THE GREAT KHAN WINS A WIFE BY BATTLE.
IMPOSING FUNERAL CEREMONIES AT THE BURIAL OF A KING.
Zingis continued his prosperous reign for a period of six years thereafter, during which time he conquered many provinces. But while besieging a certain castle called Thaigin, he was shot in the knee by an arrow, from which wound he soon afterwards died, and was buried somewhere in the Altai mountain. In tills mountain all the rulers and princes of the, blood of Zingis were buried,
MUSK ANIMALS OF TARTARY.
In the region beyond Caracarum, Marco mentions another famous city named Cinguy, which was the name also of a province tributary to the Grand Khan in Tangut. The people were divided into Christians, Mohammedans and idolaters, but were generally peacefully inclined and given to pastoral pursuits. In this region, he avers, were to be found wild oxen, nearly as large as elephants,
The next great city of special consequence visited by Marco was that of Jangamur, which means the White Lake, wherein was built a very large palace for the accommodation of Kubla Khan, when he had occasion to go upon a sporting expedition, which he did two or three times a year. In this region were many lakes and rivers, in which were great abundance of swans, cranes, and on the ridges pheasants, partridges and other fowl.
Three days' journey north-eastward lay the city of Ciaudu, where the Great Khan built the most marvellous palace of marble and other stones to be found in the entire empire. This he had surrounded by an impregnable wall sixteen miles in circuit, a portion of which was again divided, so as to form an enclosure or park, which was stocked with deer and other game, and where hawks and
gerfalcons were trained for limiting purposes. Here the Great Khan usually dwelt during the months of June, July and August, on the 28th of which latter month, at the time of his departure, he made a solemn sacrifice. Within this wall the Khan also maintained a herd of ten thousand white horses and as many mares, the latter being kept for the milk which they yielded, and which none were permitted to drink except they were of the imperial lineage of Zingis-Khan, or of one family called Boriat, which had been granted this privilege for the great valor some member had shown upon a past occasion.
MARVELLOUS POWER OF THE ASTROLOGERS.
Marco tells us that the astrologers instructed the Khan that, on the 28th of the moon of August, he should distribute the milk of the white mares, in honor of the spirits and of his idols, that they might thus be persuaded to preserve all the things which he possessed. These astrologers were divided into parties called Chebeth and Chesmu, who in the midst of storms ascended to the top
After thus hastily describing the palace of Kubla Khan at Ciandu, and the royal treasurers, and the power of the sorcerers, which was exercised always for the benefit of the king, Marco tells us of the extraordinary resources and valor of Kubla Khan, to whose quick understanding and decisive action was due the suppression of a formidable insurrection headed by his uncle Naiam, who had placed himself at the head of five hundred thousand trained cavalrymen. Kubla having learned of the intentions of his uncle did not, however, wait to be attacked, but taking the initiative, travelled with extraordinary speed, and succeeded in surprising Naiam in the night, and falling on the rebels he routed them with extraordinary slaughter. He also took Naiam captive, and put him to death by ordering the rebel to be sewed up in a carpet and tossed until he expired, this peculiar execution being accomplished in order to prevent the shedding of royal blood.
THE HAREM OF THE GREAT KHAN.
Polo thus describes the personal appearance of Kubla Khan, for whom he conceived a great attachment, which was undoubtedly reciprocated by the great Tartar ruler: "He is," says Marco, "a comely man, of middle stature, of a very fresh complexion, black and bright eyes, well-fashioned nose, and all the lineaments of his body in due proportion. He has four wives who are esteemed lawful,
THE BEWILDERING PALACE AT CAMBALUC
The greatest palace which Kubla Khan maintained, where he resided during the months of December, January, and February, was at his capital in Cambaluc, supposed to be the modern Pekin, which is in the north-east borders of Cathay. This magnificent city and the palace which the Emperor had caused there to be built, are particularly described by Marco, whose representation is that of one
THE WALLS OF THE CITY.
"Within this circuit is another walk like the former, very thick and ten paces high, all the battlements white, the walls square, each square a mile in length, with six gates as the former, and eight palaces also very large, wherein are the Khan's provisions; between these two last walls are also many fair trees and meadows, in which are deer with other game, and store of grass, the paths being raised two cubits to spare it; and no dirt or puddles being therein. Within this last wall is the palace of the Great Khan, the greatest that hath been seen, extending to the wall on the north and south, and opening where the barons and soldiers pass. It hath no
BATTLEMENTS AND STREETS OF THE CAPITAL.
