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The Witness of Marco Polo
The journeys of Marco Polo in China date back to the early 1290s. He was the first Western traveller to write about the various provinces of Burma (Mien) in what is present-
The Chinese Zodiac
Marco Polo must have seen many images of the Chinese Zodiac. Having read the following you may understand why the Chinese depict the animals that feature on their zodiac. Eleven of them are well known: nothing mythological in sight until the twelfth, which is a dragon. Could this be because the dragon was as real to them as the monkey and the rat.
Of the Province Named Karazan
Leaving the city of Yachi and travelling ten days into a westerly direction, you reach the Province of Karazan which is also the name of its chief city… Here are seen huge serpents, ten paces in length and ten spans in the girt of the body. At the fore-
Those whose employment it is to hunt them observe the track by which they are most frequently accustomed to go, and fix into the ground several pieces of wood, armed with sharp iron spikes, which they cover with the sand in such a manner as not to be perceptible. When therefore the animals make their way towards the places they usually haunt, they are wounded by these instruments and speedily killed. The crows, as soon as they perceive them to be dead, set up their scream; and this serves as a signal to the hunters, who advance to the spot and proceed to separate the skin from the flesh, taking care immediately to secure the gall, which is most highly esteemed in medicine. In cases of the bite of a mad dog, a pennyweight of it, dissolved in wine, is administered. It is also useful in accelerating parturition, when the labour pains of women have come on. A small quantity of it being applied to carbuncles, pustules or other eruptions on the body, they are presently dispersed; and it is efficacious in many other complaints. The flesh of the animal is also sold at a dear rate, being thought to have a higher flavour than other kinds of meat and by all persons it is esteemed a delicacy."
Marco Polo also reported that on special occasions the royal chariot was pulled by dragons and in 1611 the Emperor appointed the post of a “Royal Dragon Feeder”.
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