Philip R. Liebson

Delivered to
The Chicago Literary Club
April 2, 2001

In 1995, I read an essay entitled "Cityscapes," in which I described an imaginary dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in a book by Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. In it, Marco described the invisible cities in the realm of the great Khan. The descriptions of these fanciful cities whetted my interest in the realities of the relationship between the Venetian traveler and the Mongolian warlord.

Associated with this were my early memories of the film Citizen Kane, with the fictional estate of Xanadu and the large K overriding the front gate.

Then there is the poem of Samuel Coleridge. Coleridge, in the summer of 1797 was in poor health and removed himself to an isolated farmhouse between the towns of Porlock and Linton in Somerset. As a result of the effects of an opiate, he fell asleep while he was reading a sentence from a current book entitled Purchas's Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kublai commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed within a wall". Awakening from sleep, Coleridge apparently had the sense of a vivid poem of two or three hundred lines, but his writing was interrupted by a person from Porlock who detained him for over an hour on business. He remembered only 8 or 10 lines from this but managed to compose a 54 line poem entitled Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.

Its first few lines introduced an estate of dancing rocks, greenswards and "caverns measureless to man":
In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to the sunless sea.
Kublai Khan lived in the 13th century. It was a century in which trade between the East and West flourished, mostly though Islamic intermediaries. It was also a time of great migrations, most notably the Mongol tribes, who swept to East and West, from the Hungarian plains to Northeastern China. Through this presentation, I hope to convince you of a connection between Kublai Khan and a noted event in the history of Chicago, with Marco Polo as the catalyst.

Marco Polo is perhaps the best known European traveler of the medieval period , at least to contempoorary Americans. He had the great fortune of living in those interesting times, in a Venice that was at the center of European trade but with strong peripheral ties to the Orient with trade through the Black Sea and the Saracen lands. Parenthetically, the greatest Asian traveler of that time may have been the Chinese monk Hsuan Tsang who traveled over 10,000 miles in 17 years in the 7th century, throughout Asia and produced a Chinese literary classic The Great Tsang Classics of the Western World, but very few Americans have heard of him. Marco was also fortunate in having a father and uncle heavily involved in foreign trading.

Venice was ideally located for the purpose of trade, especially in the days of Marco Polo, located as it is at the head of the Adriatic. She had the galleys, the sailors, and the merchants to influence much of the trade with the Middle East. Venetian factories proliferated over the coasts of the Levant from the Dalmatian Coast through the Aegean Sea, across to Lebanon, in Constantinople and in the far reaches of the Black Sea as far as Caffa in the Crimea. When the Fourth Crusade began in 1204, aimed at the Pope's Eastern Rival Constantinople, Venice provided the ships and sailors but received in return a Venetian church, counting house and the right to trade without tolls in all the captured towns of Palestine and Syria, in addition to a quarter of the territory of Constantinople after its conquest. Venice's only coastal rival in the West, Genoa, was soundly defeated by her fleet in 1258.

Four years before this victory, Marco Polo was born in Venice. As a result of his travels in the East over 20 years, he later compiled a document that would be translated into innumerable languages over centuries. Its authenticity would be argued about for as many centuries. The roads he traveled in the stretches of Asia and the Near East would not be seen again by Europeans until the 19th and early 20th centuries. Marco's father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo were long time well-to-do traders with the Middle East, establishing a base of operations in the Crimea. In 1265, the two brothers set out on an a quest to increase trade in the Mongol court of the sovereign of the Western territories in the large Mongol empire which had expanded explosively after Genghis Khan had marshaled his Tartar horsemen on conquest.

