-yu. Ming-yueh-chu. Yeh-kuang-chu. Real white pearls. Amber. Corals. Ten colors of opaque glass, viz., carnation, white, black, green, yellow, blue, purple, azure, red, and red-brown. Ch'iu-lin
Lang-kan. Rock crystal. Mei-kuei [garnets?]. Realgar and orpiment. Five colors of Pi. Ten kinds of Jade, viz., yellow, white, black, green, a brownish red, crimson, purple, gold, yellow, azure, and a reddish yellow. Five colors of Ch'u-shu [rugs?]. Five colors T'ao-pu. Five colors of T'a- teng[rugs?]. Chiang-ti. Nine colors of Shou-hsia t'a-teng. Curtains interwoven with gold. Gold embroideries. Five colors of Tou-cHan [Chinese]g. Damasks of various colors. Chin-t'u-pu [Gold colored cloth?]. Fei-ch'ih-pu. Fa-lu-pu. Fei-ch'ih-ch 'u-pu. Asbestos cloth. O-lo-te-pu. Pa-tse-pu. To-tai-pu. Wen-se-pu. I-wei-mu-erh. Storax. Ti-ti-mi-mi-tou-na. Pai-fu-tzu. Hsun-lu. Yu-chin.Yun-chiao-hsun, in all 12 kinds of vegetable fragrant substances.
After the road from Ta-ts'in had been performed from the north of the sea by land, another road was tried which followed the sea to the south and connected with the north of the outer barbarians at the seven principalities of Chiao-chih [Cochin China (South Vietnam)]; and there was also a water-road leading through to Yi-chou and Yung-ch'ang [in the present Yunnan]. It is for this reason that curiosities come from Yung-ch'ang. Formerly only the water-road was spoken of; they did not know there was an overland route. Now the accounts of the country are as follows. The number of inhabitants cannot be stated. This country is the largest in the west of the Ts'ung-ling. The number of small rulers established under its supremacy is very large. We, therefore, record only the larger ones. The king of Ala-san [Charax Spasinu] is subject to Ta-ts'in. His residence lies right in the middle of the sea. North you go to Lu-fen [Nikephorium] by water half a year, with quick winds a month; it is nearest to the city of Ar-ku [Uruk, modern Warka] in Ar-hsi [Parthia]. South-west you go to the capital of Ta-ts'in [Antioch-on-the-Orontes]; we do not know the number of li. The king of Lu-fen [Nikephorium] is subject to Ta-ts'in. His residence is 2,000 li distant from the capital of Ta-ts'in. The flying bridge across the river [the bridge over the Euphrates at Zeugma] in Ta-ts'in west of the city of Lu-fen is 230 li in length. The road, if you cross the river, goes to the south-west; if you make a round on the river, you go due west. The king of Ch'ieh-lan [Palmyra] is subject to Ta-ts'in. Coming from the country of Si-t'ao [Sittake] you go due south, cross a river, and then go due west to Ch'ieh-lan 3,000 li; when the road comes out in the south of the river, you go west. Coming from Ch'ieh-lan you go again straight to the country of Si-fu [Emesa] on the western river 600 li; where the southern road joins the Si-fu road there is the country of Hsien-tu [Damascus] in the south-west. Going due south from Ch'ieh-lan and Si-fu there is the "Stony Land" [Arabia Petraea]; in the soil of the Stony Land there is the great sea [Red Sea] which produces corals and real pearls. In the north of Ch'ieh-lan, Si-fu, Si-pan [Ktesiphon] and Uk-man [Ecbatana] there is a range of hills extending from east to west [the Taurus Mountains]; in the east of Ta-ts'in as well as of Hai-tung [the country on the eastern arm of the Great Sea, i.e., on the Persian Gulf] there are ranges of hills extending from north to south [the Zagros Mountains].
The king of Hsien-tu is subject to Ta-ts'in. From his residence you go 600 li north-east to Si-fu. The king of Si-fu is subject to Ta-ts'in. From his residence you go to Ho-lat [Hira] north-east 340 li, across the river. Ho-lat is subject to Ta-ts'in. Its residence is in the north-east of Si-fu across the river. From Ho-lat north-east you again cross a river to Si-lo [Seleukia]; and north-east of this you again cross a river. The country of Si-lo is subject to Ar-hsi [Parthia] and is on the boundary of Ta-ts'in. In the west of Ta-ts'in there is the water of the sea [the Mediterranean]; west of this is the water of a river [the Orontes]; west of the river there is a large range of hills extending from north to south [the Lebanon]; west of this there is the Ch'ih-shui [Jordan River?]; west of the Ch'ih-shui there is the White Jade Hill; on the White Jade Hill there is the Hsi-wang-mu; west of the Hsi-wang-mu there is the rectified Liu-sha [the "Flying Sands"]; west of the Liu-sha there are the four countries of Ta-hsia, Chien-sha, Shu-yu and Yueh-chih. West of these there is the Hei-shui [Black or Dark River] which is reported to be the western terminus of the world.
From the Chin-shu, ch. 97 (written early 7th Century C.E.), for 265-419 C.E.:
Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], also called Li-kan, is in the western part of the western sea [Persian Gulf]. In this country several thousand li in all directions of the compass are covered with cities and other inhabited places. Its capital is over a hundred li in circumference. The inhabitants use coral in making the kingposts of their dwellings; they use opaque glass in making walls, and crystal in making the pedestals of pillars. Their king has five palaces. The palaces are ten li distant from each other. Every morning the king hears cases in one palace; when he has finished he begins anew. When the country is visited by an extraordinary calamity, a wiser man is elected; the old king is relieved from his duties, and the king so dismissed does not dare to consider himself ill-treated. They have keepers of official records and interpreters who are acquainted with their style of writing. They have also small carriages with white canopies, flags, and banners, and postal arrangements, just as we have them in Zhongguo [China]. The inhabitants are tall, and their faces resemble those of the Han [Chinese], but they wear foreign dress. Their country exports much gold and precious stones, shining pearls, and large conches; they have the "jewel that shines at night," the hsieh-chi-hsi, and asbestos cloth; they know how to embroider cloth with gold thread and weave gold-embroidered rugs. They make gold and
silver coins; ten silver coins are worth one gold coin. The inhabitants of Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia] and T'ien-chu [India] have trade with them by sea; its profit is hundred-fold. When the envoys of neighboring countries arrive there, they are provided with golden money. The water of the great sea which is crossed on the road thither is salt and bitter, and unfit for drinking purposes; the merchants travelling to and fro are provided with three years' provisions; hence, there are not many going.
