A REMARKABLY JUST EMPEROR.
One of the chief cities of Mangi, visited by Marco, was Sainfu, which is described as abounding with fabulous wealth of silks, and cloths of gold, and which was so strongly fortified that a three years' besiegement by an enormous army of Tartars failed to effect its capture, and thus it continued in security until the invasion of Kubla Khan. The city was situated on a great river and enjoyed
A WONDROUSLY RICH AND POPULOUS COUNTRY.
The enormous population and extraordinary wealth of Mangi may be estimated by a statement of Polo which, is to the effect that in the country there were twelve thousand cities, all inhabited by rich and industrious people, in each of which a large garrison was maintained, in none less than one thousand, and in the largest twenty thousand soldiers. In the city of Quinsai, which is reputed to have been the richest city of Mangi, there was a garrison of thirty thousand soldiers, this place being esteemed not only for its enormous population, but for the grandeur of its buildings, and especially the palace built by King Fanfur, which occupied a site near the centre of the city. The palace proper was within an inclosure of ten miles circuit, defended by very high walls, and divided into three parts; that in the midst was entered by a gate on the one side, while on the other were great and large galleries, over which was a roof sustained by pillars, painted and wrought in pure gold and fine azure. By the entrance of the others there were also galleries, equally rich with ornaments of gold and silver, and the walls were also gorgeously painted, lending a dazzling appearance to the several entrances. The grounds were also diversified by lakes, in which were many islands where were grown flowers of every hue, and where sported birds of as many colors. On the lake was also a royal barge, which the King and Queen used for recreation and in which to
THE MAN-EATERS OF FUGIU.
To the south-east of Quinsai, Marco Polo came to a city called Fugiu, which was occupied by merchants who were subjects of the Khan. The city was beautifully situated among fertile hills and dales, but which were not cultivated to any considerable extent, the principal products being ginger, and some other spices which Polo neglects to mention. While the inhabitants of Fugiu are represented as merchants, they are also described as a people addicted to vicious customs and beastly practices. While they had an
GREAT VESSELS IN THE INDIA TRADE.
Still further to the south-east, probably in Corea, but in a realm which Polo calls Concho, was a great seaport city, Zaitum, which enjoyed a most lucrative commerce with India, so that the port was always filled with the merchant vessels from that country. From the custom duties levied upon the merchandise brought into Mangi through this port, the Khan received an enormous revenue, as he exacted a tenth of all the importations. But notwithstanding this exaction, and that the hire of vessels cost merchants the half of their goods, the traffic was conducted with great profit. The ships used in this trade are thus described by Marco Polo: "They are made of fir, with one deck, on which are twenty cabins, more or less according to the bigness of the ships, each for one merchant. They have a good rudder, and four masts with four sails, and some two masts which they either raise or take down at pleasure. Some greater ships have thirteen divisions on the inside, made with boards enchased, so that if by a blow of a whale, or a touch of a rock, water gets in, it can go no farther than that division, and the leak being found it is soon stopped. They are double, that is, have two courses of boards, one within the other, and are well caulked with oakum, and nailed with iron, but not pitched, for they have no pitch, but anointed with an oil of a certain tree mixed with lime and hemp, beaten small, which binds faster than pitch or lime. The greater ships have three hundred mariners, the others two hundred, or one hundred and fifty. They use also small oars in these ships, four men to one oar. They have also with them ten small boats for fishing and other services, fastened to the sides of the larger ships, and let down when they please to use them." It thus appears that the vessels used in this India-Cathay trade in the thirteenth century would compare favorably with the largest sailing vessels of the present day, in which, indeed, it appears there have been no material improvements except in the use of sails. It is curious also to note that these vessels were built in compartments to prevent sinking, and that each was provided with cabins for passengers, as our modern vessels are to-day.
THE FIGHT FOR ZIPANGU.