At this point, permit me to digress from the elder Polo's venture to provide a background of the Mongols, the Church and the European perspective of Asia at the time. The Tartars were given the name by Europeans for an obscure Mongolian tribe ironically almost virtually destroyed by Genghis Khan's armies. The name was close to the term, Tartarus, indicating to the Europeans the infernal regions. The Mongols had swiftly, within 2 generations, built a vast empire, through planning, discipline, and efficiency. They fought on horseback and could hit targets with precision while running at a gallop. The armies were incredibly mobile, the leaders ruthless. Whole towns which resisted were exterminated. Western Europe itself was left unconquered beyond the borders of Hungary because of the death of Genghis' son Ögedei in 1242, who had succeeded Genghis after his death in 1227. The son's untimely death caused the abrupt withdrawal of the Golden Horde and preventing their overrunning of Europe. At the time, the Mongols had reached the Dalmatian coast and their campfires were virtually within site of the Venetian lands. The resulting domain was too large to be controlled by one leader, extending as it did from the eastern shores of China to the borders of Hungary and Romania, far larger than any previous empire and only rivaled in area by the Soviet Union in the 20th century. The four domains of the empire included the Golden Horde, ruling over the Caucasus, and much of European Russia and parts of Siberia; the kingdom of Persia, Georgia, Armenia, and Asia Minor; the central Asian empire of Turkestan and Afghanistan, and the Eastern Empire of Kublai Khan.

There had been an attempt by Pope Gregory IX in 1241 to raise a crusade against the Mongols, without success. However, the successes of the Mongols against the Saracens raised the possibility of an alliance of the Church against Islam. The succeeding Pope, Innocent IV, wrote letters to the Mongol Khans and sent missionaries to assert the content and superiority of Christian doctrine, in the expectations that the Mongols would accept it and convert en masse. As might be expected, the reigning Khan, in Mongolia, submitted an uncompromising rebuttal and a demand for the Popes personal appearance and submission. His letter said, in part:

"You have said, Become Christian, it will be good' . This petition of yours we do not understand. How do you know whom God forgives and to whom He shows mercy? Now you must say with a sincere heart: We shall become your subject; we shall give you strength".

Over the next several decades, there were several missions of Dominican friars to the Mongolian Khan in central Asia, and emissaries from St. Louis, King of France. From these came a number of manuscripts describing the habits of the Mongols, but seeing no evidence that the Great Khan would consider conversion.

We are used to Mercator projection maps or globes of the world, with primarily an East-West orientation. The medieval understanding of the world, from the European perspective, was displayed in the form of an O in which a T was placed. The left arm of the T was formed by the Don River, the right by the Nile, and the upright by the Mediterranean Sea. Above the arms of the T was Asia, and below the arms, Europe on the left and Africa on the right. At the center of the O stood Jerusalem and at the top, in the Far East was the Earthly Paradise. It was believed that four rivers led out from Paradise, after initially long underground courses. These were believed to be the Nile, the Ganges, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Somewhere on the Asian side of the Caucasus, confined in a great bronze wall, were the giants Gog and Magog, who would break down the walls and bring destruction to the world, at the coming of the Apocolypse. Monstrous races were supposedly found in the great confines of Asia, dog-headed men, men with faces on their breasts and Sciopods, humanoids with one leg though amazingly swift. It was believed that a great Christian king and priest, Prester John, a Nestorian Christian, descended from the Magi ruling Persia, in turn ruling a large portion of the Indian subcontinent, had defeated Medes and Persians in battle and only difficulty in ferrying his armies across the Tigris prevented him from assisting the Christians in defeating the Saracens in the Holy Land. This information was contained in a presumed letter from Prester John, distributed late in the 12th century. In this letter were descriptions of his magnificent palace, the precious stones in his river from Paradise, of fountains of youth, and the absence of serpents, a land of milk and honey, gold and silver. This letter was expanded by copyists with great imaginations and tale telling abilities and distributed throughout Europe. As Gog and Magog, unleashed, would signal the end of the world, so Prester John , or his son, King David, would rescue Eastern Christianity from the infidels of Islam. The Nestorian Christians , following doctrines divergent from the Greek and Latin Churches, had established patriarchies in the Middle east and many parts of Asia. It may have been the victories of a Nestorian Christian chieftain, one Yeh-la Ta-shih, over a Moslem sovereign in the mid 12th century, that gave rise to the myth of Prester John. It was even rumored in Church circles that Kublai Khan's mother, who was a Christian, was the daughter of Prester John.

