A General History And Collection Of Voyages And Travels - Volume 1 - By Robert Kerr


















































































































 -  For in years of
great abundance, he purchases large quantities of grain, which is carefully
preserved for three or four - Page 142
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For In Years Of Great Abundance, He Purchases Large Quantities Of Grain, Which Is Carefully Preserved For Three Or Four Years, By Officers Appointed For The Purpose; By Which Means, When A Scarcity Occurs In Any Province, The Defect May Be Supplied From The Granaries Of The Khan In Another Province.

On these occasions, he orders his grain to be sold at a fourth part of the market price, and

Great care is taken to keep his granaries always well supplied. When any murrain attacks the cattle of one of the provinces, the deficiency is supplied from the tenths which he receives in the other provinces. If any beast or sheep happens to be killed by lightning in a flock or herd, he draws no tribute from that flock, however great, for three years, under an idea that God is angry with the owner of the herd.

That travellers may discern, and be able to discover the road in uninhabited places, trees are planted at convenient distances, along all the principal roads; and in the sandy and desert places, where trees will not grow, stones and pillars are erected to direct the passengers, and officers are appointed to see that all these things are performed. According to the opinion of the astrologers, the planting of trees conduces to lengthen the age of man, and therefore, the khan is the more induced to encourage their propagation by his order and example.

In the province of Cathay, the people make excellent drink of rice and certain spices, which even excels wine in flavour; and those who drink too much of it become sooner drunk than with wine[3]. Through this whole province, certain black stones are dug from the mountains, which burn like wood, and preserve fire a long time, and if kindled in the evening, will keep on fire all night[4]; and many people use these stones in preference to wood, because, though the country abounds in trees, there is a great demand for wood for other purposes.

The great khan is particularly attentive to the care of the poor in the city of Cambalu. When he hears of any honourable family that, has fallen to decay through misfortune, or of any who cannot work, and have no subsistence, he gives orders for issuing a whole years subsistence, together with garments, both for winter and summer, to the heads of those distressed families. There is an appropriate office or tribunal for this imperial bounty, to which those who have received the warrants or orders of the khan apply for relief. The khan receives the tenths of all wool, silk, and hemp, which he causes to be manufactured into stuffs of all kinds, in houses set apart for this purpose; and as all artificers of every description are bound to work for him one day in every week, he has immense quantities of every kind of useful commodity in his storehouses. By these means, likewise, there are similar imperial manufactures in every city of the empire, in which clothing is made from his tithe wool for his innumerable soldiers. According to their ancient customs, the Tartars gave no alms, and were in use to upbraid those who were in poverty, as hated of God. But the priests of the idolaters, especially those who have been formerly mentioned under the name of Bachsi, have convinced the khan that charity is a good work, and an acceptable service to God; so that in his court food and raiment are never denied to those who ask, and there is no day in which there is less than the value of 20,000 crowns distributed in acts of charily, particularly in rice, millet, and panik; by which extensive benevolence the khan is esteemed as a god among his subjects.

There are in Cambalu about five thousand astrologers and diviners, Christians, Mahometans, and Kathayans, all of whom are provided yearly by the khan in food and raiment. These have an Astrolabe, on which all the signs of the planets are marked, together with the hours, and most minute subdivisions of the whole year. By this instrument, these astrologers, each religion apart, observe the course of the year, according to every moon, noting the prognostications of the weather, yet always referring to God, to do as they predict or otherwise, according to his pleasure. They write down upon square tablets, called Tacuini, all those things which are to fall out during the year, which they sell to any who will purchase; and those who are most fortunate in their predictions are held in the highest honour. If any one intends to commence an important labour, or to undertake a distant journey, and is anxious to be certified of the event, he has recourse to the astrologers to read, as they pretend, his destiny in the heavens, for this purpose, being instructed in the precise date of birth of the person consulting them, they calculate the present aspect of the constellation which ruled at his birth, and foretel that good or evil will flow from his intentions. The Tartars compute time by cycles of twelve lunar years; calling the first of each series the year of the lion; the second of the ox; the third of the dragon; the fourth of the dog; and so on through the whole twelve, and when these are gone through, they begin the series anew. Thus, if a man is asked when he was born, he answers that it was on such a division of such an hour, day, and moon, in the year of the lion, ox, or so forth. All this their fathers set down exactly in a book.

It has been already said that the Tartars are idolaters. Each man of any consequence has a table aloft in the wall of one of his chambers, on which a name is written, to signify the great God of Heaven, whom he adores once each day, with a censer of burning incense; and lifting up his hands, and thrice gnashing his teeth, he prays to God to grant him health and understanding; this being the only petition addressed to the Almighty, of whom they pretend not to make any similitude.

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