From the seacoast of Mangi, Marco Polo seems to have taken a trip to Japan, which he calls Zipangu, the people of which he describes as being of a white complexion and gentle behavior, and whose religion was that of idolatry. These people, at the time of Marco's visit, had not been entirely subjugated by Kubla, and therefore continued to live in peace and contentment with their vast possessions. They had little intercourse with other peoples, and those who came to visit them for trade were not permitted under any circumstances to take any gold away with them, of which these Japanese, Polo declares, possessed enormous quantities. So great, indeed, was the king's possession of the precious metal that his house was covered with gold, and its walls were gilded with
Directly after landing at Zipangu, a furious storm assailed the ships and scattered them, so that several were driven out of their course and on to reefs, and wrecked. But as many as thirty thousand of the crews sought safety on an island, four miles, off Japan, to which they managed to escape, but destitute of arms and provision. The people of Zipangu, learning of the helpless condition of the wrecked crews, sent a fleet with the intention of destroying the refugees. Upon landing on the island, they left their ships, and sought the Tartars, who had concealed themselves behind a high land, and who, observing the movements of their enemies, retreated around the protecting hills, as the Zipanguans came in sight, and being swift of foot contrived to reach the abandoned ships and to set sail, leaving the Zipanguans themselves unable to escape. The Tartars now having another fleet, which they had so ingeniously captured, sailed again for Zipangu and laid siege to its chief city, which they succeeded in capturing after a six months besiegement. This happened in 1364, or nearly twenty years before Marco Polo's visit to the East.
EXECUTION OF THE TWO BARONS.
The Great Khan, having heard of the jealousy of his two commanders, to which was due the destruction of so many of his ships, had them brought before him, and after due inquiry he ordered that the head of one be cut off, and commanded that the other be taken to a desert island called Zerga, a place to which were sent culprits condemned to death by a singular means of torture: --the offender's hands were bound in the fresh hide of a buffalo, which, in drying, shrank so that the hands of the victim were kept in inconceivable torture until death at last ended his indescribable miseries.
From the island of Japan, Marco Polo started on a voyage to the Chinese Sea, around the Malay Archipelago, and thence to India, having been the first European visitor to the island of Japan, as he was the first to enter China. We have from him some quaint descriptions of the peoples and animals which he met upon the islands of the East Indies. The most of his descriptions, however,
THE UNICORN OF BORNEO AND THE CANNIBALS OF JAVA.
On Borneo Polo also found many savage beasts, such as elephants and unicorns, the latter being the rhinoceros which is still occasionally to be seen on several of the islands of the Archipelago. These Polo describes in the following unique manner: "Their feet are like elephants feet, they have one horn in the midst of their forehead, and hurt none therewith, but with the tongue and knee; for on their tongues are certain long prickles, and sharp, and when they hurt any they trample on him, and press him down with their knees, and then tear him to pieces with their tongue. The head is like a wild boar's, which he carries downward to the ground. They
A CITY OFFERED FOR A RUBY.
Prom the East Indies Polo sailed to the Island of Ceylon, which he declares to be the finest land in the world. He states that anciently it was 8600 miles in circumference, as might be seen by maps more than a thousand years old, but that constant ravages of the sea have reduced it to its present comparatively small proportions. The people, as he found them, were idolaters, and used no clothing except a breech-clout. Their products were rice, oil of sesame, milk, flesh, and what Polo describes as the wine of trees. But though the natives were in a condition of savagery, the country yielded great quantities of rubies, sapphires, topaz, amethysts, and other gems. Polo says the King possessed the finest ruby that was ever seen; that in size it was as long as one's hand, and as big as a man's arm, without spot, and shining like a fire, and which the King valued so highly that he would not part with it for any sum of money. Kubla Khan sent and offered the value of a city for it, but the possessor's answer was that he would not give it for the treasure of the world nor part with it, not because of its value particularly, but because it had been the property of his ancestors.
A KING'S DRESS LIMITED TO A COLLAR, BREECH-CLOUT AND STRING OF BEADS.
