The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 2 eBook

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who visited Canton since the commencement of the 16th century.”  It seems to be rather doubtful whether the 500 Lo-han of Canton are really traceable to that time.  There is hardly any huge clay statue in China a hundred or two hundred years old, and all the older ones are in a state of decay, owing to the brittleness of the material and the carelessness of the monks.  Besides, as stated by Mayers and Dennys (l.c., p. 163), the Lo-han Hall of Canton, with its glittering contents, is a purely modern structure, having been added to the Fa-lum Temple in 1846, by means of a subscription mainly supported by the Hong Merchants.  Although this statue is not old, yet it may have been made after an ancient model.  Archdeacon Gray, in his remarkable and interesting book, Walks in the City of Canton (Hong Kong, 1875, p. 207), justly criticized the Marco Polo theory, and simultaneously gave a correct identification of the Lo-han in question.  His statement is as follows:  “Of the idols of the five hundred disciples of Buddha, which, in this hall, are contained, there is one, which, in dress and configuration of countenance, is said to resemble a foreigner.  With regard to this image, one writer, if we mistake not, has stated that it is a statue of the celebrated traveller Marco Polo, who, in the thirteenth century, visited, and, for some time, resided in the flowery land of China.  This statement, on the part of the writer to whom we refer, is altogether untenable.  Moreover, it is an error so glaring as to cast, in the estimation of all careful readers of his work, no ordinary degree of discredit upon many of his most positive assertions.  The person, whose idol is so rashly described as being that of Marco Polo, was named Shien-Tchu.  He was a native of one of the northern provinces of India, and, for his zeal as an apostle in the service of Buddha, was highly renowned.”

Everard Cotes closes the final chapter of his book, The Arising East (New York, 1907), as follows:  “In the heart of Canton, within easy reach of mob violence at any time, may be seen to-day the life-size statue of an elderly European, in gilt clothes and black hat, which the Chinese have cared for and preserved from generation to generation because the original, Marco Polo, was a friend to their race.  The thirteenth-century European had no monopoly of ability to make himself loved and reverenced.  A position similar to that which he won as an individual is open to-day to the Anglo-Saxon as a race.  But the Mongolian was not afraid of Marco Polo, and he is afraid of us.  It can be attained, therefore, only by fair dealing and sympathy, supported by an overwhelming preponderance of fighting strength.”

[Dr. Laufer reproduces here the note in Marco Polo, I., p. 76.  I may remark that I never said nor believed that the statue was Polo’s.  The mosaic at Genoa is a fancy portrait.]

The question may be raised, however, Are there any traces of foreign influence displayed in this statue?  The only way of solving this problem seemed to me the following:  First to determine the number and the name of the alleged Marco Polo Lo-han at Canton, and then by means of this number to trace him in the series of pictures of the traditional 500 Lo-han (the so-called Lo han t’u).

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