East Asian History Sourcebook:
Chinese Accounts of Rome, Byzantium and the Middle East, c. 91 B - 1643 AD
From: F. Hirth, China and the Roman Orient: Researches into their Ancient and Mediaeval Relations as Represented in Old Chinese Records (Shanghai & Hong Kong, 1885), pp. 35-96.
Scanned and edited by Dr. Jerome S. Arkenberg, Department of History, California State University Fullerton. The text has been modified by Dr. Arkenberg. [Any modernization © 2000 Jerome S. Arkenberg.]
From the Hsin-t'ang-shu, ch. 221 (written mid-11th Century AD), for 1060 AD:
Fu-lin [Byzantium] is the ancient Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria]. It lies above the western sea [Indian Ocean]. Some call it Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e., "country on the west of the sea"]. It is 40,000 li distant from our capital and lies in the west of Shan [Armenia]; north you go straight to the Ko-sa tribe [Khazars] of Tu-ch'ueh. In the west it borders on the sea-coast with the city of Ali-san [Alexandria]. In the south-east it borders on Po-si [Persia]. Its territory amounts to 10,000 li; of cities there are four hundred; of soldiers a million. Ten li make one t'ing; three t'ing make one chih. Of subjected small countries there are several times ten. Those which are known by name are called Ala-san [Charax Spasinu] and Lu-fen [Nikephorium]; Ala-san is direct north-east, but we cannot obtain the number of li of its road; in the east, by sea 2000 li, you come to the Lu-fen country. The capital of Fu-lin [Constantinople] is built of granite stone; the city is eighty li broad; the east gate is twenty chang[235 feet] high and chased with yellow gold [bronze]. The royal palace has three portals which are beset with precious stones. In the middle portal there is a large golden scale; a man made all of gold, standing [a clepsydra]. On the yard of that scale there are hanging twelve little balls, one of which will fall fown whenever an hour is completed. In making the pillars of palaces they use se-se, and in making the kingposts of their roofs they use rock crystal and opaque glass; in making floors they use beams of fragrant wood and yellow gold; the leaves of their folding doors are of ivory.
Twelve honored ministers have joint charge of the government. When the king goes out, a man follows him with a bag, and whatever complaints there may be are thrown into the bag; on returning he examines into right and wrong. When the country is visited by an extraordinary calamity, the king is deposed and a worthier man is placed in his position. The king's official cap is like the wings of a bird, and pearls are sewn on it; his garments are of embroidered silk, but there is no lapel in front. He sits on a couch with golden ornaments; at his side there is a bird like a goose, with green feathers; when his majesty eats anything poisonous it will crow. There are no roofs made of earthen tiles; but the roofs are overlaid with white stones, hard and shining like jadestone. During the height of summer heat, water is laid up and made to flow down from the top, the draught thereby caused producing wind. The men there cut their hair; they wear embroidered clothing in the shape of a gown that leaves the right arm bare. They ride in heavy and light carriages and carts covered with white canopies. When going out or coming back they hoist flags and beat drums. Married women wear embroidered tiaras. The millionaires of the country are the official aristocracy. The inhabitants enjoy wine and have a fancy for dry cakes. There are amongst them many jugglers who can issue fire from their faces, produce rivers and lakes from their hands, and banners and tufts of feathers from their mouths, and who, raising their feet, drop pearls and jadestones. They have clever physicians who, by opening the brain and extracting worms, can cure mu-sheng [a sort of blindness]. The country contains much gold and silver; the jewel that shines at night and the moon-shine pearl; large conches; che-ch'u [mother-of-pearl?]; carnelian stones; mu-nan [a kind of pearl]; king-fishers' feathers [lapis lazuli]; and amber. They weave the hair of the water-sheep [shui-yang] into cloth which is called Hai-hsi-pu [cloth from the west of the sea]. In the sea there are coral islands. The fishers sit in large boats and let wire nets into the water down to the corals. When the corals first grow from the rocks they are white like mushrooms; after a year they turn yellow; after three years they turn red. Then the branches begin to intertwine, having grown to a height of three to four chih [up to five feet]. The net being cast the coral roots get entangled in the net, when the men on board have to turn round in order to take them out. If they miss their time in fishing for it the coral will decay. On the western sea [Indian Ocean] there are markets where the traders do not see one