But I will write it down for you.
First, however, I must mention another thing. The people of this country
have a custom, that as soon as a child is born they write down the day and
hour and the planet and sign under which its birth has taken place; so
that every one among them knows the day of his birth. And when any one
intends a journey he goes to the astrologers, and gives the particulars of
his nativity in order to learn whether he shall have good luck or no.
Sometimes they will say no, and in that case the journey is put off
till such day as the astrologer may recommend. These astrologers are very
skilful at their business, and often their words come to pass, so the
people have great faith in them.
They burn the bodies of the dead. And when any one dies the friends and
relations make a great mourning for the deceased, and clothe themselves in
hempen garments,[NOTE 12] and follow the corpse playing on a variety of
instruments and singing hymns to their idols. And when they come to the
burning place, they take representations of things cut out of parchment,
such as caparisoned horses, male and female slaves, camels, armour suits
of cloth of gold (and money), in great quantities, and these things they
put on the fire along with the corpse, so that they are all burnt with it.
And they tell you that the dead man shall have all these slaves and
animals of which the effigies are burnt, alive in flesh and blood, and the
money in gold, at his disposal in the next world; and that the instruments
which they have caused to be played at his funeral, and the idol hymns
that have been chaunted, shall also be produced again to welcome him in
the next world; and that the idols themselves will come to do him honour.
Furthermore there exists in this city the palace of the king who fled, him
who was Emperor of Manzi, and that is the greatest palace in the world, as
I shall tell you more particularly. For you must know its demesne hath a
compass of ten miles, all enclosed with lofty battlemented walls; and
inside the walls are the finest and most delectable gardens upon earth,
and filled too with the finest fruits. There are numerous fountains in it
also, and lakes full of fish. In the middle is the palace itself, a great
and splendid building. It contains 20 great and handsome halls, one of
which is more spacious than the rest, and affords room for a vast
multitude to dine. It is all painted in gold, with many histories and
representations of beasts and birds, of knights and dames, and many
marvellous things. It forms a really magnificent spectacle, for over all
the walls and all the ceiling you see nothing but paintings in gold. And
besides these halls the palace contains 1000 large and handsome chambers,
all painted in gold and divers colours.
Moreover, I must tell you that in this city there are 160 tomans of
fires, or in other words 160 tomans of houses. Now I should tell
you that the toman is 10,000, so that you can reckon the total as
altogether 1,600,000 houses, among which are a great number of rich
palaces. There is one church only, belonging to the Nestorian Christians.
There is another thing I must tell you. It is the custom for every burgess
of this city, and in fact for every description of person in it, to write
over his door his own name, the name of his wife, and those of his
children, his slaves, and all the inmates of his house, and also the
number of animals that he keeps. And if any one dies in the house then the
name of that person is erased, and if any child is born its name is added.
So in this way the sovereign is able to know exactly the population of the
city. And this is the practice also throughout all Manzi and Cathay.
[Illustration: Plan of the City of SI-NGAN-FU]
And I must tell you that every hosteler who keeps an hostel for travellers
is bound to register their names and surnames, as well as the day and
month of their arrival and departure. And thus the sovereign hath the
means of knowing, whenever it pleases him, who come and go throughout his
dominions. And certes this is a wise order and a provident.
NOTE 1. - Kinsay represents closely enough the Chinese term King-sze,
"capital," which was then applied to the great city, the proper name of
which was at that time Lin-ngan and is now HANG-CHAU, as being since 1127
the capital of the Sung Dynasty. The same term King-sze is now on
Chinese maps generally used to designate Peking. It would seem, however,
that the term adhered long as a quasi-proper name to Hang-chau; for in the
Chinese Atlas, dating from 1595, which the traveller Carletti presented to
the Magliabecchian Library, that city appears to be still marked with this
name, transcribed by Carletti as Camse; very near the form Campsay
used by Marignolli in the 14th century.
[Illustration: The ancient Lun ho-ta Pagoda at Hang-chau.]
NOTE 2. - +The Ramusian version says: "Messer Marco Polo was frequently at
this city, and took great pains to learn everything about it, writing down
the whole in his notes." The information being originally derived from a
Chinese document, there might be some ground for supposing that 100 miles
of circuit stood for 100 li.