The Journey of Benedict Goës Overland from India to China
[A native of the Azores, in 1594 the Portuguese Jesuit Benedict Goës joined a mission to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Soon after their arrival at the Mughal court, a Muslim merchant from Kashgar brought reports regarding China and the Jesuit mission that was already there. Although they seem to have been somewhat puzzled by the geography, the Jesuits in Agra concluded that this was the same country described by Marco Polo, and that perhaps this was the long-sought kingdom of the legendary Christian ruler Prester John. Goës thus was chosen (partly because of his knowledge of Persian) to travel on an exploratory mission to China via Kashgar. He died before reaching Beijing; what survived of his notes and letters and some oral accounts were later (1615) combined by the famous Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci into the journal presented here. The text presents some problems with inconsistencies of dating; many of the place names have not been properly identified.
Despite these deficiencies, the account is a unique record by a European of travel on the overland trade routes in inner Asia at the beginning of the seventeenth century. One is struck by the route itself--heading northwest into Afghanistan before going north across the Hindu Kush to the headwaters of the Amu Darya, then east to Sarikol and on to Yarkand and Kashgar before skirting the Taklamakan on the north. The account details human and natural threats to travel and other aspects of the inner Asian trade, and provides some valuable information on the political divisions of the time.
The text here is excerpted from the English translation in Henry Yule and Henri Cordier, tr. and ed., Cathay and the Way Thither, Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China, Vol. IV (London, 1916), pp. 198-254. Some identifications have been added in brackets in the text, but the notes have been deleted.]
...So our Benedict began to prepare for his journey, and assumed both the dress and the name of an Armenian Christian merchant, calling himself Abdula, which signifies Servant of the Lord, with the addition of Isaf or the Christian. And he got from the Mogul king, Akbar by name, who was friendly to the brethren and above all to Benedict himself, sundry rescripts addressed to various Princes known to be either friends or tributaries of his. So he was to pass for an Armenian, for in that character he would be allowed to travel freely, whilst if known as a Spaniard he was certain to be stopped. He also carried with him a variety of wares, both that he might maintain himself by selling them, and to keep up his character as a merchant. There was a large supply of these wares both from (western) India, and from the Mogul dominions, provided at the expense of the Viceroy of India, aided by contributions also from Akbar himself. Father Jerome Xavier, who had for many years been at the head of the Mogul mission, appointed two men acquainted with those countries to be the comrades of his journey. One, for Benedict's comfort, was a priest, by name Leo Grimanus, the other a merchant called Demetrius. There were also four servants, Mahomedans by birth and former profession, but converted to Christianity. All of these servants however he discharged as useless when he got to Lahore (the second capital of the Mogul), and took in lieu of them a single Armenian Isaac by name, who had a wife and family at Lahore. This Isaac proved the most faithful of all his comrades, and stuck to him throughout the whole journey, a regular fidus Achates. So our brother took leave of his superior, and set out, as appears from the letter of instructions, on the sixth of January in the third year of this century (1603).
Every year a company of merchants is formed in that capital to proceed to the capital of another territory with a king of its own, called Cascar [Kashgar]. These all take the road together, either for the sake of mutual comfort or for protection against robbers. They numbered in the present case about five hundred persons, with a great number of mules, camels, and carts. So he set out from Lahore in this way during Lent of the year just mentioned, and after a month's travelling they came to a town called Athec [Attock], still within the province of Lahore. After (a halt of) about a fortnight they crossed a river of a bowshot in width [the Indus], boats being provided at the passage for the accommodation of the merchants. On the opposite bank, of the river they halted for five days, having received warning that a large body of robbers was threatening the road, and then after two months [probably correct to "two marches"] they arrived at another city called Passaur [Peshewar]: and there they halted twenty days for needful repose. Further on, whilst on their way to another small town they fell in with a certain pilgrim and devotee, from whom they learned that at a distance of thirty days' journey there was a city called Capperstam [i.e., the region of "Kafiristan" in Afghanistan], into which no Mahomedan was allowed to enter, and if one did get in he was punished with death. There was no hindrance offered to the entrance of heathen merchants into the cities of those people, only they were not allowed to enter the temples. He related also that the inhabitants of that country never visited their temples except in black dresses; and that their country was extremely productive, abounding especially in grapes. He offered our brother Benedict a cup of the produce, and he found it to be wine like our own; and as such a thing is quite unusual among the Mahomedans of those regions, a suspicion arose that perhaps the country was inhabited by Christians. In the place where they met with that wanderer they halted for twenty days more, and as the road was reported to be infested with brigands they got an escort of four hundred soldiers from the lord of the place [probbly Jalalabad]. From this they travelled in twenty-five days to a place called Ghideli. In the whole of this journey the baggage and packs were carried along the foot of the hills, whilst the merchants, arms in hand, kept a look out for the robbers from the hill-top. For these latter are in the habit of rolling stones down upon travellers, unless these are beforehand with them on the heights, and meeting violence by violence drive them away. At this place the merchants pay a toll, and here the robbers made an onslaught. Many of the company were wounded, and life and property were saved with difficulty. Our Benedict fled with the rest into the jungle, but coming back at night they succeeded in getting away from the robbers. After twenty days more they reached Cabul [Kabul], a city greatly frequented for trade, and still within the territories subject to the Mogul. Here our friends halted altogether for eight months. For some of the merchants laid aside the intention of going any further, and the rest were afraid to go on in so small a body.
