In her book did Marco Polo Go to China? (first published by Secker & Warburg, London, in 1995), Dr Frances Wood claims that Marco did not go to China and that he probably never traveled much further than the family's trading post on the Black Sea and in Constantinople. (Rachewiltz) There are many parts of his accounts open to question and criticism. However, it was likely that he did get to China. As to whether he personally witnessed all that he said, or was favored in the court of Kublai Khan, was another matter. There are three particular points that I want to point out why I think Marco Polo did get to China.
At first Niccolo Polo and Matteo Polo, both father and uncle to Marco Polo, were merchants who set out into Asia in AD 1255, and supposed to reached Cambuluc (present day Beijing), Kublai's capital in AD 1266. They returned to Europe, supposedly bearing a letter from Kublai Khan to the Pope to send some 200 representatives from the Church. There was little cause to doubt their account bearing the message from Kublai, though whether what the Polo brothers told the Pope and what Kublai Khan actually meant may differ. To the Pope, the Polo brothers probably painted a picture of Kublai Khan being curious about Christianity, and wanting some assurances which could be provided by 200 or so learned Christian monks or scholars. (Wood, pp. 16-22) But given what is known about the court of Kublai Khan, he had a very open mind and provided patronage to numerous learned men from all different tenets and backgrounds. Kublai Khan was a keen learner, and was probably not more particularly impressed with Christianity than with all the other religions represented in his court. His invitation to the Pope to send him scholars was probably genuine, but his leaning towards converting to Christianity probably exaggerated. Let's considered whether the letter could have been forged by the Polos but dismissed it as unlikely. If they wanted official escorts by the Church to...
Cited: Wood, Frances. Did Marco Polo Go to China? Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.
Dr. Igo Rachewiltz "Did Marco Polo go to China?" u3abbay.org.au. 16 November 2002. May 9 2006 .
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