At the time of the Han dynasty, the tu-hu Pan Ch'ao sent his subordinate officer Kan-ying as an envoy to that country; but the sailors who were going out to sea said, "that there was something about the sea which caused one to long for home; those who went out could not help being seized by melancholy feelings; if the Han envoy did not care for his parents, his wife, and his children, he might go." Ying could not take his passage. During the T'ai-k'ang period of the emperor Wu-ti [280-290 C.E.] their king sent an envoy to offer tribute.
From the Sung-shu, ch. 97 (written c. 500 C.E.), for 420-478 C.E.:
As regards Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] and T'ien-chu [India], far out on the western ocean [Indian Ocean], we have to say that; although the envoys of the two Han dynasties [Chang Ch'ien, and Pan Ch'ao] have experienced the special difficulties of this road, yet traffic in merchandise has been effected, and goods have been sent out to the foreign tribes, the force of winds driving them far away across the waves of the sea. There are lofty ranges of hills quite different from those we know and a great variety of populous tribes having different names and bearing uncommon designations, they being of a class quite different from our own. All the precious things of land and water come from there, as well as the gems made of rhinoceros' horns and king-fishers' stones [chrysoprase], she-chu [serpent pearls] and asbestos cloth, there being innumerable varieties of these curiosities; and also the doctrine of the abstraction of mind in devotion to the shih-chu ["lord of the world" or "the Buddha"---here meaning "the Christ"] all this having caused navigation and trade to be extended to those parts.
From the Liang-shu, ch. 54 (written c. 629 C.E.), for 502-556 C.E.:
In the west of it [viz., Chung T'ien-chu, or India] they carry on much trade by sea to Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] and Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], especially in articles of Ta-ts'in, such as all kinds of precious things, coral, amber, chin-pi [gold jadestone], chu-chi [a kind of pearl], lang-kan, Yu-chin [turmeric?] and storax. Storax is made by mixing and boiling the juice of various fragrant trees; it is not a natural product. It is further said that the inhabitants of Ta-ts'in gather the storax plant, squeeze its juice out, and thus make a balsam [hsiang-kao]; they then sell its dregs to the traders of other countries; it thus goes through many hands before reaching Zhongguo [China], and, when arriving here, is not so very fragrant. Yu-chin [turmeric ?] only comes from the country of Chi-pin [a country near the Persian gulf], etc., etc.
In the ninth year of the Yen-hsi period of Huan-ti of the Han dynasty [166 C.E.] the king of Ta-ts'in, An-tun [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus], sent an embassy with tribute from the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam]; during the Han period they have only once communicated with Zhongguo. The merchants of this country frequently visit Fu-nan [Siam] Jih-nan [Annam] and Chiao-chih [Cochin China]; but few of the inhabitants of these southern frontier states have come to Ta-ts'in. During the fifth year of the Huang-wu period of the reign of Sun-ch'uan [226 C.E.] a merchant of Ta-ts'in, whose name was Ts'in-lun, came to Chiao-chih [Cochin China]; the prefect [t'ai-shou] of Chiao-chih, Wu Miao, sent him to Sun-ch'uan [the Wu emperor], who asked him for a report on his native country and its people. Ts'in-lun prepared a statement, and replied. At the time Chu-ko K'o [Nephew to Chu-ko Liang, alias K'ung-ming] chastised Tan-yang [or Kiang-nan] and they had caught blackish colored dwarfs. When Ts'in-lun saw them he said that in Ta-ts'in these men are rarely seen. Sun-ch'uan then sent male and female dwarfs, ten of each, in charge of an officer, Liu Hsien of Hui-chi [a district in Chekiang], to accompany Ts'in-lun. Liu Hsien died on the road, whereupon Ts'in-lun returned direct to his native country.
From the Wei-Shu, ch. 102 (written before 572 C.E.), for 386-556 C.E.:
The country of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] is also called Li-kan [Syria]. Its capital is the city of An-tu [Antioch]. From T'iao-chih [Babylonia] west you go by sea, making a bent, ten thousand li. From Tai [Ta-t'ung fu?] it is distant 39,400 li. By the side of its sea one comes out at what is like an arm of the sea [the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez], and that the east and the west of the country look into that arm of the sea is a natural arrangement. Its territory amounts to six thousand li. It lies between two seas. This country is peacefully governed, and human dwellings are scattered over it like stars. The royal capital [Antioch] is divided into five cities, each five li square; its circuit is 60 li. The king resides in the middle city. In the city there are established eight high officials to rule over the four quarters of the country; but in the royal city there are also established eight high officials who divide among themselves the government over the four cities. When government matters are deliberated upon, and if in the four quarters of the country there are cases not decided, the high officials of the four cities hold a council at the king's place. After the king has sanctioned their decision it is put into force. Once in three years the king goes out to convince himself of the morality of the people. If anyone has suffered an injustice he states his complaint to the king who, in minor cases, will censure, but in important cases, will dismiss the country official responsible for it, appointing a worthier man in his stead. The inhabitants are upright and tall; their mode of dressing, their carriages and flags, resemble those of the Han [Chinese], whence other foreign nations call them Ta-ts'in. The country produces all kinds of grain, the mulberry tree and hemp. The inhabitants busy themselves with silk-worms and fields. There is abundance of ch'iu-lin [a kind of jadestone]; lang-kan [a kind of coral]; shen-kuei [a kind of tortoise or its shell]; white horses; chu-lieh [lit. "red bristles"--a gem]; ming-chu [shining pearls]; yeh-kuang-pi [the jewel that shines at night].
South-east you go to Chiao-chih [Cochin China]. There is also connection by water with the principalities of Yi-chou [Yunnan] and Yung-ch'ang [near Bhamo]. Many rare objects come from this country. In the west of the water of the sea west of Ta-ts'in there is a river; the river flows southwest [Orontes]; west of the river there are the Nan-pei-shan [the Lebanon]; west of the hills there is the Red Water [Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba]; west of this is the Pai-yu-shan [Mt. Sinai]; west of the Jade Hill is the Hsi-wang-mu-shan [Hill of the Western King's Mother], where a temple is made of jadestone [the Pyramids]. It is said that from the western boundary of Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], following the crooked shape of the seacoast, you can also go to Ta-ts'in, over 40,000 li. Although in that country sun and moon, and the constellations, are quite the same as in Zhongguo, former historians say that going a hundred li west of T'iao-chih [Babylonia] you come to the place where the sun sets; this is far from being true.