At this same city the company of merchants was joined by the sister of that very King of Cascar, through whose territory it was needful to pass on the way to Cathay. The king's name is Maffamet Can; his sister was the mother of another king, entitled the Lord of Cotan [Khotan], and she herself was called Age Hanem [Hajji-Khanum]. Age [Hajji] is a title with which the Saracens decorate those who go on pilgrimage to the impostor's carcase at Mecca. In fact she was now on her return from that immense journey to Mecca, which she had performed for the sake of her blasphemous creed; and having run short of money she came to seek assistance from the merchants, and promised that she would honestly repay their advances with ample interest on reaching her territory. This seemed to our brother an opportunity not to be lost of obtaining the favour of the king of another kingdom, for now the efficacy of the Mogul's orders was coming to an end. So he made her an advance of about six hundred pieces of gold from the sale of his goods, and refused to allow interest to be stipulated in the bond. She would not, however, let herself be outdone in liberality, for she afterwards paid him in pieces of that kind of marble [i.e., jade] which is so highly esteemed among the Chinese, and which is the most profitable of all investments that one can take to Cathay.
From this place the Priest Leo Grimanus went back [to Lahore], being unable to stand the fatigues of the journey; and his comrade Demetrius stopped behind in the town on account of some business. So our brother set out, attended by no one but the Armenian, in the caravan with the other merchants. For some others had now joined them, and it was thought that they could proceed with safety.
The first town that they came to was Ciarakar [Charikar, on the Ghorband R. N. of Kabul], a place where there is great abundance of iron. And here Benedict was subjected to a great deal of annoyance. For in those outskirts of the Mogul's dominions no attention was paid to the king's firman, which had hitherto given him immunity from exactions of every kind. Ten days later they got to a little town called Paruan [Parwan, at the intersection of several trade routes] and this was the last in the Mogul's territories. After five days' repose they proceeded to cross over very lofty mountains by a journey of twenty days, to the district called Aingharan, and after fifteen days more they reached Calcia. There is a people here with yellow hair and beard like the people of the Low Countries, who occupy sundry hamlets about the country. After ten days more they came to a certain place called Gialalabath. Here are brahmans who exact a toll under a grant made to them by the King of Bruarata [Bukhara?]. In fifteen days more they came to Talhan [Talikhan, east of Kunduz], where they halted for a month, deterred by the civil wars that were going on; for the roads were said to be unsafe on account of the rebellion of the people of Calcia.
From this they went on to Cheman, a place under Abdulahan [Abdullah Khan] King of Samarkan, Burgavia [Ferghana?], Bacharata [Bukhara], and other adjoining kingdoms. It is a small town, and the governor sent to the merchants to advise them to come within the walls, as outside they would not be very safe from the Calcia insurgents. The merchants, however, replied that they were willing to pay toll, and would proceed on their journey by night. The governor of the town then absolutely forbad their proceeding, saying that the rebels of Calcia as yet had no horses, but they would get them if they plundered the caravan, and would thus be able to do much more damage to the country, and be much more troublesome to the town; it would be a much safer arrangement if they would join his men in beating off the Calcia people. They had barely reached the town walls when a report arose that the Calcia people were coming On hearing this the bragging governor and his men took to their heels. The merchants on the spur of the moment formed a kind of entrenchment of their packs, and collected a great heap of stones inside in case their arrows should run short. When the Calcia people found this out, they sent a deputation to the merchants to tell them to fear nothing, for they would themselves escort and protect the caravan. The merchants, however, were not disposed to put trust in these insurgents, and after holding counsel together flight was determined on. Somebody or other made this design known to the rebels, upon which immediately they made a rush forward, knocked over the packs, and took whatever they liked. These robbers then called the merchants out of the jungle (into which they had fled) and gave them leave to retire with the rest of their property within the empty city walls. Our Benedict lost nothing but one of his horses, and even that he afterwards got back in exchange for some cotton cloths. They remained in the town in a great state of fear lest the rebels should make a general attack and massacre the whole of them. But just then a certain leading chief, by name Olobet Ebadascan ['Ala Beg of Badakshan?], of the Buchara country, sent his brother to the rebels, and he by threats induced them to let the merchants go free. Throughout the whole journey, however, robbers were constantly making snatches at the tail of the caravan. And once it befel our friend Benedict that he had dropped behind the party and was attacked by four brigands who had been lying perdus. The way he got off from them was this: he snatched off his Persian cap and flung it at the thieves, and whilst they were making a football of it our brother had time to spur his horse and get a bowshot clear of them, and so safely joined the rest of the company.
