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Voyager from Xanadu


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About the Author

Morris Rossabi is Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York, and Adjunct Professor of Chinese and Mongolian History at Columbia University. He is the author of many books, including Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times (UC Press).


This slim volume by the author of Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times ( LJ 4/15/88) serves as an introduction to a little-known chapter in European-Mongol diplomatic relations. In the late 13th century, Sauma, a Nestorian Christian monk raised in China, traveled from the court of Kublai Khan to Persia. His pilgrimage turned into a diplomatic mission when the Mongol ruler Arghun sent him to Rome to seek an alliance against the Moslems. Rossabi (East Asian history, Columbia Univ.) takes the Syriac abridgment of Sauma's travel diary and, checking the account against contemporary sources, retraces his journey in the context of the volatile world political situation. Repeated lamentations that ``we will never know the truth'' serve only to frustrate the reader, and placements of some illustrations are inappropriate. Still, the book should pique interest among scholars and informed lay readers.-- Katharine L. Kan, Aiea P.L., Hawaii

This is a dense, dazzlingly erudite overview of the complicated intrigues and upheavals of the 13th-century Mongol-Muslim-Christian worlds. For a framework, Rossabi ( Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times ) calls on the record left by Rabban Sauma, a Nestorian monk who in 1275 set out on a daring and dangerous pilgrimage from Peking to Jerusalem. Because Sauma's notes, much edited by their original translator, are fragmentary, Rossabi reconstructs what the traveler probably saw and experienced along his route and sets this in the religious and political background of the times. Interrupting his journey in Persia, Sauma was entrusted by the Mongol ruler to call on the pope and the Christian kings of the West to propose a joint crusade against their common enemy, the Muslims, who then held Jerusalem. Had this early attempt at an East-West alliance succeeded, speculates Rossabi, it might have changed world history. Illustrations. (June)

"Timely... Well-fashioned... A very helpful resource." -- Steven Heine, Florida International University European Legacy

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