another, the price being deposited by the side of the merchandise; they are called "spirit markets." There is a quadruped called Ts'ung; it has the size of a dog, is fierce and repulsive, and strong. In a northern district there is a sheep that grows out of the ground; its navel is attached to the ground, and if it is cut the animal will die. The inhabitants will frighten them by the steps of horses or by beating drums. The navel being thus detached, they are taken off the water plants; they do not make flocks. During the 17th year of Cheng-kuan [643 AD] the king Po-to-li [Constans II Pogonatus, Emperor 641-668 AD] sent an embassy offering red glass and lu-chin-ching [green gold gems], and a cabinet order was issued as an acknowledgment. When the Ta-shih [Arabs] usurped power over these countries, they sent their general, Mo-i [Mo'awiya, then Governor of Syria, afterwards Caliph 661-680 AD], to reduce them to order. Fu-lin obtained peace by an agreement, but in the sequel became subject to Ta-shih. From the period Ch'ien-feng [666-668 AD] till the period Ta-tsu [701 AD] they have repeatedly offered tribute to the Han [Chinese] court. In the seventh year of the K'ai-yuan period [719 AD] they offered through the ta-yu [a high official] of T'u-huo-lo [Khazarstan] lions and ling-yang [antelopes].
Crossing the desert in the south-west of Fu-lin, at a distance of 2,000 li there are two countries called Mo-lin ['Alwa, or Upper Kush] and Lao-p'o-sa [Maqurra, or Lower Kush]. Their inhabitants are black and of a violent disposition. The country is malarious and has no vegetation. They feed their horses on dried fish, and live themselves on hu-mang [the Persian date--Phoenix dactylifera]. They are not ashamed to have most frequent illicit intercourse with savages; they call this "establishing the relation between lord and subject." On one of seven days they refrain from doing business, and carouse all night.
From the Nestorian Stone Inscription, cols. 12-13 (written 781 AD):
According to the Hsi-yu-t'u-chi and the historical records of the Han and Wei dynasties, the country of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] begins in the south at the Coral Sea, and extends in the north to the Chung-pau-shan [hills of precious stones], it looks in the west to "the region of the immortals" and "the flowery groves"; in the east it bounds on "the long winds" and "the weak water" [the Dead Sea]. This country produces fire-proof cloth [asbestos]; the life-restoring incense; the ming-yueh-chu [moon-shine pearl]; and the yeh-kuang-pi [jewel that shines at night]. Robberies are unknown there, and the people enjoy peace and happiness. Only the luminous [i.e., Christian] religion is practised; only virtuous rulers occupy the throne. This country is vast in extent; its literature is flourishing.
From the Sung-shih, ch. 490 (written late 13th Century AD), for 960-1279 AD:
The country of Fu-lin [Byzantium]. South-east of it you go to Mei-lu-ku [Kilikia ("Cilicia")]; north you go to the sea [Black Sea]; both forty days' journey; west you go to the sea [Mediterranean], thirty days' journey; in the east, starting from western Ta-shih, you come to Yu-tien [Khoten], Hui-ho and Ch'ing-t'ang, and finally reach Zhongguo [China]. They have during former dynasties not sent tribute to our court. During the tenth month of the fourth year of the period Yuan-feng [November, 1081 AD], their king, Mieh-li-i-ling-kai-sa [Michael VII Parapinaces Caesar], first sent the ta-shou-ling [a high official] Ni-si-tu-ling-si-meng-p'an to offer as tribute saddled horses, sword-blades, and real pearls. He said: the climate of this country is very cold; houses there have no tiles; the products are gold, silver, pearls, western silk cloth, cows, sheep, horses' camels with single humps, pears, almonds, dates, pa-lan [a kind of date], millet, and wheat. They make wine from grapes; their musical instruments are the lute, the hu-ch'in [the "tea-pot-shaped lute"]; the hsiao-pi-li[a kind of flageolet]; and the p'ien-ku ["side drum"]. The king dresses in red and yellow robes, and wears a turban of silken cloth interwoven with gold thread. In the third month every year he goes to the Temple of Fou-shih [ "Temple of Buddha", here meaning either Muhammed or Christ; in other places the Qu'ran is described as Fou-ching".], to sit on a red couch [palanquin?] which he gets the people to lift. His honored servants [ministers, courtiers, priests?] are dressed like the king, but wear blue, green, purple, white mottled, red, yellow, or brown stuff, wear turbans and ride on horseback. The towns and the country districts are each under the jurisdiction of a shou-ling [chief, sheik?]