After eight days of the worst possible road, they reached the Tenghi Badascian. Tengi signifies a difficult road; and it is indeed fearfully narrow, giving passage to only one at a time, and running at a great height above the bed of a river. The townspeople here, aided by a band of soldiers, made an attack upon the merchants, and our brother lost three horses. These, however, also he was enabled to ransom with some small presents. They halted here ten days, and then in one day's march reached Ciarciunar, where they were detained five days in the open country by rain, and suffered not only from the inclemency of the weather, but also from another onslaught of robbers.
From this in ten days they reached Serpanil; but this was a place utterly desolate and without a symptom of human occupation; and then they came to the ascent of the steep mountain called Sacrithma. None but the stoutest of the horses could face this mountain; the rest had to pass by a roundabout but easier road. Here two of our brother's mules went lame, and the weary servants wanted to let them go, but after all they were got to follow the others. And so, after a journey of twenty days, they reached the province of Sarcil [Sarikol, the high plateau of the Eastern Pamirs], where they found a number of hamlets near together. They halted there two days to rest the horses, and then in two days more reached the foot of the mountain called Ciecialith. It was covered deep with snow, and during the ascent many were frozen to death, and our brother himself barely escaped, for they were altogether six days in the snow here. At last they reached Tanghetar [near Yanghi Hisar], a place belonging to the Kingdom of Cascar. Here Isaac the Armenian fell oft the bank of a great river into the water, and lay as it were dead for some eight hours till Benedict's exertions at last brought him to.
In fifteen days more they reached the town of Iakonich [Yaka-arik, SW of Yarkand], and the roads were so bad that six of our brother's horses died of fatigue. After five days more our Benedict going on by himself in advance of the caravan reached the capital, which is called Hiarchan [Yarkand], and sent back horses to help on his party with necessaries for his comrades. And so they also arrived not long after safe at the capital, with bag and baggage, in November of the same year 1603.
Hiarchan, the capital of the kingdom of Cascar, is a mart of much note, both for the great concourse of merchants, and for the variety of wares. At this capital the caravan of Kabul merchants reaches its terminus; and a new one is formed for the journey to Cathay. The command of this caravan is sold by the king, who invests the chiefs with a kind of royal authority over the merchants for the whole journey. A twelvemonth passed away however before the new company was formed, for the way is long and perilous, and the caravan is not formed every year, but only when a large number arrange to join it, and when it is known that they will be allowed to enter Cathay.
There is no article of traffic more valuable, or more generally adopted as an investment for this journey, than lumps of a Certain transparent kind of marble which we, from poverty of language, usually call jasper [i.e., jade]. They carry these to the Emperor of Cathay, attracted by the high prices which he deems it obligatory on his dignity to give; and such pieces as the Emperor does not fancy they are free to dispose of to private individuals. The profit on these transactions is so great that it is thought amply to compensate for all the fatigue and expense of the journey. Out of this marble they fashion a variety of articles, such as vases, and brooches for mantles and girdles, which when artistically sculptured in flowers and foliage certainly have an effect of no small magnificence. These marbles (with which the empire is now overflowing) are called by the Chinese Iusce [Yu she]. There are two kinds of it; the first and more valuable is got out of the river of Cotan, not far from the capital, almost in the same way in which divers fish for gems, and this is usually extracted in pieces about as big as large flints. The other and inferior kind is excavated from the mountains; the larger masses are split into slabs some two ells broad and these are then reduced to a size adapted for carriage. That mountain is some twenty days' journey from this capital [i.e., Yarkand] and is called Cansanghi Cascio, i.e. the Stone Mountain, being very probably the mountain which is so termed in some of the geographical descriptions of this empire. The extraction of these blocks is a work involving immense labour, owing to the hardness of the substance as well as to the remote and lonely position of the place. They say that the stone is sometimes softened by the application of a blazing fire on the surface. The right of quarrying here is also sold by the king at a high price to some merchant, without whose license no other speculators can dig there during the term of the lease. When a party of workmen goes thither they take a year's provisions along with them, for they do not usually revisit the populated districts at a shorter interval.
