marco polo two

Marco Polo, two



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impact well-run tremendous
chart bequeath acknowledge






Venice, Italy — one of the most romantic cities in all of Europe. It is virtually unchanged from that moment seven-hundred years ago, when a native son returned home after traveling abroad for many years.

His name was Marco Polo.

Little if anything would be known of these travels had Marco not been swept up in a war then raging between Venice and Genoa.

In the year 1298, at the age of 44, Marco was captured and thrown into a dungeon with a man named Rustichello, a writer of romantic fiction.

One can imagine his stunned disbelief when Marco Polo began relating his adventures that far exceeded any Rustichello could have concocted himself, for Marco was claiming that before coming back to Italy, he had spent nearly twenty years in China as a personal aide to the mighty Kublai Khan.


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China, then the most remote, mysterious place on Earth. At some point, Rustichello began writing down Marco’s story.

Brian Hall, Author, Ithaca, New York: “The only reason he did write a book was because he was literally imprisoned with a ghostwriter. Then it’s got to be one of the most fortunate imprisonments in history.”

The book, first called The Description of the World, then The Travels of Marco Polo and at various times Il Milione told of things just too fantastic for his countrymen to take as factual.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Outside the hall, the guests at the banquet number more than 40,000. I can also assure you that on this day, the Great Khan receives gifts of more than one-hundred-thousand (100,000) horses of great beauty and prize.”

Is it any wonder than that Marco’s reading public wouldn’t take his account literally? How could there be cities in China where millions lived in prosperity, when Venice the wealthiest and largest city in Europe at that time had a population of only a hundred thousand?

And how could a cruel barbarian like Kublai Khan possibly be living so glamorous and civilized a life?

In time however, Marco’s magnificent document would be believed and affect the future course of East-West relations.

While it reveals little about the author himself, and no likeness of him survives from his time, no name is more synonymous with travel and adventure than Marco Polo.


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The world in which Marco has born in the thirteenth century was one of great turmoil and great opportunity.

Two cities dominated the economic and political fortunes of the Holy Roman Empire: Venice, Italy in the West, and Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey in the East.

The church’s influence may have spread much further east, had it not been for the meteoric rise of an illiterate Mongol warrior named Genghis Khan.

Within a few short years, his pagan Tatar troops had conquered all Persia, Central Asia, most of Russia — and finally the prize of prizes, Cathay or China as it became known.

Genghis and heirs soon commanded the largest empire in the history of the world.

In 1254 in Venice, Italy, Marco Polo was born into a wealthy merchant family. He was expected to enter the business.

Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo, Assistant Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, Harvard University: “The typical education of Venetian merchants lasted until the boy was fourteen or fifteen.

During this time he would learn to read and write, of course, and also he would learn arithmetic, abacus as they called it. He would learn bookkeeping. He would learn the basic knowledge necessary for a commercial enterprise.”

Marco’s mother died when he was a boy. During his entire youth, his father Nicolo had been away on business.

His prolonged absence had been the result of an extraordinary trip to China, where he and his brother, Maffeo, had been welcomed by Kublai Khan himself, perhaps the first European merchants to be so honored.

The emperor had sent them home with an unusual commission: a progressive ruler, Kublai wanted to know more about Christianity. The Polos were to bring a hundred priests back with them, as well as some oil from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Now in 1274, the Polos prepare to set off again for China to fulfill Kublai’s request. This time, they would take Marco, now seventeen with them.

They expected to be away for several years, at the least.

But would they have left Venice if they had known their travels would ultimately keep them away for twenty-three years?

Timothy Severin, Author, Cork County, Ireland: “The way that a merchant thought was totally different from our modern concept. A Venetian merchant didn’t have the same notion of time; he was prepared to spend years and years in the field.”

But what reward could the Khan offer the Polo brothers that justified risking their lives again, and that of young Marco?

Kublai had issued the Polos his rare personal seals that assured them safe passage within the Mongol Empire. But one may ask the why of embarking on so dangerous a journey?

Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo, Assistant Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, Harvard University: “The survival of Venice depended upon the Venetians sense of enterprise. So it was in some ways a patriotic duty. Of course there was also another side to it, and that was that there was an increased demand for Oriental products in Europe, and the profits were fabulous.

And so, for both patriotism and profit, the Polos set off for Jerusalem, where they retrieved oil from the Holy Sepulcher.