"The city of Cambaluc in the province of Cathay, seated on a great river, was famous, and the royal seat in ancient times; and this name Cambaluc signifies the city of the Lord or Prince. This city the Great Khan removed to the other side of the river where the palaces are, for he understood by the astrologers that it would rebel against the empire. This new-built city is called Taivu, and he commanded all the Cathayans to go out of the old city into the new; which contains in compass four and twenty miles, every side of
UTILIZING THE SOCIAL EVIL.
"Without the city of Cambaluc are twelve large suburbs, three or four miles long, adjoining to each of the twelve gates, more inhabiting in the suburbs than in the city; here merchants and strangers live, each nation having several store-houses, or burses, in which they lodge. No dead corpse of any man is burned within this city, but the bodies of idolaters are burned without the suburbs, where the dead bodies of other sects are buried; and because a huge multitude of Saracens inhabit there, they have about twenty-five thousand harlots in the suburbs and in the city, and these have a chief captain appointed over every hundred and thousand, and one general, whose office is that when any ambassadors come, or such as have business with the Khan, whose charges he defrays, then this captain giveth every ambassador and every man of his family, a change of woman every night at free cost, for this is their tribute. The guards, every night, carry such to prison whom they find walking late; and if they be found guilty, they are beaten with cudgels, for the Bachsi tell them that it is not good to shed man's blood; but many die of these beatings. The Great Khan hath in his court twelve thousand horsemen, which they call Casitan, faithful soldiers of their lord, who guard his person, more for state than fear; and four captains have the charge of these, whereof every one commandeth three thousand. When one captain, with three thousand soldiers within the palace, hath guarded the King for three days and nights, another captain with his soldiers succeeds; and so, throughout the year, this course of watching by turns is observed.
THE GREAT KHAN AT DINNER.
"When on account of any festal day he keeps a solemn court, his table, which is higher than the rest of the tables, is set at the north part of the hall, his face is to the south, having the first Queen on his left hand, that is, his principal wife; and his sons and nephews, and those of the royal blood, on his right; yet their table is in a lower place, so that they scarcely touch the King's feet with their hands, the seat of the eldest being higher than the rest; the princes sit in a lower place than that; their wives also observe the like order: first, the Khan's sons' wives and his kinsmen sit lower on the left hand, and after those of the lords, and of every captain and nobleman, each in their degree and order; and the Emperor himself, while he sits at his table, may cast his eyes upon all that feast with him in the hall. There are not tables for them all to sit; but the greatest part of the soldiers and barons sit on carpets. At all the doors stand two gigantic fellows with cudgels, to see that none touch the threshold, which if he does they take his garments away, which he must redeem by receiving so many blows as shall be appointed, or else lose them. They who serve the King and those sitting at the table all of them cover their mouths with silk, lest their breathing should by any means touch the King's meat or drink, and when he hath a mind to drink the damsel who giveth it goes back three paces and kneels down, and then the barons and all the people kneel, and the musicians sound their instruments. There is no cause, since I would avoid prolixity, why I should write anything concerning the meats which are brought to the table, how dainty and delicate they are, and with what magnificence and pomp they are served.
THE KHAN IN HIS BIRTHDAY ROBES.
"All the Tartars observe this custom, to celebrate the birthday of their lord most honorably. The birthday of Kubla is kept the 28th of September, and this day he accounteth more solemn than any in the whole year, except the 1st of February, on which they begin the year. The King, therefore, on his birthday, is clothed in a most precious garment of gold, and about two thousand barons and
THE GREAT KHAN AS A HUNTER.
Marco Polo dwells at great length upon the magnificence of the court of the Grand Khan, and gives a picturesque description of the grand hunts in which this royal personage indulged two or three times each year. But unlike royal sportsmen of to-day, the Grand Khan made his entrance upon the field in quest of game in a style of splendor almost if not equally as great as that which became him in his court at Cambaluc. Having no fire-arms in that day, the King made use of trained leopards, hawks, and gerfalcons, which pursued and took the prey before, the sight of the great ruler as he reposed in regal luxury in the downy bed of a howdah, on the back of one of his elephants. The Emperor was also attended upon these hunts by no less than ten thousand persons, and sometimes twice that number, the multitudes being protected at night in vast tents spread upon the plains. Describing these tents,
EXTRAORDINARY RICHES OF THE GREAT KHAN.
