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Who was Marco Polo?
July 19, 2000

"Marco!"
"Polo!"

These two words may sound familiar. Maybe you have played a game of lost and found using these words. Do you know what they mean? Do you know WHO Marco Polo was? Do you want to know where he traveled and what he explored? Let's find out!

Over five hundred years ago, in the year 1271, Marco Polo traveled to China with his father and uncle when he was just 17 years old. His trip became famous because he was the first person to write about this long and dangerous journey across Asia. This journey was quite an adventure and, after leaving their home in Italy, these three men would not return home for 25 years!

So, early one morning, they set out carrying letters and valuable gifts for the Emperor of China. Marco, his father, and his uncle traveled more than 5,000 miles over land to get to China. After three years of traveling, they were welcomed into the legendary splendor of the Court of Kublai Khan.

Map
Kublai Khan was the grandson of the great warrior, Ghengis Khan. Kublai ruled his dynasty with great power and leadership. According to Marco Polo's book, Marco became a favorite with Kublai Khan. He served at the Khan's court for 17 years and was sent on a number of special trips into China, Burma, and India.

Marco was invited to visit Kublai's summer palace and he described it as "the greatest palace that ever was." The walls were covered with gold and silver and the Main Hall was so large that it could easily seat 6,000 people for dinner. The palace was made of cane and silk and it could be taken apart and moved when the Emperor moved. Outside the palace, Khan kept 10,000 pure, white horses and their milk was reserved for the Emperor's family.

During their years of service to the Emperor, Marco, his father and his uncle received many gifts of jewels and gold. When Kublai grew very old, the three men decided to leave China and return to Italy. It took them three years to get home and when they did, Marco was 42 years old.

Several years later, Marco's was convinced to tell his stories of the trip. These stories were published in a book that became famous. At the time, however, few people really believed his stories because they were so extravagant. Some people called Marco's book "The Million Lies."

Vocabulary

splendor - beautiful appearance, magnificence
reserved - to save for future use
extravagant - wild or fantastic
valuable - has great worth

Today, while Marco's stories are accepted as historical fact and they are taught in schools, some people continue to think of him as "Marco of the Million Lies". At the age of 70, just before his death, Marco still had many of the gifts that he said he had received in China - gifts of silk and gold, and other valuable pieces. And, while on his deathbed, people say that Marco wrote "I have only told the half of what I saw!"

What do YOU think?

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