From the Chiu-t'ang-shu, ch. 198 (written mid-10th Century C.E.), for 618-906 C.E.:
The country of Fu-lin [Byzantium], also called Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], lies above the western sea [Indian Ocean]. In the southeast it borders on Po-si [Persia]. Its territory amounts to over 10,000 li. Of cities there are four hundred. Inhabited places are close together. The eaves, pillars, and window-bars of their palaces are frequently made with crystal and opaque glass. There are twelve honorable ministers who conjointly regulate government matters. They ordinarily let a man take a bag and follow the king's carriage. When the people have a complaint they throw a written statement into the bag. When the king comes back to the palace he decides between right and wrong. Their kings are not permanent rulers, but they select men of merit. If an extraordinary calamity visits the country, or if wind and rain come at the wrong time, he is deposed and another man is put in his stead. The king's cap is shaped like a bird raising its wings; its trimmings are beset with precious pearls; he wears silk-embroidered clothing, without a lapel in front. He sits on a throne with golden ornaments. He has a bird like a goose; its feathers are green, and it always sits on a cushion by the side of the king. Whenever anything poisonous has been put into the king's meals, the bird will crow. The walls of their capital are built of granite, and are of enormous height [the Theodosian triple walls]. The city[Constantinople] contains in all over 100,000 households [some 500,000 to 600,000 inhabitants]. In the south it faces the great sea. In the east of the city there is a large gate; its height is over twenty chang [over 235 feet]; it is beset with yellow gold [bronze] from top to bottom, and shines at a distance of several li. Coming from outside to the royal residence there are three large gates beset with all kinds of rare and precious stones. On the upper floor of the second gate they have suspended a large golden scale, twelve golden balls are suspended from the scale-stick by which the twelve hours of the day are shown. A human figure has been made all of gold of the size of a man standing upright, on whose side, whenever an hour has come, one of the golden balls will drop, the dingling sound of which makes known the divisions of the day without the slightest mistake [a clepsydra]. In the palaces, pillars are made of se-se [lapis lazuli], the floors of yellow gold [probably bronze], the leaves of folding doors of ivory, beams of fragrant wood. They have no tiles, but powdered plaster is rammed down into a floor above the house. This floor is perfectly firm and of glossy appearance like jade-stone. When, during the height of summer, the inhabitants are oppressed by heat, they lead water up and make it flow over the platform, spreading it all over the roof by a secret contrivance so that one sees and knows not how it is done, but simply hears the noise of a well on the roof; suddenly you see streams of water rushing down from the four eaves like a cataract; the draught caused thereby produces a cooling wind, which is due to this skilful contrivance [a common device in the Near East].
It is customary for men to have their hair cut and wear robes leaving the right arm bare. Women have no lapels on their dresses, they wear turbans of embroidered cloth. The possession of a great fortune confers superior rank on its owner. There are lambs which grow in the ground; the inhabitants wait till they are about to sprout, and then screen them off by building walls to prevent the beasts which are at large outside from eating them up. The navel of these lambs is connected with the ground; when it is forcibly cut the animal will die, but after the people have fixed the buds themselves' they frighten them by the steps of horses or the beating of drums, when the lambs will yield a sound of alarm, and the navel will be detached, and then the animal may be separated from the water-plant. The inhabitants are in the habit of cutting their hair and wearing embroidered clothing; they drive in small carriages with white canopies; when going in or out they beat drums and hoist flags, banners, and pennants. The country contains much gold, silver, and rare gems. There is the Yeh-kuang-pi [the jewel that shines at night]; the ming-yŁeh-chu [the moon-shine pearl]; the hsieh-chi-hsi [the chicken-frightening rhinoceros stone]; large conches; the che-ch'u [mother-of-pearl], carnelian stones; the k'ung-ts'ui [Jadeite]; corals; amber; and all the valuable curiosities of the West are exported from this country.
The emperor Yang-ti of the Sui dynasty [605-617 C.E.] always wished to open intercourse with Fu-lin, but did not succeed. In the 17th year of the period Cheng-kuan [643 C.E.], the king of Fu-lin Po-to-li [Constans II Pogonatus, Emperor 641-668 C.E.] sent an embassy offering red glass, lu-chin-ching [green gold gems], and other articles. T'ai-tsung [the then ruling emperor] favored them with a message under his imperial seal and graciously granted presents of silk. Since the Ta-shih [the Arabs] had conquered these countries they sent their commander-in-chief, Mo-i [Mo'awiya], to besiege their capital city; by means of an agreement they obtained friendly relations, and asked to be allowed to pay every year tribute of gold and silk; in the sequel they became subject to Ta-shih. In the second year of the period Ch'ien-feng [667 C.E.] they sent an embassy offering Ti-yeh-ka. In the first year of the period Ta-tsu [701 C.E.] they again sent an embassy to our court. In the first month of the seventh year of the period K'ai-yuan [719 C.E.] their lord sent the ta-shou-ling [an officer of high rank] of T'u-huo-lo [Khazarstan] to offer lions and ling-yang[antelopes], two of each. A few months after, he further sent ta-te-seng ["priests of great virtue"] to our court with tribute.
