The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Marco Polo and His Book.

Introductory Notices.

Introduction, p. 6.

Speaking of Pashai, Sir Aurel Stein (Geog. Journ.), referring to the notes and memoranda brought home by the great Venetian traveller, has the following remarks: “We have seen how accurately it reproduces information about territories difficult of access at all times, and far away from his own route. It appears to me quite impossible to believe that such exact data, learned at the very beginning of the great traveller’s long wanderings, could have been reproduced by him from memory alone close on thirty years later when dictating his wonderful story to Rusticiano during his captivity at Genoa. Here, anyhow, we have definite proof of the use of those ‘notes and memoranda which he had brought with him,’ and which, as Ramusio’s ‘Preface’ of 1553 tells us (see Yule, Marco Polo, I., Introduction, p. 6), Messer Marco, while prisoner of war, was believed to have had sent to him by his father from Venice. How grateful must geographer and historical student alike feel for these precious materials having reached the illustrious prisoner safely!”

Introduction, p. 10 n.


“Mr. Rockhill’s remarks about the title Khakhan require supplementing. Of course, the Turks did not use the term before 560 (552 was the exact year), because neither they nor their name ‘Turk’ had any self-assertive existence before then, and until that year they were the ‘iron-working slaves’ of the Jou-jan. The Khakhan of those last-named Tartars naturally would not allow the petty tribe of Turk to usurp his exclusive and supreme title. But even a century and a half before this, the ruler of the T’u-kuh-hun nomads had already borne the title of Khakhan, which (the late Dr. Bretschneider agreed with me in thinking) was originally of Tungusic and not of Turkish origin. The T’u-kuh-hun were of the same race as the half-Mongol, half-Tungusic Tobas, who ruled for two centuries over North China. . . . The title of Khakhan, in various bastard forms, was during the tenth century used by the Kings of Khoten and Kuche, as well as by the petty Ouigour Kings of Kan Chou, Si Chou, etc.” (E.H. PARKER, Asiatic Quart. Rev., Jan., 1904, pp. 139–140.)

Introduction, p. 19. [The] second start [of the Venetians] from Acre took place about November, 1271.

M. Langlois remarks that the last stay of the Polos at Acre was necessarily before the 18th November, 1271, date of the departure of Gregory X. for the West. Cf. Itinéraires à Jerusalem et Descriptions de la Terre–Sainte rédigés en français aux XI’e, XII’e et XIII’e siècles, publ. par H. MICHELANT et G. RAYNAUD (Genève, 1882), pp. xxviii-xxix:

“La date de 1269, donnée seulement par un des manuscrits de la rédaction de Thibaut dé Cépoy, pour le premier séjour à Acre des Polo et leur rencontre avec Tedaldo Visconti, qui allait être élu pape et prendre le nom de Grégoire X., date préférée par tous les éditeurs à celles évidemment erronées de Rusticien de Pise (1260) et des huit autres manuscrits de Thibaut de Cépoy (1250 et 1260), n’est pas hors de toute discussion. M.G. Tononi, archiprêtre de Plaisance, qui prépare une histoire et une édition des ceuvres de Grégoire X., me fait remarquer que les chroniqueurs ne placent le départ de Tedaldo pour la Terre–Sainte qu’après celui de S. Louis pour Tunis (2 juillet 1270), et que, d’après un acte du Trésor des Chartes, Tedaldo était encore à Paris le 28 décembre 1269. Il faudrait done probablement dater de 1271 le premier et le deuxième séjour des Polo à Acre, et les placer tous deux entre le 9 mai, époque de l’arrivée en Terre–Sainte d’Edouard d’Angleterre — avec lequel, suivant l’Eracles, aborda Tedaldo — et le 18 novembre, date du départ du nouveau pape pour l’Occident.” (Cf. Hist. litt. de la France, XXXV, Marco Polo.)

Introduction, p. 19 n.