The inconceivable sumptuousness of all the surroundings of the Grand Khan, and the extraordinary wealth which he amassed is easily accounted for, when we consider the scheme which he employed for collecting and retaining the gold that was brought into his kingdom. Thus Marco Polo says, "The money of the Great Khan is not made of gold or silver or other metal; but they take the middle bark from the mulberry tree, and this they make firm, and cut into divers round pieces, great and little, and imprint the king's mark thereon; of this paper money therefore the Emperor causeth a huge mass to be made in the city of Cambaluc which sufficeth for the whole empire, and no man under pain of death may coin any other, or spend any other money, or refuse it in all his kingdoms and countries; nor any coming from another kingdom dare spend any other money in the empire of the Great Khan. Hence it follows that merchants, often coming from remote countries unto the city of Cambaluc bring with them gold, silver, pearl, and precious stones, and receive the king's money for them; and because this money is not received in their country, they change it again, in the empire of the Great Khan, for merchandise, which they carry away with them."
It is small wonder that Columbus and his contemporaries should have been carried away with the reports of Marco Polo, at the prospect of sharing with the Grand Khan, either by conquest or commercial relations, the vast stores of precious metal which he must have had in his treasury; for Marco Polo says that there was not a king to be found in all the world whose treasures exceeded that of the Great Khan.
THE WISDOM AND GENEROSITY OF THE EMPEROR.
But if the Emperor was covetous in making a great collection of precious stones and the more precious metals, he was equally considerate of the wants of his people, and established measures for their relief in times of great scarcity, and appointed officers to relieve also the necessities of those who were impoverished by accident or other unfortunate cause. Of this kindly disposition of the Grand Khan Marco Polo writes: "He sends yearly to the divers provinces of his empire to inquire whether any prejudice be done to the corn by tempests, locusts, worms, or other means; and when he hath notice given him that any province or city hath sustained any damage, he remits his tribute to that people for that year, and sends grain for victuals and for seed out of his own granaries; for in a time of great plenty the King buys abundance of corn, and keeps it with great care by his officers three or four years in granaries that when there happens to be a scarcity of corn in one country, that defect may be supplied out of the king's store-houses in another. He selleth his grain for a fourth part of the common price, and always provides that his store-houses are kept fully supplied. Likewise when any murrain lights among cattle, he sends them other cattle, which he has for tenths in other provinces; and if a thunderbolt has stricken any beast of any herd or flock, he receives no tribute from it for three years, let the herd be ever so great; neither will he receive any custom of a thunder-stricken sheep, as thinking God is angry with them that are stricken." This wise provision was a very much more liberal one than was made by the early Jewish rulers, or by any modern sect or religionists who have exacted tithings from their followers.
THE KING'S CARE OF THE POOR.
The king's provident care for the unfortunate in the various provinces of his kingdom was yet more liberal in the bestowals which he made upon the poor of Cambaluc, for Polo says: "When the King hears of any honorable family decayed by misfortune, or of any which cannot work, and have no subsistence, he gives to such families the whole year's expenses, each head of such families going to the officer for that purpose, and, showing the bill of allowance, receives provisions accordingly. There is a place set apart for those officers; they are provided also with garments for winter and for summer. The Khan receives a tenth of all wool, silk and hemp produced in his country, which he causes to be made into clothes, in a house for that purpose appointed; for all trades are bound one day in the week to work for him. He provides also apparel for his armies, and in every city causeth cloth to be made of his tithe wool. You must understand that the Tartars, according to their ancient customs, bestowed no alms, but rather upbraided those that were in necessity, as hated of God; but the idolaters, especially those Bachsi, have propounded it as a good work acceptable unto God, and have taught him to be thus bountiful; so that in this court bread is never denied to any who ask it, and there is no day in which is not given away twenty thousand crowns in rice, millet and panike; wherefore he is esteemed as a god by his subjects." It is possible that Sir Thomas More obtained from this account of Polo's the ideas for his Utopian Government.
Marco mentions a very curious thing which he had not seen elsewhere, that in the province of Cathay there were to be found certain black stones, which, being dug, were used as fuel, and which burned a much longer time and gave greater heat than wood. This reference is manifestly to coal, which was discovered in the eastern countries shortly before the twelfth century, and which was so little known in England that it was first used in London in 1240, nor was it in common use until sixty years later.