In 1271, 17-year-old Marco Polo left Venice, Italy, with his father and uncle and headed for China. For four years the three traders tramped across deserts, up mountains and through exotic cities and towns.
When they reached China, Marco was astonished by its wealth and the vastness of the empire ruled by Kublai Khan. The Khan liked Marco and hired him to travel around China and report back on what he saw.
After 17 years in China, the Polos returned to Venice. No one could believe that they were still alive, and the stories they told of their travels in China were almost too fantastic to be true.
When Marco Polo landed in a Genoa jail after being captured in war, he told the tales of his China adventures to
a fellow prisoner, who wrote them down.
Although many still questioned the truth of what Marco described in The Travels of Marco Polo, his book became a bestseller. To his dying day, in 1324, Marco Polo insisted, “I have only told the half of what I saw.”
Marco Polo’s book had an enormous influence on explorers such as Christopher Columbus. It fueled their desire to find the riches of China and the East. It also attracted European interest in the exotic lands of the Orient.
And despite the skepticism of many people, archaeologists and historians have proved that much of what Marco described was true after all.