But only two priests, not a hundred, could be recruited. However, the rigors of caravan travel soon forced the priests to quit the journey.

But for young Marco, the great adventure had finally begun. The sights, sounds and smells of the Middle East where as nothing he had ever imagined.

Every fresh experience seemed to make an indelible impression on the teenager.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Anyone wishing to travel beyond these regions must travel for seven days across an endless plain. But there are also at frequent intervals delightful little palm groves to be ridden through, all full of game, which is a great pleasure to the travelling merchants.”

Dr. Morri Kossabi, Professor of History, Colombia University: “Marco Polo is extremely intelligent, extremely observant. The fact that he was able to remember all of the various details that are found in the book, many of which check out. Many of these are actually verifiable and seemed to be quite accurate tell us that he was an unusual man, an unusually perceptive. His intelligence cannot be doubted.”

The initial challenge that the Polos faced was to reach the port of Hormuz, in Persia, where a ship would take them on to Beijing.

But they were merchants first, travelers second: business would be transacted as usual, as they traveled in their large, costly caravans and eyes always open for the nemesis of merchants — bands of outlaws.

Timothy Severin, Author, Cork County, Ireland: “Every time you came to a frontier post, you negotiated with the local guard captain, and you hired two or three of his soldiers, and they went along with your creaking carts.

As you got into more difficult terrain, you had to transfer your goods onto pack animals. This meant that you could only carry goods really of high value and small bulk. And the ultimate high-value, small bulk would be, as the Polo brothers traded in, jewelry, which you could carry concealed on you.”

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Leaving Kumin, you proceed over eight day’s journey, exposed to great drought. Neither fruits or any kind of trees are met with and what water is found has a bitter taste.”

Dr. Morri Kossabi: “One of the typical things that caravan caravaneers would do oftentimes was to force-feed the camels with lots of water, and in case the men would run out of water, they would force the camels to regurgitate and they would therefore have liquid for themselves.”

In his book, Marco notes not only geography and ethnic customs, but reports as fact, tales told to him by third parties. Many of them are so exotic or incredible, his contemporaries dismissed the entire book as fiction.

The story of the old man of the mountain, a brutal outlaw who ruled from a mountain fortress in northern Iran is one such tale.

Timothy Severin: “When he wants to recruit soldiers, he drugs them, takes them to this valley. He has this valley all organized with beautiful gardens and lovely picnics and beautiful women and so forth.

Then they’re drugged again and brought back to the court of the brigand. And he says, ‘well I am able to control this access to paradise if you serve me properly.

And they’re so impressed that they go off and serve him, and he uses them as political killers, drugged with hashish before they went on these missions. And indeed from that we get the word assassin, it comes exactly from that. So there was a strong element of truth in that particular story.”

During the first several thousand miles of his adventure, Marco doesn’t comment on any personal fears or misgivings. He had heard so much about the great Chinese civilization that lay ahead, no hardships could dim his enthusiasm.

Once the Polos reached the port of Hormuz however, they find the boats not seaworthy enough to take them to the China coast.

They decide to proceed overland instead.

In so doing, Marco would now become the first Westerner to document for posterity, the landscapes and customs, exotic and breathtaking, of Central Asia and China itself.

In their dank prison cell in Genoa, Marco now recalls to Rustichello that it took him another three years before he would meet the legendary Kublai Khan, and it is then that Marco’s great adventure truly begins.

Not the least of Marco’s Polo’s achievements was his memory. To be able to recall for Rustichello in prison, all that happened to him for the past twenty years.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “It is a cold country on the summits of the mountains the air is so pure and salubrious that when those who dwell in the town find themselves attacked with fever, they immediately move thither to recover their health.

Marco Polo affirms he had experienced in his own person having been confined by sickness in this country for nearly a year by ascending the hills, he presently became convalescent.”

Timothy Severin, Author, Cork County, Ireland: “Marco Polo seems to got ill somewhere in Afghanistan, and he had to recuperate up in the mountains.

They got over the Pamirs in Central Asia, the high plateau, and came down into the great Gobi Desert where there were all these stories, and this idea that there were ghosts roaming the Gobi which lured travelers to their doom, and sandstorms and heat and cold and thirst.

It was a very long, very grueling trip . . . until finally they reached China.”

China had been completely closed off and forbidden to strangers for centuries before Genghis Khan conquered it. Now in the thirteenth century, he and his successors welcomed strangers to the land of sixty million souls.