From the Hsin-t'ang-shu, ch. 221 (written mid-11th Century C.E.), for 1060 C.E.:
Fu-lin [Byzantium] is the ancient Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria]. It lies above the western sea [Indian Ocean]. Some call it Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e., "country on the west of the sea"]. It is 40,000 li distant from our capital and lies in the west of Shan [Armenia]; north you go straight to the Ko-sa tribe [Khazars] of Tu-ch'ueh. In the west it borders on the sea-coast with the city of Ali-san [Alexandria]. In the south-east it borders on Po-si [Persia]. Its territory amounts to 10,000 li; of cities there are four hundred; of soldiers a million. Ten li make one t'ing; three t'ing make one chih. Of subjected small countries there are several times ten. Those which are known by name are called Ala-san [Charax Spasinu] and Lu-fen [Nikephorium]; Ala-san is direct north-east, but we cannot obtain the number of li of its road; in the east, by sea 2000 li, you come to the Lu-fen country. The capital of Fu-lin [Constantinople] is built of granite stone; the city is eighty li broad; the east gate is twenty chang[235 feet] high and chased with yellow gold [bronze]. The royal palace has three portals which are beset with precious stones. In the middle portal there is a large golden scale; a man made all of gold, standing [a clepsydra]. On the yard of that scale there are hanging twelve little balls, one of which will fall fown whenever an hour is completed. In making the pillars of palaces they use se-se, and in making the kingposts of their roofs they use rock crystal and opaque glass; in making floors they use beams of fragrant wood and yellow gold; the leaves of their folding doors are of ivory.
Twelve honored ministers have joint charge of the government. When the king goes out, a man follows him with a bag, and whatever complaints there may be are thrown into the bag; on returning he examines into right and wrong. When the country is visited by an extraordinary calamity, the king is deposed and a worthier man is placed in his position. The king's official cap is like the wings of a bird, and pearls are sewn on it; his garments are of embroidered silk, but there is no lapel in front. He sits on a couch with golden ornaments; at his side there is a bird like a goose, with green feathers; when his majesty eats anything poisonous it will crow. There are no roofs made of earthen tiles; but the roofs are overlaid with white stones, hard and shining like jadestone. During the height of summer heat, water is laid up and made to flow down from the top, the draught thereby caused producing wind. The men there cut their hair; they wear embroidered clothing in the shape of a gown that leaves the right arm bare. They ride in heavy and light carriages and carts covered with white canopies. When going out or coming back they hoist flags and beat drums. Married women wear embroidered tiaras. The millionaires of the country are the official aristocracy. The inhabitants enjoy wine and have a fancy for dry cakes. There are amongst them many jugglers who can issue fire from their faces, produce rivers and lakes from their hands, and banners and tufts of feathers from their mouths, and who, raising their feet, drop pearls and jadestones. They have clever physicians who, by opening the brain and extracting worms, can cure mu-sheng [a sort of blindness]. The country contains much gold and silver; the jewel that shines at night and the moon-shine pearl; large conches; che-ch'u [mother-of-pearl?]; carnelian stones; mu-nan [a kind of pearl]; king-fishers' feathers [lapis lazuli]; and amber. They weave the hair of the water-sheep [shui-yang] into cloth which is called Hai-hsi-pu [cloth from the west of the sea]. In the sea there are coral islands. The fishers sit in large boats and let wire nets into the water down to the corals. When the corals first grow from the rocks they are white like mushrooms; after a year they turn yellow; after three years they turn red. Then the branches begin to intertwine, having grown to a height of three to four chih [up to five feet]. The net being cast the coral roots get entangled in the net, when the men on board have to turn round in order to take them out. If they miss their time in fishing for it the coral will decay. On the western sea [Indian Ocean] there are markets where the traders do not see one another, the price being deposited by the side of the merchandise; they are called "spirit markets." There is a quadruped called Ts'ung; it has the size of a dog, is fierce and repulsive, and strong. In a northern district there is a sheep that grows out of the ground; its navel is attached to the ground, and if it is cut the animal will die. The inhabitants will frighten them by the steps of horses or by beating drums. The navel being thus detached, they are taken off the water plants; they do not make flocks. During the 17th year of Cheng-kuan [643 C.E.] the king Po-to-li [Constans II Pogonatus, Emperor 641-668 C.E.] sent an embassy offering red glass and lu-chin-ching [green gold gems], and a cabinet order was issued as an acknowledgment. When the Ta-shih [Arabs] usurped power over these countries, they sent their general, Mo-i [Mo'awiya, then Governor of Syria, afterwards Caliph 661-680 C.E.], to reduce them to order. Fu-lin obtained peace by an agreement, but in the sequel became subject to Ta-shih. From the period Ch'ien-feng [666-668 C.E.] till the period Ta-tsu [701 C.E.] they have repeatedly offered tribute to the Han [Chinese] court. In the seventh year of the K'ai-yuan period [719 C.E.] they offered through the ta-yu [a high official] of T'u-huo-lo [Khazarstan] lions and ling-yang [antelopes].
Crossing the desert in the south-west of Fu-lin, at a distance of 2,000 li there are two countries called Mo-lin ['Alwa, or Upper Kush] and Lao-p'o-sa [Maqurra, or Lower Kush]. Their inhabitants are black and of a violent disposition. The country is malarious and has no vegetation. They feed their horses on dried fish, and live themselves on hu-mang [the Persian date--Phoenix dactylifera]. They are not ashamed to have most frequent illicit intercourse with savages; they call this "establishing the relation between lord and subject." On one of seven days they refrain from doing business, and carouse all night.
From the Nestorian Stone Inscription, cols. 12-13 (written 781 C.E.):
According to the Hsi-yu-t'u-chi and the historical records of the Han and Wei dynasties, the country of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] begins in the south at the Coral Sea, and extends in the north to the Chung-pau-shan [hills of precious stones], it looks in the west to "the region of the immortals" and "the flowery groves"; in the east it bounds on "the long winds" and "the weak water" [the Dead Sea]. This country produces fire-proof cloth [asbestos]; the life-restoring incense; the ming-yueh-chu [moon-shine pearl]; and the yeh-kuang-pi [jewel that shines at night]. Robberies are unknown there, and the people enjoy peace and happiness. Only the luminous [i.e., Christian] religion is practised; only virtuous rulers occupy the throne. This country is vast in extent; its literature is flourishing.
