Marco Polo and Kublai Khan were two of the most fascinating figures in medieval history. Marco was a Venetian merchant adventurer, and Kublai was the Mongol ruler of China and the world’s richest and most powerful man. Their lives intersected in the last quarter of the 13th century because of trade opportunities on the Silk Road.
In this essay, I examine why Marco and his father and uncle went to Kublai’s China, how they returned to Venice as wealthy men, and whether Marco’s book was based on first-hand experience. I then look at why Kublai based his rule of alien China on religious tolerance and Chinese prosperity, how he created and taxed wealth in China, and why his Mongol Yuan dynasty declined and ended. I conclude the essay with a review of the Silk Road trade route – the high-value commodities traded, the peak periods of trade, and the cessation of Silk Road trade in the 15th century after Mongol rule of China had ended. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of sites that I visited on Stanford Travel/Study’s Marco Polo Expedition (October 2-25, 2016).
Istanbul, Turkey, Kars, Ani, and Dogubayazit, Turkey, Tabriz, Iran, Il-Khanate, Azerbaijan, Isfahan, Iran, Tehran, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Urumqi and Kashgar, China, Dunhuang, China, Shangdu (Xanadu) and Duolun, China, Beijing, Hangzhou, Song China, Legendary Cultures By Private JetUlaanbaatar, Mongolia, Ancient Crossroads Expedition By Private Jet, Urumqi and Turfan, China, Jiaohe,