I have here discussed Major Sykes’ theory of Polo’s itinerary in Persia; the question was raised again by Major Sykes in the Geographical Journal, October, 1905, pp. 462–465. I answered again, and I do not think it necessary to carry on farther this controversy. I recall that Major Sykes writes: “To conclude, I maintain that Marco Polo entered Persia near Tabriz, whence he travelled to Sultania, Kashan, Yezd, Kerman, and Hormuz. From that port, owing to the unseaworthiness of the vessels, the presence of pirates, the fact that the season was past, or for some other reason, he returned by a westerly route to Kerman, and thence crossed the Lut to Khorasan.”

I replied in the Geographical Journal, Dec., 1905, pp. 686–687: “Baghdad, after its fall in 1258, did not cease immediately to be ‘rather off the main caravan route.’ I shall not refer Major Sykes to what I say in my editions of ‘Odorico’ and ‘Polo’ on the subject, but to the standard work of Heyd, Commerce du Levant, Vol. 2, pp. 77, 78. The itinerary, Tabriz, Sultania, Kashan, Yezd, was the usual route later on, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and it was followed, among others, by Fra Odorico, of Pordenone. Marco Polo, on his way to the Far East — you must not forget that he was at Acre in 1271 — could not have crossed Sultania, which did not exist, as its building was commenced by Arghún Khan, who ascended the throne in 1284, and was continued by Oeljaitu (1304–1316), who gave the name of Sultania to the city.” Cf. Lieut.-Col. P.M. SYKES, A History of Persia, 1915, 2 vols., 8vo; II., p. 181 n.

Introduction, p. 21. M. Pauthier has found a record in the Chinese Annals of the Mongol dynasty, which states that in the year 1277, a certain POLO was nominated a second-class commissioner or agent attached to the Privy Council, a passage which we are happy to believe to refer to our young traveller.

Prof. E.H. Parker remarks (Asiatic Quart. Review, 3rd Series, Vol. XVII., Jan., 1904, pp. 128–131): “M. Pauthier has apparently overlooked other records, which make it clear that the identical individual in question had already received honours from Kúblái many years before Marco’s arrival in 1275. Perhaps the best way to make this point clear would be to give all the original passages which bear upon the question. The number I give refer to the chapter and page (first half or second half of the double page) of the Yuan Shï:—

A. Chap. 7, p. 1–2/2: 1270, second moon. Kúblái inspects a court pageant prepared by Puh-lo and others.

B. Chap. 7, p. 6–1/2: 1270, twelfth moon. The yü-shï chung-ch’êng (censor) Puh-lo made also President of the Ta-sz-nung department. One of the ministers protested that there was no precedent for a censor holding this second post. Kúblái insisted.

C. Chap. 8, p. 16–1/2: 1275, second moon. Puh-lo and another sent to look into the Customs taxation question in Tangut.

D. Chap. 8, p. 22–1/2: 1275, fourth moon. The Ta-sz-nung and yü-shï chung-ch’êng Puh-lo promoted to be yü-shï ta-fu.

E. Chap. 9, p. 11–2/2: 1276, seventh moon. The Imperial Prince Puh-lo given a seal.

F. Chap. 9, p. 16–2/2: 1277, second moon. The Ta-sz-nung and yü-shï ta-fu, Puh-lo, being also süan-wei-shï and Court Chamberlain, promoted to be shu-mih fu-shï, and also süan-hwei-shï and Court Chamberlain.

“The words shu-mih fu-shï the Chinese characters for which are given on p. 569 of M. Cordier’s second volume, precisely mean ‘Second-class Commissioner attached to the Privy Council,’ and hence it is clear that Pauthier was totally mistaken in supposing the censor of 1270 to have been Marco. Of course the Imperial Prince Puh-lo is not the same person as the censor, nor is it clear who the (1) pageant and (2) Tangut Puh-los were, except that neither could possibly have been Marco, who only arrived in May — the third moon — at the very earliest.