Nearly four years after departing Venice, Marco, his father and uncle finally entered the court of Kublai Khan, ruler of the largest empire in the world.

They delivered the holy oil they’d carried all the way from Jerusalem.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “I have come to the point in this book at which I will tell you of the great of the Great Khan now reigning.

Dr. Morris Rossabi, Professor of History, Colombia University: “Kublai Khan was to my mind, one of the great figures of the thirteenth century. He was not simply a conqueror and subjugator like his grandfather Genghis Khan, he was truly civilized, he was educated, he was tolerant of a variety of different religions, a rather remarkable individual.”

Marco first meets Kublai Khan at his summer palace called Qiong, or more commonly known as Xanadu. For Europeans, the first indication of how advanced the Chinese civilization had become derives from Marco’s description of it.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “A huge palace of marble, its halls and chambers all gilded. A wall encloses fully 16 miles of parkland, well watered with springs and streams and diversified with lawns.

Here the Great Khan keeps game animals of all sorts, such as hart, stag and roebuck to provide food for the gyrfalcons.”

We don’t know if Marco’s ghostwriter Rustichello believed all, some or none of what he was told in that Genoese prison. But he wrote it down as if he did, and certainly the next episode dictated to him would be the ultimate test of Marco’s credibility.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “I assure you for a fact that before Monsieur Marco had been very long at court, he had mastered four languages and their writings, observing his wisdom, the Khan sent him as an emissary to a country named Karijong, which it took him a good six months to reach.”

Marco would have Rustichello believe that beginning at age 21, he served for the next seventeen years as a special envoy for Kublai Khan, that he was his eyes and ears in the outreaches of China, Tibet, Burma, India, and even as far away as Java.

Timothy Severin, Author: “He was very well qualified for this because he was, after all, a foreigner, he had no particular axe to grind, and he was clearly a very good observer. And the other thing which would have been important to the Great Khan was that Marco Polo was a merchant. Kublai Khan would have been interested in information, in commercially valuable information, the information which would have made the Khan richer.”

Marco Polo’s record of his adventures in China is regarded today by most historians as a valid document.

Yet some skeptics still question whether he had reached China at all. Apart from his own book, no correlating evidence has ever turned up, either in China or Europe.

Dr. Morris Rossabi: “There is still some lingering controversy as to whether Marco Polo had actually reached China. He mentions that he, his father and his uncle were very important in a major battle that the Mongols undertook against the Song Dynasty, against the Chinese.

Unfortunately, the battle occurred three years before Marco Polo actually reached China.

Despite these errors and contradictions, because there is so much in the work that’s accurate, my own feeling is that there’s no question that Marco Polo reached China.”

It was difficult, if not impossible for the Westerner in Marco’s time to comprehend the vastness of Kublai Khan’s empire.

Marco’s attention to detail is perhaps no more evident than when he describes how the Great Khan gathered information and mastered communication with his commanders, officials and millions of subjects spread about over millions of square miles.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “And you must understand that posts such as these at distances of 25 to 30 miles are to be found all along the main highways leading to the provinces. And at each of these posts, the messengers find three to four hundred horses and palatial lodgings such as I have described.”

Marco devotes five pages to the advanced communication system, how couriers covered two hundred and fifty miles a day, about ten thousand posts across the land operated day and night.

The system which of course was the khan’s key to controlling his empire.

While much of Marco’s book contains hearsay, often erroneous, no historian questions the authenticity of major passages such as the one on the khan’s information highway.

But what of Marco himself? Here the historian is at a loss even to come up with a physical description of him, much less a psychological profile. If portraits had been made of him during his lifetime, none have survived.

And his book reveals little, if anything, of his personal feelings or values.

It is perhaps, one of the first major works of pure journalism. But it is also the work of a brave, young man of flesh and blood; a man who was always honest both to his subject matter and himself.

If many of the Oriental customs Marco first reported on were met with disbelief by thirteenth century Venetians, his descriptions were, nevertheless, exceptionally accurate.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “When it happens that men from a foreign land are passing through this country, the matrons bring their daughters to the camp, to the number of twenty to forty and beg the travels to take them and lie with them.”

Brian Hall, Author, Ithaca, New York: “The theory was as Marco relates that it was considered that travelers were especially good sources of a certain essence for women, and that women were most valued if they had had broad experience with men.

The customs that he is talking about are attested in other traditions, and in fact some of those customs are still alive in Xinjiang.”

