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The travels of Marco Polo

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of The Age of Discovery.

Marco Polo came from a Venetian family of merchants that had established regular trade with China.

During a first voyage, his father and uncle met the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan who gave them a message to deliver to the Pope.

The two men set off again from Venice with Marco in 1271. Passing through Ormuz, Central Asia and Mongolia, they arrived in Khanbaliq, present-day Beijing, where they were received at the luxurious Mongol court. Marco Polo was made a councillor to the Emperor Kublai Khan and travelled further into China. One of his missions took him as far as Yunnan and Burma.

Marco Polo travelled home to Europe by sea.  He landed in Sumatra, continued on to the western coast of India, then through the Persian Gulf before crossing Mesopotamia and reaching the shores of the Black Sea.

When he arrived in Venice, the Serenissima Republic was at war with Genoa. Marco Polo was taken prisoner and during his captivity wrote his famous Book of Marvels of the World, also called The Travels of Marco Polo.

This book proved to be a remarkable source of information on the history of Ancient China. It does not give the story of Marco Polo’s voyages, but recounts the history of his patron, the Emperor Kublai Khan. The countries he mentions, such as Japan, Vietnam, India and Madagascar, are those to which Kublai Khan sent his armies or emissaries.