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Travels of Oderic of Portenau, into China and the East, in 1318.


Oderic of Portenau, a minorite friar, travelled into the eastern countries in the year 1318, accompanied by several other monks, and penetrated as far as China. After his return, he dictated, in 1330, the account of what he had seen during his journey to friar William de Solona, or Solangna, at Padua, but without order or arrangement, just as it occurred to his memory. This traveller has been named by different editors, Oderic, Oderisius, and Oldericus de Foro Julii, de Udina, Utinensis, or de Porto Vahonis, or rather Nahonis. Porto-Nahonis, or Portenau, is the Mutatio ad nonum, a station or stage which is mentioned in the Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum, or description of the various routes to Jerusalem, a work compiled for the use of pilgrims; and its name is apparently derived from the Kymerian language, apparently a Celtic dialect, in which port signifies a stage, station, or resting-place, and nav or naou signifies nine; Port-nav, Latinized into Portus naonis, and Frenchified into Portenau, implies, therefore, the ninth station, and is at present named Pordanone in the Friul. The account of his travels, together with his life, are to be found: in Bolandi Actis Sanctorum, 14to Januarii; in which he is honoured with the title of Saint. Oderic died at Udina in 1331. In 1737, Basilio Asquini, an Italian Barnabite of Udina, published La Vita e Viaggi del Beato Qderico da Udihe, probably an Italian translation from the Latin of Bolandi. The account of these travels in the collection of Hakluyt, is called “The Journal of Friar Odericus, concerning the strange things which he sawe among the Tartars of the East;” and was probably transcribed and translated from Bolandi, in which these travels are entitled De mirabilibus Mundi, or the Wonders of the World. They have very much the air of an ignorant compilation, fabricated in the name of Oderic, perhaps upon some slight foundation, and stuffed with ill-assorted stories and descriptions from Marco Polo, and other, writers, interspersed with a few ridiculous miracles, for the honour or disgrace of the minorite order. Mr Pinkerton asserts, that Oderic was not canonized until 1753. But the Acts of the Saints is a publication of considerable antiquity, and he is called Beatus in the work of Asquini, already mentioned as having been published in 1787.


The Commencement of the Travels of Oderic.

Many things are related by various authors, concerning the customs, fashions, and conditions of this world: Yet, as I, friar Oderic of Portenau in the Friul, have travelled among the remote nations of the unbelievers, where I saw and heard many great and wonderful things, I have thought fit to relate all these things truly. Having crossed over the great sea from Pera, close by Constantinople, I came to Trebizond, in the country called Pontus by the ancients. This land is commodiously situated as a medium of intercourse for the Persians and Mèdes, and other nations beyond the Great Sea, with Constantinople, and the countries of the west. In this island I beheld a strange spectacle with great delight; a man, who led about with him more than 4000 partridges. This person walked on the ground, while his partridges flew about him in the air, and they followed him wherever he went; and they were so tame, that when he lay down to rest, they all came flocking about him, like so many chickens. From a certain castle called Zauena, three days journey from Trebizond, he led his partridges in this manner to the palace of the emperor in that city. And when the servants of the emperor had taken such a number of the partridges as they thought proper, he led back the rest in the same manner, to the place from whence he came.

From this city of Trebizond, where the body of St Athanasius is preserved over one of the gates, I journeyed into the Greater Armenia, to a city named Azaron, which was rich and flourishing in former times, but the Tartars have nearly laid it entirely waste; yet it still has abundance of bread and flesh, and victuals of all sorts, excepting wine and fruits. This city is remarkably cold, and is said to be situated on a higher elevation that any other city of the world. It has abundance of excellent water, which seems to originate from the great river Euphrates, which is only at the distance of a days journey. Azaron stands in the direct road between Trebizond and Tauris. In journeying farther on, I came to a mountain named Sobissacalo; and we passed by the very mountain of Ararat, on which the ark of Noah is said to have rested. I was very desirous to have gone to the top of that mountain, but the company with which I travelled would not wait for me; and the people of the country allege that no one was ever able to ascend to its top, because, say they, it is contrary to the will of God. Continuing our journey, we came to Tauris, a great and royal city anciently called Susa, which is reckoned the chief city in the world for trade and merchandize; for every article whatever, both of merchandize and provision, is to be had there, in the greatest abundance, Tauris is most conveniently situated, and to it may all the nations of the earth, almost, resort for trade. The Christians in those parts report, that the emperor of Persia derives more tribute from this city alone than the king of France receives from the whole of his dominions. Near this city there is a hill of salt, from whence every one may take as much as he pleases, without paying any thing whatever to any person. Many Christians from all parts of the world are to be found in this place, over whom the Saracens have the supreme authority.

From Tauris I travelled to the city called Soldania, where the Persian emperor resides during the summer; but in winter he changes his residence to another city upon the sea of Baku. Soldania is a large city, but very cold, from its situation in the mountains, and has considerable trade, and abundance of good water. From thence I set out with a caravan of merchants, for the Upper India, and in our way, after many days journey, we came to Cassan or Casbin, the noble and renowned city of the three wise men, which abounds in bread and wine, and many other good things, but the Tartars have nearly destroyed it. From this city to Jerusalem, to which the three wise men we’re led by miracle, the distance is fifty days journey. For the sake of brevity I omit many wonderful things which I saw in this city. Going from thence, we came to the city of Geste, whence the sea of sand, a most wonderful and dangerous track, is distant only one days journey. In the city of Yezd there is abundance of all kinds of victuals, especially of figs, grapes, and raisins, which are there more plentiful, in my opinion, than in any other part of the world. It is one of the principal cities in all Persia, and its Saracen inhabitants allege that no Christian can live there above a year. Continuing our journey forwards for many days, I came to a city named Comum, which was a great city in old times, near fifty miles in circumference, and often did much damage to the Romans. In this place there are stately palaces, now destitute of inhabitants, yet it hath abundance of provisions. Travelling from thence through many countries, I came at length into the land of Job, named Us, which borders on the north of Chaldea. This land is full of all kinds of provisions, and manna is here found in great abundance. Four partridges are sold here for less than an Italian groat; and the mountains have excellent pastures for cattle. In this country the men card and spin, and not the women; and the old men are very comely.


Of the Manners of the Chaldeans, and concerning India.

From thence I travelled into Chaldea, which is a great kingdom, having a language peculiar to itself, and I passed beside the Tower of Babel. The men of this country have their hair nicely braided and trimmed, like the women of Italy, wearing turbans richly ornamented with gold and pearls, and are a fine looking people: but the women are ugly and deformed, and are clad in coarse shifts, only reaching to their knees, with long sleeves hanging down to the ground, and breeches or trowsers which likewise reach the ground, but their feet are bare. They wear no head-dresses, and their hair hangs neglected and dishevelled about their ears. There are many other strange things to be seen in this country.

From thence I travelled into the lower India, which was overrun and laid waste by the Tartars. In this country the people subsist chiefly on dates, forty-two pound weight of which may be purchased for less than a Venetian groat. Travelling on for many days, I arrived at Ormus on the main ocean, which is a well fortified city, having great store of merchandize and treasure. The heat of this country is excessive, and constrains the people to make use of extraordinary expedients to preserve their lives. In this place, their ships or barks are called jase, the planks of which are sewed together with hemp. Embarking in one of these vessels, in which I could find no iron whatever, I arrived in twenty-eight days sail at Thana, in which place four of our friars suffered martyrdom for the Christian faith. This country is well situated for trade, and has abundance of bread and wine, and of all other articles necessary for the food of man. The kingdom in ancient times was very large and populous, and was under the dominion of King Porus, who fought a great battle with Alexander the Macedonian conqueror. The inhabitants are idolaters, worshipping the fire, and likewise paying divine honours to serpents, and even to trees. The Saracens have conquered the whole of this land, and are themselves under subjection to king Daldili. In this country there are great numbers of black lions; apes and monkies are also very numerous, and their bats are as large as our pigeons. They have rats also, as large as the dogs in Italy, which are hunted by means of dogs, as cats are unable to cope with them. In this country every one has a bundle of great boughs of trees, as large as a pillar, standing in a pot of water before the door; and there are many other strange and wonderful novelties, a relation of which would be exceedingly delightful.


