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CHA P. chased from the Chinese * the raw or manufactura XL. ed silk which they transported into Persia for the
use of the Roman empire. In the vain capital of China, the Sogdian caravans were entertained as the suppliant embassies of tributary kingdoms, and if they returned in safety, the bold adventure was rewarded with exorbitant gain. But the difficult and perilous march from Samarcand to the first town of Shensi, could not be performed in less than sixty, eighty, or one hundred days : as soon as they had passed the Jazartes, they entered the desert; and the wandering hords, unless they are restrained by armies and garrisons, have always considered the citizen and the traveller as the objects of lawful rapine. To escape the Tartar robbers, and the tyrants of Persia, the silk caravans explored a more southern road; they traversed the mountains of Thibet, descended the streams of the Ganges or the Indus, and pati, ently expected, in the ports of Guzerat and Ma. Jabar, the annual fleets of the West f. But the
* The blind admiration of the Jesuits confounds the different periods of the Chinese history. They are more critically distinguished by M. de Guignes (Hist. des Huns, tom. i. part i. in the Tables, part ii. in the Geography. Memoires de l'Aca: demie des Inscriptions, tom. xxxij. xxxvi. xlii, xliv.), who discovers the gradual progress of the truth of the annals, and the extent of the monarchy, till the Christian æra. He has search. ed, with a curious eye, the connections of the Chinese with the nations of the West : but these connections are slight, casual, and obscure ; nor did the Romans entertain a suspicion that the Seres or Sinæ possessed an empire not inferior to their own.
+ The roads from China to Persia and Hindostan may be investigated in the relations of Hackluyt and Thevenot (the ambassadors of Sharokh, Anthony Jenkinson, the Pere Greuber, &c. See likewise Hanway's Travels, vol. i. p. 345-357. A communication through Thibet has been lately explored by the English sovereigns of Bengal,
dangers of the desert were found less intolerable CHA P. than toil, hungar, and the loss of time; the at- XL. tempt was seldom renewed, and the only European who has passed that unfrequented way, applauds his own diligence, that in nine months after his departure from Pekin, he reached the mouth of the Indus. The ocean, however, was open to the free communication of mankind. From the great river to the tropic of Cancer, the provinces of China were subdued and civilized by the emperors of the North; they were filled about the time of the Christian æra with cities and men, mulberry-trees and their precious inhabitants; and if the Chinese, with the knowledge of the compass, had possessed the genius of the Greeks or Phoenicians, they might have spread their discoveries over the southern hemisphere. I am not qualified to examine, and I am not disposed to believe, their distant voyages to the Persian gulph, or the Cape of Good Hope: but their ancestors might equal the labours and success of the present race, and the sphere of their navigation might extend from the isles of Japan to the streights of Malaca, the pillars, if we may apply that name, of an Oriental Hercules*. Without losing sight of land, they might sail along the coast to the extreme promontory of Achin, which is annually visited by ten or twelve ships laden with the productions, the manufactures, and even the artificers,
*For the Chinese navigation to Malaca and Achin, perhaps. to Ceylon, see Renaudot (on the two Mahometan Travellers, P. 8-11. 13-17. 141-157.), Dampier (vol. ii, p. 136.), the Hist. Philosophique des deux Indes (tom. i. p. 98.), and the Hist. Generales des Voyages (tom. vi. p. 201.).