. Twice a year, during the summer and autumn, they must offer money and cloth [chin-ku-po]. In their criminal decisions they distinguish between great and small offences. Light offences are punished by several tens of blows with the bamboo; heavy offences with up to 200 blows; capital punishment is administered by putting the culprit into a feather bag which is thrown into the sea. They are not bent on making war to neighboring countries, and in the case of small difficulties try to settle matters by correspondence; but when important interests are at stake they will also send out an army. They cast gold and silver coins' without holes, however; on the pile they cut the words Mi-le-fou, which is a king's name. The people are forbidden to counterfeit the coin. During the sixth year of Yuan-yu [1091 AD] they sent two embassies, and their king was presented, by imperial order, with 200 pieces of cloth, pairs of white gold vases, and clothing with gold bound in a girdle.
Ma Tuan-lin, Wen-hsien-t'ung-k'ao, ch. 330 (written late 13th Century AD):
Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], also called Li-kan [Syria], has been first communicated with during the later Han dynasty. This country, as being in the west of the western sea [Persian Gulf], is also called Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e. "western sea country"]. Its king resides at the city of An-tu [Antioch]. In the palaces they use crystal in making pillars. From T'iao-chih [Babylonia] west, crossing the sea, you make a crooked journey, ten thousand li. Its distance from Ch'ang-an [Hsi-an-fu] is 40,000 li. This country is even and upright; human dwellings are scattered over it like stars. Its territory amounts to a thousand li from east to west and from north to south. It contains over 400 cities and several tens of small tributary states. In the west there is the Great Sea [the Mediterranean]. On the west of the sea there is the royal city of Ali-san [Alexandria]. They have keepers of official records and foreigners trained in reading their writings. They cut their hair and wear embroidered clothing. They also have small carriages with white canopies, and hoist flags, etc. Every ten li make one t'ing; thirty li make one hou, the same as in Zhongguo [China]. The country contains many lions who are a great scourge to travellers; for unless going in caravans of over a hundred men and being protected by military equipment, they will be hurt by them. Their king is not a permanent one, but they want to be led by a man of merit. Whenever an extraordinary calamity or an untimely storm and rain occurs, the king is deposed and a new one elected, the deposed king resigning cheerfully. The inhabitants are tall, and upright in their dealings, like the Han [Chinese], whence they are called Ta-ts'in, or Han.
Amongst precious stones they have the hsieh-chi-hsi [the chicken-frightening rhinoceros stone]. They mix several fragrant substances and fry their juice in order to make Su-ho [Storax]. The country produces gold, silver, and rare precious things; the jewel that shines at night, the moon-shine pearl, amber, opaque glass, tortoises, white horses, red bristles, tortoise-shell, black bears, red glass, the p'i-tu-shu [a kind of rat], large conches, ch'e-ch'u, carnelian. The Ts'ung [a quadruped] comes from the western sea [Persian Gulf]; some are domesticated like dogs, but they are mostly fierce and nasty. In the northern possessions of this country there is a kind of sheep which grow naturally out of the ground. They wait till the germs are about to sprout, and then protect them by raising walls lest the beasts at large should eat them. Their navels are connected with the ground; if the navel is cut by force, the animal will die; but if by the sound of striking some object they are frightened, this will cause them to disconnect their navels, and they may be taken off the water-plants; they will not form flocks. There is further the Mu-nan, a pearl of jade color, originating in the coagulation of saliva in the mouth of a flying bird; the natives consider it a precious substance. There are jugglers who can let fires burn on their foreheads; make rivers and lakes in their hands; raise their feet and let pearls and precious stones drop from them; and, in opening their mouths produce banners and tufts of feathers in abundance. With regard to the hsi-pu [fine cloth] manufactured on their looms, they say they use the wool of water-sheep in making it; it is called hai-chung-pu. They make all kinds of rugs; their colors are still more brilliant than are those manufactured in the countries on the east of the sea. They always made profit by obtaining the thick plain silk stuffs of Zhongguo, which they split in order to make foreign ling kan wen [damask and purple-dyed mustered goods], and they entertained a lively trade with the foreign states of Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia] by sea. About 700 or 800 li south-west in the Chang-hai, you come to the Coral Islands. At the bottom of the water there are rocks and the corals grow on them.