Our brother Benedict went to pay his respects to the king, whose name was Mahomed Khan. The present that he carried with him secured him a good reception, for it consisted of a pocket watch, looking glasses, and other European curiosities, with which the king was so charmed and delighted that he adopted the giver at once into his friendship and patronage. Our friend did not at first disclose his desire to go to Cathay, but spoke only of the kingdom of Cialis, to the eastward of Cascar, and begged a royal passport for the journey thither. His request was strongly backed by the son of that pilgrim queen to whom he had lent six hundred pieces of gold [in Kabul]. And he also came to be on intimate terms with divers gentlemen of the court.
Six months had passed away when behold Demetrius, one of the original comrades of his journey, who had stayed behind at Kabul, arrived at Hiarchan. Benedict and Isaac the Armenian were greatly delighted at his arrival; but their joy was of short continuance, for very soon after this Demetrius caused our friend a great deal of trouble. At that time, with the king's leave, one of the merchants was elected mock emperor, whilst all the rest, according to a custom of theirs, paid homage to him and offered him presents. Demetrius, to save his pocket, held back; and as the emperor had the power of putting rebels against his authority in irons, or even of flogging them, Demetrius had great difficulty in escaping both penalties. Our Benedict, however, by his good management, arranged the whole matter, for his intercession and a small present got pardon for Demetrius. A greater peril also befel the party, when thieves broke into the house, and laid hold of the Armenian whom they tied up, putting a dagger to his throat to prevent his giving the alarm. The noise however roused Benedict and Demetrius, and the robbers made off.
On another occasion Benedict had gone away to get his loan repaid by the mother of the Prince of Quotan [Khotan]. Her capital was ten days' journey distant, and what with going and coming, a month had passed and he was still absent. So the Saracens took occasion by this to spread false reports of Benedict being dead, alleging him to have been put to death by priests of theirs for refusing to invoke the name of their false prophet. And now those initiated priests of theirs whom they call Cashishes, were endeavouring to lay violent hands upon his property, as that of one who was dead intestate and without an heir. This matter caused great distress to Demetrius and Isaac, both in their daily sorrow at the supposed death of their comrade, and in the danger of their own position. So their joy was twofold when after a while he turned up in safety. He returned with his debt paid in ample measure with pieces of that valuable stone of which we have spoken; and to mark his gratitude to God he made a large distribution of alms to the poor, a custom which he kept up throughout his whole journey.
One day when he had sat down with a company of Saracens at a dinner to which one of them had invited him, some fanatic burst in, sword in hand, and pointing his weapon at Benedict's breast desired him instantly to invoke the name of Mahomet. Our friend replied that no such name was wont to be invoked in the law which he professed, and that he must absolutely refuse to do so. The bystanders then came to his aid, and the madman was ejected. The same threats of death however, unless he would address prayer to Mahomet, are said to have been directed to him repeatedly, yet God ever delivered him until the end of his journey. On another day it happened that the King of Cascar sent for him, when the priests and theologians of the accursed faith were present at the court, (they call their theologians Mullas). Being then asked what faith he would profess, whether that of Moses, or of David, or of Mahomet, and in what direction he would turn his face in prayer? our friend replied that the faith he professed was that of JESUS, whom they called Isai, and that it mattered not to what quarter he turned in prayer, for God was everywhere. This last answer of his created a great discussion among them, for in prayer they make a point of turning to the west. At last they came to the conclusion that our law also might have some good in it.
Meantime a certain native named Agiasi [Hajji 'Aziz?] was nominated chief of the future caravan of merchants. And having heard that our brother was a man of courage, as well as a merchant of large dealings, he invited him to a grand entertainment at his house, at which there was a great concert of music after the manner of those people, as well as a dinner. After dinner the chief requested our brother to accompany the caravan all the way to Cathay. He indeed desired nothing better, but experience had taught him how to deal with Saracens, so he was glad that the proposal should come from the other side, and thus that he should seem to be granting rather than accepting a favour. So the king himself was prevailed on by the chief to make the request, and did accordingly ask Benedict to accompany the Caruanbasa as they call the chief of the company. Benedict agreed to do so on condition that the king would grant him circular letters for the whole course of the journey. His former comrades, belonging to the Kabul caravan, took offence at this, for, as has been said, it was always necessary on those occasions to travel in large numbers. So they counselled him against putting any trust in the natives, for these intended the thing only as a trap by which they might succeed in devouriug his fortune, and his very life. Our friend however represented that he was acting in accordance with the King's expressed wishes, and had given his promise to the chief of the caravan, from which as an honest man he could not go back. In truth the fears which those merchants professed to entertain were not unfounded, for many of the natives of the country declared that those three Armenians (for so they called them, as being all of one faith) would be murdered as soon as they set foot outside the city walls. And so Demetrius took fright, and a second time drew back from prosecuting the journey further, trying also to persuade our brother to go back. Benedict would not listen to him, saying that he had never yet let himself be deterred by fear of death from the duty of obedience, much less would he do so now in a business from which so much glory to God might be expected. It would be most unworthy conduct, he said, to frustrate the hopes of so many for fear of death; and to throw away all the expense that had been incurred by the Archbishop of Goa and the Viceroy. He hoped still to carry through the undertaking by the help of Him who had thus far brought him prosperously, but in any case he would rather risk his life in the cause than draw back from his purpose.