“In the first moon of 1281 some gold, silver, and bank-notes were handed to Puh-lo for the relief of the poor. In the second moon of 1282, just before the assassination of Achmed, the words ‘Puh-lo the Minister’ (ch’êng-siang) are used in connection with a case of fraud. In the seventh moon of 1282 (after the fall of Achmed) the ‘Mongol man Puh-lo’ was placed in charge of some gold-washings in certain towers of the then Hu Pêh (now in Hu Nan). In the ninth moon of the same year a commission was sent to take official possession of all the gold-yielding places in Yün Nan, and Puh-lo was appointed darugachi (= governor) of the mines. In this case it is not explicitly stated (though it would appear most likely) that the two gold superintendents were the same man; if they were, then neither could have been Marco, who certainly was no ‘Mongol man.’ Otherwise there would be a great temptation to identify this event with the mission to ‘una città, detta Carazan’ of the Ramusio Text.

“There is, however, one man who may possibly be Marco, and that is the Poh-lo who was probably with Kúblái at Chagan Nor when the news of Achmed’s murder by Wang Chu arrived there in the third moon of 1282. The Emperor at once left for Shang-tu (i.e. K’ai-p’ing Fu, north of Dolonor), and ‘ordered the shu-mih fu-shï Poh-lo [with two other statesmen] to proceed with all speed to Ta-tu (i.e. to Cambalu). On receiving Poh-lo’s report, the Emperor became convinced of the deceptions practised upon him by Achmed, and said: “It was a good thing that Wang Chu did kill him.”’ In 1284 Achmed’s successor is stated (chap, 209, p. 9–1/2) to have recommended Poh-lo, amongst others, for minor Treasury posts. The same man (chap. 209, p. 12–1/2) subsequently got Poh-lo appointed to a salt superintendency in the provinces; and as Yang-chou is the centre of the salt trade, it is just possible that Marco’s ‘governorship’ of that place may resolve itself into this.

“There are many other Puh-lo and Poh-lo mentioned, both before Marco’s arrival in, and subsequently to Marco’s departure in 1292 from, China. In several cases (as, for instance, in that of P. Timur) both forms occur in different chapters for the same man; and a certain Tartar called ‘Puh-lan Hi’ is also called ‘Puh-lo Hi.’ One of Genghis Khan’s younger brothers was called Puh-lo Kadei. There was, moreover, a Cathayan named Puh-lo, and a Naiman Prince Poh-lo. Whether ‘Puh-lo the Premier’ or ‘one of the Ministers,’ mentioned in 1282, is the same person as ‘Poh-lo the ts’an chêng,’ or ‘Prime Minister’s assistant’ of 1284, I cannot say. Perhaps, when the whole Yüan Shï has been thoroughly searched throughout in all its editions, we may obtain more certain information. Meanwhile, one thing is plain: Pauthier is wrong, Yule is wrong in that particular connection; and M. Cordier gives us no positive view of his own. The other possibilities are given above, but I scarcely regard any of them as probabilities. On p. 99 of his Introduction, Colonel Yule manifestly identifies the Poh-lo of 1282 with Marco; but the identity of his title with that of Puh-lo in 1277 suggests that the two men are one, in which case neither can be Marco Polo. On p. 422 of Vol. I. Yule repeats this identification in his notes. I may mention that much of the information given in the present article was published in Vol. XXIV. of the China Review two or three years ago. I notice that M. Cordier quotes that volume in connection with other matters, but this particular point does not appear to have caught his eye.

“As matters now stand, there is a fairly strong presumption that Marco Polo is once named in the Annals; but there is no irrefragable evidence; and in any case it is only this once, and not as Pauthier has it.”

Cf. also note by Prof. E.H. Parker, China Review, XXV. pp. 193–4, and, according to Prof. Pelliot (Bul. Ecole franç. Ext. Orient, July–Sept., 1904, p. 769), the biography of Han Lin-eul in the Ming shi, k. 122, p. 3.