The inhabitants of Ta-tsin use large sea-going ships having on board nets of iron. They get a diver first to go down and look for corals; if the nets can be let down, they drop them. When the corals first appear they are white, and by degrees they resemble sprouts, and break through. After a year and some time has elapsed they grow through the meshes of the net and change their color into yellow; they will then throw out branches and intertwine, having grown to a height of three or four ch'ih [four to five feet], and the larger ones measuring over a ch'ih [15 inches] in circuit. After three years, their color has turned into a beautiful carnation red. They are then again looked after to ascertain whether they can be gathered. The fishers thereupon get at the roots with iron pinchers and fasten the net with ropes; they let the men on board turn the vessel round, raise the net and take it out, and return to their country, where the corals are polished and cut according to fancy. If not fished for at the proper time they are liable to be worm-bitten.
In this country they make gold and silver coins; ten silver coins are worth one gold coin. The inhabitants are just in their dealings, and in the trade there are not two prices. Cereals are always cheap, and the budget is well supplied. When the envoys of neighboring countries arrive at their furthest frontier they are driven by post to the royal capital and, on arrival, are presented with golden money. Their king always wished to send envoys to Zhongguo; but the Ar-hsi wished to carry on trade with them in Han silks, and this is the cause of their having been shut off from direct communication. It was, further, hard to cross the great sea, travelling merchants taking three years' provisions on board to make this passage, whence the number of travellers was but small. In the beginning of the Yuan-chia period of the emperor Huan-ti [151-153 AD], the king of Ta-ts'in, An-tun [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus], sent envoys who offered ivory, rhinoceros' horns, and tortoise-shell, from the boundary of Jih-nan [Annam]; this was the first time they communicated with us. Their tribute contained no precious stones whatever, which fact makes us suspect that the messengers kept them back. During the Ta-k'ang period of the emperor Wu-ti of the Chin dynasty [280-290 AD] their king sent envoys with tribute. Some say that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui [weak water] and the Liu-sha [flying sands] near the residence of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] not far from the place where the sun sets.
The Wai-kuo-t'u ["map of foreign countries"] says: From Yung-ch'en north there is a country called Ta-ts'in. These people are of great size; they measure five or six ch'ih [six to seven feet] in height. The Kuei-huan-hsing-ching-chi says: The Fu-lin country is in the west of Shan [Armenia], separated by hills several thousand li; it is also called Ta-ts'in. Its inhabitants have red and white faces. Men wear plain clothes, but women wear silk stuffs beset with pearls. They have many clever weavers of silk. Prisoners are kept in the frontier states till death without their being brought back to their home. In the manufacture of glass they are not equalled by any nation of the world. The royal city is eighty li square; the country in all directions measures several thousand li. Their army consists of about a million men. They have constantly to provide against the Ta-shih. On the west the country bounds on the western sea [the Mediterranean]; on the south, on the southern sea [Red Sea?]; in the north it connects with K'o-sa T'u-ch'ueh [the Khazars]. In the western sea there is a market where a silent agreement exists between buyer and seller that, if the one is coming the other will go, and vice-versa; the seller will first spread out his goods, and the purchaser will afterwards produce their equivalents, which have to wait by the side of the articles to be sold till received by the seller, after which the purchase may be taken delivery of. They call this a spirit market.
