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"And some have quite a different way of proceeding. For these as they start from their homes take three steps, and at every fourtli step they make a prostration at full length upon the ground. And then they take a censer and incense the whole length of that prostration. And thus they do continually, until they reach the idol, so that sometimes, when they go through this operation, it taketh a very great while before they do reach the idol.''
Now, this mode of penitential pilgrimage is by no means extinct in India. Not very long since, the Indian newspapers contained a striking account of the performance of such penances at some shrine in the Deccan. One man, it was stated, had come from his home, a distance of four hundred and fifty miles, in this way— measuring his length along the ground, not at every fourth step, but continuously, at the rate of about one mile a day!
"Hard by the church of this idol," continues Odoric, " there is a lake made by hand, into which the pilgrims who come thither cast gold or silver and precious stones, in honor of the idol, and towards the maintenance of the church, so that much treasure has been accumulated therein. And thus, when it is desired to do any work upon the church, they make search in the lake, and find all that has been cast into it."
This, you may say, looks very like a "traveller's tale." But it happens that we learn from an Arabic work translated by Quatremere, that among the towns in the south of India conquered by Mahomet Tughlak of Delhi, a few years after the visit of Odoric to that region, there was one which possessed an idol-temple held in great repute all over that country, and which stood in the middle of a lake, into which the worshippers used to cast their offerings. After the capture of the city, the sultan caused the lake to be drained, and the treasure accumulated in its bed sufficed to load two hundred elephants and several thousand oxen!
When in China, on his way from Zayton to Kinsai (see above), Odoric gives the earliest known description of the well-known Chinese practice of fishing with tame cormorants. His account, which is substantially identical with that which you will find in Staunton, Fortune, and other modern travellers, runs as follows:—
"Passing hence I came to
a certain great river, and I tarried at a certain city which hath a bridge across the river.
At the head of the bridge was a tavern, in which I was entertained. And mine host, wishing to do me a pleasure, said: 'If thou wouldst see good fishing, come with me!' So he led me upon the bridge, and I looked and saw certain water-fowl tied upon perches. And these he went and tied with a cord round the throat that they might not be able to swallow the fish which they caught. Next he proceeded to put three great baskets into a boat, one at each end and the third in the middle, and then he let the water-fowl loose. Straightway they began to dive into the water, catching great numbers of fish, and ever as they caught them putting them of their own accord into the baskets, so that before long all three baskets were full. And mine host then took the cord off their necks, and let them dive again to catch fish for their own food. And when they had thus fed, they returned to their perches, and were tied up as before. And some of those fish I had for dinner."
Ending another chapter on the magnificence of the Court of Pekin, he concludes: "But no one need wonder at his being able to maintain such an expenditure; for there is nothing spent as money in his whole empire, but certain pieces of paper which are there current as money; whilst an infinite amount of treasure comes into his hands." Here, as previously from Rubruquis, we have an allusion to that system of paper currency which prevailed nationally in China for many centuries, and which, though for four hundred years • it has ceased to be national (though there have been recent efforts to re-establish it), is still maintained on a very large scale by local banks in great cities such as Pekin and Fucheu.
We shall extract only one other passage from Odoric, and that, perhaps, the most questionable and perplexing in the whole narrative. It is the chapter in which the friar, on his return from Tibet to the west, describes a certain valley in which he saw terrible things:—
"Another great and terrible thing I saw. For as I went through a certain valley, which lieth by the River of Delights, I saw therein many dead corpses lying. And I heard also therein sundry kinds of music, but chiefly nagarets (or kettledrums) which were marvellously sounded. And so great was the noise thereof that very great fear came upon me. Now this valley is seven or eight miles long, and if any unbeliever enter therein he quitteth it nevermore, but perishes incontinently. Yet I hesitated not to go in, that I might see, once for all, what the matter was. . . . And at one side of the valley, in the very rock, I beheld, as it were, the face of a man, very great and terrible, so very terrible, indeed, that for my exceeding great fear my spirit seemed to die in me. Wherefore I made the sign of the cross, and began continually to repeat verbum caro factum (' The Word was made flesh,' etc.), but I dared not at all come nigh that face, but kept at seven or eight paces from it. And so I came at length to the other end of the valley, and there I ascended a hill of sand, and looked around me. But nothing could I descry, only I still heard those nagarets to play, which played so marvellously."