Prof. Pelliot writes to me: “Il faut renoncer une bonne fois à retrouver Marco Polo dans le Po-lo mêlé à l’affaire d’Ahmed. Grâce aux titulations successives, nous pouvons reconstituer la carrière administrative de ce Po-lo, au moins depuis 1271, c’est-à-dire depuis une date antérieure à l’arrivée de Marco Polo à la cour mongole. D’autre part, Rashid-ud-Din mentionne le rôle joué dans l’affaire d’Ahmed par le Pulad-aqa, c’est-à-dire Pulad Chinsang, son informateur dans les choses mongoles, mais la forme mongole de ce nom de Pulad est Bolod, en transcription chinoise Po-lo. J’ai signalé (T’oung Pao, 1914, p. 640) que des textes chinois mentionnent effectivement que Po-lo (Bolod), envoyé en mission auprès d’Arghún en 1285, resta ensuite en Perse. C’est donc en définitive le Pulad (= Bolod) de Rashid-ud-Din qui serait le Po-lo qu’à la suite de Pauthier on a trop longtemps identifié à Marco Polo.”

Introduction, p. 23.

“The Yüan Shï contains curious confirmation of the facts which led up to Marco Polo’s conducting a wife to Arghún of Persia, who lost his spouse in 1286. In the eleventh moon of that year (say January, 1287) the following laconic announcement appears: ‘T’a-ch’a-r Hu-nan ordered to go on a mission to A-r-hun.’ It is possible that Tachar and Hunan may be two individuals, and, though they probably started overland, it is probable that they were in some way connected with Polo’s first and unsuccessful attempt to take the girl to Persia.” (E.H. PARKER, Asiatic Quart. Rev., Jan., 1904, p. 136.)

Introduction, p. 76 n.

With regard to the statue of the Pseudo–Marco Polo of Canton, Dr. B. Laufer, of Chicago, sends me the following valuable note:—

The Alleged Marco Polo Lo-Han of Canton.

The temple Hua lin se (in Cantonese Fa lum se, i.e. Temple of the Flowery Grove) is situated in the western suburbs of the city of Canton. Its principal attraction is the vast hall, the Lo-han t’ang, in which are arranged in numerous avenues some five hundred richly gilded images, about three feet in height, representing the 500 Lo-han (Arhat). The workmanship displayed in the manufacture of these figures, made of fine clay thickly covered with burnished gilding, is said to be most artistic, and the variety of types is especially noticeable. In this group we meet a statue credited with a European influence. Two opinions are current regarding this statue: one refers to it as representing the image of a Portuguese sailor, the other sees in it a portrait of Marco Polo.

The former view is expressed, as far as I see, for the first time, by MAYERS and DENNYS (The Treaty Ports of China and Japan, London and Hong Kong, 1867, p. 162). “One effigy,” these authors remark, “whose features are strongly European in type, will be pointed out as the image of a Portuguese seaman who was wrecked, centuries ago, on the coast, and whose virtues during a long residence gained him canonization after death. This is probably a pure myth, growing from an accidental resemblance of the features.” This interpretation of a homage rendered to a Portuguese is repeated by C.A. MONTALTO DE JESUS, Historic Macao (Hong Kong, 1902, p. 28). A still more positive judgment on this matter is passed by MADROLLE (Chine du Sud et de l’Est, Paris, 1904, p. 17). “The attitudes of the Venerable Ones,” he says, “are remarkable for their life-like expression, or sometimes, singularly grotesque. One of these personalities placed on the right side of a great altar wears the costume of the 16th century, and we might be inclined to regard it as a Chinese representation of Marco Polo. It is probable, however, that the artist, who had to execute the statue of a Hindu, that is, of a man of the West, adopted as the model of his costume that of the Portuguese who visited Canton since the commencement of the 16th century.” It seems to be rather doubtful whether the 500 Lo-han of Canton are really traceable to that time. There is hardly any huge clay statue in China a hundred or two hundred years old, and all the older ones are in a state of decay, owing to the brittleness of the material and the carelessness of the monks. Besides, as stated by Mayers and Dennys (l.c., p. 163), the Lo-han Hall of Canton, with its glittering contents, is a purely modern structure, having been added to the Fa-lum Temple in 1846, by means of a subscription mainly supported by the Hong Merchants. Although this statue is not old, yet it may have been made after an ancient model. Archdeacon Gray, in his remarkable and interesting book, Walks in the City of Canton (Hong Kong, 1875, p. 207), justly criticized the Marco Polo theory, and simultaneously gave a correct identification of the Lo-han in question. His statement is as follows: “Of the idols of the five hundred disciples of Buddha, which, in this hall, are contained, there is one, which, in dress and configuration of countenance, is said to resemble a foreigner. With regard to this image, one writer, if we mistake not, has stated that it is a statue of the celebrated traveller Marco Polo, who, in the thirteenth century, visited, and, for some time, resided in the flowery land of China. This statement, on the part of the writer to whom we refer, is altogether untenable. Moreover, it is an error so glaring as to cast, in the estimation of all careful readers of his work, no ordinary degree of discredit upon many of his most positive assertions. The person, whose idol is so rashly described as being that of Marco Polo, was named Shien–Tchu. He was a native of one of the northern provinces of India, and, for his zeal as an apostle in the service of Buddha, was highly renowned.”