Marco concludes his account of this with this short statement, saying this country would be a wonderful place for a lad of seventeen to twenty-four to visit. And since he was about this age when he first went through, he probably found it a wonderful place to be.”

As the years went by, Marco’s interest in the exotic Orient never diminished, nor did his keen eye tire. Remarkably, he’d be able to recall in detail, all he had found colorful and important.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Let me tell you further, that on the southern side of the city is a lake some thirty miles in circuit, and all around it are stately palaces and mansions of such workmanship, that nothing better or more splendid could be devised.

On the lake itself is the endless procession of barges thronged with pleasure seekers, for the people of this city think of nothing else once they have done the work of their craft or trade, but to spend part of the day with their women folk or with hired women, enjoying themselves.”

Dr. Morris Rossabi, Professor of History, Colombia University: “Marco Polo was dazzled by Hangzhou, a city of three million approximately, a city beautifully laid out with canals, lakes, parks, restaurants. Hangzhou was a sophisticated a much more sophisticated city than Venice or any other European city at that point.”

Today Hangzhou is an industrial center. Could it ever have been the ideal metropolis Marco rhapsodizes over at length?

While accused of exaggeration and embellishment, what Marco witnessed first-hand, and had Rustichello write-down invariably captured the essence of a place.

Scholars agree with Marco’s assessment, that Hangzhou was once a model for civilized city living.

Timothy Severin, Author: “Marco Polo would be described, if he were a modern traveler, as an anthropologist or an ethnographer: he’s very interested in people’s habits and customs.

On the one hand he was a merchant, and he was always looking at the natural products of a country, sort of like basic school geography. But at the same time, he was very observant about people; about their social customs, about what they ate, their architecture, the things that caught his eye, and their funny and strange little customs.”

Marco’s commentary is seldom expressed with personal criticism, even human, flesh-eating tribes of Southeast Asia received little moral judgment, nor does this ritual he reports on from a remote province.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Another practice of theirs was this: if a gentleman of quality with a fine figure or a good shadow came to lodge in the house of a native of this province, they would murder him in the night.

You must not suppose they did this in order to rob him, they did it rather because they believe that his good shadow, and the good grace with which he was blessed would remain in the house.”

Timothy Severin, Author, Cork County, Ireland: “This is a custom which is known to anthropologists. It seems to have been a fairly small group, and in fact the practice was stamped out by Kublai Khan.”

While Marco makes no claim to personally observing such violent customs, his detailed descriptions of the wild animal kingdom of the Orient were clearly drawn from direct contact, as were those of plant life and vegetation.

Like most of the information imparted in his book, it was all new and astonishing to readers in the West, for whom it would take centuries to digest and verify.

But after having been away from Italy for nearly twenty years, the entire Polo family was finally feeling homesick, and expressed their wish to leave China.

Dr. Morris Rossabi, Professor of History, Colombia University: “They had played important roles for him as envoys extraordinaire. They had helped him in terms of interpreting and translating Latin and other texts. And so he really valued them and was not particularly eager to have them leave China at that time.”

However civilized the Great Khan might have been, one did not pressure him.

Marco, now in his late 30s, and still a bachelor, then continued with his travel, which must have been taken in relative comfort and little fear.

The stamped metal packet he carried with him, the Khan’s personal credit card, carried behind it the threat of a Mongol army, should any harm come to him.

Add to that a supply of paper money, first invested by the Chinese and negotiable in farthest reaches of the Empire, Marco’s ease of movement might be envied by world travelers today.

He may never have had the occasion to visit the Great Wall of China, which had in fact been built to keep Kublai Khan’s ancestors out of China. But he would reach as far south as India.

Marco Polo from The Travels of Marco Polo: “Among them are certain men who are called yogis. They live even longer than the others — as much as 150 or 200 years, and their bodies remain so active that they can still come and go as they will.

This comes from their abstinence, and from eating very little food and only what is wholesome.”

Finally, Marco is called before Kublai Khan, who requires the entire Polo family services: he offers them a chance to return to Italy, if they escort a prized cargo.

The trip back will take two years, only half the time it took to first reach Xanadu. But it will turn out to be their most dangerous journey, replete with misfortunes and disasters, which it seems only a man named Marco Polo could survive.

It is the year 1292, the Polos’ final audience with the Great Khan, in whose service they have spent seventeen years.