Returning to the initial quest of the elder Polos, they were quite successful in their ventures to increase their fortunes in the provincial Mongol court, located north of the Caspian Sea. A conflict among local chieftains prevented their return to Venice but they were persuaded to travel eastward to Northern China where the present Grand Khan, Kublai, was at his summer residence. This was called Shang-tu (or transliterated, Xanadu) .

At the time, the Grand Khan Kublai, the grandson of Genghis, was in his 50's, was somehat gout ridden and was attempting to consolidate his empire in China. He had conquered northern China, relocated his capital from Mongolia to Beijing (Cambulac in those days) and in 1271 adopted the Chinese dynastic name of Yuan. There, he had built for himself the magnificent palatial complex, the Forbidden City and built his summer palace in Shang-tu. The City contained Arabic, Mongolian, Western Asian, and Chinese Architectural styles here as with most of the following descriptions wee must rely on Marco Polo's words -not the smallest area comprised a vast number of Mongolian nomadic tents and a playing field for Mongolian horsemanship. He already ruled much of northern China, Mongolia, Tibet , Korea and Manchuria, and received tribute from Indo-China and Java. The surrounding city itself was built by Kublai beside the old city of Cambulac, across a river, on the advise of his astrologers, who warned him that the inhabitants of the old city would rebel if his palace was built there. The new city surrounding the palace was 24 miles in circumference, with surrounding suburbs containing hostels for foreign visitors, each district assigned to a specific nation. According to Marco, no sinful woman could live within the city itself, all 20,000 living in the suburbs, presumably serving the needs of the visiting merchants.
"They [the prostitutes] have a captain general, and there are chiefs of hundreds and thousands responsible to the captain. ..The captain is called upon to provide one of these women every night for the ambassador and one for each of his attendants From the number of these prostitutes you may infer the number of traders and other visitors who are .coming and going about their business."
In the center of the capital city was a huge bell which tolled curfew. Guards rode around the city to clap anyone seen on the streets into prison. Anyone found guilty of violating the curfew was punished according to the gravity of the offense" with a proportionate number of strokes of a rod", which, Marco assures us, sometimes causes death. This punishment was used to avoid bloodshed, which the Khan's astrologers felt was wrong.

In addition, every gate of the city was guarded by 1,000 men. Marco also assures us that this was not out of mistrust for the inhabitants, but out of respect for the great Khan, although, Marco admits, "the Khan does harbor certain suspicions of the people of Cathay".

Although Kublai Khan could be ruthless with his enemies, he was open to the various traditions of strangers and was quite interested in the folkways of the lands he controlled but also of the far distant lands of Europe. His court included Persians, Turks, Saracens, Hebrews, and Nestorian Christians. Kublai adopted the name of the Yuan dynasty from the Chinese but the Mongols remained aloof from the Chinese language and much of its culture.

Although the Mongols were primarily Buddhist, they did not attempt to support or patronize Buddhism, and did not financially support the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the Chinese realm that they controlled. There was, however, a literacy test on Buddhist scriptures imposed on Buddhist monks because of belief of Kublai Khan that too many Buddhists were escaping military service. Failure in this test brought a loss of military exemption.

Niccolò and Maffeo got along well with Kublai Khan, so well, that they evinced in him an interest in Christianity. In fact, there were many Nestorian Christians in his domain although the Roman Church looked down on this sect as not acceptable representatives of the true faith. As suggested before, Kublai Khan was unusually tolerant for that period, far more tolerant than European monarchs. He would involve himself with all major religious ceremonies, whether Christian, Buddhist, Hebrew, or Moslem, of which there was ample representation in all groups. He provided safe passage of Niccolò and Maffeo back to the West with the mission of carrying letters to the Pope requesting one hundred intelligent men who were acquainted with the seven arts. In addition, he requested some oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

When Niccolò and Maffeo returned to Venice in 1269, Marco, who had never met his father, was 15, early orphaned by the death of his mother, and a frequent visitor of the wharves, perhaps sensing in the sea air the perfumes of the East. According to Eileen Powers in her book, Medieval People, Marco " was always kicking his heels on the wharf and bothering foreign sailors for tales of distant lands".

