Sunday, November 27, 2016

Marco Polo The Italian Explorer,History,Book and Legacy
Marco Polo's Route `160-1295
Marco Polo (1254-1324) was an Italian voyager and merchant who was one of the first Europeans to travel across Asia through China, visiting the Kublai Khan in Beijing. He left in 1271 (he was a teenager at the time) with his father (Nicolo Polo) and uncle (Maffeo Polo); they spent about 24 years traveling. [Nicolo and Maffeo had previously made a trip to China, from 1260-1269, during which the Kublai Khan (the conqueror of China) requested holy oil blessed by the Pope.]

Polo sailed south from Venice, Italy, in the Mediterranean Sea to the Middle East. They then went southeast overland to Persia (now Iran), then through the Pamir Mountains and the Gobi Desert, to Beijing, China. They explored the area south of Beijing, including Yunan and Szechuan. Returning to Beijing, they traveled east to Tankchow (at the mouth of the Yangtse River), then south to Hangchow, China. They then sailed south along the coast of China, to what are now Vietnam and Sumatra. They sailed west to Sri Lanka and India, and then back to Ormuz (on the Persian Gulf). They went northwest overland to the Black Sea, then the Mediterranean Sea, and back to Venice, Italy.
Marco Polo's written accounts of his travels were the first Western record of porcelain, coal, gunpowder, printing, paper money, and silk; Polo wrote "Book of Ser Marco Polo" around 1298.


Marco Polo was born in 1254, in Venice, Italy. He traveled extensively with his family, journeying from Europe to Asia from 1271 to 1295. He remained in China for 17 of those years. Around 1292, he left China, acting as consort along the way to a Mongol princess who was being sent to Persia. His book Il Milione describes his travels and experiences and influenced later adventurers and merchants.
The road to Xanadu: 1271-1275

This time the journey east takes four years. The little party travels by sea from Venice to Syria, then rides or walks the rest of the journey - to Tabriz and by a southerly route, through Yazd and Kerman, before joining the Silk Roadto the north of the Hindu Kush. Eventually, after skirting the Gobi desert, they reach Kublai Khan's summer palace - the stately pleasure dome which he has built north of the Great Wall at Shang Tu, transliterated by Marco Polo into Italian as Ciandu and now widely known as Xanadu.

The Polo brothers receive a warm welcome from Kublai. They present to him young Marco - an encounter which, according to Marco, inspires immediate Mutual admiration. Certainly Marco is offered employment.

Marco Polo in China: 1275-1292

Marco spends seventeen years in China, fulfilling a wide variety of tasks in Kublai Khan's administration. He is in effect a member of an occupying force, speaking Mongolian but not Chinese, so his understanding of the people is limited. But he travels a great deal, often trading on his own account as well as serving the emperor, and he describes many cities.

Hangzhou is his favorite. He pretends not to be certain which is more impressive - the number of its bridges or the number of its prostitutes. His interests seem more with the latter. Those who sample these women, he says (as if speaking of someone else), 'are so much taken with their sweetness and charms that they can never forget them'.

Marco has often been criticized for failing to mention one peculiarity of China - the drinking of tea, which is already by this time a Chinese addiction. The two oddities which strike him most forcibly are a marvelous black stone, useless for building with, which the Chinese dig up and burn (one of the earliest references to coal); and their use of bank notes (see Bank notes in China).

Paper money is not a Mongol innovation, being in use already in the Song dynasty, but Marco gives a fascinating description of government officials stamping the notes with a cinnabar seal.

The Book of Marco Polo: 1298-1299
Marco has no intention of writing a book. Luckily for us he finds himself a prisoner in Genoa in 1298 (he has been in command of a Venetian galley in a war against the Genoese). A fellow captive is an author of romances, by the name of Rustichello. During a winter of enforced idleness, Marco tells him the story of his adventures. Rustichello writes it down.

The Book of Marco Polo, wherein is recounted the Wonders of the World becomes so popular that numerous manuscript copies of it are made in several languages.

Marco's contemporaries see his book primarily as what its title says - a book of wonders, rather than a factual account - and Rustichello's trade as a writer of romances has caused some more recently to question how much of the book is true, or whether Marco even made the journey to China.

But Chinese sources confirm many details which were unknown in the west in Marco's time. The most he can probably be accused of, in providing one of the world's greatest travel books, are two familiar failings - a selective memory and a story-teller's tendency to exaggerate. There is, however, no truth in the tradition that he brought back the secrets of gunpowder, the compassprinting or noodles.


Three years after returning to Venice, Marco Polo assumed command of a Venetian ship in a war against Genoa. He was captured and, while being held in a Genovese prison, he met a fellow prisoner and romance writer called Rustichello. When prompted, he dictated his adventures to Rustichello. These writings, written in French, were titled "Books of the Marvels of the World," but are better known in English as "The Travels of Marco Polo."
The book was a wild success, though many readers questioned Polo’s reliability, possibly leading to the book’s popular Italian title, "Il Milione," short for "The Million Lies." Some questioned whether Polo even went to China or if the entire thing was hearsay. Polo stood by the book, however, and went on to start a business, marry, and father three daughters. When Polo was on his deathbed in 1324, visitors urged him to admit the book was fiction, to which he famously proclaimed, “I have not told half of what I saw.”
Though no authoritative version of Polo’s book exists, researchers and historians in the subsequent centuries have verified much of what he reported. It is generally accepted that he reported faithfully what he could, though some accounts probably came from others that he met along the way. Regardless, the information in his book proved vital to European geographic understanding and inspired countless explorers — including Christopher Columbus, who, it is said, took a copy of Polo’s book with him in 1492.

 Photo and facts  are all credit to all original writers' sources and references.