There is also a report that in the west there is the country of women who, being affected by the influence of water, give birth to children. It is further said: the country of Mo-lin [ 'Alwa, or Upper Nubia] is on the south-west of the country of Yang-sa-lo [Jerusalem?]; crossing the great desert 2,000 li you come to this country. Its inhabitants are black and of ferocious manners. Cereals are scarce, and there is no vegetation in the way of shrubs and trees; horses are fed on dried fish; men eat hu-mang, that is, the Persian date. The country is very malarious. The hill tribes which one has to pass in pursuing the overland road of these countries, are of the same race. Of religions there are several kinds: there is the Ta-shih, the Ta-ts'in, and the Hsun-hsun religion; The Hsun-hsun have most frequent illicit intercourse with barbarians; while eating they do not speak. Those who belong to the religion of Ta-shih have a rule by which brothers, children and other relatives may be impeached for crime without implicating their kin, even if the crime be brought home to them. They do not eat the flesh of pigs, dogs, donkeys, and horses; they do not prostrate or kneel down before the king, nor before father or mother, to show their veneration; they do not believe in spirits, and sacrifice to heaven alone. Every seventh day is a holiday, when they will refrain from trade, and not go in or out, but drink wine and yield to dissipation till the day is finished. The Ta-ts'in are good physicians in eye-diseases and diarrhea, whether by looking to matters before the disease has broken out [i.e., whether by the prophylactic method], or whether by extracting worms from the brain [trepanning].
In the south-east of this country you go to Chiao-chih [Cochin China]; there is also a water-road communicating with the I-chou and Yung-ch'ang principalities [both in the present Yunnan]. Many rare things come from there. It is said that in the west of Ta-ts'in there is the water of a sea; west of the seawater there is a river; the river flows south-west; west of the river there are hills extending from south to north; west of the hills there is the Red Water; west of this is the White Jade Hill; west of the Jade Hill is the Hill of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] who lives in a temple built of jadestone. Coming from the western boundary of Ar-hsi [Parthia], following the crooked shape of the sea, you also come to Ta-ts'in [at Aelana (modern Elat)], bending round over 10,000 li. Although in that country the sun, the moon, and the constellations appear not different from what they are in Zhongguo, former historians say that in the west of T'iao-chih [Babylonia] you go a hundred li to the place where the sun sets; this is far from being true.
In the 17th year of Cheng-kuan of the T'ang dynasty [643 AD] the king of Fu-lin, Po-to-li [Constans II Pogonatus, Emperor 641-668 AD], sent envoys offering red glass and green gold ching[stones, gems, dust], and a cabinet order was issued as an acknowledgement. The Ta-shih waged war against the country which in the sequel became subject to them. Between the periods Ch'ien-feng and Ta-tsu [666-701 AD] they repeated their court offerings. In the seventh year of K'ai-yuan [719 AD] they offered through the ta-yu [a high official] of T'u-huo-lo [Khazarstan] lions and ling-yang[antelopes].
The Dwarfs. These are in the south of Ta-ts'in. They are scarcely three ch'ih [four feet] large. When they work in the fields they are afraid of being devoured by cranes. Whenever Ta-ts'in has rendered them any assistance, the Dwarfs give them all they can afford in the way of precious stones to show their gratitude. The Hsuan-ch'u. Their country contains many "birds of nine colors," with blue pecks, green necks, red-brown wings, red breasts, purple crests, vermilion feet, jade-colored bodies, yellowish backs, and blackish tails. Another name of this animal is "bird of nine tails," or chin-feng [the brocaded phoenix]. Those which have more blue than red on them are called Hsiu-luan [embroidered argus pheasant]. These birds usually come from the west of the Jo-shui [weak water]. Some say that it is the bird of the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother]. The coins of the country are the same as those of the country of San-t'ung. The San-t'ung are a thousand lisouth-west of Hsuan-ch'u. The inhabitants have three eyes, and sometimes four tongues by means of which they may produce one kind of sound and speak one language. They trade in plantains, also in rhinoceros' horns and ivory; they make golden coins on which they imitate the king's, also the queen's face [with the king's together.]; if the husband is changed, they use the king's face; if the king dies, they re-melt the coin. The above three countries border on Ta-ts'in whence they are here appended.