He had never seen his father and uncle, and perhaps had given them up for dead.

As for the mission, unfortunately, the Pope, Clement IV, had just died, and because of problems with disputed elections in Rome, it took two years to elect a new pope. There appears to be a historical thread of electoral balloting difficulties in peninsulas. Marco, joining his father and uncle, traveled to Acre, in the Holy Land, awaiting the naming of the new Pope. By fortunate coincidence, they met the papal legate in Acre, who gave them letters for the great Khan, but failed to provide the hundred intelligent men, the representation consisting of two Dominican friars, who very shortly on the journey thought it prudent to leave the Polos for safety when a local civil war erupting near their route. However, some of the holy oil from the Sepulchre was obtained, and the Polos proceeded Eastward. By a stroke of fortune, the papal legate of Acre was finally named Pope Gregory X, and so an official Pontifical blessing and appropriate credentials could be conferred.

What followed led to a unique document on the travels of Marco Polo over the next 26 years. It took four years for them to reach the court of Kublai Khan. Although on many occasions during their sojourn in the court, they wished to return to Venice, the Khan would not permit it, holding them in high regard, and especially relying on Marco to provided him with interesting information about his domain. Much of what Marco described was unbelievable to his European contemporaries and skepticism extended down through the centuries. This skepticism was bolstered by the closure of routes to China in the mid fourteenth century and it was only in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries that Europeans again traveled some of the routes between the Black sea and the empire in China. On his deathbed in 1324, in Venice, Marco when his friends insisted that he correct all the hyperbolic material from his book which went beyond the facts, he replied that he had not recounted one half of what he had actually seen.

Getting back to the narrative, the three Polos were greeted by the Great Khan in his summer palace of Shang-tu. This was about 1275 and he had reigned since 1260. He was to continue his reign until 1294. Within the previous two years, he had consolidated his reign in both North and South China. The Polos were to remain for 17 years.

According to Marco Polo, Shang-tu was a huge palace of marble and stone, richly adorned with gilt edging, with 16 miles of parkland and groves where game animals of all sorts roamed. A second palace in the middle of a grove was constructed entirely of varnished canes, each shingle fastened by nails, and held together by 200 cords of silk. It was built so that it could be dismantled , moved, and reconstructed. Kublai Khan stayed at Shang-tu during the summer months, and left precisely on August 28th on the advise of his astrologers, after making a libation from the milk of some of his 10,000 mares kept for the purpose of producing a fermented milk called Khermess. On that day, mare's milk was flung into the air and over the earth to quench the thirst of spirits who guarded all of the Great Khan's possessions.

Great as Shang-tu was, it was dwarfed by the palace in Cambulac (Beijing). The walls were covered with gold and silver and decorated with pictures of dragons and birds and scenes of battle. The hall was vast enough to serve more than 6,000 guests. According to the description, the whole building was so immense and so well constructed that "no man in the world could imagine any improvement in design or execution. Between the inner and outer walls were parkland and stately trees. On the northern side of the palace was a mound 100 paces in height and over a mile in circumference where trees were transplanted from afar if Kublai fancied it, with the help of elephants and placed into the mound which was covered with lapis lazuli, which is intensely green". To enhance the effect, a palace was built atop the mound, entirely of green.

Possibly through interpreters, possibly in a smattering of Mongolian which the elder Polos may have learned in their previous sojourn, the Khan asked them about the political situation in Europe, and about the Church. There were no hundred missionaries requested by the Kublai Khan when the elder Polos had previously left, but the holy oil from the Jerusalem sepulchre was well received, possibly to be used by some of the Khans's Christian wives or for magical purposes.