From the Sung-shih, ch. 490 (written late 13th Century C.E.), for 960-1279 C.E.:
The country of Fu-lin [Byzantium]. South-east of it you go to Mei-lu-ku [Kilikia ("Cilicia")]; north you go to the sea [Black Sea]; both forty days' journey; west you go to the sea [Mediterranean], thirty days' journey; in the east, starting from western Ta-shih, you come to Yu-tien [Khoten], Hui-ho and Ch'ing-t'ang, and finally reach Zhongguo [China]. They have during former dynasties not sent tribute to our court. During the tenth month of the fourth year of the period Yuan-feng [November, 1081 C.E.], their king, Mieh-li-i-ling-kai-sa [Michael VII Parapinaces Caesar], first sent the ta-shou-ling [a high official] Ni-si-tu-ling-si-meng-p'an to offer as tribute saddled horses, sword-blades, and real pearls. He said: the climate of this country is very cold; houses there have no tiles; the products are gold, silver, pearls, western silk cloth, cows, sheep, horses' camels with single humps, pears, almonds, dates, pa-lan [a kind of date], millet, and wheat. They make wine from grapes; their musical instruments are the lute, the hu-ch'in [the "tea-pot-shaped lute"]; the hsiao-pi-li[a kind of flageolet]; and the p'ien-ku ["side drum"]. The king dresses in red and yellow robes, and wears a turban of silken cloth interwoven with gold thread. In the third month every year he goes to the Temple of Fou-shih [ "Temple of Buddha", here meaning either Muhammed or Christ; in other places the Qu'ran is described as Fou-ching".], to sit on a red couch [palanquin?] which he gets the people to lift. His honored servants [ministers, courtiers, priests?] are dressed like the king, but wear blue, green, purple, white mottled, red, yellow, or brown stuff, wear turbans and ride on horseback. The towns and the country districts are each under the jurisdiction of a shou-ling [chief, sheik?]. Twice a year, during the summer and autumn, they must offer money and cloth [chin-ku-po]. In their criminal decisions they distinguish between great and small offences. Light offences are punished by several tens of blows with the bamboo; heavy offences with up to 200 blows; capital punishment is administered by putting the culprit into a feather bag which is thrown into the sea. They are not bent on making war to neighboring countries, and in the case of small difficulties try to settle matters by correspondence; but when important interests are at stake they will also send out an army. They cast gold and silver coins' without holes, however; on the pile they cut the words Mi-le-fou, which is a king's name. The people are forbidden to counterfeit the coin. During the sixth year of Yuan-yu [1091 C.E.] they sent two embassies, and their king was presented, by imperial order, with 200 pieces of cloth, pairs of white gold vases, and clothing with gold bound in a girdle.
Ma Tuan-lin, Wen-hsien-t'ung-k'ao, ch. 330 (written late 13th Century C.E.):
Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], also called Li-kan [Syria], has been first communicated with during the later Han dynasty. This country, as being in the west of the western sea [Persian Gulf], is also called Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e. "western sea country"]. Its king resides at the city of An-tu [Antioch]. In the palaces they use crystal in making pillars. From T'iao-chih [Babylonia] west, crossing the sea, you make a crooked journey, ten thousand li. Its distance from Ch'ang-an [Hsi-an-fu] is 40,000 li. This country is even and upright; human dwellings are scattered over it like stars. Its territory amounts to a thousand li from east to west and from north to south. It contains over 400 cities and several tens of small tributary states. In the west there is the Great Sea [the Mediterranean]. On the west of the sea there is the royal city of Ali-san [Alexandria]. They have keepers of official records and foreigners trained in reading their writings. They cut their hair and wear embroidered clothing. They also have small carriages with white canopies, and hoist flags, etc. Every ten li make one t'ing; thirty li make one hou, the same as in Zhongguo [China]. The country contains many lions who are a great scourge to travellers; for unless going in caravans of over a hundred men and being protected by military equipment, they will be hurt by them. Their king is not a permanent one, but they want to be led by a man of merit. Whenever an extraordinary calamity or an untimely storm and rain occurs, the king is deposed and a new one elected, the deposed king resigning cheerfully. The inhabitants are tall, and upright in their dealings, like the Han [Chinese], whence they are called Ta-ts'in, or Han.
Amongst precious stones they have the hsieh-chi-hsi [the chicken-frightening rhinoceros stone]. They mix several fragrant substances and fry their juice in order to make Su-ho [Storax]. The country produces gold, silver, and rare precious things; the jewel that shines at night, the moon-shine pearl, amber, opaque glass, tortoises, white horses, red bristles, tortoise-shell, black bears, red glass, the p'i-tu-shu [a kind of rat], large conches, ch'e-ch'u, carnelian. The Ts'ung [a quadruped] comes from the western sea [Persian Gulf]; some are domesticated like dogs, but they are mostly fierce and nasty. In the northern possessions of this country there is a kind of sheep which grow naturally out of the ground. They wait till the germs are about to sprout, and then protect them by raising walls lest the beasts at large should eat them. Their navels are connected with the ground; if the navel is cut by force, the animal will die; but if by the sound of striking some object they are frightened, this will cause them to disconnect their navels, and they may be taken off the water-plants; they will not form flocks. There is further the Mu-nan, a pearl of jade color, originating in the coagulation of saliva in the mouth of a flying bird; the natives consider it a precious substance. There are jugglers who can let fires burn on their foreheads; make rivers and lakes in their hands; raise their feet and let pearls and precious stones drop from them; and, in opening their mouths produce banners and tufts of feathers in abundance. With regard to the hsi-pu [fine cloth] manufactured on their looms, they say they use the wool of water-sheep in making it; it is called hai-chung-pu. They make all kinds of rugs; their colors are still more brilliant than are those manufactured in the countries on the east of the sea. They always made profit by obtaining the thick plain silk stuffs of Zhongguo, which they split in order to make foreign ling kan wen [damask and purple-dyed mustered goods], and they entertained a lively trade with the foreign states of Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia] by sea. About 700 or 800 li south-west in the Chang-hai, you come to the Coral Islands. At the bottom of the water there are rocks and the corals grow on them.
The inhabitants of Ta-tsin use large sea-going ships having on board nets of iron. They get a diver first to go down and look for corals; if the nets can be let down, they drop them. When the corals first appear they are white, and by degrees they resemble sprouts, and break through. After a year and some time has elapsed they grow through the meshes of the net and change their color into yellow; they will then throw out branches and intertwine, having grown to a height of three or four ch'ih [four to five feet], and the larger ones measuring over a ch'ih [15 inches] in circuit. After three years, their color has turned into a beautiful carnation red. They are then again looked after to ascertain whether they can be gathered. The fishers thereupon get at the roots with iron pinchers and fasten the net with ropes; they let the men on board turn the vessel round, raise the net and take it out, and return to their country, where the corals are polished and cut according to fancy. If not fished for at the proper time they are liable to be worm-bitten.
