Marco Polo (1254–1324), the son of a Venetian merchant family, left Europe with his father and uncle in 1271 on a trading mission to the court of the Mongol Emperor of China, Khubilai Khan. The man who returned 24 years later was unrecognisable, but soon accepted as Marco by his family when he showed them the jewels he had brought back from the East. Captured by the Genoese in a later battle, he dictated his memoirs to his cellmate. The result was 'A Description of the World', more misleadingly known as the 'Travels'. Ever since its first appearance, the authenticity of Marco Polo’s account has been questioned. Why does his description of China omit such things as tea, footbinding and the Great Wall, and why is he not mentioned in Yuan Dynasty records? In this fascinating study, Jonathan Clements addresses these problems, explaining them both in terms of the situation in which Polo found himself in Khubilai Khan’s empire, and the subsequent history and development of his manuscript.
‘A lucid, lively account supported by many useful and evocative illustrations.’ - Sunday Review, Independent on Sunday
Jonathan Clements studied Chinese and Japanese at the University of Leeds. He is the author of Confucius: A Biography, Pirate King: Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty and, in this series, Life&Times: Mao (2006).
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