The locality of this adventure is left obscure; but we think it can be fixed to the vicinity of the passes of the Hindu Kush, north of Kabul.
The river, you will have observed, on the banks of which he received these alarming impressions, is called the River of Delights, or as it is in the Latin, Flumen Deliciarum, a name inappropriate enough to the tale. But if this was, as we can hardly doubt, in Odoric's mouth, Fiume di Piaceri (which is the actual reading in Ramusio's old Italian version), we see strong reason to believe that the word intended was not pleasures or delights, but the actual name of the River Panjsher, which flows from the Hindu Kush, north of Kabul. Wood fells us that the country thereabouts is rife with legends of the supernatural. And as regards the many corpses which our friar saw, the passes of the Panjsher were those, as Sultan Baber tells us in his memoirs, by which the robbers of Kafiristan constantly made their forays, slaving great numbers of people. Long before Babels time, and before Odorio's, the Arab geographer, Edrisi, informs us that the people of Panjsher were notorious for their violence and wickedness: nor have they mended their manners; for Captain Wood observes, of the Panjsher valley, that "this fair scene is chiefly peopled by robbers, whose lawless lives and never-ending feuds render it an unfit abode for honest men."
The awful and gigantic face in the cliff was probably some great rock-sculpture resembling the colossal figures at Bamian, described by Alexander Burnes; and though these figures themselves are at a considerable distance from the Panjsher, it is possible that the traveller's excited
memory may have compressed into too narrow a compass all the circumstances of the passage of those mountains which had so strongly impressed his imagination. We may add that in the diary of a modern adventurer in those regions—a document, we must admit, vaguer and wilder than anything written by medieval friar—we find the following passage strikingly analogous to the description of Odoric, of whose work, we will answer for it, the writer knew nothing :—
"27th July.—The basaltic cliffs assame fanciful shapes: supposed to be Kafirs petrified by Abraham. One very remarkable human face on the precipitous sides of a dark ravine of amygdaloid rock is called Baboo Boolan, about twenty-five feet in height, with monstrous red eyes and mouth and aquiline nose. They are objects of extreme dread to the natives." *
The account of the Hill of Sand, on which our traveller heard the sound of invisible kettledrums, at once points to the phenomena of the Rug Rowan, or Flowing Sand, forty miles north of Kabul, and at the foot of the valley of Panjsher. Burnes describes the sounds heard there as loud and hollow, very like those of a large drum. Wood says the sound was that of a distant drum mellowed by softer music (how like our friar's "sundry kinds of music, but chiefly kettledrums ! "); Sultan Baber speaks of the sound as that of drums and nagarets, again the very instruments specified by Odoric. f
Before quitting Odoric's Terrible Valley, we may remark that one- would almost think John Bunyan had been reading the passage in old John Hackluyt, when he indited the account of Christian's transit through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, e.g.
"This frightful sight was seen, and those dreadful noises were heard, by him for several days together; and coming to a place where he thought he heard a company of friends coming to meet him, he stopped, and began to muse what he had best do but
* Journal kept by Mr. Gardner during his travels in Central Asia, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. xxii. p. 290.
J The same phenomenon has been observed in various parts of the world, and always in connection with the movement of sand disturbed upon a slope. One celebrated instance is "the Hill of the Bell," in the peninsula of Sinai; and another was discovered by the lamented Hugh Miller in the island of Eig.
when they were come even almost at him, he cried out, with a most vehement voice, 11 will walk in the strength of the Lord God!' so they gave back, and came no further."
