The Children Tree November 18, 2014Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback
There are some rare accounts from the middle ages (though not from antiquity?) of trees that are alive. The following comes from the great eighth-century Chinese geographer Du You. Du You is talking here of the Dashi, the Chinese word for the Arabs, that have just started to come onto the horizon with the Islamic conquests. First the location.
It is also said that their king [of Dashi] always sends men on ships with clothing and provisions, and they cross the sea for eight years but do not reach the western shore.
This reference to a sea crossing that lasts for years is reminiscent of various legends from the Romans and Greeks. Beach covered one example for the north Atlantic a couple of years ago. The sea is presumably the Indian ocean or just possibly the Mediterranean. Eight-year trips perhaps work better in the former, but who care about facts frankly when you have talking trees… Now bang the drums and clap your hands for the children trunk and its incredible seeds.
In the sea is a square rock on which are trees with red branches and green leaves. On the trees are born many young children 6–7 cun [about 15 cm] long. When they see people, they do not speak but all can laugh and move their hands and feet. Their heads are attached to the branches of the tree. When people pick them from trees, the [heads] come off in their hands, then dry up and turn black. The envoy took one branch and returned with it. It is now in the residence of the Arabian king.
Wow. Where does this legend come from? What seed or fruit are we talking of here? Is it possibly a spice? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com This seems to be the earliest reference but there is an Arab account from a ninth-century geography who record a strange tree in the mythical land of Al-Waq-Waq (Korea? past China), so called because there is a tree there with fruits that look like a woman’s head that shout Waq Waq when they ripen!! It is a nice example of magnificent things always being put on the other side of the globe, rather than in the field outside the author’s city. As to living trees Beach even has some strange nineteenth-century references from Europe to living trees (another post, another day) in scientific literature.
Mother and baby Emily doing well, thanks for all the good wishes.