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Did Marco Polo Go To China?


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Table of Contents

* Introduction * The Bare Details * Why Go at All? Missionaries Nose to Tail * Prester John and the Magi * Not an Itinerary * The Ghost Writer and the First Fan * The Language of the Text * Omissions and Inclusions * Ice-cream and Spaghetti * Walls Within Walls * He Missed the Biggest Wall * Not Unique and Certainly Not a Siege Engineer * Who Were the Polos? Was It China? A Significant Absence * Conclusions * Afterword

About 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.


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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