The result of the publication of this book was a rapid increase in commerce between the Italian city states and China. This expansion of enterprise soon spread to the rest of Europe as well. The result for Italy was the creation of wealth and leisure that made possible the Renaissance. For the rest of Europe as well it meant the slow death of the medieval period and the coming of the age of exploration and enterprise. It was, after all, a passage to India and China by sea that Columbus sought in 1492. The Travels of Marco Polo is among the books that helped shape the world we now live in.
The great Chinese civilization of that period, the Ydan dynasty, formed by Kublai Khan in 1271 is credited with sending many of China’s innovations to the Western world via Marco Polo. Its cuisine, silk, spices, gun powder, rockets and other weapons of war are among the most famous. But perhaps the innovation most constructive and destructive throughout western history, depending on whose hands it was in, was the use of paper money as a substitute for what had been used as real money in other civilizations-gold and silver.
Gold and silver are still acknowledged as real money in every civilized nation as well as recognized commodities of real value in primitive societies. Paper money was introduced as a new idea to western civilization by Marco Polo in a chapter of his Travels entitled: “How the Great Khan Causes the Bark of Trees, Made into Something Like Paper, to Pass for Money All Over His Country”. After reading the chapter title like that, Polo’s readers probably thought the Great Khan to be the Great Con.
Marco Polo writes as follows: Now that I have told you in detail of the splendor of this city of the emperor’s, I shall proceed to tell you of the mint which he has in the same city, in the which he has his money coined and struck, as I shall relate to you. And in doing so I shall make manifest to you how it is that the great Lord may well be able to accomplish even much more than I have told you, or am going to tell you in this book. For, tell it how I might, you never would be satisfied that I was keeping within truth and reason!
The emperor’s mint then is in this same city of Cambaluc, and the way it is wrought is such that you might say he has the secret of alchemy in perfection, and you would be right. For he makes his money after this fashion. He makes them take of the bark of a certain tree, in fact of the mulberry tree, the leaves of which are the food of the silkworms, these trees being so numerous that the whole districts are full of them. What they take is a certain fine white bast or skin which lies between the wood of the tree and the thick outer bark, and this they make into something resembling sheets of paper, but black.
When these sheets have been prepared they are cut up into pieces of different sizes. Marco Polo is one of the most well-known heroic travelers and traders around the world. In my paper I will discuss with you Marco Polo’s life, his travels, and his visit to China to see the great Khan. Marco Polo was born in c. 1254 in Venice. He was a Venetian explorer and merchant whose account of his travels in Asia was the primary source for the European image of the Far East until the late 19th century. Marco’s father, Niccolo, and his uncle Maffeo had traveled to China 1260-69) as merchants.
When they left (1271) Venice to return to China, they were accompanied by 17-year-old Marco and two priests. Early Life Despite his enduring fame, very little was known about the personal life of Marco Polo. It is known that he was born into a leading Venetian family of merchants. He also lived during a propitious time in world history, when the height of Venice’s influence as a city-state coincided with the greatest extent of Mongol conquest of Asia(Li Man Kin 9). Ruled by Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire stretched all the way from China to Russia and the Levant.
The Mongol hordes also threatened other parts of Europe, particularly Poland and Hungary, inspiring fear everywhere by their bloodthirsty advances. Yet the ruthless methods brought a measure of stability to the lands they controlled, opening up trade routes such as the famous Silk Road. Eventually ,the Mongols discovered that it was more profitable to collect tribute from people than to kill them outright, and this policy too stimulated trade(Hull 23). Into this favorable atmosphere a number of European traders ventured, ncluding the family of Marco Polo.
The Polos had long-established ties in the Levant and around the Black Sea: for example, they owned property in Constantinople, and Marco’s uncle, for whom he was named, had a home in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8). From Sudak, around 1260, another uncle, Maffeo, and Marco’s father, Niccolo, made a trading visit into Mongol territory, the land of the Golden Horde(Russia), ruled by Berke Khan. While they were there, a war broke out between Berke and the Cowan of Levant , blocking their return home.
Thus Niccolo and Maffeo raveled deeper into mongol territory, moving southeast to Bukhara, which was ruled by a third Cowan. While waiting there, they met an emissary traveling farther eastward who invited them to accompany him to the court of the great Cowan, Kublai, in Cathay(modern China). In Cathay, Kublai Khan gave the Polos a friendly reception, appointed them his emissaries to the pope, and ensured their safe travel back to Europe(Steffof 10). They were to return to Cathay with one hundred learned men who could instruct the Mongols in the Christian religion and the liberal arts.
In 1269, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo arrived back in Venice, where Niccolo found out his wife had died while he was gone(Rugoff 5). Their son, Marco, who was only about fifteen years old, had been only six or younger when his father left home:thus; Marco was reared primarily by his mother and the extended Polo family-and the streets of Venice. After his mother’s death, Marco had probably begun to think of himself as something of a orphan(Rugoff 6). Then his father and uncle suddenly reappeared, as if from the dead, after nine years of traveling in far-off, romantic lands.