Marco Polo – Venetian Explorer

Marco Polo was a Venetian explorer who travelled through Central Asia and China. Although the exact place and time is unknown, he was born in 1254 and later died in 1324. His mother died after giving birth to him, therefore his aunt and uncle raised him for most of his life. Marco Polo learned how to read and write as a child, he was very educated for his age. His father and uncle were both merchants, and became very wealthy by trading goods with the Middle East. He was seventeen when his father and uncle took him on his first journey to China in 1271.

Marco Polo travelled to China over the Silk Road which was an overland route to China. He worked for Kublai Khan, the Mongol Emperor, for seventeen years. He sailed home instead of going overland. Marco Polo brought back ivory, jade, jewels, porcelain, silk and also stories about the Chinese use of coal, money and compasses. Marco Polo became famous for his travels through Central Asia and China. The travels of Marco Polo and his accomplishments are all noted in the book Marco Polo from Venice to Xanadu, by Laurence Bergreen. The chapters I selected to write about are chapters three, eight, nine, and fourteen.

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Chapter three is about Marco Polo’s experience in Armenia, the journey to the Mongol Empire. It includes topics such as the Turkomen province local religions, women, farming, and also the Assassin cult. The next chapter I chose to write about is chapter eight, In the Service of the Khan. This chapter is about Kublai Khan and the great city of Cambulac. The chapter talks about Persian astronomy and Mongols, practical applications of astrology, physical description of Cambulac security and also royal banqueting. Topics such as use of coal and the application of the Mongol New Year calendar are also mentioned in this chapter.

The Struggle for Survival is the next chapter I decided to cover. It is chapter nine and it is about Macro Polo’s travels throughout Hangzhou, the largest, wealthiest city in China. The chapter covers the Mongolian and Asian war, the silk trade, salt used for currency, and also health care. The final chapter I chose to cover is chapter fourteen, The Mongol Princess. The chapter begins by talking about the end of the Kublai Khan, and how Macro Polo must release from the services of the Klan even if it meant life or death. It continues on talking about Macro Polo’s outlook on life, and his journey with the Mongol Princess.

Marco Polo was a one of the greatest explores till this day, and I was very lucky to have gotten the chance to read and write about this man. In this essay you will find more in depth information on the chapters I selected and also my personal reflection. Finally leaving Venice, and Jerusalem Macro Polo, his father and uncle finally made it to Armenia. The Apprentice begins talking about how to Polo company arrived to Armenia, and how they are staring straight at the heart of the Mongol Empire. In Armenia, Marco Polo and company ran into the Kublai Klan, heretics of the land.

The Kublai Klan were considered good Christians, and they used the land for enjoyment. Marco Polo decided it was a good idea to join the Klan, soon after that the Polo Company ran into the Province of Turkoman, which today is considered Turkey. Marco Polo felt that the people of Turkoman were ignorant people who lived like beast. (Laurence Bergreen, Marco Polo, 43). He felt like these people differed in so many ways from any other people he came to encounter. Although they lived like beast, they had qualities to them that would attract the common eye. Their carpets were one of beautiful craftsmanship.

They were made with extraordinary color like rich gold’s and the finest silk. Their carpets were not the only thing that caught Marco Polo’s attention but also the religion and beliefs of the Mongols. Justice was well kept among the people and the Klan just as long as they were obedient. They had a wide range of religious freedom. The people were able to believe and worship any religion they decided suited them best. Marco Polo traveled the Tigris River to Bagdad where he witnessed Mongol Warriors kill over eight thousand people under the rule of Hulegu.

This is where I learned about Mongol executions. Marco Polo describes it as “bloodless executions” (Bergreen, 47). The Mongols would stuff their victim’s mouth with feces or stone causing them to be smothered, and then have their horses stampede over the body. Once learning about the Mongols in Bagdad, Polo traveled onto Tabriz “the most splendid city in the province,” (Bergreen, 47). Tabriz had a variety of people, therefore a variety of market merchandise. One of the most valuable items in the Tabriz market was pearls. The city had one of the most extraordinary pearl markets around in that time.

The pearl market was very structured; it was put together with multiple rules. The people would argue over prices and value of the pearls by squeezing each other’s wrists or fingers. They did this so people on the outside could not understand what was going on. It was a very complex system that Marco Polo picked up quickly. Next the Polo Company moved onto the Persian Gulf where they learned about the Hormuz environment. At first it seemed almost perfect, but they soon realized it wasn’t. The conditions were harsh, many merchants died traveling on the path they were taking.

