Marcopolo (1254-1324) is a famous Italian adventurer who become the first European ever stayed very long with the emperor of China. Marco Polo , is probably the most famous Westerner traveled on the Silk Road. He excelled all the other travelers in his determination, his writing, and his influence. His journey through Asia lasted 24 years. He reached further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. His creativity in making such journey, smart thinking and interest in new discoveries attracted the Great Khan. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294) and put as first European as high officers in Great Khan’s court. He traveled the whole of Mongol’s realm and returned to tell the tale, which became the greatest travelogue.
Marco was six when his father and uncle, Maffeo and Niccilo Polo set sail to Asia in 1260 through the Black sea. They both continued to travel up the Volga river to Sarai, the capital of Mongol’s Golden Horde. When the khan of Golden Horde, Bereke, involved in arms conflict with his uncle, Hulagu, who led another Mongol’s khanate, the Ilkhan in Persia, the two brothers found themselves stranded in the area. Using their creativity, they tried to avoid the conflict by making great detour east although the unfortunate happened, they are stranded in Bukhara. Their fortune changed when a VIP emissary from Hulagu met them in Bukhara when they tried to go home by doing a wide detour to the east for avoiding the battles between Hulagu and Bereke.
The emissary persuaded them to go farther east, because the Great Khan never met any Latin and would be delighted to meet one. The Polos agreed, so they went east, taking the north silk road, through the murderous obstacle, Gobi desert, finally they reach Beijing in 1266. They are well received by the Great Khan especially both spoke Mongolian fluently making the communication smooth and entertaining for the Great Khan. Their creativity in putting all together that make what they said interesting. One year later, they went home with various gifts and letters to the Pope and ruler of Venice. They were also presented with a golden tablet inscribed with orders from the Great Khan authorizing the travelers to receive throughout the Great Khan’s dominions such horses, lodging, food and guides as they required.
When they arrived back in Venice, Marco was already sixteen. Not only that, when the two brothers came back, Marco’s mother already passed away. All of them stayed for three years in Venice. In 1271, after receiving reply letters from the Pope for the Great Khan, three of them embarked on one of the most courageous journey back to Mongolia.
As young man, eager for adventurer, gifted linguist and deep interest in foreign culture and people, Marco was more than happy to join his father and uncle. This is one in life time chance to fulfil his thirst for knowledge and sharpened his creativity. During this long three years journey, Marco put notes in his travel journal about everything that interest him. Although not a historian, and indeed some historians doubted the accuracy of Marco’s story, but Marco did provide detailed accounts about the Mongols and their realm.
Fiction or not or maybe it just too creative, journal of his travels has captured readers through the centuries. Manuscript editions of his work ran into the hundreds within a century after his death. His travel journal was recognized as the most important account of the world outside Europe that was available at the time. The most valuable source of education about the world outside Europe. Today there are more than 80 manuscript copies in various versions and several languages around the world.
Today there are a school of experts conducting research and authentication of Marco Polo and his Travels. Much of what he wrote, which regarded with suspicion at medieval time was, confirmed by travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Marco Polo is receiving deeper respect than before because these marvelous characters and countries he described did actually exist. What’s more interesting is that his book becomes great value to Chinese historians, as it helps them understand better some of the most important events of the 13th century, such as the siege of Hsiangyang, the massacre of Ch’angchou, and the attempted conquests of Japan. The extant Chinese sources on these events are not as comprehensive as Marco’s book.