So he girded up his loins for the journey, and bought ten horses for himself and his comrade and their goods, having already one more at his house. Meanwhile the chief of the caravan went off to his home, which was some five days from the capital, to get ready for the journey, and after his arrival sent back a message to our friend to start as soon as possible, and to hasten the other merchants by his example. He was glad eriough to do so, and set out accordingly, in the middle of November, 1604, proceeding first to a place called Iolci, where duties used to be paid and the king's passports to be inspected. After this, in twenty-five days, passing successively Hancialix, Alceghet, Hagabateth, Egriar, Mesetelech, Thalec, Horma, Thoantac, Mingieda, Capetal col Zilan, Sarc Guebdal, Canbasci, Aconsersec and Ciacor, they reached Acsu [Aksu]. [The listed places are on the way from Kashghar to Aksu, starting on the route N. of the Taklamakan.] The difficulties of the road were great, either from the quantities of stones, or from the waterless tracts of sand which they had to pass.
Acsu is a town of the kingdom of Cascar, and the chief there was a nephew of the king's, and only twelve years of age. He sent twice for our brother. The latter carried him presents of sweetmeats and the like, such as would be acceptable to a child, and was most kindly received. A grand dance happening to be performed before them, the young prince asked Benedict how the people of his country used to dance? and so Benedict, not to be churlish with a prince about so small a matter, got up and danced himself to show the way of it. He also visited the prince's mother and showed her the royal rescript, which she looked on with great respect. To her he presented some little things such as women like, a looking glass, India muslin, and so forth. He was also sent for by the boy's governor who conducted the administration.
In this journey one of the pack horses belonging to our merchant fell into a very rapid river. In fact having broken the rope with which its feet (I know not why) were tied, it made off and crossed to the other side of the river. Benedict feeling the loss a serious one invoked the name of Jesus; and the horse of its own accord swam back to join the others, and our friend, delivered from the anticipated misfortune, returned thanks for the benefit vouchsafed. On this part of the journey they crossed the desert which is called Caracathai, or the Black Land of the Cathayans, because 'tis said that the people so called long sojourned there.
At this town (Acsu) they had to wait fifteen days for the arrival of the rest of the merchants. At last they started, and travelled to Oitograch Gazo, Casciani, Dellai, Saregabedal, and Ugan, whence they got to Cucia [Kucha], another small town at which they halted a whole month to rest their cattle, for these were nearly done up, what with the difficulties of the road, the weight of the marble which they carried, and the scarcity of barley. At this place our traveller was asked by the priests why he did not fast during their appointed time of fasting. This was asked in order that he might offer a bribe for exemption, or that they might extract a fine from him. And they were not far from laying violent hands on him, to force him into their place of worship.
Departing hence, after twenty-five days' journey they came to the city of Cialis [Karashahr?], a small place indeed, but strongly fortified. This territory was governed by an illegitimate son of the King of Cascar, who, when he heard that our brother and his party professed a different faith, began to utter threats, saying that it was too audacious a proceeding that a man professing another creed should intrude into that country, and that he would be quite justified in taking both his life and his property. But when he had read the royal letters which Benedict carried he was pacified, and after the latter had made him a present he became quite friendly. One night when this prince had been long engaged with the priests and doctors of his faith in one of their theological discussions, it suddenly came into his head to send for Benedict, so he despatched a horse for him and desired him to come to the palace. The strange hour at which this message came, and the harsh reception which they had at first experienced from the Prince, left little doubt with Benedict's party that he was sent for to be put to death. So having torn himself from his Armenian comrade, not without tears, and earnestly begging him to do his uttermost, if he at least should escape the present danger, to carry the news of his fellow traveller's fate to the members of the Society, Benedict went off fully prepared to meet his death. On getting to the palace he was desired to engage in a discussion with the Doctors of the Mahomedan Law; and inspired by Him who has said, It shall be given you in that hour what ye shall say, he maintained the truth of the Christian religion by such apt reasoning that the others were quite silenced and defeated. The Prince constantly fixed his attention on our brother, expressing approval of everything that he said, and finally pronounced his conclusion that Christians were really Misermans, or True Believers, adding that his own ancestors had been professors of their faith. After the discussion was over, Benedict was entertained at a sumptuous supper and desired to spend the night at the palace. And it was late next day before he was allowed to leave, so that Isaac quite despaired of his return. Indeed Benedict found him weeping grievously, for the long delay had fully convinced him of his master's death.