We now pass to another of our travellers, and one still less generally known, viz., John Marignolli, the papal legate of 1338, of whom we have already spoken briefly. This dignitary of the Church is not a sage; his garrulous reminiscences show an incontinent vanity, and an incoherent lapse from one subject to another, matched by nothing in literature except the conversation of Mrs. Nickleby. But he is a man of considerable reading, and his recollections of what he saw often form very vivid and graphic pictures, whilst his veracity is unimpeachable.
As a first extract we shall give a sample of the incoherency of some of his recollections, though really it is impossible in translation not to modify and soften the effect of the original Nicklebyism. This is from a chapter headed, "Concerning the Clothing of our First Parents." (You must remember that the book is professedly a chronicle of Bohemia, to which such a subject of course legitimately belongs) :—
"And the Lord made for Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them therewith. But if it be asked, Whence the skins? —the answer usually made is, either that these were expressly created (which savors not of wisdom !); or that an animal was slain for the purpose (and this is not satisfactory, seeing that 'tis believed animals were created first in pairs only, and there had been no time for the multiplication of the species). Now, then, / say (but pray don't think I mean to dogmatize), that for pelliceas, we should read fi/iceas, or for coats of fur, coats of fibre. For among the fronds of the cocoanut, of which I have spoken before, there grows a sort of fibrous web, forming an open network of coarse dry filaments, and to this day among the people of Ceylon and India it is customary to' make of those fibres wetweather blankets for those rustics whom they call camulls, whose business it is to carry burdens, and ealso to carry men and women upon their shoulders in palankins, such as are mentioned in Canticles, Ferculum fecit sibi Salomon de /ignis Libani, whereby is meant a portable litter, such as I used to be carried in when I was at Zaiton and in India.* A cloak, such as I mean, of this camall
* The word intended by the good bishop is the Arabic Hhamal, a porter; still the usual word for a palanquin-bearer in Western India.
cloth (not camel cloth), I wore till I got to Florence, where I left it in the sacristy of the Minor Friars. No doubt the raiment of John Baptist was of this kind. For as regards earners hair, that is, next to silk, the softest stuff in the world, and never could have been meant. By the way—speaking of camels— I once found myself in company with an innumerable multitude of camels and their foals in that immense desert by which you go down from Babylon of the Confusion towards Egypt, by way of Damascus; and of Arabs also there was no end! Not that I am meaning to say there were any camels in Ceylon. No; but there were innumerable elephants. And these, though they be most ferocious monsters, scarcely ever do any harm to a foreigner. I even rode on an elephant once! It belonged to the Queen of Saba. That beast did really seem to have the use of reason—if it were not contrary to the faith to say such a thing!"
In an earlier passage, the legate thus describes his reception by the emperor at Cambalec:—
"But the great Kaam, when he beheld the great horses, and the Pope's presents, with his letter, and King Robert's f likewise, with their golden seals, and when he saw us also, rejoiced greatly, being delighted—yea, exceedingly delighted—with everything, and he treated us with the greatest honor. And when I entered the Kaam's presence, it was in full festival vestments, with a very fine cross carried before me, and candles and incense, whilst Credo in Unu?n Deum was chanted in that glorious palace in which he dwells. And when the chant was ended, I bestowed a plenary benediction, which he received with all humility. And so we were dismissed to one of the imperial apartments, which had been most elegantly fitted up for us; and two princes were appointed to attend to all our wants. And this they did in the most liberal manner, not merely as regards meat and drink, but even down to such things as paper for lanterns; whilst all necessary servants were also detached from the court to wait upon us."