Ala-san [Charax Spasinu] was heard of during the Wei dynasty. It is subject to Ta-ts'in. Its residence lies right in the middle of a river. North you go to Lu-fen [Nikephorium] by water half a year, with quick winds a month. It is nearest to Ch'eng-ku of Ar-hsi [Parthia]. South-west you go to the capital of Ta-ts'in; we do not know how many li. Lu-fen was heard of during the Wei dynasty. It is subject to Ta-ts'in. Its residence is 2000 li distant from the capital of Ta-ts'in. The flying bridge across the river [the bridge over the Euphrates at Zeugma] in Ta-ts'in west of the city of Lu-fen is 240 li in length. The road, if you cross the river, goes to the south-west; if you make a round on the river, you go due west.
Fu-lin. In the south and east of the country of Fu-lin you go to Mei-lu-ku [Kilikia ("Cilicia")]; north you go to the sea, forty days' journey; west you go to the sea, thirty days' journey. In the east, starting from western Ta-shih you come to Yu-tien [Khoten], Hui-ho, Ta-ta [Tartary], and Ch'ing-t'ang, and finally reach Zhongguo [China]. They have during former dynasties not sent tribute to our court. During the tenth month of the fourth year of the period Yuan-feng [November 1081 AD] their king Mieh-li-i-ling-kai-sa [Michael Caesar] first sent the ta-shou-ling [a high official] Ni-si-tu-ling-si-meng-p'an to offer as tribute saddled horses, sword-blades and real pearls. He said: the climate of this country is very cold; houses there have no tiles; the products are gold, silver, pearls, western silk cloth, cows, sheep, horses, camels with single humps, pears, almonds, dates, pa-lan, millet, and wheat. They make wine from grapes. Their musical instruments are the lute, the hu-ch'in, the hsiao-pi-li, and the p'ien-ku. The king dresses in red and yellow robes, and wears a turban of silken cloth interwoven with gold thread. In the third month every year he goes to the Temple of Fou, to sit on a red palanquin which he gets the people to lift. His honored servants [ministers, courtiers, priests?] are dressed like the king, but wear blue, green, purple, white mottled, red, yellow, or brown stuff; wear turbans and ride on horseback. The towns and the country districts are each under the jurisdiction of a shou-ling [chief, sheik?]. Twice a year during the summer and autumn they must offer money and cloth. In their criminal decisions they distinguish between great and small offences. Light offences are punished by several hundreds' of blows with the bamboo; heavy offences with up to 200 blows; capital punishment is administered by putting the culprit into a feather bag which is thrown into the sea. They are not bent on making war to neighboring countries, and in the case of small difficulties try to settle matters by correspondence; but when important interests are at stake they will also send out an army. They cast gold and silver coins, without holes, however; on the pile they cut the words Mi-le-fou which is a king's name; the people are forbidden to counterfeit the coin.
During the sixth year of Yuan-yu [1091 AD] they sent two embassies, and their king was presented, by Imperial order, with 200 pieces of cloth, pairs of silver vases, and clothing with gold bound in a girdle. According to the historians of the T'ang dynasty, the country of Fu-lin was held to be identical with the ancient Ta-ts'in. It should be remarked, however, that, although Ta-ts'in has from the Later Han dynasty when Zhongguo was first communicated with, till down to the Chin and T'ang dynasties has offered tribute without interruption, yet the historians of the "four reigns" of the Sung dynasty, in their notices of Fu-lin, hold that this country has not sent tribute to court up to the time of Yuan-feng [1078-1086 AD] when they sent their first embassy offering local produce. If we, now, hold together the two accounts of Fu-lin as transmitted by the two different historians, we find that, in the account of the T'ang dynasty, this country is said "to border on the great sea in the west"; whereas the Sung account says that "in the west you have still thirty days' journey to the sea;" and the remaining boundaries do also not tally in the two accounts; nor do the products and the customs of the people. I suspect that we have before us merely an accidental similarity of the name, and that the country is indeed not identical with Ta-ts'in. I have, for this reason, appended the Fu-lin account of the T'ang dynasty to my chapter on Ta-ts'in, and represented this Fu-lin of the Sung dynasty as a separate country altogether.