Marco was brought to the high councils of the Khan, possibly because of his adeptness at learning the customs of the Mongols, possibly because of his communication skills in describing the characteristics and novel customs of the inhabitants of Chinese cities he visited while on diplomatic missions for Kublai. Unfortunately, many of the Khan's messengers did not have these skills of observation and merely carried out their assignments. However, there were many Chinese-speaking central Asians in the court as well- far more adept at the regional languages than Marco, making his predominant role somewhat questionable.

Allow me at this point to compare the Venice of Marco Polo's time with the greatest contemporary jewel cities of China, then called Quinsay, now Hangchow. The Cambridge Medievalist, Eileen Powers, in her book Medieval People describes the jewel of the Adriatic as "a sea-bird's nest afloat on the shallow waves". From the four corners of Medieval Europe and beyond came wools from England, cloth from Flanders, wine from France, and from the Levant and the Orient silk and spices, camphor, ivory and pearls, perfumes and carpets. The jeweled city was symbolically wedded to the Adriatic through a ceremony on Ascension Sunday. A contemporary Venetian writer, Martino da Canale, who was a clerk at the customs house, described the city in terms of its nobility, fountains, and canals. It was a city of perfection, according to Martino. Its inhibitants were perfect in their faith in Christ and the holy Church, never disobeying commandments. There were no heretics, usurers, murderers, thieves, or robbers. We may deduce from this that Shakespeare did not get his inspiration from Martino da Canale.

At the same time, thousands of miles to the East, on the border of the China Sea but slightly inland, in the South of China, recently conquered by the Mongols when the three Polos reached Kublai Khan, stood the vast city of Quinsai. Marco visited Quinsai . According to his description, the city, far vaster than Venice, similarly stood on lagoons and canals, with a large lake to its West. Although Marco describes it as a hundred miles in circumference, he may have been using the Chinese equivalent of a mile, actually 4/10 of a mile. Even so, this distance dwarfed Venice. Quinsai's population was over a million at that time, far beyond that of Venice. At the time, there may have been at least half a dozen Chinese cities with population over a million. In comparison, Venice had a population well under 100,000. Cairo, Constantinople and Baghdad, the largest cities in Europe and the Near East, had populations of not quite 150,000. Paris and London had scarcely 30,000. Marco had a fascination with numbers, the title of his book of travels being Il Milione.

In the city of Quinsai, he documented 12,000 stone bridges over the canals, many so lofty that fleets of ships could pass beneath them. The streets of the city were paved with stone or brick, the main street two hundred feet wide, running from one end of the city to the other, with every four miles a great square. In each of the squares was held three days a week a market frequented by 40, 000 to 50,000 persons, with an ample supply of " roebuck, red-deer, hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, quails, fowls, capons, and of ducks and geese of infinite quantity". There were 12 gates leading to the 12 quarters of the city, each quarter greater than the whole of Venice.

The lake outside the city was 30 miles across, surrounded by beautiful palaces and mansions, with pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes. Marco was very precise in his descriptions: the boats and barges "could hold 10, 15, 20 or more persons, are were from 15 to 20 paces in length, with flat bottoms and ample width of beam. Anyone who wishes to go a-pleasuring with women, or with a party of his own sex, hires one of these barges, which are always completely furnished with tables and chairs and with other apparatus for a feast". The Lake had wooded islands on which stood mansions with enchanting names such as "Bamboo Chambers" and "Pure Delight". Although Quinsai was 25 miles from the coast, it was reached by junks sailing from a harbor through the river leading into the city. As with Venice, Quinsai was the center of a universe, with a hundred times more pepper entering the city from Indo-China than came to the whole of Europe from the Levant. Musk came from Tibet, spices, ebony and sandalwood from the Indies, silk from the cities of South China, and immense cargoes from Quilon and Calicut on the Malabar Coast of Southern India, through the Straits of Malacca. In addition to Quinsai, other large port cities such as Zaiton (the present Amoy) and Canton, were reached by multitudes of trading vessels, far greater than those reaching Venice, according to contemporary European observers. Marco could only conclude that "everything appertaining to this city [Quinsai] is on so vast a scale, and the Great Khan's yearly revenues are so immense that it is not easy even to put it into writing, and it seems past belief to one who merely hear it told".

