Travels in the Land of Kubilai Khan

Great ideas

Book 27
Penguin UK
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A profound influence on medieval Europe's view of the wider world, this thirteenth-century account of a Venetian merchant's amazing experiences in the court of the great Mongol leader, Kubilai Khan, remains one of the most fascinating tales of exploration ever written.
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About the author

Marco Polo was born in 1254, the son of a Venetian Merchant, and made his first visit to China with his father and uncle in 1271. They spent the next 20 years in the service of the Kubilai Khan, travelling throughout the Mongolian empire. They returned home to Venice in 1292 and towards the end of the century, Marco Polo was taken prisoner in Genoa during the Civil War. It was probably while in prison that he met Rustichello of Pisa, a romance writer, with whom he wrote The Travels. He died in 1324, leaving the possessions he had amassed on his travels to be divided by his three daughters.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin UK
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Published on
Aug 25, 2005
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Pages
112
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ISBN
9780141964881
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / General
History / Europe / General
History / Europe / Medieval
History / Expeditions & Discoveries
Travel / Essays & Travelogues
Travel / Special Interest / Adventure
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Prior to the 13th century the horizons of Western Christians extended no further than the principalities of what is now European Russia and the Islamic powers of the near East. Beyond lay a world of which they had only the haziest impressions. The belief that Christian communities were to be found here was nurtured in the 12th century by the growth of the legend of Prester John; but otherwise Asia was peopled in the Western imagination by monstrous races borrowed from the works of late Antiquity. The rise of the Mongol empire, however, and the Mongol devastation of Hungary and Poland in 1241-2, brought the West into much closer contact with Inner Asia. Embassies were being exchanged with the Mongols from 1245; Italian merchants began to profit from the commercial opportunities offered by the union of much of Asia under a single power; and the newly emerging orders of preaching friars, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, who had been active in Eastern Europe and in the Islamic world since the 1220s, found their field of operations greatly expanded. The Franciscan William of Rubruck, who travelled through the Mongol empire in 1253-55, composed the earliest report of such a missionary journey that has come down to us. Couched in the form of a long letter to the French king Louis IX, this remarkable document constitutes an extremely valuable source on the Mongols during the era of their greatness. Rubruck was also the first Westerner to make contact with Buddhism, to describe the shamanistic practices by which the Mongols and other steppe peoples set such store, and to make detailed observations on the Nestorian Christian church and its rites. His remarks on geography, ethnography and fauna (notably the ovis poli, which he encountered a generation before the more celebrated Venetian adventurer from whom it takes its scientific name) give him an additional claim to be one of the keenest of medieval European observers to have travelled in Asia. This new annotated translation is designed to supersede that of W.W. Rockhill, published by the Society in 1900, by relating Rubruck's testimony to the wealth of material on Mongol Asia that has become accessible in other sources over the past nine decades.
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