They are requested to escort a princess, Kokachin to Persia, where she will marry a Mongol lord. Only then do they have permission to return home to Venice.

And so a unique, historic relationship comes to an end. Marco suggests they go by sea. It would be faster.

The Chinese compass, so advanced over the Europeans, has impressed him. There will be more than 600 passengers on board the vessels, in addition to hundreds of sailors when they depart from the China coast.

Timothy Severin, Author, Cork County, Ireland: “So what you get in Marco Polo is outward by land; back by sea, so in a sense he covers the complete zone, the complete scenario. It’s great, good fortune for subsequent historians.”

But it was not good fortune for the hundreds who perished on the long voyage, due to disease and savage storms.

The princess, some of her entourage and the Polos reach Hormuz safely. They are among only eighteen survivors.

Marco comments only briefly on what must have been a shattering experience. He does not mentioned at all the traumatic episode that followed in Turkey.

There Genoese officials illegally appropriated three-quarters of the Polo family’s wealth.

Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo, Assistant Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, Harvard University: “Most of their capital, their profit from the seventeen years they spent in China was apparently lost.

We know about their loss from notary documents found in Venice, which apparently described an attempt by the government of Venice to recover the Polo losses.

For reasons known only to Marco and Rustichello, his book ends just before his return to Venice.

What Marco was feeling. What he was looking forward to upon arriving home after twenty-three years is left to the reader’s imagination.

And certainly the readjustment could not have been easy.

Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo, Professor: “Even their family members seem to have problems recognizing the three men. They could hardy speak their native tongue after such a long period abroad, they were more familiar with Persian, Turkic or Mongol than they were with Italian.

Their clothes were Oriental. Their faces were unfamiliar, therefore they certainly found a different world, but it was probably because they had changed more than because Venice had changed.”

But Marco had just turned 40 and had many years ahead of him. What would he do with them?

Circumstance again seemed to dictate the next most significant adventure in his life.

Soon after his return, he is on board a Venetian galley, either as a civilian merchant or officer, historians are uncertain, when it is captured by Genoese rivals, and he is imprisoned for a year.

In the telling of his fabulous tale to his ghostwriter, Marco relieved years and years amidst people and places no Westerner could yet imagine.

And while it is unlikely he himself could imagine the value this book would play in history, he must have taken great satisfaction in having produced a tangible document of his adventurous life.

After it was completed during the year of his captivity, and after he and Rustichello were released, hand copied manuscripts were widely distributed.

The Travels of Marco Polo became the book to read, for those who could read French, Italian or Latin.

The printing press was more than a hundred years away, yet Marco’s thousand-and-one stories were at once on everyone’s lips, especially in Venice.

Marco became a celebrity, if not entirely the kind might want to be, for his book intrigued and fascinated a public who believed it was far more full of fiction than fact.

Il Milione, the title given to the book by some publishers reflected the ongoing problem his readers had with its authenticity.

Timothy Severin, Author: “Every time Marco Polo mentions anything about China, the numbers were colossal: so they say this is a man who talks about thousands and millions all the time. Of course that’s still true today; the numbers in China, of people, of TV sets, or whatever are still huge.

Reliable sources at the time relate that Marco would marry, raised three daughters and carry on the family business apparently unfazed by his skeptics.

Brian Hall, Author, Ithaca, NY: “There is a sense in the book when you read it, of a person that you feel you’ve come to know in a very simple way. You come away feeling like you know a man whose name is Marco, that would be fun to sit with, drink beers with and talk about what he has done, which in fact is how he spent the last 20 years of his life, apparently.”

After prison, Marco would live for another twenty-five years. During this time, neither acclaim nor respect for his great accomplishment were forthcoming.

But eventually they would come, and today, some believe he should be credited for affecting the course of world history.

In our Space Age, it may be difficult to imagine that only seven-hundred years ago, no one had yet sailed around the world. Nor had all its land masses and seas been charted.

Timothy Severin, Author: “Polo’s contribution was information. It was to be a source of wonder and curiosity, so later on people would set out to see whether the places he described really existed.

Marco Polo was really a mine of information. And that mine would be quarried for centuries afterwards.”

In Venice today, one can find no monuments to Marco Polo. It’s believed that he lived and died in this building. No one can be sure.

His family had been entombed here in the Church of San Lorenzo, but their remains were exhumed and moved elsewhere, two-hundred years ago. We know not where.

How important then could Marco Polo’s legacy be?