In this city they halted three whole months, for the chief of the merchants did not wish to set out until a large party should have collected, for the larger it was, the more profitable for him: and for this reason he would not consent on any account that individuals of the company should go on before. Our brother, however, weary of the delay and of the great expense which it involved, was eager to get away; and by means of new presents he at last persuaded the Prince to arrange measures for his departure. But this was so completely against the wish of the chief of the caravan and his party, that it put an end to the friendly terms on which Benedict had hitherto stood with them.
He was just preparing for his departure from the town of Cialis when the merchants of the preceding caravan arrived on their return from Cathay. They had made their way to the capital of Cathay as usual by pretending to be an embassy; and as they had been quartered in Peking at the same hostelry with the members of our Society, they were able to give our brother most authentic information about Father Matthew and his companions, and in this way he learned to his astonishment that China was the Cathay that he was in search of.
These were the same Saracens of whom it has been related in a preceding book, that they had dwelt for nearly three months under the same roof with our brethren. They were able to tell therefore how our brethren had made presents to the Emperor of sundry clocks, a clavichord, pictures, and other such matters from Europe. They related also how our brethren were treated with respect by all the dignitaries at the capital, and (mixing falsehood with truth) how they were often. admitted to converse with the Emperor. They also described accurately enough the countenances of the members of the Society whom they had seen, but they could not tell their names, it being a Chinese custom to change the names of foreigners. They also produced the strangest corroboration of their story in a piece of paper on which something in the Portuguese language had been written by one of our brethren, and which the travellers had rescued from the sweepings of the rooms and preserved, in order that they might show it as a memorial to their friends at home, and tell them how the people that used this kind of writing had found their way to China. Our travellers were greatly refreshed with all this intelligence, and now they could no longer doubt that Cathay was but another name for the Chinese Empire, and that the capital which the Mahomedans called Cambalu was Peking, which indeed Benedict before leaving India had known, from the letters of our members in China, to be the view taken by them.
As he was departiug, the prince granted him letters for his protection, and when a question arose under what name he wished to be described and whether he would have himself designated as a Christian? Certainly, said he, "for having travelled thus far bearing the name of Jesus, I would surely bear it unto the end." It so chanced that this was heard by one of the Mahomedan priests, a venerable old man, who snatching off his cap flung it on the ground and exclaimed: "In verity and truth this man is staunch to his religion, for lo here in presenCe of thee a prince of another faith, and of all the rest of us, he has no hesitation in confessing his Jesus! 'tis very different with our people, for they are said to change their religion with their residence." And so turning to our traveller, he treated him with extraordinary courtesy. Thus even in the dark virtue is lustrous, and even from hostility and ill-will it extorts respect!
He set off at last with his comrade and a few others, and in twenty days came to Pucian, a town of the same kingdom, where they were received by the chief of the place with the greatest kindness, and supplied with the necessary provisions from his house. Hence they went on to a fortified town called Turphan [Turfan], and there they halted a month. Next they proceeded to Aramuth [Kara Khoja?], and thence to Camul [Hami], another fortified town. Here they stopped another month to refresh themselves and their beasts, being glad to do so at a town which was still within the limits of the kingdom of Cialis, where they had been treated with so much civility.
From Camul they came in nine days to the celebrated northern wall of China, reaching it at the place called Chiaicuon [Jiayuguan, the Jade Gate], and there they had to wait twenty-five days for an answer from the Viceroy of the province. When they were at last admitted within the wall, they reached, after one more day's travelling, the city of Sucieu. Here they heard much about Peking and other names with which they were acquainted, and here Benedict parted with his last lingering doubt as to the identity in all but name of Cathay and China.
The country between Cialis and the Chinese frontier has an evil fame on account of its liability to Tartar raids, and therefore this part of the road is traversed by merchants with great fear. In the day time they reconnoitre from the neighbouring hills, and if they consider the road safe they prosecute their journey by night and in silence. Our travellers found on the way the bodies of sundry Mahomedans who had been miserably murdered. Yet the Tartars rarely slay the natives, for they call them their slaves and shepherds, from whose flocks and herds they help themselves. These Tartars make use neither of wheat nor of rice, nor of any kind of pulse, for they say such things are food for beasts and not for men; they eat nothing but flesh, and make no objection to that of horses, mules, or camels. Yet they are said to be very long lived, and indeed not unfrequently survive to more than a hundred. The Mahomedan races who live on the Chinese frontier in this direction have no warlike spirit, and might be easily subdued by the Chinese, if that nation were at all addicted to making conquests.
