travels of Marco polo one

The Travels of

Marco Polo, I



prison accident merchant
mix curious improbable
era legend burnable
silk willing expedition
port medieval spend/spent/spent (2)
honor empire manual (2)
wish expel (2) open-minded
monk caravan accompany
writ respect carry out
follow plate (2) existence
route seal (2) porcelain
fiction burden held up (2)
shelter halfway turn back
suffer territory representative (2)
rare absence continual
seize wonder throw/threw/thrown
fellow appoint observant
pope constant abundant
coal amazed spring (3)
drown custom crocodile
poison force (3) depiction
rob note (3) in order to
guide remain imagination
spice pass (2) enthusiasm
opium hashish worth their weight in gold
worth cellmate competitor
weight wander manuscript
truth overfeed contemporary
gift fairy tale relative (2)
fable miracle raise doubts
soul trade (2) appearance
greedy quarrel get along with
legal include proceeding
accept mistake estimation
tavern consider dream (2)







If this merchant had not been accidentally thrown into prison, which caused him to meet a writer there who wrote down his stories, the world might never have learned about his twenty-four year wanderings across East Asia.

The Travels of Marco Polo, in which the truth is mixed with fiction and legends, actually led to an era of great geographical discoveries.

Marco Polo was born in 1254 into the family of a rich Venetian merchant who was constantly away in the East on trading expeditions.

No one can say whether Marco went to school or not, but it is known that the boy willingly spent his time at the port. He watched trade ships arriving and dreamed of travelling to unknown countries.

Those dreams were to come true: when Marco was eighteen, his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo took the young man on their next trade expedition.

They had recently returned from travelling along the great Silk Road.

In Beijing, the new capital of the Mongolian Empire, Kublai Khan, the grandson of the well-known Genghis Khan, accepted them with honor.

He was an open-minded person, and he wished that the Pope would send him Christian scientists.

Now the Polo merchants were accompanying two monks to see the Khan and carrying gifts from the Pope. The writ of protection providing travelers with safety, food and shelter in the huge territory of the Mongolian Empire was a gold plate with the personal seal of Kublai.

By following long caravan routes, the merchants passed through Central Asia, visiting Mongolia, China, Tibet and the Pamirs.

During three years of traveling, the curious young man Marco studied four languages.

The monks, having not held up well under the burdens of the trip, turned back halfway, and the merchants arrived in Beijing in 1275.

Kublai Khan, who treated Christians with respect, appointed the young Venetian his personal representative.

For seventeen years, Marco Polo worked for the Khan, carrying out the ruler’s assignments. He visited different ends of the huge empire from Mongolia to India and Sumatra.

The traveler went home only after the Khan’s death. This time, he travelled part of his way by sea.

Marco Polo was then thirty-eight. His father and uncle were about seventy. After a 24 year absence, the Polo merchants arrived in Venice, where everybody had considered them dead a long time ago.

Two years passed.

During a fight between the continual trading competitors Genoa and Venice, the ship on which the Venetians were sailing was seized, and Marco was thrown into the Genoa prison.

There he willingly told his fellow sufferers about the miracles of the East he had seen during the twenty-four years.

From the traveler Marco Polo, Europeans heard for the first time about a fountain that expelled oil abundantly. And about burnable, black stones which warmed houses.

These were a mineral oil spring and coal which were not yet known in Europe. The amazed Italians listened with interest about strange animals, big snakes on four legs, as the traveler described a crocodile.

Marco told about strange Eastern customs: to drown unwanted newborn girls and to kill old men, overfeeding them with bad food by force; to poison beautiful and noble guests, but not in order to rob them, but so the soul of the guests would remain in the house where he was killed, and bring happiness.

The Chinese system of mail service, roads with a great number of guide signs, and paper money struck the listeners’ imagination.

The traveler talked with enthusiasm about porcelain and food for cats, about hashish and opium.

But the main thing Marco talked about was spices, which were worth their weight in gold in Europe.

For eight months in prison, Marco Polo entertained his fellow sufferers with his stories.

One of his cellmates, Rustacello of Pisa wrote down these stories and named them the The Book of the Wonders of the World. This manuscript is now known as The Travels of Marco Polo.

Many people read it, and even though much of it seemed improbable, it was difficult for his contemporaries to tell the truth from Marco Polo’s rich imagination, and his truthful depictions of Asia from legends and fairy tales, which were also included in the book.

Therefore the existence of people with dog heads raised no doubts; but the description of Kublai’s riches was taken as fable.

Skeptics said that Marco Polo had not been in China at all, and everything he said he had heard in the taverns of Damascus.

After the appearance of his notes, Marco Polo lived in Venice for 25 years, almost as long as his travel to the East had lasted. He got married, continued in the trade business, and never left Italy.

He lived to be seventy. And by the end of his life, he became difficult to get along with and greedy. He quarreled frequently with relatives and even had legal proceedings with them.

The book of Marco Polo, written in the thirteenth century remained for a long time the only encyclopedia of the East. For more than 200 years, it served as a manual for mapmakers, though Polo was at times mistaken in his estimation of distances.

Nevertheless, the writings of the well-known Italian traveler, and observant storyteller, Marco Polo, are among those rare medieval works which are read with interest even until now.


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1. Marco Polo’s family were ordinary peasants. True or false? Did he always want to travel?

2. Had Marco’s father and uncle been to China before? What did the Mongolian emperor request?

3. Marco, his father and uncle underwent a very long journey to China. Is this correct or incorrect? Was it a difficult journey?

4. Was Marco a polyglot? What happened after the Polos reached China? What did Marco do in China?

5. The Polos settled in China. Is this right or wrong?

6. Did Marco give lectures about his travels?

7. Marco did more traveling after he returned to Venice. Yes or no? What did he do?
A. Have you or your friends been on a long journey?

B. Would you like to travel and explore different places? Where would you like to go?

C. Who have been some great travelers from your country?

D. Traveling broadens the mind. Everyone should travel. What do you think?

E. What will happen in the future?

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