Two centuries after Marco’s death, Christopher Columbus pleaded before Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his daring expedition to the Orient. Daring in that he would said west across the Atlantic, which no one had yet attempted.

Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo, Professor: “Christopher Columbus owned his own personal copy of Marco Polo’s book. And this was printed in Antwerp in 1485, and luckily was handed down to us with Christopher Columbus’s original notes.”

Marco’s description of the wealth of the Orient had excited Columbus’ imagination. Of course sailing westward, Columbus never reached Asia; he discovered America instead.

Without Marco Polo’s book as an inspiration, many experts believe this historic accident may have happened in a later time, perhaps under a different flag.

The name Columbus became synonymous with exploration and navigational genius; name Marco Polo is seldom mentioned in the same breath.

Brian Hall, Author: “The difference between Columbus and Marco is fairly striking: Columbus went to plant the flag of his country. Marco was never interested in that. He never planted the Venetian flag anywhere.

Columbus renamed everything wherever he went. Marco carefully tried to figure out what the natives actually called the place and then reproduced it so that you can trace his itinerary quite well.

Columbus looks on the people that he’s come to as barbarians and savages that could only be benefitted by his presence. In Marco’s account, there instead shines through this admiration for Mongol Empire: the peace on the roads, the well-run cities, the cleanliness.”

Some myths that persist about Marco, the notion that he brought back pasta, pizza or gunpowder from China are totally unfounded. Scholars believe these misconceptions minimize his actual achievements.

Dr. Morris Rossabi, Professor: “The Chinese would give you Kublai Khan in his bureaucratic role, but Marco Polo told you something about the person; his observations, his intelligence, his clarity, along with that, the significance of the book can’t be downplayed.

It had a tremendous impact on the desire of Europeans to have greater contact with East Asia, and it also laid down the first European vision of what East Asians were all about.”

In 1324, at the age of 67, Marco died at home of natural causes.

As a merchant, he had made and lost fortunes. As the author of the most popular book of the time, he had earned nothing.

Beside the book, his will is perhaps the only other personal document of note that survives to the present.

In it he bequeaths his modest wealth to his family and acknowledges someone never mentioned elsewhere.

Timothy Severin, Author: “Nice little touch in his will is that he frees a slave of his, who is a Tatar, that is from Mongolia. That may have been a servant that he acquires during his travels and came back to Venice with him.

But of course the best story about Marco Polo on his deathbed is when he was dying, people came to him and said, ‘All those stories you told us, they weren’t really true, were they?’ and it is said that Marco Polo replied, ‘I didn’t tell half of what I saw’.”


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1. The Polo family were peasants. Yes or no? Did Marco have an “ordinary” upbringing and family life? Was his father present in his youth? Where was his father?

2. Why did the Polos embark on a long journey to China? Was their journey easy and comfortable, or fraught with difficulty and hardship? During their journey, did the Polos carry passports or travel documents?

3. Kublai Khan was a ruthless, brutal barbarian. Is this entirely true, mostly true, yes and no, in the middle, largely false or entirely false? Did he get along well with the Polos?

4. What did Marco do in China and the Mongol Empire?

5. Marco only noted business and commercial information. Is this right or wrong? What were some strange or interesting customs he noted? What is the etymology of the word “assassin”?

6. Marco kept a detailed journal, and wrote a book after returning to Venice. Is this correct or incorrect? Do scholars know exactly what Marco looked like and what his ideals, value, attitudes, character, personality, mentality and outlook were? Why don’t they know?

7. How did Marco portray China? Describe Venice, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia at the time (during the thirteenth century).

“The book, first called The Description of the World, then The Travels of Marco Polo and at various times Il Milione.” Why was Marco’s book at times titled “Il Milione” or “The Million”? Did everyone in Europe believe everything Marco wrote and said?

According to the documentary, has China changed since the Middle Ages?

8. Did Europeans believe his account of China and the Orient? What happened at the end (of Marco’s life)? To this day, do people still doubt Marco Polo’s accounts?

9. Was his book simply a travelogue or did it have profound implications? What was Marco’s legacy?


A. I have been on a journey or traveled or lived abroad. Yes or no? Describe your journey?

B. Have your travels and journeys affected you, your outlook, attitude, ideals, values?

C. Who are some famous travelers from your country? What famous people visited your country?

D. Everyone, especially young people should travel or live abroad. What do you think?

E. What will happen in the future?

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