In this journey it happened one night that Benedict was thrown from his horse and lay there half dead, whilst his companions who were all in advance went on in ignorance of what had happened. In fact it was not till the party arrived at the halting place that Benedict was missed. His comrade Isaac went back to seek him, but the search in the dark was to no purpose, until at last he heard a voice calling on the name of Jesus. Following the sound he found Benedict, who had given up all hope of being able to follow his companions, so that his first words were: "What angel has brought thee hither to rescue me from such a plight?" By help of the Armenian he was enabled to reach the halting place and there to recover from his fall.
CHAPTER XIII OF BOOK V
How our Brother Benedict died in the Chinese territory, after the arrival of one
of our members who had been sent from Peking to his assistance.
Towards the northern extremity of the western frontier of China the celebrated wall comes to an end, and there is a space of about two hundred miles through which the Tartars, prevented by the wall from penetrating the northern frontier, used to attempt incursions into China, and indeed they do so still, but with less chance of success. For two very strongly fortified cities, garrisoned with select troops, have been established on purpose to repel their attacks. These cities are under a special Viceroy and other officials deriving their orders direct from the capital. In one of these two cities of the province of Scensi [Gansu], which is called Canceu [Ganzhou], is the residence of the Viceroy and other chief officers; the other city called Socieu [Suzhou], has a governor of its own, and is divided into two parts. In one of these dwell the Chinese, whom the Mahomedans here call Cathayans, in the other the Mahomedans who have come for purposes of trade from the kingdom of Cascar and other western regions. There are many of these who have entangled themselves with wives and children, so that they are almost regarded as natives, and will never go back. They are much in the position of the Portuguese who are settled at Amacao [Macao] in the province of Canton, but with this difference, that the Portuguese live under their own laws and have magistrates of their own, whereas these Mahomedans are under the government of the Chinese. Indeed they are shut up every night within the walls of their own quarter of the city, and in other matters are treated just like the natives, and are subject in every thing to the Chinese magistrates. The law is that one who has sojourned there for nine years shall not be allowed to return to his country.
To this city are wont to come those western merchants, who, under old arrangements between seven or eight kingdoms in that quarter and the Empire of China, have leave of admission every sixth year for two-and-seventy persons, who under pretence of being ambassadors go and offer tribute to the Emperor. This tribute consists of that translucent marble of which we spoke before, of small diamonds, ultramarine, and other such matters; and the so-called ambassadors go to the capital and return from it at the public expense. The tribute is merely nominal, for no one pays more for the marble than the Emperor does, considering it to be beneath his dignity to accept gifts from foreigners without return. And indeed their entertainment from the Emperor is on so handsome a scale, that, taking an average of the whole, there can be no doubt that every man pockets a piece of gold daily over and above all his necessary expenses. This is the reason why this embassy is such an object of competition, and why the nomination to it is purchased with great presents from the chief of. the caravan, with whom it lies. When the time comes the soi-disant ambassadors forge public letters in the names of the kings whom they profess to represent, in which the Emperor of China is addressed in obsequious terms. The Chinese receive embassies of a similar character from various other kingdoms, such as Cochin-China, Siam, Leuchieu, Corea, and from some of the petty Tartar kings, the whole causing incredible charges on the public treasury. The Chinese themselves are quite aware of the imposture, but they allow their Emperor to be befooled in this manner, as if to persuade him that the whole world is tributary to the Chinese empire, the fact being that China pays tribute to those kingdoms.
Our Benedict arrived at Socieu in the end of the year 1605, and it shows how Divine Providence watched over him, that he came to the end of this enormous journey with ample means, and prosperous in every way. He had with him thirteen animals, five hired servants, two boys, whom he had bought as slaves, and that surpassing piece of jade; the total value of his property being reckoned at two thousand five hundred pieces of gold. Moreover both he and his companion Isaac were in perfect health and strength.
At this city of Socieu he fell in with another party of Saracens just returned from the capital, and these confirmed all that he had already been told about our fathers at Peking, adding a good deal more of an incredible and extravagant nature; for example, that they had from the Emperor a daily allowance of silver, not counted to them, but measured out in bulk! So he now wrote to Father Matthew to inform him of his arrival. His letter was intrusted to certain Chinamen, but as he did not know the Chinese names of our fathers, nor the part of the city in which they lived, and as the letter was addressed in European characters, the bearers were unable to discover our people.
At Easter however he wrote a second time, and this letter was taken by some Mahomedan who had made his escape from the city, for Mahomedans also are debarred from going out or coming in, without the permission of the authorities. In this letter he explained the origin and object of his journey, and begged the fathers to devise some way of rescuing him from the prison in which he found himself at Socieu, and of restoring him to the delight of holding intercourse with his brethren, in place of being perpetually in the company of Saracens. He mentioned also his wish to return to India by the sea route, as usually followed by the Portuguese.
The fathers had long ere this been informed by the Superior's letters from India of Benedict's having started on this expedition, and every year they had been looking out for him, and asking diligently for news of him whenever one of those companies of merchants on their pretended embassy arrived at court. But till now they had never been able to learn any news of him, whether from not knowing the name under which he was travelling, or because the ambassadors of the preceding seasons really had never heard of him.