In this country they make gold and silver coins; ten silver coins are worth one gold coin. The inhabitants are just in their dealings, and in the trade there are not two prices. Cereals are always cheap, and the budget is well supplied. When the envoys of neighboring countries arrive at their furthest frontier they are driven by post to the royal capital and, on arrival, are presented with golden money. Their king always wished to send envoys to Zhongguo; but the Ar-hsi wished to carry on trade with them in Han silks, and this is the cause of their having been shut off from direct communication. It was, further, hard to cross the great sea, travelling merchants taking three years' provisions on board to make this passage, whence the number of travellers was but small. In the beginning of the Yuan-chia period of the emperor Huan-ti [151-153 C.E.], the king of Ta-ts'in, An-tun [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus], sent envoys who offered ivory, rhinoceros' horns, and tortoise-shell, from the boundary of Jih-nan [Annam]; this was the first time they communicated with us. Their tribute contained no precious stones whatever, which fact makes us suspect that the messengers kept them back. During the Ta-k'ang period of the emperor Wu-ti of the Chin dynasty [280-290 C.E.] their king sent envoys with tribute. Some say that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui [weak water] and the Liu-sha [flying sands] near the residence of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] not far from the place where the sun sets.
The Wai-kuo-t'u ["map of foreign countries"] says: From Yung-ch'en north there is a country called Ta-ts'in. These people are of great size; they measure five or six ch'ih [six to seven feet] in height. The Kuei-huan-hsing-ching-chi says: The Fu-lin country is in the west of Shan [Armenia], separated by hills several thousand li; it is also called Ta-ts'in. Its inhabitants have red and white faces. Men wear plain clothes, but women wear silk stuffs beset with pearls. They have many clever weavers of silk. Prisoners are kept in the frontier states till death without their being brought back to their home. In the manufacture of glass they are not equalled by any nation of the world. The royal city is eighty li square; the country in all directions measures several thousand li. Their army consists of about a million men. They have constantly to provide against the Ta-shih. On the west the country bounds on the western sea [the Mediterranean]; on the south, on the southern sea [Red Sea?]; in the north it connects with K'o-sa T'u-ch'ueh [the Khazars]. In the western sea there is a market where a silent agreement exists between buyer and seller that, if the one is coming the other will go, and vice-versa; the seller will first spread out his goods, and the purchaser will afterwards produce their equivalents, which have to wait by the side of the articles to be sold till received by the seller, after which the purchase may be taken delivery of. They call this a spirit market.
There is also a report that in the west there is the country of women who, being affected by the influence of water, give birth to children. It is further said: the country of Mo-lin [ 'Alwa, or Upper Nubia] is on the south-west of the country of Yang-sa-lo [Jerusalem?]; crossing the great desert 2,000 li you come to this country. Its inhabitants are black and of ferocious manners. Cereals are scarce, and there is no vegetation in the way of shrubs and trees; horses are fed on dried fish; men eat hu-mang, that is, the Persian date. The country is very malarious. The hill tribes which one has to pass in pursuing the overland road of these countries, are of the same race. Of religions there are several kinds: there is the Ta-shih, the Ta-ts'in, and the Hsun-hsun religion; The Hsun-hsun have most frequent illicit intercourse with barbarians; while eating they do not speak. Those who belong to the religion of Ta-shih have a rule by which brothers, children and other relatives may be impeached for crime without implicating their kin, even if the crime be brought home to them. They do not eat the flesh of pigs, dogs, donkeys, and horses; they do not prostrate or kneel down before the king, nor before father or mother, to show their veneration; they do not believe in spirits, and sacrifice to heaven alone. Every seventh day is a holiday, when they will refrain from trade, and not go in or out, but drink wine and yield to dissipation till the day is finished. The Ta-ts'in are good physicians in eye-diseases and diarrhea, whether by looking to matters before the disease has broken out [i.e., whether by the prophylactic method], or whether by extracting worms from the brain [trepanning].
In the south-east of this country you go to Chiao-chih [Cochin China]; there is also a water-road communicating with the I-chou and Yung-ch'ang principalities [both in the present Yunnan]. Many rare things come from there. It is said that in the west of Ta-ts'in there is the water of a sea; west of the seawater there is a river; the river flows south-west; west of the river there are hills extending from south to north; west of the hills there is the Red Water; west of this is the White Jade Hill; west of the Jade Hill is the Hill of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] who lives in a temple built of jadestone. Coming from the western boundary of Ar-hsi [Parthia], following the crooked shape of the sea, you also come to Ta-ts'in [at Aelana (modern Elat)], bending round over 10,000 li. Although in that country the sun, the moon, and the constellations appear not different from what they are in Zhongguo, former historians say that in the west of T'iao-chih [Babylonia] you go a hundred li to the place where the sun sets; this is far from being true.
In the 17th year of Cheng-kuan of the T'ang dynasty [643 C.E.] the king of Fu-lin, Po-to-li [Constans II Pogonatus, Emperor 641-668 C.E.], sent envoys offering red glass and green gold ching[stones, gems, dust], and a cabinet order was issued as an acknowledgement. The Ta-shih waged war against the country which in the sequel became subject to them. Between the periods Ch'ien-feng and Ta-tsu [666-701 C.E.] they repeated their court offerings. In the seventh year of K'ai-yuan [719 C.E.] they offered through the ta-yu [a high official] of T'u-huo-lo [Khazarstan] lions and ling-yang[antelopes].
The Dwarfs. These are in the south of Ta-ts'in. They are scarcely three ch'ih [four feet] large. When they work in the fields they are afraid of being devoured by cranes. Whenever Ta-ts'in has rendered them any assistance, the Dwarfs give them all they can afford in the way of precious stones to show their gratitude. The Hsuan-ch'u. Their country contains many "birds of nine colors," with blue pecks, green necks, red-brown wings, red breasts, purple crests, vermilion feet, jade-colored bodies, yellowish backs, and blackish tails. Another name of this animal is "bird of nine tails," or chin-feng [the brocaded phoenix]. Those which have more blue than red on them are called Hsiu-luan [embroidered argus pheasant]. These birds usually come from the west of the Jo-shui [weak water]. Some say that it is the bird of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother]. The coins of the country are the same as those of the country of San-t'ung. The San-t'ung are a thousand lisouth-west of Hsuan-ch'u. The inhabitants have three eyes, and sometimes four tongues by means of which they may produce one kind of sound and speak one language. They trade in plantains, also in rhinoceros' horns and ivory; they make golden coins on which they imitate the king's, also the queen's face [with the king's together.]; if the husband is changed, they use the king's face; if the king dies, they re-melt the coin. The above three countries border on Ta-ts'in whence they are here appended.
