Did Marco Polo Go To China?

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Overview


We all “know” that Marco Polo went to China, served Ghengis Khan for many years, and returned to Italy with the recipes for pasta and ice cream. But Frances Wood, head of the Chinese Department at the British Library, argues that Marco Polo not only never went to China, he probably never even made it past the Black Sea, where his family conducted business as merchants.Marco Polo’s travels from Venice to the exotic and distant East, and his epic book describing his extraordinary adventures, A Description of the World, ranks among the most famous and influential books ever published. In this fascinating piece of historical detection, marking the 700th anniversary of Polo’s journey, Frances Wood questions whether Marco Polo ever reached the country he so vividly described. Why, in his romantic and seemingly detailed account, is there no mention of such fundamentals of Chinese life as tea, foot-binding, or even the Great Wall? Did he really bring back pasta and ice cream to Italy? And why, given China’s extensive and even obsessive record-keeping, is there no mention of Marco Polo anywhere in the archives?Sure to spark controversy, Did Marco Polo Go to China? tries to solve these and other inconsistencies by carefully examining the Polo family history, Marco Polo’s activities as a merchant, the preparation of his book, and the imperial Chinese records. The result is a lucid and readable look at medieval European and Chinese history, and the characters and events that shaped this extraordinary and enduring myth.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wood (A Companion to China, LJ 4/1/90), the head of the Chinese department at the British Library, presents a revisionist view of Marco Polo, arguing that he may not have made the fabulous journey described in his book, A Description of the World. Not really an itinerary, according to Wood, Polo's book is a general geography of Asia containing information that could have been gleaned from the works of other travelers, including Polo's father and uncle, who had visited the Mongol capital Karakorum. Polo's work was dictated to a ghost writer named Rusticello, who, Wood suspects, padded Polo's original tale with any information about Asia that he and Polo could locate. Wood is not dogmatic in her examination and in fact presents all sides of the scholarship fairly. Still, her argument falls apart, since she doesn't say where Polo was if not in China (he could have been a minor civil servant and thus not mentioned in the records of the day). Given the importance of Polo's book to European expansion, it almost seems irrelevant to ask if he actually reached China. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813389998
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Lexile: 1710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 0.48 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Frances Wood is head of the Chinese Department at the British Library and author of A Companion to China and The Blue Guide to China, among many other scholarly works.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2002

    just another historian trying to discover something

    frankly, i think this book is grounded more on opinions than fact. Marco polo's trip to China was recently proven possible(it was in national geographic) anyway, where he really went is arbitrary, more important than his actual travels was his book, which had an enormous impact on medieval ideas. just because he didn't discuss foot binding and tea ceremonies doesn't mean that he never saw them, it just means that he didn't care about them as much as he cared about imports, exports, trade routes, and religion(of course he cared about religion, he was part of a mission sent by the pope, and, after all, this is during the age of faith)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2009

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