Of the Martyrdom of the Friars.

Four of our friars, Tolentinus de Marchia, James of Padua, Demetrius, a lay brother, and Peter de Senis, suffered martyrdom in the city of Thana. These friars had engaged for their passage at Ormus to Polumbrum, but were forcibly carried to Thana, where there are fifteen houses of Christians, schismatics of the Nestorian communion, and on their arrival they were hospitably entertained in one of these houses. A strife happened to take place between the man of that house and his wife, in which the man beat his wife severely. She complained to the kadi, who interrogated her how she could prove her assertion. On which she answered that there were four priests of the Franks who were present, and could attest the bad usage she had received. On this a person of Alexandria, who was present, requested of the kadi that these men might be sent for, since they were learned men, versant in the scriptures, and it would be right to dispute with them concerning the faith. Our friars were accordingly sent for, and, leaving Peter to take charge of their goods, the other three went to the kadi; who began to dispute with them concerning our faith, saying, “That Christ was a mere man, and not God.” But friar Thomas shewed evidently, both from reason and by examples drawn from Scripture, that Christ was really God and man, and so confounded the kadi and the other infidels, that they were unable to produce any rational arguments in contradiction to him. On this some one exclaimed, “And what do you say concerning Mahomet?” To this friar Thomas replied; “Since I have proved to you that Christ is really God and man, who hath given the law to mankind, and since Mahomet set himself contrary thereto, and taught an opposite law, if ye are wise, you may well know what ought to be concluded respecting him.” But the kadi and the other Saracens insisted that he should declare his own opinion concerning Mahomet. “You may all see,” said he, “what must be my opinion; and as you insist that I should speak out plainly, I must declare that your Mahomet is the son of perdition, and is in hell with his father the devil. And not him only, but all who have held his law, which is entirely abominable and false, contrary to GOD, and adverse to the salvation of souls.” On hearing this, the Saracens cried out, “Let him die! let him die! who hath thus blasphemed against the prophet.”

Then they seized upon the friars, and exposed them to the burning sun, that they might suffer a severe death by the adust heat of the suns rays: For such is the excessive heat of the sun in that place, that any person who remains exposed to its direct influence, during the time necessary to say the mass, is sure to die. But the friars remained hale and joyful, from the third to the ninth hour of the day, praising and glorifying the Lord. The Saracens, astonished at this, came to the friars, saying, “We intend to make a large fire, and to throw you therein; and if your faith is true, as you say, the fire will not be able to burn you; but if you are burnt, it will plainly appear that your faith is false.” To this the friars answered, that they were ready to endure chains and imprisonment, and even the fire, and all other torments for the faith; but should the fire consume them it was not to be inferred that it did so on account of their faith, but as a punishment for their sins: declaring that their faith was most true and perfect, and the only one by which the souls of men could possibly be saved. While they thus determined upon burning the friars, the report of this affair spread over the whole city, and all the people of both sexes, young and old, flocked to behold the spectacle. The friars were accordingly led to the most public square of the city, where a great fire was lighted up, into which friar Thomas endeavoured to throw himself; but a Saracen held him back, saying: “You shall not do so, old man, as you may have some spell or contrivance about you, for preventing the fire from hurting you, and you must allow another of your people to go into the fire.” Then four of the Saracens seized upon friar James, intending to have thrown him into the fire, but he requested permission to walk in of his own accord, to shew his devotion to the faith. This, however, they refused, and threw him in headlong. The fire was so large and fierce that he could not be seen; yet his voice was heard from the midst of the flames, calling upon the name of the Glorious Virgin. When the fire was totally consumed, friar James was seen standing on the embers, unhurt and joyful, with his hands raised to heaven in form of the cross, and himself praising and glorifying GOD, who had thus manifested the greatness of his faith; and nothing whatever about his person, not even his clothes or his hair, was found in the slightest degree injured by the fire. Upon this, all the people began to cry aloud, “They are holy! they are holy! it is sinful to do them any injury, for we see now that their faith is good and holy.” To this the kadi objected, saying that he was not holy, notwithstanding he remained unhurt amid the fire; but that his tunic, being fabricated from the wool of the land of Habraa, had protected him: That he ought therefore to be thrown naked into the fire, and they should then see whether or not he would be consumed.

After this, the wicked Saracens, by direction of the kadi, made a fire twice as large as the former; and, having stripped James quite naked, they washed his body, and anointed him abundantly with oil, besides pouring a great quantity of oil upon the faggots which composed the fire; and when the fire was fully kindled, they threw friar James into the midst. Friars Thomas and Demetrius, retiring from among the people, remained on their knees praying to GOD, with many tears. Friar James, however, came a second time unhurt from the fire, and the people again cried out that it was sinful to injure these holy men. Upon this the Melich, or governor of the city, called friar James to his presence, and causing him to put on his garments, said to the friars, “We see, brothers, that by the Grace of God ye have suffered no harm from us: wherefore we are convinced that ye are holy men, and that your faith is good and true; we advise you to take yourselves away out of this land as quickly as possible, as the kadi will do his utmost to destroy you, because you have confounded his arguments”. At this time, likewise, the people were full of astonishment and admiration of what they had seen, and were so filled with wonder at the miracle, that they knew not what to believe, or how to conduct themselves. The melich ordered the three friars to be carried across a small arm of the sea, into a village at a moderate distance from the city, where he ordered them to be lodged in the house of an idolater.

Afterwards the kadi went to the melich, and represented to him that the law of Mahomet would be overthrown if these people were allowed to live. He observed farther, that, by the precepts of Mahomet in the alcoran, it was declared, that any one who slew a Christian, acquired as much merit by that action as by the pilgrimage to Mecca. Then said the melich unto him, “Go thy way, and do what thou wilt.” Whereupon the kadi took four armed men, whom he directed to go and slay the friars. These men crossed over the water while it was night, but were then unable to find the friars. In the meantime, the melich caused all the Christians in the city to be taken up and thrown into prison. In the middle of the night, the three friars rose up to say matins, and being then discovered by the four armed Saracens, they were dragged out of the village to a place beneath a certain tree, where they thus addressed our friars: “Know ye that we are ordered by the kadi and the melich to slay you, which we are very unwilling to do, as you are good and holy men; but we dare not refuse, as we and our wives and children would be put to death.” Then answered the friars, “Do ye even as you have been commanded, that by a temporal death we may gain eternal life; since, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified and died for us, and in honour of our faith in his holy gospel, we are prepared willingly to suffer every kind of torment, and even death itself.” A Christian man, who had joined company with the friars, reasoned much with the four armed Saracens, declaring, if he had a sword, he would either defend these holy men from death, or would die along with them. Then the armed men caused the friars to take off their garments, and friar Thomas, on his knees, and with his arms folded in form of the cross, had his head smitten off. Friar James had his head divided to the eyes by the first blow, and by a second, his head was severed from his body. They wounded friar Demetrius at first in the breast, and then cut off his head. In the moment of the martyrdom of these holy men, the moon shone out with unusual splendour, and the night became so exceedingly light, that all admired greatly: After which, it suddenly became excessively dark, with great thunder and lightning, and violent coruscations, so that all expected to be destroyed; and the ship, which ought to have carried away the friars, was sunk, with all on board, so that no tidings of it were ever heard afterwards.

In the morning, the kadi sent to take possession of the goods belonging to the friars, and then friar Peter de Senlis, who had been left in charge of the goods, was found, and carried before the kadi; who, together with the other Saracens, promised him great things, if he would renounce the Christian faith, and conform to the law of Mahomet. But friar Peter scorned all their offers, and derided them: Whereupon they inflicted every species of torment upon him, from morning until mid-day, which he bore with patience and constancy in the faith, continually praising God and holding out the belief in Mahomet to scorn and contempt. The Saracens then hung him up on a tree; and, seeing that he bore this unhurt from the ninth hour till evening, they cut him in two. In the morning after, when they came to look for his body, no part of it was to be found. It was afterwards revealed to a person worthy of credit, that God had hidden his body for a season, until he should be pleased to manifest the bodies of his saints, and should shew the souls of the saints, rejoicing together with GOD and his angels and the saints, in bliss.