The heat and the strong winds were unbearable. Hormuz told Polo many stories about the men who lost their lives due to these harsh conditions. He told stories like how his men would try to bury the bodies to prevent infection, but when they would try to drag the bodies to be buried the arms would just fall off due to the extreme heat. So his men had to dig holes next to the dead bodies then throw them in (Bergreen, 51). The Polo Company traveled throughout Muslim villages and came across a whole new life, a whole new aspect on people and living forms.

Over a period of six days they learned about livestock, local religions, Mongolian executions, the pearl market, harsh environment, Persian women, farming, the Assassin cult and Mongolian atrocities, but that wasn’t all Polo was going to learn. In the Service of the Klan, chapter eight starts off talking about the Klan and the city of Cambulac. When Macro Polo arrived to the new city, it was devoted to the study of astronomy and the way Kublai Khan viewed the world. I learned that a lot of modern astrology comes from ideas from ancient china.

They figured out that the equator is a circular line in the middle of the globe, and that the earth circled around the sun. The Persians would study stars and constellations along with comets and craters on the moon’s surface. Kublai created an institute of Muslim Astronomy, which led to the Mongol calendar. As Macro Polo moved deeper into the city he realized how intricate the city was. He noticed how the palaces were so beautiful and square (Bergreen, 144). He talked about how there was a great wall surrounding the whole palace and it was only to be opened when Kublai wanted war.

The walls of the palace were covered in only gold and silver, but the roofs were painted like peacocks. Macro Polo described the palace as “the greatest and most wonderful ever seen,” (Bergreen, 145). The city of Cambulac had an advance security system that fascinated Macro Polo. The gates to the city would be closed, and there would be guards protecting every corner of the city. After entering the city, the festivities began. There were royal ceremonies such as birthdays and banquets. The banquets were set up like nothing Marco Polo had ever seen before.

There were certain seating, beautiful center pieces with carvings of animals, and silver glasses everywhere filled with spiced drinks. To the guest of the events, everything was so strange to them. Marco Polo described how guest had to cover their mouths and noses with silk cloth so neither their breath or their smell would come into the food or the drink of the Khan (Bergreen, 149). The entertainment consisted of musicians so smooth they would put you in a light sleep, jugglers and acrobats. After reading about the celebrations I continued on to the Mongolian postal system. The Mongolian postal system was one of a kind for their time.

The messengers would travel by horse, and every twenty-five miles or so there would be a station with a new horse. They would switch horses every couple of miles so they could cover more ground in a faster time without the horses getting tired. The postal system was vital because the Khan needed to receive or send out important messages. The pathways for the messengers were marked with trees and lighted torches. Rows and rows of trees would mark the way for the messengers to follow. Not only did the Mongols have a system for mail, they also had a system to help out the elderly.

It was a welfare system that provided the needy with clothing, food, and necessities to help families survive. The Mongol’s kept everything well documented so that every year they knew the exact amount to give out to that exact family. During the cold months of the year, Marco Polo experienced Kublai during hunting season. He witnessed wild boars, stags, bucks, bears, lions, and other wild beast being hunted and killed (Bergreen, 162). Kublai brought along two dogs with him, and the dogs had men devoted to them. After the hunt Kublai and his men would bring back skins of the rarest kind, and beautiful furs.

At the end of this chapter Macro Polo finds himself worrying that he may have to end his journey in the Mongol Empire. Fortunately Kublai Khan sends him on a trip to gather information, thus marking Polo as a Khan traveler. The Struggle for Survival starts off with Marco Polo leaving the wonderful city of Cambulac and entering the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou was considered Chinas largest, wealthiest city of that time. On his way out of Cambulac, he came across this stone bridge made out of gray marble. Marco Polo described the bridge to be three hundred paces long and eight paces wide (Bergreen, 168).

Later he learned that the bridge was more than just a bridge, it had spiritual meaning to it. The bridge symbolized crossing over into a new life, a new beginning. Once crossing the bridge Macro Polo was in the city of Hangzhou. He found himself always running into silk, not only just the fabric but the actual silk worms. The Chinese learned how to cultivate and protect the silk worms. They figured out what temperature to keep the eggs at, as well as how much to increase the temperature to make the eggs hatch. They protected the worms from loud noises and harsh weather, therefore the worms would grow in size and produce more silk.