The arrival of his letter therefore gave great pleasure to the fathers at Peking. It was received late in the year, in the middie of November and they lost no time in arranging to send a member of the Society to get him away some how or other and bring him to the capital. However on re-consideration they gave up that scheme, for the bringing another foreigner into the business seemed likely to do harm rather than good. So they sent one of the pupils who had lately been selected to join the Society but had not yet entered on his noviciate. His name was John Ferdinand, he was a young man of singular prudence and virtue, and one whom it seemed safe to entrust with a business of this nature. One of the converts acquainted with that part of the country was sent in company with him. His instructions were to use all possible means to get away Benedict and his party to the capital, but if he should find it absolutely impossible either to get leave from the officials or to evade their vigilance, he was to stop with our brother, and send back word to the members of the Society. In that case it was hoped that by help of friends at Court, means would be found to get him on from the frontier.
A journey of this nature might seem unseasonable enough at a time of the year when winter is at the height of severity in those regions; and the town at which Benedict had been detained was nearly four months' journey from Peking. But Father Matthew thought no further delay should be risked, lest the great interval that had elapsed should lead Benedict to doubt whether we really had members stationed at Peking. And he judged well, for if the journey had been delayed but a few days longer the messengers would not have found Benedict among the living. They carried him a letter from Father Matthew, giving counsel as to the safest manner of making the journey, and two other members of the Society also wrote to him, giving full details about our affairs in that capital, a subject on which he was most eager for information.
Our Benedict in the meantime, during his detention at that city, endured more annoyance from the Mahomedans than had befallen him during the whole course of his journey. Also, on account of the high price of food in the place, he was obliged to dispose of his large piece of jade for little more than half its value. He got for it twelve hundred pieces of gold, a large part of which went to repay money which he had borrowed, whilst with the rest he maintained his party for a whole year. Meanwhile the caravan of merchants with their chief arrived. Benedict was obliged to exercise hospitality, and in course of time was reduced to such straits that he had to borrow money to maintain his party; this all the more because owing to his nomination as one of the seventy-two ambassadors he was obliged (again) to purchase some fragments of jade. He hid a hundred pounds of this in the earth to preserve it from any tricks of the Mahomedans, for without a supply of this article he would have been absolutely incapacitated from taking part in the journey to Peking.
Johh Ferdinand left Peking on the eleventh of December in that year; and his journey also was attended with a new misfortune, for at Singhan, the capital of the province of Sciensi, his servant ran away, robbing him of half his supplies for the journey. Two months more of a fatiguing journey however brought him to Socieu, in the end of March I607.
He found our Benedict laid low with a disease unto death. The very night before it had been intimated to him, whether by dream or vision, that on the following day one of the Society would arrive from Peking; and upon this he had desired his comrade the Armenian to go to the bazaar and buy certain articles for distribution among the poor, whilst at the same time he earnestly prayed God not to suffer the hopes raised by his dream to be disappointed. Whilst Isaac was still in the bazaar some one told him of the arrival of John Ferdinand from Peking, and pointed him out. The latter followed the Armenian home, and as he entered saluted our brother Benedict in the Portuguese tongue. From this he at once understood what the arrival was, and taking the letters he raised them aloft with tears of joy in his eyes, and burst into the hymn of Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine. For now it seemed to him that indeed his commission was accomplished, and his pilgrimage at an end. He then read the letters, and all that night kept them near his heart. The words that were spoken, the questions that were asked may be more easily conjectured than detailed.
John Ferdinand did his best to nurse him, hoping that with recovered strength he might yet be able to undertake the journey to Peking. But strength there was none; as indeed physician there was none, nor proper medicines; nor was there anything to do him good in his illness, unless it were some European dishes which John Ferdinand cooked for him. And thus, eleven days after the latter's arrival, Benedict breathed his last; not without some suspicion of his having been poisoned by the Mahomedans.
These latter had fellows always on the watch, in order to pounce upon whatever the dead man might leave. This they did in the most brutal manner; but no part of the loss which they caused was so much to be deplored as the destruction of the journal of his travels, which he had kept with great minuteness. This was a thing the Mahomedans fell on with open jaws! For the book also contained acknowledgements of debt which might have been used to compelmany of them to repay him. They wished to bury the body after their Mahomedan ritual, but Ferdinand succeeded in shutting out their importunate priests, and buried him in a decent locality where it would be practicable to find the body again. And these two, the Armenian and John Ferdinand, having no service-books, devoutly recited the rosary as they followed his bier.
It seems right to add a few words in commemoration of a character so worthy. Benedict Goës, a native of Portugal, a man of high spirit and acute intellect.....
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