Chao Ju-kua, Chu-fan-chih (written late 13th Century AD):
The country of Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], also called Li-kan [Syria], is the general meeting-ground for the nations of the western heaven, and the place where the foreign merchants of Ta-shih [the Arabs of the Caliphate] assemble. Their king is styled Mie-lu-ku. He rules at the city of An-tu [Antioch]. He wears a turban of silk with gold-embroidered characters, and the throne he sits upon is covered with a silken rug. They have walled cities and markets with streets and lanes. In the king's dwelling they use crystal in making pillars; and they use plaster in lieu of tiles. They frequently erect tabernacles with seven entrances all round, each holding a garrison of thirty men. Tribute-bearers from other countries pay their respects below the platform of the palace steps, whence they withdraw on having offered their congratulations. The inhabitants are tall and of bright complexion, somewhat like the Han [Chinese], which has been the cause of their being called Ta-ts'in. They have keepers of official records and foreign interpreters knowing their style of writing. They trim their hair and wear embroidered dresses. They also have small carriages with white canopies, and flags, etc.; and at the distance of every ten li there is a t'ing, and at the distance of every thirty li there is a hou. There are in the country many lions who will attack travellers and may devour them unless they go in caravans of a hundred men and be protected by military equipment. Underneath the palace they have cut into the ground a tunnel communicating with the hall of worship at a distance of over a li. The king rarely goes out; but, to chant the liturgy and worship, on every seventh day he proceeds by way of this tunnel to the hall of worship where, in performing divine service, he is attended by a suite of over fifty men. But few amongst the people know the king's face; if he goes out he sits on horseback, protected by an umbrella; the head of his horse is adorned with gold, jade, pearls and other jewels. Every year the king of the country of Ta-shih who is styled Su-tan [Sultan] sends tribute-bearers, and if in the country some trouble is apprehended, he gets the Ta-shih to use their military force in restoring order. Their food mainly consists in cooked dishes, cakes and meat; they do not drink wine; but they use vessels made of gold and silver, and help themselves to their contents by means of ladles; after meals they wash hands in a golden bowl filled with water. The products of the country consist in opaque glass, corals, raw gold, brocades, sarcenets, red carnelian stones and real pearls; also the hsieh-chi-hsi, which is the same as the T'ung-t'ien-hsi. At the beginning of the Yen-hsi period [158-167 AD] the ruler of this country sent an embassy who, from outside the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam], came to offer rhinoceros' horns, ivory and tortoise-shell, this being the first direct communication with Zhongguo. As their presents contained no other precious matters and curiosities, it may be suspected that the ambassadors kept them back. During the T'ai-k'ang period of the Chin dynasty [280-289 AD] further tribute was brought from there [at the time of Diocletian]. There is a saying that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui [weak water] and the Liu-sha [flying sands] near the place where the Hsi-wang-mu [western king's mother] resides, and where the sun sets.
The Tu-huan-ching-hsing-chi says: The country of Fu-lin is in the west of the Shan [Armenia] country; it is also called Ta-ts'in. The inhabitants have red and white faces. Men wear plain clothes, but women wear silk stuffs beset with pearls. They are fond of wine and dry cakes. They have many clever weavers of silk. The size of the country is a thousand li. Their army consists of over 10,000 men and has to ward off the Ta-shih. In the western sea there is a market where a silent agreement exists between buyer and seller that, if the one is coming the other will go, and vice-versa, the seller will first spread out his goods, and the purchaser will afterwards produce their equivalents, which have to wait by the side of the articles to be sold till received by the seller, after which the purchase may be taken delivery of. They call this a spirit market.