Everard Cotes closes the final chapter of his book, The Arising East (New York, 1907), as follows: “In the heart of Canton, within easy reach of mob violence at any time, may be seen today the life-size statue of an elderly European, in gilt clothes and black hat, which the Chinese have cared for and preserved from generation to generation because the original, Marco Polo, was a friend to their race. The thirteenth-century European had no monopoly of ability to make himself loved and reverenced. A position similar to that which he won as an individual is open today to the Anglo–Saxon as a race. But the Mongolian was not afraid of Marco Polo, and he is afraid of us. It can be attained, therefore, only by fair dealing and sympathy, supported by an overwhelming preponderance of fighting strength.”

[Dr. Laufer reproduces here the note in Marco Polo, I., p. 76. I may remark that I never said nor believed that the statue was Polo’s. The mosaic at Genoa is a fancy portrait.]

The question may be raised, however, Are there any traces of foreign influence displayed in this statue? The only way of solving this problem seemed to me the following: First to determine the number and the name of the alleged Marco Polo Lo-han at Canton, and then by means of this number to trace him in the series of pictures of the traditional 500 Lo-han (the so-called Lo han t’u).

The alleged Marco Polo Lo-han bears the number 100, and his name is Shan-chu tsun-che (tsun-che being a translation of Sanskrit arya, “holy, reverend”). The name Shan-chu evidently represents the rendering of a Sanskrit name, and does not suggest a European name. The illustration here reproduced is Lo-han No. 100 from a series of stone-engravings in the temple T’ien-ning on the West Lake near Hang Chau. It will be noticed that it agrees very well with the statue figured by M. Cordier. In every respect it bears the features of an Indian Lo-han, with one exception, and this is the curious hat. This, in fact, is the only Lo-han among the five hundred that is equipped with a headgear; and the hat, as is well known, is not found in India. This hat must represent a more or less arbitrary addition of the Chinese artist who created the group, and it is this hat which led to the speculations regarding the Portuguese sailor or Marco Polo. Certain it is also that such a type of hat does not occur in China; but it seems idle to speculate as to its origin, as long as we have no positive information on the intentions of the artist. The striped mantle of the Lo-han is by no means singular, for it occurs with seventeen others. The facts simply amount to this, that the figure in question does not represent a Portuguese sailor or Marco Polo or any other European, but solely an Indian Lo-han (Arhat), while the peculiar hat remains to be explained.

Introduction, p. 92.

Thibaut De Chepoy.

Thibaut de Chepoy (Chepoy, canton of Breteuil, Oise), son of the knight Jean de Chepoy, was one of the chief captains of King Philip the Fair. He entered the king’s service in 1285 as squire and valet; went subsequently to Robert d’Artois, who placed him in charge of the castle of Saint Omer, and took him, in 1296, to Gascony to fight the English. He was afterwards grand master of the cross-bow men. He then entered the service of Charles de Valois, brother of Philip the Fair, who sent him to Constantinople to support the claims to the throne of his wife, Catherine of Courtenay. Thibaut left Paris on the 9th Sept., 1306, passed through Venice, where he met Marco Polo who gave him a copy of his manuscript. Thibaut died between 22nd May, 1311, and 22nd March, 1312. (See Joseph PETIT, in Le Moyen Age, Paris, 1897, pp. 224–239.)

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