The most illustrious European to travel throughout the Far East, Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road – a trade route named for the precious silk of China – with his father and uncle on a journey that took 24 years. Most of it was spent in China, in the Mongolian Court of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Marco’s father and uncle, trade merchants, first traveled to China in 1260, meeting Kublai Khan around 1265 and assuring their return to China to fulfill Khan’s request to ask the Pope for 100 missionaries to teach Christianity. Marco was raised in Venice by his mother who had died, and was 15 years old when his father and uncle returned. The selection of a new Pope caused a two-year delay in the Polo brother’s return; and in 1271, they left for China with Marco.
In 1275, Marco, his father and uncle arrived at Kublai Khan’s Court; they stayed until 1291. During this time, Marco observed the cultures of each country and the customs of the Mongolian Court; and he became a trusted official of Kublai Khan. The Polos left China with a mission to escort a Mongol princess to her betrothed in Persia. The trip took four years, and they returned to Venice in 1295. Several years later, Marco was aboard a Venetian ship during a war with Genoa, and was captured and jailed. In jail, he met Rustichello da Pisa – a writer of romantic and aristocratic lore – and Polo dictated his account of his travels. The book, titled A Description of the World, or The Travels of Marco Polo, became very popular throughout Europe; however, people had a difficult time believing the vastly different customs and cultures and Marco’s story gained a reputation for being an exaggeration. Travelers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have confirmed many of Marco’s descriptions, and – more recently – researchers have also come to Marco’s defense, citing numerous reasons in support of his credibility.
Marco Polo and His Travels
In The Footsteps of Marco Polo
Did Marco Polo Go To China?
Written by Janice Mancuso