On the night following the martyrdom of these holy friars, they appeared to the melich in a vision, glorious and resplendent like the noon-day sun, each holding a sword on high, in a menacing posture, as if about to stab or cut him in pieces. In horror at the sight, he cried out aloud, to the great terror of his family, to whom he said, that these rabbis of the Franks, whom he had ordered to be slain, had come upon him with swords to slay him. The melich likewise sent for the kadi, to whom he communicated his vision, seeking advice and consolation, as he feared to be slain by the martyrs. And the kadi advised him to give large alms to their brethren, if he would escape from the hands of those whom he had slain. Then the melich sent for the Christians, whom he had thrown into prison, from whom he begged forgiveness for what he had done, promising henceforwards to be their companion and brother; and he ordained, that if any person in future should injure a Christian, he should suffer death; and sending away the Christians unhurt, each man to his home, the melich caused four mosques or chapels to be built in honour of the four martyrs, and appointed Saracen priests to officiate in them. When the Emperor Dodsi heard of the slaughter of the four friars, he ordered the melich to be brought bound before him, and questioned him why he had cruelly ordered these men to be slain. The melich endeavoured to justify himself, by representing that they had exerted themselves to subvert the laws of Mahomet, against whom they had spoken blasphemously. The emperor thus addressed him; “O! most cruel dog! when you had seen how the Almighty God had twice delivered them from the flames, how dared you thus cruelly to put them to death?” And the emperor ordered the melich, and all his family, to be cut in two; sentencing him to the same death which he had inflicted on the holy friars. On these things coming to the knowledge of the kadi, he fled out of the land, and even quitted the dominions of the emperor, and so escaped the punishment he had so justly merited.


Of the Miracles performed by the four Martyrs.

It is not the custom in that country to commit the bodies of their dead to the grave, but they are exposed in the fields, that they may be consumed by the heat of the sun. But after the bodies of these martyrs had remained fourteen days exposed to the sun, they remained as fresh and uncorrupted as on the day of their martyrdom. On this being seen by the Christians who inhabited the land, they buried the bodies with great reverence. When I, Oderic, heard of the circumstances attending the death of these martyrs, I went to the place and dug up their bodies; and having collected all their bodies into beautiful towallias, I carried them with me into upper India to a certain place, assisted by a companion and a servant. While we were on our way, we rested in the house of a hospitable person, and placing the bones at my head, I went to sleep. And while I was asleep, the house was suddenly set on fire by the Saracens, that I might be burnt therein. My companion and servant made their escape, leaving me and the bones in the burning house. Seeing the fire above and all around me, I took up the bones, and withdrew, with them into one of the angles of the house; whence I saw all the other three corners on fire, while I remained safe along with the bones. So long as I remained there with the bones, the fire kept itself above my head, like lucid air; but the moment that I went out with the bones, the whole of that place where I had stood was enveloped in the flames, and many other surrounding buildings were likewise burnt to the ground.

Another miracle happened as I was going by sea with the bones to the city of Polumbrum, where, pepper grows in great abundance, when the wind totally failed us. On this occasion, the idolaters began to pray to their gods for a favourable wind; but which they were unable to attain. Then the Saracens industriously made their invocations and adorations, to as little purpose. After this, I and my companion were ordered to pray to our God, and the commander of the ship said to me in the Armenian language, which the rest of the people on board did not understand, that unless we could procure a favourable wind from our God, he would throw both us and the bones into the sea. Then I and my companion went to our prayers, and we vowed to celebrate many masses in honour of the Holy Virgin, if she would vouchsafe us a wind. But as the time passed on, and no wind came, I gave one of the bones to our servant, whom I ordered to go to the head of the ship, and cast the bone into the sea; which he had no sooner done, than a favourable gale sprung up, which, never again failed us till we had arrived at our destined port in safety, owing entirely to the merit of these holy martyrs. We then embarked in another ship, on purpose to sail to the higher India; and we arrived at a certain city named Carchan, in which there are two houses of the brethren of our order, and we intended to have deposited these holy relics in that place. There were in that ship above 700 merchants and others; and the idolaters have a custom, that always before they go into port, they search the whole ship carefully for, the bones of dead animals, which they throw into the sea, thinking by that means the more readily to reach the harbour, and to escape the danger of death. But though they searched frequently and carefully, and even often touched the bones, of the martyrs, their, eyes were always deluded, so that they could not perceive them: And thus we brought them reverently to the dwelling of our brethren, where they rest in peace, and where God continually works miracles by their means among the idolaters. When any one labours under heavy sickness, they go to the place where the bodies of the martyrs are deposited, and taking some of the earth, it is mixed among water, which is drank by the diseased persons, who are thus freed from their infirmities.


Of the places where Pepper grows, and in what Manner it is procured.

Pepper grows in the kingdom of Minibar (Malabar), where it is more plentiful than in any other part of the world, being found abundantly in that country, in a forest which extends for eighteen days journey in circuit. In the wood, or forest, there are two cities, named Flandrina and Cynci lim. Flandrina is inhabited both by Jews and Christians, who are often engaged in quarrels, and even in war, in which the Christians are always victorious. In this forest which we have mentioned, the plant which produces the pepper is planted near the large trees, as we plant vines in Italy. It grows with numerous leaves, like our pot herbs, and climbs up the trees, producing the pepper in clusters like our grapes. When these are ripe, they are of a green colour, and, being gathered, are laid in the sun to dry, after which they are put into earthen vessels for sale. In this forest there are many rivers, having great numbers of crocodiles and serpents; and the natives make large fires of straw and other dry fuel, at the proper season for gathering the pepper, that they may do so without danger from these noxious animals. At one end of this forest the city of Polumbrum is situated, which abounds in all kinds of merchandize.

The inhabitants of that country worship a living ox as their god, which is made to labour in husbandry for six years, and in his seventh year, he is consecrated as holy, and is no more allowed to work. With this strange animal god, they use the following strange ceremony: Every morning they take two basons of silver or gold, in one of which they collect the urine of the holy ox, and his dung in the other; and the devotees wash their faces, eyes, and all their five senses in the urine; and anoint their eyes, cheeks, and breasts with the dung; after which, they consider themselves sanctified for the whole of that day; and even the king and queen of the country use this absurd superstition. They worship an idol also, which resembles a man from the navel upwards, all below being in the likeness of an ox; and this idol delivers oracles, as they believe, and sometimes requires the sacrifice of forty virgins. On this account, the people consecrate their sons and daughters to the idols, even as we Christians dedicate our sons and daughters to some particular order of religion, or to some of the saints in Heaven. They even sacrifice their sons and daughters, so that many are put to death in honour of this accursed idol; and they commit many other abominable and beastly actions; and I saw many other strange things among them which I refrain from relating.

This nation has another most abominable custom; that when a man dies, his body is burned to ashes, and his living wife is burned along with him, that she may assist her husband in his trade or husbandry in the next world. Yet, if she have children by her husband, she may remain alive with them, if so inclined, without shame or reproach; yet most of them prefer to be burnt with the bodies of their husbands. But husbands are not influenced by any similar law, as when they lose their wives they may marry again. There are some other strange customs among the people of this country; insomuch, that the women drink wine, which the men do not; and the women shave their eyebrows, and eyelids, and their beards, besides many other filthy customs, contrary to the true decorum of the sex. From that country I travelled ten days journey to another kingdom called Moabar, in which there are many cities; and in a certain church of that country, the body of St Thomas the apostle lies buried; which church is full of idols, and round about it there are fifteen houses inhabited by Nestorian priests, who are bad Christians, and false schismatics.