You will observe that among the presents sent to the emperor in the legate's charge were certain Destriers or "great horses." Now it is pleasing to find that, though our legate himself has no place in the Chinese annals, these great horses have. Under our year, 1342, that of Marignolli's arrival at Peking, it is recorded that there were presented to the emperor certain horses of the kingdom of Fulang [Farang, or Europe), of a breed
f Of Naples.
till then unknown in China. One of these horses was eleven feet and a half in length and six feet eight inches high, and was black all over except the hind feet. This present was highly appreciated. And Pere Gaubli mentions also that a portrait of this horse was in the last century still preserved in the imperial palace, with all the dimensions carefully noted. This vast animal was surely the prototype of the Black Destrier which Mr. Millais painted under Sir Ysenbras several years ago!
Of his residence in Malabar, and the Christians of St.Thomas there, Marignolli says:—
"These latter are the masters of the public steel-yard, from which I derived during my stay, as a perquisite of my office as Pope's legate, a hundred gold fanams every month, and a thousand when I came away. There is a church of St. George there, of the Latin communion, at which I dwelt. And I adorned it with fine paintings, and taught therein the Holy Law. And after I had been there some time, I went beyond the glory of Alexander the Great when he set up his column. For / also erected a stone as my landmark and memorial, and anointed it with oil! In sooth, it was a marble pillar, with a stone cross upon it; intended to last till the world's end. And it had the Pope's arms and my own engraven upon it, with inscriptions both in Indian and Latin characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitude of people, and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter, or palankin, like Solomon's."
We all know of the altars that Alexander erected on the banks of Hyphasis; but the imagination of his legendary biographers in later days was not satisfied with his turning aside from India barely entered—(who indeed does not feel a fresh disappointment every time that the story is read ?)—and in defiance of history they prolonged his expedition to the ends of the earth. The story how he reached the land of the Seres, at the extremity of Asia, and there erected a stone pillar, on which he inscribed, " Thus far came Alexander, king of the Macedonians," is nearly as old as classic times. We have some reason to believe that the pillar which our friend the legate thus erected in ambitious rivalry with Alexander survived to our own day. The Dutch chaplain, Baldaens, writing in the latter part of the seventeenth century, says :—" Upon the rocks near the sea-shore of Quilon stands a
stone pillar, erected there, as the inhabitants report, by-St. Thomas. I saw this pillar in 1662."" Three hundred years of tradition might easily swamp the dim memory of John the Legate in that of Tbomas the Apostle. Mr. Day, in his "Land of the Permauls," tells us that this pillar still exists; but Mr. Broadley Howard, in a recent work on the Malabar Christians, says it was washed away some years ago. We wish this notice may lead some one on that coast to inquire about it still.
We now come to the last of the travellers of whom it has been proposed to speak particularly. This is Abn Abdallah Mahomed, surnamed Ibn Batuta, the traveller, par excellence, of the Arab nation, as he was hailed by a saint of his religion whom he visited in India. He was born at Tangier, in Morocco, in 1304.
We cannot go into great detail on the wanderings of this traveller on a great scale. Suffice it. to say that between his starting on his first journey, at the age of twenty-one, and his final settlement in his native land, at the age of fifty-one, his travels extended over a distance which, as well as we can compute it by a rough compass measurement, without allowance for excesses and deviations, amounted to at least 75,000 English miles. During the thirty years of his wanderings, he four times made the pilgrimage to Mecca, on one occasion residing there for three years ; he traversed all Egypt twice, and both coasts of the Red Sea; he visited the eastern shores of Africa as far down as Quiloa in 90 south latitude ; he several times visited Babylonia and Ispahan ; he three times traversed Syria, visited all the Turkish sultanates into which Asia Minor was then divided ; stayed a short time at Constantinople, and twice with Uzbek Khan on the banks of the Wolga, penetrating north to Bulgar on that river, a city standing in nearly the latitude of Carlisle. He then travelled across the steppes to Bokhara, and through Khorasan and Kabul, crossing the Hindu Kush by that very Panjsher valley where PYiar Odoric saw such wonders. He then proceeded to Sind and Multan, and there received an invitation to the court of Mahomet Tughlak of Delhi, a soldier, a scholar, a patron of learned men, and at the same time one of the most sanguinary and capricious tyrants in history. Ibn Batuta continued about eight years in this sovereign's service, drawing a handsome salary, yet constantly getting into debt, and hanging like a perfect horse-leech on the royal bounty.