Ala-san [Charax Spasinu] was heard of during the Wei dynasty. It is subject to Ta-ts'in. Its residence lies right in the middle of a river. North you go to Lu-fen [Nikephorium] by water half a year, with quick winds a month. It is nearest to Ch'eng-ku of Ar-hsi [Parthia]. South-west you go to the capital of Ta-ts'in; we do not know how many li. Lu-fen was heard of during the Wei dynasty. It is subject to Ta-ts'in. Its residence is 2000 li distant from the capital of Ta-ts'in. The flying bridge across the river [the bridge over the Euphrates at Zeugma] in Ta-ts'in west of the city of Lu-fen is 240 li in length. The road, if you cross the river, goes to the south-west; if you make a round on the river, you go due west.
Fu-lin. In the south and east of the country of Fu-lin you go to Mei-lu-ku [Kilikia ("Cilicia")]; north you go to the sea, forty days' journey; west you go to the sea, thirty days' journey. In the east, starting from western Ta-shih you come to Yu-tien [Khoten], Hui-ho, Ta-ta [Tartary], and Ch'ing-t'ang, and finally reach Zhongguo [China]. They have during former dynasties not sent tribute to our court. During the tenth month of the fourth year of the period Yuan-feng [November 1081 C.E.] their king Mieh-li-i-ling-kai-sa [Michael Caesar] first sent the ta-shou-ling [a high official] Ni-si-tu-ling-si-meng-p'an to offer as tribute saddled horses, sword-blades and real pearls. He said: the climate of this country is very cold; houses there have no tiles; the products are gold, silver, pearls, western silk cloth, cows, sheep, horses, camels with single humps, pears, almonds, dates, pa-lan, millet, and wheat. They make wine from grapes. Their musical instruments are the lute, the hu-ch'in, the hsiao-pi-li, and the p'ien-ku. The king dresses in red and yellow robes, and wears a turban of silken cloth interwoven with gold thread. In the third month every year he goes to the Temple of Fou, to sit on a red palanquin which he gets the people to lift. His honored servants [ministers, courtiers, priests?] are dressed like the king, but wear blue, green, purple, white mottled, red, yellow, or brown stuff; wear turbans and ride on horseback. The towns and the country districts are each under the jurisdiction of a shou-ling [chief, sheik?]. Twice a year during the summer and autumn they must offer money and cloth. In their criminal decisions they distinguish between great and small offences. Light offences are punished by several hundreds' of blows with the bamboo; heavy offences with up to 200 blows; capital punishment is administered by putting the culprit into a feather bag which is thrown into the sea. They are not bent on making war to neighboring countries, and in the case of small difficulties try to settle matters by correspondence; but when important interests are at stake they will also send out an army. They cast gold and silver coins, without holes, however; on the pile they cut the words Mi-le-fou which is a king's name; the people are forbidden to counterfeit the coin.
During the sixth year of Yuan-yu [1091 C.E.] they sent two embassies, and their king was presented, by Imperial order, with 200 pieces of cloth, pairs of silver vases, and clothing with gold bound in a girdle. According to the historians of the T'ang dynasty, the country of Fu-lin was held to be identical with the ancient Ta-ts'in. It should be remarked, however, that, although Ta-ts'in has from the Later Han dynasty when Zhongguo was first communicated with, till down to the Chin and T'ang dynasties has offered tribute without interruption, yet the historians of the "four reigns" of the Sung dynasty, in their notices of Fu-lin, hold that this country has not sent tribute to court up to the time of Yuan-feng [1078-1086 C.E.] when they sent their first embassy offering local produce. If we, now, hold together the two accounts of Fu-lin as transmitted by the two different historians, we find that, in the account of the T'ang dynasty, this country is said "to border on the great sea in the west"; whereas the Sung account says that "in the west you have still thirty days' journey to the sea;" and the remaining boundaries do also not tally in the two accounts; nor do the products and the customs of the people. I suspect that we have before us merely an accidental similarity of the name, and that the country is indeed not identical with Ta-ts'in. I have, for this reason, appended the Fu-lin account of the T'ang dynasty to my chapter on Ta-ts'in, and represented this Fu-lin of the Sung dynasty as a separate country altogether.
Chao Ju-kua, Chu-fan-chih (written late 13th Century C.E.):
The country of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], also called Li-kan [Syria], is the general meeting-ground for the nations of the western heaven, and the place where the foreign merchants of Ta-shih [the Arabs of the Caliphate] assemble. Their king is styled Mie-lu-ku. He rules at the city of An-tu [Antioch]. He wears a turban of silk with gold-embroidered characters, and the throne he sits upon is covered with a silken rug. They have walled cities and markets with streets and lanes. In the king's dwelling they use crystal in making pillars; and they use plaster in lieu of tiles. They frequently erect tabernacles with seven entrances all round, each holding a garrison of thirty men. Tribute-bearers from other countries pay their respects below the platform of the palace steps, whence they withdraw on having offered their congratulations. The inhabitants are tall and of bright complexion, somewhat like the Han [Chinese], which has been the cause of their being called Ta-ts'in. They have keepers of official records and foreign interpreters knowing their style of writing. They trim their hair and wear embroidered dresses. They also have small carriages with white canopies, and flags, etc.; and at the distance of every ten li there is a t'ing, and at the distance of every thirty li there is a hou. There are in the country many lions who will attack travellers and may devour them unless they go in caravans of a hundred men and be protected by military equipment. Underneath the palace they have cut into the ground a tunnel communicating with the hall of worship at a distance of over a li. The king rarely goes out; but, to chant the liturgy and worship, on every seventh day he proceeds by way of this tunnel to the hall of worship where, in performing divine service, he is attended by a suite of over fifty men. But few amongst the people know the king's face; if he goes out he sits on horseback, protected by an umbrella; the head of his horse is adorned with gold, jade, pearls and other jewels. Every year the king of the country of Ta-shih who is styled Su-tan [Sultan] sends tribute-bearers, and if in the country some trouble is apprehended, he gets the Ta-shih to use their military force in restoring order. Their food mainly consists in cooked dishes, cakes and meat; they do not drink wine; but they use vessels made of gold and silver, and help themselves to their contents by means of ladles; after meals they wash hands in a golden bowl filled with water. The products of the country consist in opaque glass, corals, raw gold, brocades, sarcenets, red carnelian stones and real pearls; also the hsieh-chi-hsi, which is the same as the T'ung-t'ien-hsi. At the beginning of the Yen-hsi period [158-167 C.E.] the ruler of this country sent an embassy who, from outside the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam], came to offer rhinoceros' horns, ivory and tortoise-shell, this being the first direct communication with Zhongguo. As their presents contained no other precious matters and curiosities, it may be suspected that the ambassadors kept them back. During the T'ai-k'ang period of the Chin dynasty [280-289 C.E.] further tribute was brought from there [at the time of Diocletian]. There is a saying that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui [weak water] and the Liu-sha [flying sands] near the place where the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] resides, and where the sun sets.