Of a Strange Idol, and of certain Customs and Ceremonies.

In the kingdom of Moabar there is a wonderful idol in the shape of a man, all of pure and polished gold, as large as our image of St Christopher; and there hangs about its neck a string of most rich and precious stones, some of which are singly more valuable than the riches of an entire kingdom. The whole house, in which this idol is preserved, is all of beaten gold, even the roof, the pavement, and the lining of the walls, both within and without. The Indians go on pilgrimages to this idol, just as we do to the image of St Peter; some having halters round their necks, some with their hands bound behind their backs, and others with knives sticking in various parts of their legs and arms; and if the flesh of their wounded limbs should corrupt, owing to these wounds, they believe that their god is well pleased with them, and ever after esteem the diseased limbs as sacred. Near this great idol temple, there is an artificial lake of water in an open place, into which the pilgrims and devotees cast gold and silver, and precious stones, in honour of the idol, and as a fund for repairing the temple; and when any new ornament is to be made, or any repairs are required, the priests take what is wanted from the oblations that are thrown into this lake.

At each annual festival of this idol, the king and queen of the country, with all the pilgrims, and the whole multitude of the people assemble at the temple; and placing the idol on a rich and splendid chariot, they carry it from the temple with songs and all kinds of musical instruments, having a great company of young women, who walk in procession, two and two, singing before the idol. Many of the pilgrims throw themselves under the chariot wheels, that they may be crushed to death in honour of their god, and the bodies of these devotees are afterwards burned, and their ashes collected as of holy martyrs. In this manner, above 500 persons annually devote themselves to death. Sometimes a man devotes himself to die in honour of this abominable idol. On which occasion, accompanied by his relations and friends, and by a great company of musicians, he makes a solemn feast; after which, he hangs five sharp knives around his neck, and goes in solemn procession before the idol; where he takes four of the knives successively, with each of which he cuts off a piece of his own flesh, which he throws to the idol, saying, that for the worship of his god he thus cuts himself. Then taking the last of the knives, he declares aloud that he is going to put himself to death in honour of the god; on uttering which, he executes his vile purpose. His body is then burned with great solemnity, and he is ever after esteemed as a holy person.

The king of this country has vast treasures in gold and silver, and precious stones, and possesses the largest and fairest pearls that are to be seen in the whole world. Leaving this country, I travelled fifty days journey to the southward, along the shore of the ocean, when I came to a country called Lamouri, in which, owing to the extreme heat, the whole inhabitants go stark naked, both men and women, and they derided me for wearing clothes, saying, that Adam and Eve were created naked. In this country the women are all common, so that no one has a wife; and when a child is born, the mother gives it to any of the men she pleases, who may have been connected with her. The whole of the land, likewise, is possessed in common, but everyone has his own house. Human flesh, if fat, is used as commonly in that country as beef with us; and though the manners and customs of the people are most abominable, the country is excellent, and abounds in flesh and corn, gold and silver, aloes-wood, and camphor, and many other precious commodities. Merchants who trade to this country, usually bring with them fat men, among their other commodities, which they sell to the natives as we do hogs, and these are immediately slain and devoured.

In this region, toward the south, there is an island or kingdom called Symolora, where both the men and women mark themselves with a hot iron in twelve different parts of their faces; and this nation is continually at war with a certain naked people in another region. I then went to another island named Java, the coast of which is 3000 miles in circuit; and the king of Java has seven other kings under his supreme dominion. This is thought to be one of the largest islands in the world, and is thoroughly inhabited; having great plenty of cloves, cubebs, and nutmegs, and all other kinds of spices, and great abundance of provisions of all kinds, except wine. The king of Java has a large and sumptuous palace, the most lofty of any that I have seen, with broad and lofty stairs to ascend to the upper apartments, all the steps being alternately of gold and silver.

The whole interior walls are lined with plates of beaten gold, on which the images of warriors are placed sculptured in gold, having each a golden coronet richly ornamented with precious stones. The roof of this palace is of pure gold, and all the lower rooms are paved with alternate square plates of gold and silver. The great khan, or emperor of Cathay, has had many wars with the king of Java, but has always been vanquished and beaten back.


Of certain Trees which produce Meal, Honey, Wine, and Poison.

Near to Java is another country called Panten, or Tathalmasin, the king of which has many islands under his dominion. In this country there are trees which produce meal, honey, and wine, and likewise the most deadly poison in the world; the only remedy for which is human ordure dissolved in water, which, drank in considerable quantify, acts as a cathartic, and expels the poison. These trees are very large; and, when cut down, a quantity of liquor exudes from the trunk, which is received into bags made of leaves, and after exposure for fifteen days to the sun, it hardens into meal. This is first steeped in sea water, and is afterwards washed in fresh water, when it becomes a savoury paste, which may either be eaten as bread, or cooked in various ways. I have eaten of this bread, which is fair on the outside, and somewhat brown within. Beyond this country, the Mare Mortuum, or Dead Sea, stretches with a continual current far to the south, and whatever falls into it is seen no more. In this country there grow canes of an incredible length, as large as trees, even sixty paces or more in height. There are other canes, called cassan, which spread over the earth like grass, even to the extent of a mile, sending up branches from every knot; and in these canes they find certain stones of wonderful virtue, insomuch, that whoever carries one of these about him, cannot be wounded by an iron weapon; on which account, most of the men in that country carry such stones always about them. Many of the people of this country cause one of the arms of their children to be cut open when young, putting one of these stones into the wound, which they heal up by means of the powder of a certain fish, with the name of which I am unacquainted. And through the virtue of these wonderful stones, the natives are generally victorious in their wars, both by sea and land. There is a stratagem, however, which their enemies often successfully use against them, to counteract the power of these stones. Providing themselves with iron or steel armour, to defend them from the arrows of these people, they use wooden stakes, pointed like weapons of iron, and arrows not having iron heads, but infused with poison which they extract from certain trees, and they thus slay some of their foes, who, trusting to the virtue of these stones, wear no defensive armour. From the canes formerly mentioned, named cassan, they build themselves small houses, and manufacture sails for their ships, and many other things are made from them. From thence, after many days travel, I came to another kingdom, called Campa, which is a very rich and beautiful kingdom, abounding in all kinds of provisions. The king who reigned at the time of my being there, had so many wives and concubines, that he had three hundred sons and daughters. He had likewise 10,004 tame elephants, which were pastured in droves as we feed flocks and herds.


Of vast multitudes of Fish, which throw themselves on the dry Land.

The following most wonderful circumstance is to be observed in this country of Siampa. All the kinds of fishes which frequent those seas, swim towards the shore at certain times in such abundance, that nothing can be seen for a great way but the backs of fishes. The fish throw themselves upon the shore, and for the space of three days allow the people to take up as many of them as they please. At the end of these three days this shoal returns again to sea, and a different kind comes to the shore in the same manner, and remains for a similar period. And in the same way, all other kinds of fish in these seas come to the shore in succession, each kind by itself. This strange phenomenon happens once every year, and the natives pretend that the fishes are taught by nature to do this, in token of homage to their emperor. I saw many other strange things in this country, which would be incredible to any one who had not seen them; and among these, I may mention that they have tortoises as large as ovens. In this country, the bodies of their dead are burned, and the living wives are burned along with their dead husbands, as has been already mentioned when describing the customs of the city of Polumbrum; and they are believed by this means to accompany their husbands into the other world.

Travelling from this country to the southward, along the coast of the ocean, I passed through many countries and islands, one of which is called Moumoran, and is 2000 miles in circumference. The people of this country, both men and women, go naked, except a small cloth before the middle of their bodies. They have dogs faces, and worship an ox as their god, and all of them wear the image of an ox in gold or silver on their foreheads. The men are very tall and strong, and when they go to battle, they carry targets of iron or steel, large enough to cover and protect their whole bodies. All the prisoners whom they take in war, unless they can ransom themselves with money, are eaten; but those who are able to pay ransom are set free. The king of this country wears a string of 300 large and fair pearls about his neck, which he employs as a rosary for counting his prayers; and says every day as many prayers to his god. He wears also on his finger a marvellously large and brilliant stone, of a span long, which resembles a flame of fire, so that no one dare approach him, and it is said to be the most valuable precious stone in all the world. The great Tartar emperor of Cathay, hath often used every endeavour to procure this wonderful jewel, but has never been able to prevail, either by force, policy, or money.


