The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,230 pages of information about The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 1.

The Ramusian version adds here these curious and apparently genuine particulars:—­

“The Great Kaan sends his commissioners to the Province to select four or five hundred, or whatever number may be ordered, of the most beautiful young women, according to the scale of beauty enjoined upon them.  And they set a value upon the comparative beauty of the damsels in this way.  The commissioners on arriving assemble all the girls of the province, in presence of appraisers appointed for the purpose.  These carefully survey the points of each girl in succession, as (for example) her hair, her complexion, eyebrows, mouth, lips, and the proportion of all her limbs.  They will then set down some as estimated at 16 carats, some at 17, 18, 20, or more or less, according to the sum of the beauties or defects of each.  And whatever standard the Great Kaan may have fixed for those that are to be brought to him, whether it be 20 carats or 21, the commissioners select the required number from those who have attained that standard, and bring them to him.  And when they reach his presence he has them appraised anew by other parties, and has a selection made of 30 or 40 of those, who then get the highest valuation.”

Marsden and Murray miss the meaning of this curious statement in a surprising manner, supposing the carat to represent some absolute value, 4 grains of gold according to the former, whence the damsel of 20 carats was estimated at 13_s._ 4_d._!  This is sad nonsense; but Marsden would not have made the mistake had he not been fortunate enough to live before the introduction of Competitive Examinations.  This Kungurat business was in fact a competitive examination in beauty; total marks attainable 24; no candidate to pass who did not get 20 or 21. Carat expresses n / 24, not any absolute value.

Apart from the mode of valuation, it appears that a like system of selection was continued by the Ming, and that some such selection from the daughters of the Manchu nobles has been maintained till recent times.  Herodotus tells that the like custom prevailed among the Adyrmachidae, the Libyan tribe next Egypt.  Old Eden too relates it of the “Princes of Moscovia.” (Middle Km. I. 318; Herod. IV. 168, Rawl.; Notes on Russia, Hak.  Soc.  II. 253.)



The Emperor hath, by those four wives of his, twenty-two male children; the eldest of whom was called CHINKIN for the love of the good Chinghis Kaan, the first Lord of the Tartars.  And this Chinkin, as the Eldest Son of the Kaan, was to have reigned after his father’s death; but, as it came to pass, he died.  He left a son behind him, however, whose name is TEMUR, and he is to be the Great Kaan and Emperor after the death of his Grandfather, as is but right; he being the child of the Great Kaan’s eldest son.  And this Temur is an able and brave man, as he hath already proven on many occasions.[NOTE 1]

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The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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