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Source: W. Marsden, trans., The Travels of Marco Polo (1818); rendered into modern English by A. J. Andrea.
About the Document
Marco Polo was the son of an Italian merchant who traveled the Silk Road to Mongol China in the year 1275. A gifted linguist and master of four languages, Marco Polo was appointed by emperor Kublai Khan as an official in the Privy Council in 1277 and for three years he was a tax inspector in Yanzhou, a city on the Grand Canal near the northeastern coast. He also visited Karakorum, the old capital of the original Mongol empire. Marco Polo stayed in Khan's court for seventeen years, acquiring great wealth in gold and jewelry.
Reportedly, Marco Polo kept a detailed dairy about his travels and his experiences in China. He recalled in great detail the moment when he and other members of his family first met the Emperor Kublai Khan: "They knelt before him and made obeisance with the utmost humility. The Great Khan bade them rise and received them honorably and entertained them with good cheer. He asked many questions about their condition and how they fared after their departure . . . Then they presented the privileges and letters which the Pope had sent, with which he was greatly pleased, and handed over the holy oil, which he received with joy and prized very highly."
Marco Polo's account of his life under the Mongols and his personal experience in China's Yuan Dynasty caused both curiosity and doubts among Westerners. Many questioned the validity of his records, wondering if he had ever reached China. The controversy led to a book in 1995 entitled Did Marco Polo Go to China? by Frances Wood, head of Chinese Studies at the British Library. Wood argued that Marco Polo probably only went as far as Constantinople, where he gathered information on China from Arabs and Persians who returned from their China trip.