Of the Island of Ceylon, and of the Mountain where Adam mourned the Death of Abel.

From thence I passed another island named Sylan, or Ceylon, which is 2000 miles in circuit, in which there are infinite multitudes of serpents, great numbers of lions, bears, and all kinds of ravenous beasts, and a great many of elephants. In this island there is a great mountain, on which the inhabitants pretend that Adam mourned for the death of his son Abel, during 500 years. On the top of this mountain there is a most beautiful plain, in which is a small lake always full of water, which the inhabitants allege to have proceeded from the tears of Adam and Eve; but this I proved to be false, as I saw the water to flow out of the lake. This lake is full of horse-leeches, and numbers of precious stones are to be found on its bottom, which the king of the island, instead of appropriating to his own use, allows certain poor people to dive for once or twice a-year, for their own profit, that they may pray for blessings upon his soul. On this occasion they smear their bodies with lemon juice, which prevents the leeches from hurting them while they are in the water. The water from this lake runs into the sea, at which place the inhabitants dig on the shore, at low water, for rubies, diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones, which are found in such abundance, that the king of this island is believed to possess more precious stones than any other monarch in the world. There are wild beasts and birds of all kinds in this island in great numbers; and I was informed by the natives, that these beasts never attack or do harm to strangers, but only kill the indigenous inhabitants. I saw in this island certain birds, as large as our geese, having two heads, and other wonderful things I do not here write of.

Still farther to the south, I came to a certain island, called Bodin, which name signifies unclean; and this island is inhabited by a most wicked people, who devour raw flesh, and commit all manner of wickedness and abominable uncleanness to an incredible extent; insomuch, that they kill and eat each other, the father eating his son, the son his father, the husband his wife, and the wife her husband. If any man be sick, the son goes to the soothsayer, or prognosticating priest, requesting him to inquire of his god, whether or not his father is to recover. Then both go to an idol of gold or silver, which they thus address: “We adore thee as our lord and god, and we beseech thee to inform us, whether such a man is to die or to recover from his present infirmity.” Then the devil returns an answer from the idol, and if he says the man is to recover, the son returns to the house of his father, and ministers to him in all things necessary, until he regain his former health; but if the response is that the man is to die, the priest then goes to him, and putting a cloth into his mouth, immediately strangles him. After this the dead body is cut in pieces, and all the friends and relations are invited to feast upon this horrible banquet, which is accompanied with music and all manner of mirth; but the bones are solemnly buried. On my blaming this abominable practice, they alleged, as its reason and excuse, that it was done to prevent the worms from devouring the flesh, which would occasion great torments to his soul; and all I could say was quite insufficient to convince them of their error. There are many other novel and strange things in this country, to which no one would give credit, who had not seen them with his own eyes; yet, I declare before God, that I assert nothing of which I am not as sure as a man may be of any thing. I have been informed by several credible persons, that this India contains 4400 islands, most of which are well inhabited, among which there are sixty-four crowned kings.


Of Upper India, and the Province of Mancy.

After sailing for many days on the ocean towards the east, I arrived at the great province of Mancy, or Mangi, which is called India by the Latins; and I was informed by Christians, Saracens, and idolaters, and by many persons in office under the great khan, that this country contains more than 2000 great cities, and that it abounds in all manner of provisions, as bread, wine, rice, flesh, and fish. All the men of this country are artificers or merchants, and so long as they are able to help themselves by the labour of their hands, they never think to beg alms, however great may be their poverty. The men of this country are fair and of a comely appearance, yet somewhat pale, having a small part of their heads shaven; but their women are the most beautiful of any under the sun. The first city that I came to belonging to this country is called Ceuskalon, which is a days journey from the sea, standing on a river, which at its mouth overflows the land, to the extent of twelve days journey. This city has so prodigious a number of ships and vessels, as would be quite incredible by any person who had not been an eye-witness. In this city I saw 300 pounds of good and new ginger sold for less than a groat. They have the largest and finest geese, and the greatest plenty of them is to be sold, more than in any other part of the world. They are as white as milk, having a bone the size of an egg on the crown of the head, of a blood-red colour, and a skin or bag under their throat, which hangs down half a foot or more. These birds are exceedingly fat, and are sold at reasonable rates. The ducks and hens of this country are twice the size of ours. There are likewise large and monstrous serpents, which are caught and eaten by the natives, and are held in such estimation as to be produced at all their feasts. In short, this city abounds in all kind of provisions.

Travelling from thence through many cities, I came at length to a city called Caitan or Zaiton, in which the minorite friars have two places of abode, unto which I transported the bones of the dead friars formerly mentioned, who suffered martyrdom for the faith of Christ. In this city, which is twice as long as Bologna, there are abundance of provisions, and it contains many monasteries of religious persons, who are devoted to the worship of idols. I was in one of these monasteries, which was said to contain 3000 religious men, and 11,000 idols, one of the smallest of which was as large as our St Christopher. These religious men feed their idols daily, serving up a banquet of good things before them, smoking hot, and they affirm that their gods are refreshed and fed by the steam of the victuals, which are afterwards carried away, and eaten up by the priests.


Of the City of Fuko, or Foquien.

Continuing my journey still farther to the east, I came to the city of Foquien, which is thirty miles in circuit. The poultry here are very large, and as white as snow, but have wool like sheep instead of feathers. This is a stately and most beautiful city, and standeth on the sea. Travelling onwards for eighteen days, I passed through many provinces and cities; and in my way, I passed over a certain great mountain, on one side of which all living creatures were quite black, whereas, on the other side, all were as white as snow; and the inhabitants of the two sides of the mountain differed exceedingly from each other, in their manners and customs. In these parts, all the married women wear a large tire or cap of horn, like a small barrel, on their heads, as a mark that they have husbands.

Journeying onwards for other eighteen days, I came to a city on a large river, over which there is a prodigiously great bridge. The host with whom I lodged in that city, willing to amuse me, carried me along with him to this bridge, taking with him in his arms certain diving birds bound to poles, and he tied a thread about every one of their necks, lest they might swallow the fish they were to catch. He carried likewise three large baskets to the river side. He then loosed his divers from the poles, on which they went into the water, and in less than an hour, they caught as many fish as filled the three baskets. Mine host then untied the threads from their necks, and sent them again into the water, where they fed themselves with fish. And, when satisfied, they returned to their master, allowing themselves to be fastened to the poles as before. I eat of these fish, and found them very good.

Travelling thence many days, I came to another city named Canasia, which signifies in their language the city of Heaven. I never saw so great a city, for it is an hundred miles in circumference, and every part of it is thoroughly inhabited, yea, many of its houses are ten or even twelve stories high. It has many large suburbs, which contain more inhabitants than even the city itself. There are twelve principal gates; and at the distance of about eight miles from every one of these there is a large city, each of them larger, in my opinion, than Venice or Padua. The city of Canasia is situated among waters or lakes, which are always stagnant, without flux or reflux, and it is defended against the violence of the wind in the same manner as Venice. In this city there are more than 10,002 bridges, many of which I counted and passed over; and on every one of these, there stand certain watchmen, constantly keeping guard for the great khan, or emperor of Cathay. The people of the country informed me that they have to pay, as tribute to their lord, one balis for every fire. Now one balis consists of five pieces of silken paper, which are worth one florin and a half of our coin. Ten or twelve households are counted as one fire, and only pay accordingly. All these tributary fires amount to eighty-five tomans, besides four tomans of the Saracens, making in all eighty-nine tomans; and one toman contains 10,000 fires. The residue of the people consist of some Christians, some merchants, and some who travel through the country. I marvelled how it were possible for such an infinite number of people to live together, and get food; yet there is great abundance of provisions, such as bread and wine, and other necessaries, especially hogs flesh.