CHAP cers of China; the island of Sumatra, and the opposite peninsula, are faintly delineated as the regions of gold and silver; and the trading cities named in the geography of Ptolemy, may indicate that this wealth was not solely derived from the mines. The direct interval between Sumatra and Ceylon is about three hundred leagues; the Chinese and Indian navigators were conducted by the flight of birds and periodical winds, and the ocean might be securely traversed in square-built ships, which, instead of iron, were sewed together with the strong thread of the cocoa-nut. Ceylon, Serendib, or Taprobana, was divided between two hostile princes; one of whom possessed the mountains, the elephants, and the luminous carbuncle, and the other enjoyed the more solid riches of domestie industry, foreign trade, and the capacious harbour of Trinquemale, which received and dismissed the fleets of the East and West. In this hospitable isle, at an equal distance (as it was computed) from their respective countries, the silk merchants of China, who had collected in their voyages aloes, cloves, nutmegs, and santal wood, maintained a free and beneficial commerce with the inhabitants of the Persian gulf. The subjects of the great king exalted, without a rival, his power and magnificence; and the Roman, who
The knowledge, or rather ignorance, of Strabo, Pliny,, Ptolemy, Arian, Marcian, &c. of the countries eastward of Cape Comorin, is finely illustrated by d'Anville (Antiquiteé Geographique de l'Inde, especially p. 161-198.). Our geography of India is improved by commerce and conquest; and has been illustrated by the excellent maps and memoirs of major Rennel. If he extends the sphere of his inquiries with the same critical knowledge and sagacity, he will succeed, and may surpass, the first of modern geographers.
tion of silk
who confounded their vanity by comparing his CHAP. paltry coin with a gold medal of the emperor Anastasius, had sailed to Ceylon in an Æthiopian ship, as a simple passenger *
As silk became of indispensable use, the em- Introduc.. peror Justinian saw, with concern, that the Per- worms into sians had occupied by land and sea the monopoly of this important supply, and that the wealth of his subjects was continually drained by a nation of enemies and idolaters. An active government would have restored the trade of Egypt and the navigation of the Red Sea, which had decayed with the prosperity of the empire; and the Roman vessels might have sailed, for the purchase of silk, to the ports of Ceylon, of Malacca, or even of China. Justinian embraced a more humble expedient, and solicited the aid of his Christian allies, the Æthiopians of Abyssinia, who had recently acquired the arts of navigation, the spirit of trade, and the sea-port of Adulis t, still decorated with the trophies of a Grecian conqueror. Along the African coast, they penetrated to the equator in search of gold, emeralds, and aromátics; but they wisely declined an unequal competition, in which VOL. II. H
* The Taprobare of Pliny (vi. 24.), Solinas (c. 53.), and Salmas. Plinianæ Exercitat. (p.781, 782.), and most of the ancients, who often confound the islands of Ceylon and Sumatra, is more clearly described by Cosmas Indicopleustes; yet even the Christian topographer has exaggerated its dimensions. His information on the Indian and Chinese trade is rare and curious (1. ii. p. 138. l. zi. p. 337, 338. edit. Montfaucon.).
+ See Procopius, Persic. (1. ii. c. 20.). Cosmas affords some interesting knowledge of the port and inscription of A. dulis (Topograph. Christ. 1. ii. p. 138. 140.143.), and of the trade of the Axumites along the African coast of Barbaria or Zingi (p. 138, 139.), and as far as Taprobane (1. xi, p. 339.).
CHAP. they must be always prevented by the vicinity of XL. the Persians to the markets of India; and the emperor submitted to the disappointment, till his wishes were gratified by an unexpected event. The gospel had been preached to the Indians: a bishop already governed the Christians of St. Thomas on the pepper-coast of Malabar; a church was planted in Ceylon, and the missionaries pursued the footsteps of commerce to the extremities of Asia *. Two Persian monks had long resided in China, perhaps in the royal city of Nankin, the seat of a monarch addicted to foreign superstitions, and who actually received an embassy from the isle of Ceylón. Amidst their pious occupations, they viewed with a curious eye the common dress of the Chinese, the manufactures of silk, and the myriads of silk-worms, whose education (either on trees or in houses) had once been considered as the labour of queens t. They soon discovered that it was impracticable to transport the short-lived insect, but that in the eggs a numerous progeny might be preserved and multiplied in a distant climate. Religion or interest had more power over the Persian monks than the love of their country: after a long journey, they arrived at Constantinople, imparted their project to the emperor, and were liberally encouraged
See the Christian missions in India, in Cosmas (1. iii. P. 178, 179. 1. xi. p. 337.), and consult Asseman. Bibliot Orient. (tom. iv. p. 413-548.).
The invention, manufacture, and general use of silk in China, may be seen in Duhalde (Description Generale de la Chine, tom. ii. p. 165. 205-223.). The province of Chekian is the most renowned both for quantity and quality.