A reading of the Marco Polo biography reinstates the fact that throughout the ages there have been men who, bitten by the travel bug, have taken to the roads, ridden the waves and trudged across mountains to chart new courses, discover new lands and cultures. Marco Polo’s wanderlust had served to extend the geographical boundaries of the world.
Marco Polo stakes his claim in the annals of history as the Venetian merchant and explorer who was amongst the very first from the Western World to traverse the Silk Route to reach China, or Cathay, as was known in those days. He then visited the court of the great Mongol king Kublai Khan. His journeys have been immortalized in “Il Milione" or “The Million" or “The Travels of Marco Polo".
Marco Polo began his travels around the world when he accompanied his father and brother to the court of Kubla Khan in 1271. Marco Polo soon gained the favor of king Kublai Khan and served him for 17 long years.
In 1291, the Polo family began their journey back to Europe and Kubla Khan asked Marco Polo to join an embassy to the Khan of Persia and accompany the Mongol princess Koekecin to her fiancée, the Ilkhan Arghun. Marco did his duty and they set sail for Venice via Trabzon.
Even a casual flip through the pages of Marco Polo biography will bring you face-to-face with a myriad of hitherto unknown facts about China in the 13th century. In fact, his biography and Il Milione are considered authentic sources if you want to stock up on information about the Chinese way of life, their customs and beliefs and their system of governance as prevailed in the 13th century.
In fact, after their return to Italy in 1295, the Polo trio became celebrities of sorts with people from far and wide thronging to hear about their eclectic travel experiences and encounters and to wonder at the tales of faraway lands.
Marco Polo was a traveler at heart. And so even after he settled down in Venice, a wealthy merchant and no longer traveled, he still sponsored other travels.
Marco Polo’s age was no age of jet planes, cars and bullet trains and it is no wonder that his exploits, arduous and perilous to say the least, earned him the awe and admiration of his contemporaries. But there was no dearth of a skeptic Venetian who refused to believe him. And Marco Polo continues to court controversy till date.
The Marco Polo biography has had some historians doubting its veracity about his travels. They believe that Marco Polo had not actually been to China and that he has merely retold facts stated by other travelers. Historians who hold this view point out to the omissions regarding chopsticks, tea and the horrendous Chinese ritual of foot binding in the Marco Polo biography and Il Milione.
On the other hand, there are historians who are all praises about the Marco Polo biography with its references to the hierarchy in the Mongolian army, the currency and the Imperial Postal systems. They also hail Marco Polo as being the first among Westerners to refer to Japan in a text.
Despite the storm brewing in the cup, Marco Polo and Marco Polo biography are still held in great esteem by historians and laymen alike.