Of a Monastery, having many different kinds of Animals on a certain Hill.

In this city of Quinsay, four of our friars had converted a powerful man to the Christian faith, in whose house I abode all the time I remained in that place. This man once addressed me, by the name of Ara or father, asking me to visit the city. Embarking in a boat, he carried me to a certain monastery, where he spoke to one of the priests of his acquaintance, saying, “this Raban, or religious man of the Francs, coming from the western parts of the earth, is on his way to Cambalu to pray for the life of the great khan, and you must shew him some rare thing, that he may be able to say on his return to his own country, what strange and novel sights he has beheld in our city of Quinsay.” Then the priest took two great baskets full of broken victuals, and led me to a small walled inclosure, of which he had the key, the door of which he unlocked, and we went into a pleasant green plot, in which stood a small hillock like a steeple, all adorned with fragrant herbs and trees. He then beat upon a cymbal, at the sound of which many animals of various kinds came down, from the mount, some like apes, some like cats, others like monkeys, and some having human faces, which gathered around him to the number of four thousand, and placed themselves in seemly order. He set down the broken victuals for them to eat; and when they had eaten, he rung again upon his cymbal, and they all returned to their places of abode. Wondering greatly at this strange sight, this man informed me that these creatures were animated by the souls of departed persons of rank, and that they were fed by him and his brethren out of love for the God that governs the world. He added, that, when a man was noble in this life, his soul entered, after death, into the body of some excellent beast, while the souls of the deceased common rude people, possess the bodies of vile animals. I then endeavoured to refute that gross error, but my arguments were all in vain, as he could not believe that any soul could exist without a body.

From Quinsay I went to the city of Chilenso, which is forty miles round, and contains 360 stone bridges, the fairest I ever saw. This place is well inhabited, has a vast number of ships, and abundance of provisions and commodities. From thence I went to a great river called Thalay, which is seven miles broad where narrowest, and it runs through the midst of the land of the Pigmies, whose chief city is Kakam, one of the finest of the world. These Pigmies are only three spans in height, yet they manufacture larger and better cloths of cotton and silk, than any other people. Passing that river, I came to the city of Janzu, in which there is a house for the friars of our order, and there are also three churches belonging to the Nestorians. This Janzu is a great and noble city, having forty-eight tomans of tributary fires, and abounds in all manner of victuals, flesh, fish, and fowl. The lord of this city has fifty tomans of balis in yearly revenue from salt alone; and as every bali is worth a florin and a half of our money, one toman is worth 15,000 florins, and the salt revenue of this city is 750,000 florins. This lord has been known to forgive 200 tomans of arrears at one time to his people, or three millions of florins, lest they should be reduced to distress. There is a strange fashion in this city, when any one inclines to give a banquet to his friends: He goes about to certain taverns or cooks shops, informing each of the landlords, that such and such of his friends are to come there for entertainment in his name, and that he will allow a certain sum for the banquet. By this means his friends are better entertained in divers places, than if all had been collected into one. Ten miles from the city of Janzu, and at the mouth of the river Thalay, there is another city named Montu, which has a greater number of ships than I ever saw in any part of the world. All the ships are white as snow, and have banquetting houses in them; and there are many other rare and wonderful things, that no one would give credit to, unless he were to see them with his own eyes.


Of the city of Cambalu.

Travelling eight days farther, through divers provinces and cities, I came by fresh water to a city called Lencyn, on the river Karamoran, which pervades the middle of Cathay, and does much injury when it breaks its banks and overflows the land. Passing from thence many days journey to the eastwards, and within sight of many different cities, I came to the city of Sumakoto, which abounds more in silk than any city of the earth; insomuch that silk is reckoned scarce and dear, when the price of forty pounds weight amounts to four groats. It likewise abounds in all kinds of merchandize and provisions. Journeying still towards the east past many cities, I arrived at length at the great and renowned city of Cambalu, or Cambaleth, which is of great antiquity, and is the capital of Cathay. Being taken by the Tartars, they built a new city at the distance of half a mile, which they named Caido, which has twelve gates, each two miles distant from the other. The space also between the two cities is thoroughly built upon, and inhabited; so that the whole is as one city, and is forty miles in circuit. In this city the great khan or emperor has his palace, the walls of which are four miles in circuit; and near to the imperial palace there are many other houses and palaces of the nobles who belong to the court. Within the precincts of the imperial palace, there is a most beautiful mount, all set over with trees, called the Green Mount, having a sumptuous palace on the top, in which the khan mostly resides. On one side of the mount is a great lake, abounding in geese and ducks, and all manner of water fowl, and having a most magnificent bridge; and the wood upon the mount is stored with all kinds of beasts and land birds. Hence when the khan is inclined to take the diversion of hunting or hawking, he needs not to quit his palace.

The principal palace in which the khan resides is very large, and contains fourteen pillars of gold, and all the walls are hung with red skins, which are reckoned the most costly in the world. In the midst of this palace, there is a cistern two yards high, all of a precious stone called merdochas, which is wreathed round with gold, having the golden image of a serpent at each corner, as it were furiously menacing with their heads. This cistern is farther ornamented by a rich net-work of pearls; and, by means of certain pipes and conduits, it continually supplies certain kinds of drink that are used at the court of the emperor. Around this there stand many golden vessels, so that all who choose may drink abundantly. There are likewise many golden peacocks; and when any of the Tartars drink to the prosperity of their lord, and the guests clap their hands from mirth and joy, the golden peacocks spread their wings and expand their trains, and appear to dance. This, I presume, is occasioned by magic art, or perhaps by means of some secret machinery below ground.


Of the Magnificence of the Great Khan.

When the great khan sits upon his imperial throne of state, his queen or empress sits upon his left hand; and on another and lower seat two women are seated, who accompany the emperor in the absence of his spouse; and underneath them all the other ladies of the imperial family are placed. All the married ladies wear ornaments on their heads, shaped like a mans foot, a cubit and a half long, ornamented with cranes feathers, and richly set with large oriental pearls. The eldest son and heir apparent of the emperor, is seated on the right hand of the throne, and below him sit all the nobles of the imperial race. There are likewise four secretaries, who write down every word spoken by the emperor. The barons and others of the nobility stand all around, with numerous trains of their followers, and all preserve the most profound silence, unless permitted to speak by the emperor; except his jesters and stage-players, nor even they but as they are ordered. Certain barons are appointed to keep the palace gate, to prevent all who pass from treading on the threshold.

When the khan holds a solemn feast, he is attended upon by about 14,000 barons, who have their heads ornamented by circlets or coronets of gold, and who minister to him in all things; and they are all richly dressed in cloth of gold, ornamented with precious stones, the dress and ornaments of each being worth 10,000 florins. His court is kept in the most perfect order, the immense multitude of attendants being regularly arranged under officers of tens, hundreds, and thousands, so that every one perfectly knows his own place and performs his duty. I, friar Oderic, was personally at Cambalu for three years, and was often present at the royal banquets; for we of the minorite order have a habitation appointed for us in the emperors court, and are enjoined to go frequently into the presence, that we may bestow our blessing on the emperor. I inquired from some of the attendants at court concerning the numbers in the imperial establishment, who assured me that, of stage-players, musicians, and such like, there were at least eighteen tomans, and that the keepers of dogs, beasts, and fowls, were fifteen tomans. There are four hundred physicians of the body to the emperor, eight of whom are Christians, and one Saracen. The whole of these attendants are supplied with all manner of apparel, victuals, and necessaries, from the palace.