The manufacturing of silk was the women’s job. The women would spin, dye, weave, and embroider the silk until they came up with a final product. Soon people were traveling to China trying to figure out the secrets of the silk. Next I read about magicians in China. They were magicians who could heal the soul and the sick. Macro Polo describes scenes where the magician would bring up a dying person, then heal them of their sickness. Then the cane fires came. People of China would light these big canes on fire to protect themselves from the beasts of the night. The canes when on fire would make a loud rackling sound that would scare off any lion or bear trying to harm them. Marco Polo described the noise being so loud that people who didn’t know what it was would be frightened and run away (Bergreen, 176). In this chapter I learned about the Tibetan women, and their sexual generosity. Macro Polo explained that these are the type of women you would never want to call your wife, just a woman to please your needs. They were like the common day prostitute, you would take them into a room and do what you please then repay them with a jewel or something valuable.

These women would keep the jewels like trophies, they would put them on a necklace to show everyone how many men she has been with. Following the women, I learned about taxes in China. Marco Polo was a tax collector for Kublai Khan. He would collect taxes in the form of salt, because salt was so rare and valuable to the empire. The people would make salt cakes by boiling salt water until it was a paste, then they would shape it into coin like shapes and put them under a flame to make them hard. People would use the salt coins as money, and the broken coins for food. I learned about the Mongolian wars and how the men prepared for battle.

They had horses and elephants to lead their way into the battles along with arrows. They would dip the tips of the arrows into poison and salt to make sure to inflict maximum pain. Men would place themselves on top of the elephants not only for protection, but also for the best look of the ground below. They were easily able to shoot arrows at any enemy below them. The Mongols made sure that their arrows were shorter than their enemy’s so that they could not be reused. The Tartar and Mongol war began; many men and beasts were killed. Each man fought to the death, if they ran out of arrows they would ran at an enemy with their sword.

They would do whatever it took to protect their king. In the end, the Tartars had the victory against the Mongols. The Mongol Princess is the final chapter I decided to cover. It starts off with the decline of Kublai Khan. Once Kublai Khan died, Marco Polo would be worthless; he would be game for every enemy out there. He had to leave Kublai Khan before his death so he could go back home. One day Marco Polo went to Kublai Khan and pleaded to him to let him leave his services so he could return back to his family. Having spent seventeen years in the service of the Khan, he was finally out.

He had one last mission before he returned home, and that was to deliver Princess Kokachin to her kingdom. The Polo Company weighted on her hand and foot, they did anything she asked for because what she said was law (Bergreen, 306). Once returning the princess to her rightful place, the Polo’s headed home. On their way home they learned of Kublai Khans death. Marco Polo then stood back and looked back at his time while traveling. He realized how many things he has learned, seen, and been influenced by on the trip. Marco says he could go on forever with his histories, tales, miracles, myths, jokes, and unique xperiences (Bergreen, 313). After twenty-four years of traveling, their adventure finally came to an end. The chapter ends with Marco Polo coming to realize that when he started the trip he was a stranger to the Mongol Empire, but now he is only but a stranger to his homeland. Overall Marco Polo is one of a kind. Reading this book opened up my eyes and I’ve come to be appreciative and acknowledge him not only as a person, but as an explorer. Before I had the chance to read this book I only knew what everyone else knew about him, he was the first European to travel throughout Asia.

After reading through the book I now know that he is much more then what people give him credit for. His stories about all the different cities and customs are amazing. I really enjoyed reading about all the different things he came across, and how he dealt with things. Many people viewed Marco Polo as a fabricator, a liar. After he died people started recognizing him as a historian. They not only recognized him as a historian, but one of the greatest historians around. I think it is sad that he didn’t get credit for his work while he was alive, but his legacy lives on.

I am very glad this paper was assigned because without it I would have never picked up this book and actually read what was inside. Marco Polo, his dad, and uncle set out to travel throughout China in 1271, they spent twenty-four years traveling from city to city picking up on new stories and traditions. They returned back home to Venice in 1295 and little did they know they would be famous for future generations all over the world. Marco Polo is now studied worldwide, and I think am lucky to have the opportunity to do this assignment on him.

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Marco Polo – Venetian Explorer. (2017, Feb 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/marco-polo-venetian-explorer/