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Marco Polo

Author elsslots
#1 | Posted: 17 Jun 2008 12:37 
Anyone with good knowledge of "The Travels of Marco Polo"?

Suggested sites are:
Venice, Istanbul, Acre, Jerusalem, Mogao Caves, Beijing

But I'm not sure which sites (that are now WHS) are mentioned in the book.

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 17 Jun 2008 14:19 | Edited by: Solivagant 
The problem with establishing where Marco Polo went is made greater by
a. The lack of contemporary Chinese records describing what he did
b. The nature of his book ("Il Milione" or "The Travels of Marco Polo") which mixes material from all sorts of sources and lacks detail of dates, distances, stages etc.

With other "historical personage Connections" we have tried wherever possible to establish exact buildings and detailed locations inside cities/towns (eg Napoleon) but have also assumed that if a person visited a location in historic times then, what constitutes the "Historic town" etc in modern times, would have been included (eg Humboldt). I think this latter approach is fair IF we definitely know that Marco Polo visited a place and that he wasn't just describing a place visited by others, stories he had heard etc.

As far as I am aware the only places we KNOW that Marco Polo visited were

a. Venice - he was born and returned there

b. Acre - He received his credentials and picked up his 2 "Friar" travelling companions there

c. Jerusalem - He visited to pick up the holy oil following Kublai Khan's request to his father Niccolo on his own earlier trip

d. Beijing - He stayed in China for c 17 years and visited both the summer ("Shangtu" or better known as "Xanadu" which is on China's T list as a ruined city in Inner Mongolia) and winter residences - the latter at DaDu is approximately where Beijing is today. The "Forbidden City"/"Imperial Palace" etc is however primarily Ming and Qing and is not in exactly the same place as Dadu. The inscription documents state :- "The Ming retained the location of the Imperial City as well as that of the line of ramparts east and west of Dadu, but the north and south ramparts were moved, creating a rectangular city measuring 6,650 x 5,350 metres". I think this is enough to state that (at least some of?) the inscribed area of the "Imperial Palace" is within the "Dadu" visited by Marco Polo.

e. Istambul (Constantinople) - he certainly passed through on his return to Venice. Many of the inscribed sites post-date his visit but the walls are included so I think this is valid

Marco Polo was imprisoned in Genoa in 1295 (and dictated much of his "book" there) but, as its WHS inscription is limited to specific named Palaces built from the 16th to 18th centuries, I don't think we can count that.

He certainly travelled the "Silk Road" but, whatever "Dr Who" says, I know of no evidence that he visited Mogao caves!!

Author Solivagant
#3 | Posted: 18 Jun 2008 03:53 
Further to this I found the attached in an NYT article
"One could not help but be awed by Xian, as indeed Marco Polo was in his putative 13th-century journey to China. I say putative because in one of his talks, Dr. Wang Tao offhandedly remarked that, of course, Marco Polo's narrative was probably fiction and, in any case, the Venetian was probably not the real author. Fiction? Pressed to amplify after an audible gasp, Tao recounted current scholarly research holding that a consortium of ghostwriters assembled long-familiar Silk Road tales and affixed Polo's name to enhance authenticity. A learned Briton in our group added that Marco Polo somehow never mentions the Great Wall of China or the widespread custom of drinking tea.

For myself, I prefer to believe that Marco Polo did, as tradition holds, dictate his memoirs while a prisoner in Genoa, and that he had so much to recount that he simply forgot about tea and the Wall. "

Author PTK
#4 | Posted: 18 Jun 2008 21:50 
In the Wikipedia article of Marco Polo, there is a picture with the following depiction: "Nicoḷ and Maffeo in Bukhara, where they stayed for three years. They were invited by an envoy of Hulagu (right) to travel east to visit the Great Khan Kubilai." I think it's safe to assume Polo went there.

Author Solivagant
#5 | Posted: 19 Jun 2008 02:37 | Edited by: Solivagant 
My understanding is that this visit to Bukhara was on Nicolo/Maffeo's first trip (Father/uncle to Marco). That was without Marco. They had left in the late 1250s (Wiki says 1252 but this seems to create a problem with Marco's birth in c1254 unless Nicolo's wife went with him as far as eg Constantinople, and I see no reference to that!!), travelled via Constantinople (where they stayed for some years) to the Crimea and then on to Sarai on the Volga (Capital of the western Mongols or "Golden Horde". I was disappointed to miss this during my visit to Astrakhan and the Volga earlier this year but Dimbleby was there during his recent BBC TV series crossing Russia and there seemed little to view). They conducted business there for some time before they moved further east - possibly because political events prevented their return to Venice and they had got the "invitation" to visit Kublai. They certainly spent some time in Bokhara on the way east. Marco had been born around 1254 and was c15 when his father returned in 1269. They set off again in 1271 having presented Pope Gregory the letter from Kublai Khan obtained on the first trip. This time Marco was with them. My understanding is that they took a more southerly route than before across Persia south of the Caspian, then Afghanistan via Kashgar and didn't go to Bokhara - but, as said before, much of this is conjectural. Around 1291 the family returned to Europe by sea via Sri Lanka/India to Persia andas far as I can see didn't visit Bukhara on the return either.

If the "connection" is changed to "The Polos" or "Marco/Niccolo/Maffeo Polo" then Bokhara can definitely be included!

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