When the khan makes a progress from one country to another, there are four troops of horsemen appointed, having orders to keep each at the distance of a days journey from the presence; one in advance, one in the rear, and one on either hand, like a cross, the emperor being in the middle; and each troop has its regular days journey appointed for it, that all may keep in due order, and be regularly supplied with provisions. The great khan is carried in a chariot, having two wheels, on which a splendid throne is built of aloes wood, magnificently adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls; and this moving throne is drawn by four elephants, richly caparisoned; before which, four war horses, in magnificent housings, are led for his particular use. Close to the chariot, and keeping hold of it, eight barons attend on either side, to prevent all persons from approaching too near, or from incommoding the emperor. Two milk-white ger-falcons are carried in the chariot along with the emperor, that he may fly them at any game that comes in the way. No one dare come within a stones throw of the chariot in which the emperor rides, except those who are expressly appointed. The number of his own followers, and of those who attend the empress, and on his eldest son, would appear quite incredible to any person who had not seen the same, and is therefore omitted. The whole empire is divided into twelve great provinces, one only of which has 2000 great cities within its bounds; and the whole is so extensive, that one may travel continually for six months in any one direction, besides the islands under his dominion, which are at least 5000 in number.


Of the Inns established over the whole Empire, for the use of Travellers.

That travellers may have all things necessary throughout the whole empire, the emperor has caused certain inns to be provided in sundry places upon the highways, where all kinds of provisions are in continual readiness. When any intelligence is to be communicated to him, his messengers ride post on horses or dromedaries; and when themselves and their beasts are weary, they blow their horns, and the people at the next inn provide a man and horse in readiness to carry forward the dispatch. By this means, intelligence, which would take thirty days in the ordinary way of travelling, is transmitted in one day, and he is consequently immediately informed of any important matter which may occur in the most distant parts of his dominions.

About twenty days journey from Cambalu, there is a forest of six days journey in circuit, containing an incredible number of different kinds of beasts and birds, to which the khan usually goes for hunting, once in three or four years, attended by his whole train. The attendants environ the whole forest, and, with the assistance of dogs, drive all the lions, stags, and other beasts before them, into a beautiful open plain in the midst of the forest. Then the khan, mounted on a throne, carried by three elephants, rides forwards to the throng of animals, and shoots five arrows among the herd; and after him, all his barons in succession, and the rest of his courtiers and family attendants, discharge their arrows in like manner. Then all the surviving beasts are allowed to go away into the forest, and all the people go among those beasts which are slain, and each person knows by the particular marks on their own arrows, which of the beasts he has right to.


Of the four Solemn Feasts held yearly by the Great Khan.

The great khan celebrates four great feasts every year; on the anniversaries of his birth, his circumcision, his coronation, and his marriage. Sitting upon his throne of state, all his kindred, barons, and stage-players, attend in great ceremony and in rich attire; the highest order being dressed in green, the second in red, and the third in yellow, all girt with golden girdles, half a foot broad, and every one holding a small ivory tablet in his hand, they all stand in regular order, keeping the most profound silence. On the outside, all the stage-players, and the musicians, with their musical instruments, are arranged. In one of the corners of a certain great gallery, all the philosophers or magicians attend, waiting for certain hours and moments, and when the fortunate moment is arrived, a crier calleth out in a loud voice, “Prostrate yourselves before the emperor,” and then all fall upon their faces. After a certain interval, the crier again orders the whole assembly to rise up, and they do so. At another particular moment, fixed by the philosophers, orders are given in a loud voice, for every one to stop their ears with their fingers; afterwards they are called upon to take out their fingers. Many similar things are performed in this manner, which they pretend to be significant, but which, being vain and ridiculous, I gave no attention to, and am not inclined to write. When the hour of music comes, the philosophers give the word, and they all sound their instruments, making a great and melodious noise; after which, orders are given to cease from the music. Then come the women musicians, who sing sweetly before the emperor, which I thought delightful. After them, the lions are led in, and are made to pay their obeisance to the emperor. Then the jugglers cause golden cups, full of wine, to fly up and down in the air, and to apply themselves to mens mouths, that they may drink. And many other strange things are performed, which I omit to mention, as no one would believe me.

I was informed by certain credible persons, that in the mountains of Kapsei, in the kingdom of Kalor, which is in the dominions of the great khan, there grow certain gourds, or pompions, which open when ripe, and a little beast is found within them, resembling a young lamb. I have likewise heard, that there grow certain trees upon the shore of the Irish sea, which carry a fruit like gourds, and that these fall into the sea at certain times, and are changed into birds called Bernacles.


Of various Provinces and Cities of the East.

After a residence of three years in Cambalu, I departed from the empire of Kathay, and travelled fifty days to the west, when I arrived in the dominions of Pretegoani, whose principal city is Cosan. Continuing my journey for many days, I came to the province of Casan, which is well inhabited, and one of the first countries in the world, for abundance of provisions, and commodities of all kinds, especially of chesnuts; and, is so extremely populous, that, on leaving the gates of any one city, we may always have the gates of another within sight. This country is fifty days journey in breadth, and it is above sixty days journey in length. This is one of the twelve great provinces belonging to the great khan.

Farther on, I came into another kingdom belonging to the khan, called Tebek or Thibet, which is, in my opinion, more abundant in bread and wine than any other country in the world. The inhabitants mostly dwell in tents of black felt, The principal city is surrounded by beautiful walls, built of large white and black stones, disposed chequerwise; and all the highways of the country are well paved. In this country, from certain religious notions, no one dares shed the blood of a man, or of any beast. The Abassi, who is their Pope, dwells in the city already mentioned, being the head or prince of all the idolaters, on whom he bestows gifts; just as our Pope of Rome considers himself to be the head of all the Christians. The women of this country wear a prodigious number of ornaments, and they have two long teeth like the tusks of a boar. When any man dies in this country, his son assembles all the priests and musicians that he can procure, to do honour to his father, whose body he causes to be carried out into the fields, accompanied by all the kindred, friends, and neighbours of the family. Then the priests, with great solemnity, cut off the head of the deceased, which they give to his son; after which, they divide the whole body into small pieces, which they leave strewed about the place; and then the whole company return home in solemn procession, accompanied with prayers, the son bearing his fathers head. On their departure from the field, the vultures of the country, accustomed to similar banquets, come down from the mountains, and carry off all the remains of the deceased person; who is thereupon pronounced holy, because the angels of God, as they say, have carried him to paradise. When the procession returns to the dwelling of the deceased, the son boils the head of his father, and eats the flesh, converting the skull into a drinking cup, out of which he, and all his family, and kindred, carouse with much, mirth and solemnity, in remembrance of his father. This nation has many other vile and abominable customs, which I refrain from describing, because no one would believe them unseen.


Of a certain Rich Man, who was Fed by fifty Virgins.

While in the province of Mangi, or Southern China, I passed by the palace of a rich man, who is continually attended upon by fifty young virgins, who feed him at every meal as a bird feeds her young; and all the time they are so employed, they sing to him most sweetly. The revenues of this man are thirty toman of tagars of rice, each toman being 10,000 tagars, and one tagar is the burthen of an ass. His palace is two miles in circuit, and is paved with alternate plates of gold and silver. Near the wall of his palace, there is an artificial mound of gold and silver, having turrets and steeples, and other magnificent ornaments, contrived for the solace and recreation of this great man. I was further informed, that there are four such great men in the kingdom of Mangi. It is reckoned a great mark of dignity, among the great men of this country, to have their nails of great length; more especially their thumb nails, which are sometimes of sufficient length to be wrapped round the hand. The beauty, and even the rank of their women is supposed to consist in the smallness of their feet; for which reason, mothers bind up the feet of their daughters when young, to prevent them from growing large.


Of the Old Man of the Mountain.

