The spot is one of peculiar attraction, but to the Chinese
it is as a paradise." The Emperor K'ien Lung had erected a palace on one
of the islands in the lake; it was ruined by the T'ai-P'ings. Many of the
constructions about the lake date from the flourishing days of the T'ang
Dynasty, the 7th and 8th centuries.
Polo's ascription of a circumference of 30 miles to the lake, corroborates
the supposition that in the compass of the city a confusion had been made
between miles and li, for Semedo gives the circuit of the lake really as
30 li. Probably the document to which Marco refers at the beginning of
the chapter was seen by him in a Persian translation, in which li had
been rendered by mil. A Persian work of the same age, quoted by
Quatremere (the Nuzhat al-Kultub, gives the circuit of the lake as six
parasangs, or some 24 miles, a statement which probably had a like origin).
Polo says the lake was within the city. This might be merely a loose way
of speaking, but it may on the other hand be a further indication of the
former existence of an extensive outer wall. The Persian author just
quoted also speaks of the lake as within the city. (Barrow's Autobiog.,
p. 104; V. Braam, II. 154; Gardner in Proc. of the R. Geog. Soc.,
vol. xiii. p. 178; Q. Rashid, p. lxxxviii.) Mr. Moule states that
popular oral tradition does enclose the lake within the walls, but he can
find no trace of this in the Topographies.