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.