Amazingly, although the Polos spent 17 years in China itself, there is little documentation of how the time was spent. Except for his jouney to and from China, Marco Polo's narrative is not chronlogical for this period and few incidents are mentioned in the book. Although it was mentioned that Marco was at one time govenor of a district named Yang-chau, there is no evidence of this from the records of the district. Similarly, although Marco recounts their involvement in assisting in the engineering of a siege, this specific event occurred before the Polos could have reached China. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Marco could have been assigned to carry out diplomatic missions to the South east and India.

The Polos finally had their opportunity to return to Venice. Some time in the year 1292, a Mongol princess was to be sent by sea to Persia to wed the Khan of the domain. The Polos, being able seamen, were relied upon by Kublai Khan to accompany her. At the time, Kublai was nearing 80, his death was imminent, and times would not be propitious for foreigners with such influence like the Polos' to remain. And so, a fleet of 14 ships and 600 sailors and retainers left the port of Zaiton, stopping at Sumatra to avoid the monsoons. By the time they reached Persia after sailing through the strait of Hormuz, the Persian Khan had died, and so the Princess was handed over to his son.

The Polos eventually reached Venice in 1295 but not before they were robbed during the latter stages of their return journey of much of their treasure accumulated over the years and the additional parting gifts from Kublai. It is told that when they appeared virtually in tatters, their family did not recognize them, and had accepted them as dead. However, a banquet was prepared by the Polos in which the families were invited. The travelers opened up the seams of the shabby garments and out dropped myriads of rubies, diamonds and emeralds. This event was in fact a fabrication added to one of the numerous editions of the Book several centuries later by a Venetian writer to add a little spice to the adventurers' return.

It is also argued by some historians that the Book of Marco Polo was written while he was in a Genoese prison, after he was captured while commanding a Venetian galley the first time the Venetians had lost to the Genoese. He presumably met a Pisan romance-writer named Rustichello who was a master at Arthurian tales- for which he had much time, having languished in prison for several years before Marco arrived. Presumably, Marco dictated the book to Rustichello, which was written in a French-Venetian dialect peculiar to the time. The style was that of a court epic much utilized by the French in that period, of which Rustichello was an expert. The original no longer survives but numerous editions in many languages were written over the next century, with, of course, many variations in content.

There is much debate about how much of the original Book was Marco's and how much the fanciful imagination of Rustichello. The Prologue begins in an introductory style almost verbatim with that of one of Rustichello's Arthurian tales. One may wonder at how Marco could recall such detail away from home, since he presumably did not bring his notes to the battle in which was captured by the Genoese. It is entirely possible that he could have received the notes from Venice, despite being in the Genoese prison. Whatever the extent of the collaboration, considering the longevity and popularity of the adventures recorded, it might be said that every As-Told-To Book collaborator should have Rustichello as his ideal. The imprisonment ended within a year and by 1299 Marco was safely back in Venice, where he lived the life of a minor patrician and died in 1324.

The Book itself is frequently a monotonous travelogue, with some spectacular or unusual sights or characteristics surprisingly left out no mention of the Great Wall of China, nothing about the binding of women's feet, nothing about the tea ceremonies, and certainly, nothing about the loss of much of their treasure in the Near East on their return to Venice. However, the Book did explain the phenomena of salamanders existing in the flames [the "salamanders" were in fact pieces of asbestos], and the unicorn identified as a rhinoceros. Marco Polo was the first European to recognize that a large island existed in the Ocean Sea East of China called Cipangu, in fact Japan, where the ruler had a palace roofed with fine gold. There is no evidence that Marco ever visited Japan. By a curious irony, when the Japanese started their undeclared war in China in 1937, it began on a bridge near Shanghai named after Marco Polo.