From the Ming-shih, ch. 326 (concluded 1724 AD), for 1368-1643 AD:
u-lin [Byzantium] is the same as Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria] of the Han period. It first communicated with Zhongguo [China] at the time of the emperor Huan-ti [147-168 AD]. During the Chin and Wei dynasties it was also called Ta-ts'in, and tribute was sent to Zhongguo. During the T'ang dynasty it was called Fu-lin. During the Sung it was still so called, and they sent also tribute several times; yet the Sung-shih says that during former dynasties they have sent no tribute to our court, which throws doubt on its identity with Ta-ts'in. At the close of the Yuan dynasty [1278-1368 AD] a native of this country, named Nieh-ku-lun, came to Zhongguo for trading purposes [Pope John XXII appointed Nicolaus de Bentra to succeed John de Monte Corvino as Archbishop of Cambalu, that is, Peking, in the year 1333; and also sent letters to the emperor of the Tartars, who was then the sovereign of China." Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History,trans. James Murdock, Vol. II, p. 359; cf. Remusat, Nouv. Mel. Asiat., Vol. II, p. 198. Bretschneider, Arabs, etc., p. 25, says: "It is possible that the Nie-ku-lun of the Chinese Annals is identical with the Monk Nicolas. The statement of the Chinese that Nicolas carried on commerce does not contradict this view. Perhaps he trafficked in fact, or he considered it necessary to introduce himself under the name of a merchant."]. When, after the fall of the Yuan, he was not able to return, the emperor T'ai-tsu, who had heard of this, commanded him to his presence in the eighth month of the fourth year of Hung-wu [September 1371 AD] and gave orders that an official letter be placed into his hands for transmission to his king, which read as follows: "Since the Sung dynasty had lost the throne and Heaven had cut off their sacrifice, the Yuan [Mongol] dynasty had risen from the desert to enter and rule over Zhongguo for more than a hundred years, when Heaven, wearied of their misgovernment and debauchery, thought also fit to turn their fate to ruin, and the affairs of Zhongguo were in a state of disorder for eighteen years. But when the nation began to arouse itself, We, as a simple peasant of Huai-yu, conceived the patriotic idea to save the people, and it pleased the Creator to grant that Our civil and military officers effected their passage across eastward to the left side of the River. We have then been engaged in war for fourteen years; We have, in the west, subdued the king of Han, Ch'en Yu-liang; We have, in the east, bound the king of Wu, Chang Shih-ch'eng; We have, in the south, subdued Min and Yueh [Fukien and Kuang-tung], and conquered Pa and Shu [Sze-chuan]; We have, in the north, established order in Yu and Yen [Chih-li]; We have established peace in the Empire, and restored the old boundaries of Zhongguo. We were selected by Our people to occupy the Imperial throne of Zhongguo under the dynastic title of 'the Great Ming,' commencing with Our reign styled Hung-wu, of which we now are in the fourth year. We have sent officers to all the foreign kingdoms with this Manifesto except to you, Fu-lin, who, being separated from us by the western sea, have not as yet received the announcement. We now send a native of your country, Nieh-ku-lun, to hand you this Manifesto. Although We are not equal in wisdom to our ancient rulers whose virtue was recognized all over the universe, We cannot but let the world know Our intention to maintain peace within the four seas. It is on this ground alone that We have issued this Manifesto." And he again ordered the ambassador Pu-la and others to be provided with credentials and presents of silk for transmission to that country, who thereafter sent an embassy with tribute. But this embassy was, in the sequel, not repeated until during the Wan-li period [1573-1620 AD] a native from the great western ocean [Fra. Matteo Ricci--mentioned in a subsequent account of Italy as the foreigner who arrived] came to the capital who said that the Lord of Heaven, Ye-su, was born in Ju-te-a [Judea] which is identical with the old country of Ta-ts'in; that this country is known in the historical books to have existed since the creation of the world for the last 6,000 years; that it is beyond dispute the sacred ground of history and the origin of all wordly affairs; that it should be considered as the country where the Lord of Heaven created the human race. This account looks somewhat exaggerated and should not be trusted. As regards the abundance of produce and other precious articles found in this country, accounts will be found in former annals.