The Tu-huan-ching-hsing-chi says: The country of Fu-lin is in the west of the Shan [Armenia] country; it is also called Ta-ts'in. The inhabitants have red and white faces. Men wear plain clothes, but women wear silk stuffs beset with pearls. They are fond of wine and dry cakes. They have many clever weavers of silk. The size of the country is a thousand li. Their army consists of over 10,000 men and has to ward off the Ta-shih. In the western sea there is a market where a silent agreement exists between buyer and seller that, if the one is coming the other will go, and vice-versa, the seller will first spread out his goods, and the purchaser will afterwards produce their equivalents, which have to wait by the side of the articles to be sold till received by the seller, after which the purchase may be taken delivery of. They call this a spirit market.
From the Ming-shih, ch. 326 (concluded 1724 C.E.), for 1368-1643 C.E.:
u-lin [Byzantium] is the same as Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] of the Han period. It first communicated with Zhongguo [China] at the time of the emperor Huan-ti [147-168 C.E.]. During the Chin and Wei dynasties it was also called Ta-ts'in, and tribute was sent to Zhongguo. During the T'ang dynasty it was called Fu-lin. During the Sung it was still so called, and they sent also tribute several times; yet the Sung-shih says that during former dynasties they have sent no tribute to our court, which throws doubt on its identity with Ta-ts'in. At the close of the Yuan dynasty [1278-1368 C.E.] a native of this country, named Nieh-ku-lun, came to Zhongguo for trading purposes [Pope John XXII appointed Nicolaus de Bentra to succeed John de Monte Corvino as Archbishop of Cambalu, that is, Peking, in the year 1333; and also sent letters to the emperor of the Tartars, who was then the sovereign of China." Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History,trans. James Murdock, Vol. II, p. 359; cf. Remusat, Nouv. Mel. Asiat., Vol. II, p. 198. Bretschneider, Arabs, etc., p. 25, says: "It is possible that the Nie-ku-lun of the Chinese Annals is identical with the Monk Nicolas. The statement of the Chinese that Nicolas carried on commerce does not contradict this view. Perhaps he trafficked in fact, or he considered it necessary to introduce himself under the name of a merchant."]. When, after the fall of the Yuan, he was not able to return, the emperor T'ai-tsu, who had heard of this, commanded him to his presence in the eighth month of the fourth year of Hung-wu [September 1371 C.E.] and gave orders that an official letter be placed into his hands for transmission to his king, which read as follows: "Since the Sung dynasty had lost the throne and Heaven had cut off their sacrifice, the Yuan [Mongol] dynasty had risen from the desert to enter and rule over Zhongguo for more than a hundred years, when Heaven, wearied of their misgovernment and debauchery, thought also fit to turn their fate to ruin, and the affairs of Zhongguo were in a state of disorder for eighteen years. But when the nation began to arouse itself, We, as a simple peasant of Huai-yu, conceived the patriotic idea to save the people, and it pleased the Creator to grant that Our civil and military officers effected their passage across eastward to the left side of the River. We have then been engaged in war for fourteen years; We have, in the west, subdued the king of Han, Ch'en Yu-liang; We have, in the east, bound the king of Wu, Chang Shih-ch'eng; We have, in the south, subdued Min and Yueh [Fukien and Kuang-tung], and conquered Pa and Shu [Sze-chuan]; We have, in the north, established order in Yu and Yen [Chih-li]; We have established peace in the Empire, and restored the old boundaries of Zhongguo. We were selected by Our people to occupy the Imperial throne of Zhongguo under the dynastic title of 'the Great Ming,' commencing with Our reign styled Hung-wu, of which we now are in the fourth year. We have sent officers to all the foreign kingdoms with this Manifesto except to you, Fu-lin, who, being separated from us by the western sea, have not as yet received the announcement. We now send a native of your country, Nieh-ku-lun, to hand you this Manifesto. Although We are not equal in wisdom to our ancient rulers whose virtue was recognized all over the universe, We cannot but let the world know Our intention to maintain peace within the four seas. It is on this ground alone that We have issued this Manifesto." And he again ordered the ambassador Pu-la and others to be provided with credentials and presents of silk for transmission to that country, who thereafter sent an embassy with tribute. But this embassy was, in the sequel, not repeated until during the Wan-li period [1573-1620 C.E.] a native from the great western ocean [Fra. Matteo Ricci--mentioned in a subsequent account of Italy as the foreigner who arrived] came to the capital who said that the Lord of Heaven, Ye-su, was born in Ju-te-a [Judea] which is identical with the old country of Ta-ts'in; that this country is known in the historical books to have existed since the creation of the world for the last 6,000 years; that it is beyond dispute the sacred ground of history and the origin of all wordly affairs; that it should be considered as the country where the Lord of Heaven created the human race. This account looks somewhat exaggerated and should not be trusted. As regards the abundance of produce and other precious articles found in this country, accounts will be found in former annals.
From: F. Hirth, China and the Roman Orient: Researches into their Ancient and Mediaeval Relations as Represented in Old Chinese Records (Shanghai & Hong Kong, 1885), pp. 35-96.
Scanned and edited by Dr. Jerome S. Arkenberg, Department of History, California State University Fullerton. The text has been modified by Dr. Arkenberg. [Any modernization © 2000 Jerome S. Arkenberg.]
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