On the trail of Marco Polo

Marco Polo was a Venetian traveler who went far to the East, following some of the many branches of the Silk Road. He left in 1271 and returned about 1295. His book about his travels was a best-seller then and is still well-known 700 years later.

This article is an itinerary.

William Dalrymple retraced the route in the 1980s and wrote a book, In Xanadu, about it.

. . . On the trail of Marco Polo . . .

Mosaic portrait

Marco Polo owes his fame to a book which he wrote after his return. At the time, there was an intense rivalry between the great trading cities of Venice, Pisa and Genoa. The Venetian Polo and his co-author, Rusticiano of Pisa, were both prisoners of war in Genoa when they met and wrote the book.

The original title translates as A Description of the World, but it is usually referred to as The Travels of Marco Polo. This was the first account of a journey to the East to be widespread in Europe, and was the best reference on Asia from its publication around 1300 until the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama reached the East by the Cape Route almost 200 years later. Polo’s tales of the riches of the East were part of the reason for the Portuguese voyages, and also spurred on Columbus.

The book was the first in Europe to mention a number of things including oil from Iran, and coal, paper money and window glass from China. Some claim that Polo introduced noodles to Italy, but this is hotly disputed.

This itinerary is based on a version of the book downloaded from Project Gutenberg. They describe it as “the unabridged third edition (1903) of Henry Yule’s annotated translation, as revised by Henri Cordier; together with Cordier’s later volume of notes and addenda (1920).” All quotes are from that version.

There is considerable scholarly controversy about the book. It was written by two Italians, but the original was probably in medieval French, the trade language of the day. The oldest known copies are from a few decades later, several conflicting versions in French, Italian and Latin. A later Italian version contains additional material, apparently based on Polo family papers. Polo actually saw some of the things he speaks of, but for others he repeats tales from other travelers. Which are which? How much did Rusticiano, the writer of romances, embellish the story? Some critics say Marco never got East of Kashgar and only heard tales of central China he never mentions chopsticks, tea, bound feet, or the Great Wall. Others cite Mongol records indicating someone named Polo was indeed there.

Fortunately, various scholars have figured out most of this. Here, we simply follow Yule and Cordier, and discuss the route as their translation gives it, ignoring the controversies.

The book generally uses Persian names for places. What about the Mongol names? Or Chinese? What was lost in various translations? In various wars? Is the city still there? Has it been renamed? We give Polo’s term and the modern name. For example, Polo’s Kinsay (which Yule and Cordier call Hang-Chau-Fu) is Hangzhou.

. . . On the trail of Marco Polo . . .

This article is issued from web site Wikivoyage. The original article may be a bit shortened or modified. Some links may have been modified. The text is licensed under “Creative Commons – Attribution – Sharealike” [1] and some of the text can also be licensed under the terms of the “GNU Free Documentation License” [2]. Additional terms may apply for the media files. By using this site, you agree to our Legal pages . Web links: [1] [2]

. . . On the trail of Marco Polo . . .

Previous post Cebuano phrasebook
Next post Great Santa Cruz Island