Proceeding on my travels towards the south, I arrived at a certain pleasant and fertile country, called Melistorte, in which dwells a certain aged person called the Old Man of the Mountain. This person had surrounded two mountains by a high wall, within which he had the fairest gardens, and finest fountains in the world, inhabited by great numbers of most beautiful virgins. It was likewise supplied with fine horses, and every article that could contribute to luxury and delightful solace; on which account it was called by the people of the country the terrestrial paradise. Into this delightful residence, the old man used to entice all the young and valiant men he could procure, where they were initiated into all the delights of the earthly paradise, in which milk and wine flowed in abundance, through certain hidden conduits. When desirous of assassinating any prince or nobleman, who had offended him, the old man would order the governor of his paradise to entice into that place, some acquaintance or servant of the prince or baron whom he wished to slay. Allowing this person to take a full taste of the delights of the place, he was cast into a deep sleep by means of a strong potion, in which state he was removed from paradise. On recovering from his sleep, and finding himself excluded from the pleasures of paradise, he was brought before the old man, whom he entreated to restore him to the place from whence he had been taken. He was then told, that, if he would slay such or such a person, he should not only be permitted to return into paradise, but should remain there forever. By these means the old man used to get all those murdered, against whom he had conceived any displeasure; on which account all the kings and princes of the east stood in awe of him, and paid him tribute.

When the Tartars had subdued a large portion of the earth, they came into the country of the old man, and took from him his paradise. Being greatly incensed at this, he sent out many of his resolute and desperate dependents, by whom numbers of the Tartar nobles were slain. Upon this, the Tartars besieged the city of the old man of the mountain; and, making him prisoner, they put him to a cruel and ignominious death.


Of several wonderful things in those parts.

In that place, the friars have the special gift, that, through the power of the name of Jesus Christ, and of his precious blood, which was shed on the cross for the remission of our sins, they speedily expel devils from those who are possessed. And as there are many possessed persons in those parts, they are brought bound, from the distance of ten days journey all around, to the friars; and being dispossessed of the unclean spirits, they immediately believe in Christ, who hath delivered them, and are baptized in his name, delivering up to the friars all their idols, and the idols of their cattle, which are usually made of felt, or of womens hair. Then the friars kindle a great fire in some public place, into which they cast the idols before all the people. At the first, the idols used to come out of the fire; but the friars, having sprinkled the fire with holy water, threw in the idols again, where they were consumed to ashes; and the devils fled away in the likeness of black smoke, when a noise was heard in the air, crying out aloud, “Behold how I am expelled from my habitation!” By these means, the friars have baptized great multitudes; but they mostly return soon again to their idols, on which account, the friars have continually to abide among them, to exhort and instruct them in the faith.

I saw another terrible thing in those parts. Passing by a certain valley, near a pleasant river, I saw many dead bodies therein, and I heard issuing therefrom many sweet and harmonious musical sounds, especially of lutes; insomuch that I was much amazed. This valley is at least seven or eight miles long, into which, whoever enters, is sure to die immediately; for which cause, all who travel by that way pass by on one side, no one being able to travel through that valley and live. But I was curious to go in, that I might see what it contained. Making therefore my prayers, and recommending myself to God, I entered in, and saw such vast quantities of dead bodies, as no one would believe, unless he had seen them with his own eyes. At one side of the valley, I saw the visage of a man upon a stone, which stared at me with such a hideous aspect, that I thought to have died on the spot. But I ceased not to sign myself with the sign of the cross, continually saying “The Word became flesh, and dwelt with us.” Yet I dared not to approach nearer than seven or eight paces; and at length, I fled to another part of the valley. I then ascended a little sand hill; from whence, looking around, I saw on every side the before mentioned lutes, which seemed to me to sound of themselves in a most miraculous manner, without the aid of any musicians. On the top of this sand hill, I found great quantities of silver, resembling the scales of fishes, and gathered some of this into the bosom of my habit, to shew as a wonder; but, my conscience rebuking me, I threw it all away, and so, by the blessing of God, I departed in safety. When the people of the country knew that I had returned alive from the valley of the dead, they reverenced me greatly; saying, that the dead bodies were subject to the infernal spirits, who were in use to play upon lutes, to entice men into the valley, that they might die; but as I was a baptized and holy person, I had escaped the danger. Thus much I have related, which I certainly beheld with mine own eyes; but I have purposely omitted many wonderful things, because those who had not seen them would refuse to believe my testimony.


Of the Honour and Reverence shewn to the Great Khan.

I shall here report one thing more concerning the great khan of Cathay, of which I was a witness. It is customary, when he travels through any part of his wide dominions, that his subjects kindle fires before their doors, in such places as he means to pass, into which they fling spices and perfumes, that he may be regaled by their sweet odour. And numberless multitudes flock from all quarters, to meet him, and do him homage. Upon a certain time, when the approach of the khan to Cambalu was announced, one of our bishops, together with several minorite friars and myself, went out two days journey from the city to meet him. When we came nigh to his presence, we bore aloft a cross upon a pole, and began to sing Veni Creator, in a loud voice, while I carried the censer. When he came up to the place where we were singing by the way side, he called us to come towards him; for no man dare approach within a stones throw of his chariot, unless called, except those only who are appointed to attend upon his person. When we came near, he took off his cap or helmet, of inestimable value, and did reverence to the cross. I immediately put incense into the censer; and the bishop, taking the censer into his own hands, perfumed the khan, and gave him his benediction. Besides this, as those who approach the great khan always bring with them some offering to present to him, according to the ancient law. “Thou shalt not come empty handed into my presence,” so we carried some apples along with us, and reverently offered them to him on a salver; and he was pleased to take two of our apples, of one of which he eat a part. The khan then gave a sign for us to depart, lest we might have been injured by the crowd of horses; upon which we turned aside to certain of his barons, who had been converted to the Christian faith, and who were then in his train, to whom we offered the remainder of our apples, which they joyfully received, as If we had made them some great gift.


Conclusion of the Travels, and Account of the Death of Friar Oderic.

All the above were put down in writing by friar William de Solanga, as dictated to him by friar Oderic, in the year of our Lord 1330, in the month of May, and in the place of St Anthony at Padua. He hath not attempted to render these relations into fine Latin, or in an eloquent style, but hath written them even as rehearsed by Oderic himself.

I, friar Oderic of Portenau, in the Friuli, of the order of minorites, do hereby testify, and bear witness to the reverend father Guidotus, minister of the province of St Anthony, in the marquisate of Trevigi, by whom I was commanded so to do, that all which is here written, was either seen by myself or reported to me by credible and worthy persons; and the common report of the countries through which I travelled, testifies all those things which I have seen and related to be true. Many other wonderful things I have omitted, because they were not seen by myself. It is farther mine intention, soon again to travel into foreign and far distant lands, in which I may live or die, as it may please the Almighty Disposer of events.

In the year of our Lord 1331, friar Oderic, resolving to enter upon his intended journey, determined to present himself before Pope John XXII on purpose to receive his benediction, that his labour might be the more prosperous; as he intended to travel into the countries of the infidels, with certain friars who had agreed to accompany him. While journeying to the residence of the pope, and not far distant from the city of Pisa, he was encountered by an old man in the garb of a pilgrim, who saluted him by name, saying, “Hail to you, friar Oderic.” And when Oderic inquired how he should know him, the old man answered, “While you were in India, I well knew both you and your holy purpose; but now be warned from me, and return to the convent whence you came, for in ten days you shall depart out of this world.” Upon this the old man immediately vanished, from his sight; and Oderic, amazed at his words, determined to return to his convent, which he did in perfect health, feeling no illness, or decay of his body or faculties. And ten days afterwards, being then in his convent at Udina, in the province of Padua, and having received the holy communion, as preparing himself unto God, yea, being strong and sound of body, he happily rested in the Lord, according as it had been revealed. Which holy death was signified unto the foresaid supreme pontiff, under the hand of a public notary, in the following words:

“On the 14th of January, in the year of our Lord 1331, the blessed Oderic, a friar of the minorite order, deceased in Christ; at whose prayers God shewed many and sundry miracles, which I, Guetelus, public notary of Udina, son of Dora. Damiano de Portu Gruario, at the command and direction of the noble lord Conradus, of the borough of Gastaldion, one of the council of Udina, have written down with good faith to the best of my abilities; and I have delivered a copy of the same to the friars minors: Yet not of the whole, because they are innumerable, and too difficult for, me to write.”