Towards the end of his residence at Delhi he fell into disfavor and suspicion, and in his fear betook himself to intense devotion and ascetic observances, giving all that he possessed to dervishes and the poor (he says nothing of his creditors!). The king, hearing of his reformed character, sent for him and named him chief of an embassy to China.
It was an ill-starred appointment. After a progress in state through Central India to Guzerat, where they embarked for Malabar, the party awaited at Calicut the departure of the China junks, which then annually visited the ports of Southem India. The Zamorin, or Prince of Calicut, had prepared accommodation for the mission on board one of the large junks; but Ibn Batuta, having ladies with him, went to the shipping agent to obtain a private cabin for them, having, it would seem, in his usual happy-go-lucky style, deferred this to the last moment. The agent told him that the cabins were all taken up by the Chinese merchants (who had apparently return-tickets); there was one, however, without fittings, belonging to his own son-in-law, which Ibn Batuta could have. So one Thursday afternoon, in the early summer of 1343, our traveller's baggage and slaves, male and female, were put on board, while he stayed on shore to attend the Friday service before embarking. His colleagues with the presents for China were already on board. Next morning early his head-servant came to complain that the cabin was a wretched hole, and would never do. Appeal was made to the captain, a person who was, as Ibn Batuta tells us, " a great Amir," or, as our vulgar tenn would aptly translate it, " a very great swell." The captain said he could do nothing (so captains always say; but if they liked to go in a smaller vessel,' called a kakatn, it was at their service. Our traveller consented, and had his baggage and his womankind transferred to the kakam. The sea then began to rise (for the southwest monsoon had set in), and he could not embark. When he got up on Saturday morning he found both the junk and the kakam had weighed and left the harbor, and a gale of wind blowing. The junk was wrecked; the
bodies of Ibn Batuta's colleagues in the embassy were cast up on the beach ; and the kakam's people, seeing what had befallen their consort, made sail, carrying off with them our traveller's slaves, his girls, and gear, and leaving him there on the beach of Calicut gazing after them, with nought remaining to him but his prayercarpet, ten pieces of gold, and an emancipated slave; which last absconded forthwith!
We cannot follow Ibn Batuta during the next few years' adventures, which carried him about the ports of Malabar, the Maldine Islands, Ceylon, and Madura; but eventually he found his way to Bengal, which he calls "an inferno full of good things," and thence to Sumatra and China. Here he professes still to have been received as the ambassador of Sultan Mahomet, and to have travelled over the whole length of the empire from Canton to Peking. That a part at least of his travels in China is genuine there can be no doubt, but it is highly questionable whether he ever was at Peking. His description of the palace arrangements there appears to be cooked from his recollections of the Court of Delhi, and circumstances which he asserts to have taken place during his stay are totally inconsistent with Chinese history.
From China he returned via Sumatra to Malabar and Arabia, and thence, by devious wanderings, at last reached Fez, the capital of his native country, in 1349, after an absence of twenty-four years.
Here he professes to have rejoiced in the presence of his own Sultan, whom he declares to surpass all the mighty monarchs of the East: in dignity, him of Irak; in person, him of India; in manner, him of Yemen; in courage, the king of the Turks; in long-suffering, the Cresar of Constantinople; in devotion, him of Turkestan; and in knowledge, him of Sumatra !—a list of comparisons so oddly selected as almost to suggest irony. After all that he had seen, he comes to the conclusion that there is no country like his own west. "It is," says he, "the best of all countries. You have fmit in plenty; good meat and drink are easily come by; and, in fact, its blessings are so many that the poet has hit the mark when he sings :—
"' Of all the four quarters of heaven the best (I'll prove it past question) is surely the west!