Polo next visited Malabar, where he found the people equally barbarous, and where he was surprised to see the King going about as naked as his subjects, save for the distinction of a collar of precious stones about his neck and a thread of silk on his breast with 104 pearls strung upon it, to count his prayers by. Though the people showed small cultivation or little ambition to rival their more civilized neighbors, they possessed as fine horses as were to be found anywhere in the world, bringing them from Ormus, and considering no price too great to pay, so that they might have the animal that would suit them. Not many of their practices are described by Polo, but among the few, he states that condemned persons would offer themselves to die in honor of an idol, to which they paid the most devout worship. In case of such self-condemnation, these self-executions were performed with twelve knives, with which as many wounds were made in divers parts of the body, at every blow the voluntary martyr exclaiming: "I kill myself in honor of my idol." The last knife thrust was delivered into the heart, after which the body was burned by his kindred. The wives also cast themselves into the fire on the bodies of their husbands, disrepute following those who refused, a practice which continued a considerable while after Great Britain took possession of and ruled India. If these people had unholy customs and were moved in many cases by a savage barbarity, yet on the other hand they were great lovers of justice, and were hospitable to strangers.
Describing their impartiality and love of a rigid equity, Marco Polo says: "Justice is severely administered for crimes, and a creditor may in some cases encompass his debtor with a circle, which he dares not pass till he hath paid the debt or given security; if he does, he is to be put to death; and I once saw the King himself on horseback thus encircled by a merchant, whom he had long delayed and put off; neither would the King go out of the circle which the merchant had drawn till he had satisfied him, the people applauding the King's justice."
SOME EXTRAORDINARY STORIES.
From Ceylon Marco sailed westward and landed on the African coast, and also visited Madagascar, and probably the island of Zanzibar. His descriptions of the natives and, products of these lands are grotesque, not concerning what he himself saw, but in repeating stories told to him by others, and for whose absurdities he cannot in justice be held responsible. Among other astonishing reports which he added to his otherwise valuable history, is that of a fabled bird called a roc, which he states was native to the East Africa coast, and of such an enormous size that it might easily carry away an elephant in its talons. Another story which he soberly relates is to the effect that in this same region there is a deep valley in which large and most perfect diamonds abounded, but which no man might approach because of numerous monstrous and poisonous snakes that had their haunts there. The only means of obtaining any of these diamonds was by casting pieces of fresh meat into the valley, which eagles would voraciously seize and carry to a distant perch to devour. As more or less diamonds would adhere to the meat, these would drop off while the eagle was eating it, and might then be recovered. Both of these stories, soon after their relation by Marco, were added to the apocryphal adventures of Sinbad the sailor, and have ever since been a part of the Arabian Nights Entertainment.
Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1298, and after his liberation by the Genoese, who held him captive barely one year, he married a rich Venetian lady by whom he had three daughters, but what his engagements were up to the time of his death, in 1334, history does not tell us.
THE DISASTERS OF A STORM CULMINATE IN THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
Kubla Khan reigned from the year 1259 until 1294 of the Christian era. It was towards the close of his reign that he sent a fleet conveying, a large army against Japan with the intention of conquering that island country and adding it to his kingdom. But the fleet encountered such a dreadful storm that it was scattered and scarcely half of the vessels thus sent out ever returned to China. Those thus unaccounted for were supposed to have been lost, as Marco Polo relates, but circumstances lend plausible coloring to the belief which many now entertain that they met with a better fate. About this period, or shortly before the close of the thirteenth century, there sprang up in Central and South America two great empires, viz.: those of Mexico and Peru, which possessed regular institutes of religion, and which preserving distinctions of rank were measurably civilized, recognized social bonds, practised agriculture, and holding sacred the ties of matrimony forbade polygamy so as to protect the right of inheritance. In Mexico, particularly, a higher cultivation was to be seen in the hieroglyphic writings in which their history has been transmitted. When we consider the fact that both empires were surrounded by savage nations in which not a trace of civilization is to be discerned, and that being widely separated from each other there is yet discoverable a marked similarity of custom, character and cultivation, the supposition seems to be justified that both empires were founded by people from the west brought to the American shores by accident or design contemporaneously. And if this presumption be reasonable we must admit the correctness of the theory that they were the result of the reŽstablishment of those supposed to have been lost in the expedition to Japan, for the violence of a storm long prevailing may have driven them so far out of their reckoning that the shores of America became their last refuge.