Within 20 years after Marco's death, trade with the Mongol world became more difficult. European Christian travelers through the Near East were more at risk when the Khans of the Golden Horde converted to Islam, and a series of massacres of European traders ensued in the ports of the Black Sea.In the Mid- and late 1300's came the Black Death, then Tamurlane, by which time the Chinese had overthrown the Khan's Yuan dynasty, installing their own Ming dynasty and closing whatever trade there was with the West for centuries to come.

However, interest in reaching the Far East by European adventurers continued. This clearly paved the way for Columbus to seek a Western route. There has been considerable controversy as well as to how much Columbus, ironically, a Genoese sea captain, was influenced by the book. There is no conclusive evidence that he himself read it but some circumstantial evidence that he had. One might consider that the permanent European inhabitation of the New World initiated by Columbus was a reflection of the influence of Marco Polo in his descriptions Far Eastern trade. Both Marco and Columbus were shrewd businessmen who saw the value of the painting as well as the paint. Certainly, Columbus was well aware of the extraordinary prizes available by direct trade with China. Ironically, the Book became more popular after the discoveries of Columbus.

To complete this fanciful association of Marco Polo and Columbus, we may move to the final pleasure dome in our narrative, precisely 401 years after Columbus' initial discovery of Hispaniola. On the south east side of Chicago, near a large lake, a White City of 633 acres with lagoons, canals, bridges and palaces were erected. Gondolas filled the lagoons and inhabited by visitors from the four corners of the earth, with bazaars carrying the products of distant shores. Among the chief architects of this fair was Daniel H. Burnham, whose motto "Make no small plans" would have been appreciated by Kublai Khan along with the amplitudes of its buildings and grandeur of its plan. Within its amplitudes, Marco Polo surely would have enough material for another book.


I am indebted to the following sources:

1. Eileen Power: Medieval People. 1963- Harper and Row: Chapter III-Marco Polo: A Venetian Traveler of the Thirteenth Century. This describes and contrasts in lyrical terms the characteristics of Venice and Quinsai in the 13th century, besides drawing a portrait of Marco Polo.

2. John Larner. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. Yale University Press 1999. A detailed scholarly work on how The Book came to be written, evaluation of its veracity, the response of historians throughout the centuries to the work, the changes in content of the various editions, and its influence through the ages.

3. Marco Polo. The Travels. Translated by Ronald Latham. Penguin Books. London 1958. A straightforward and eminently readable version, with an excellent introduction by the translator.

4. Walker Chapman. Kublai Khan: Lord of Xanadu. Bobbs-Merrill. 1967. A comprehensive but succinct narrative of the Great Khans from Genghiz to Kublai.

5. Colin McEvedy. The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History. Penguin Books. Detailed Maps and Notes of the periodic changes in population patterns, trade routes, and the boundaries of religious control in Europe, the Mediterranean and the steppeland of the East from 352 AD to 1483.

6. Janet L. Abu-Lughod. Before European Hegemony. The World System AD 1250-1350, Oxford University Press 1989. A scholarly and well-written analysis of the patterns of trade in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East during Marco Polo's time, their mutual interdependence, and how trade influenced political power in these spheres.

7. Richard W. Southern. The Making of the Middle Ages. Oxford 1953. An outstanding, elegant, and insightful perspective of the medieval period by one of the most influential medievalists of the 20th century.

8. Norman F. Cantor. Inventing the Middle Ages. Quill. William Morrow. New York. 1991. An opinionated , comprehensive evaluation of the influence of late 19th and 20th century Medievalists and how they changed our perspective on the Middle Ages, by a distinguished Medievalist.

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