Mongols in World History | Asia for Educators

Key Figures in Mongol History

  Marco Polo (1254-1324  

The Venetian merchant and adventurer was in China from 1275 to 1291 and returned to Europe with extraordinary accounts of his travels in Persia, China, Central Asia, Armenia, and Southeast Asia among other places.

A map of Marco Polo's journey

Read the following excerpts of Marco Polo's account of life at Khubilai Khan's court. The text is from The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, Volume 1, translated and edited by Colonel Sir Henry Yule.


Chapter XLVI: Of the City of Caracoron [PDF]
About the foundation of the city of Caracoron (Khara Khorum), the first Mongol capital, and Marco Polo's own theory about the rise of the Tartars (the Mongols)


Chapter VIII: Concerning the Person of the Great Kaan [PDF]
A physical description of Khubilai Khan, and general descriptions of his family, his court, and his concubines

Chapter IX: Concerning the Great Kaan's Sons [PDF]
Descriptions of Khubilai Khan's twenty-two sons

Chapter X: Concerning the Palace of the Great Kaan [PDF]
Description of Khubilai's palace at Cambaluc (Daidu/Beijing)

Chapter XI: Concerning the City of Cambaluc [PDF]
Detailed description of the layout of the city of Cambaluc (Daidu/Beijing)

Chapter XXII: Concerning the City of Cambaluc, and Its Great Traffic and Population [PDF]
Detailed description of the population and life in the city of Cambaluc (Daidu/Beijing)

Chapter XXIII: Concerning the Oppressions of Achmath the Bailo, and the Plot That Was Formed against Him [PDF]
Account of a plot against Achmath, upon whom Khubilai Khan entrusted much, until he learned of his corrupt ways

Chapter XXIV: How the Great Kaan Causeth the Bark of Trees, Made into Something Like Paper, to Pass for Money over All His Country [PDF]
Description of paper money, as it was made and circulated in Mongol China

Chapter XXVI: How the Kaan's Posts and Runners Are Sped through Many Lands and Provinces [PDF]
Detailed description of the postal system in Mongol China

For an assessment of Marco Polo's writings:
Marco Polo's Asia, by Leonardo Olschki (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960).

On the question of whether Marco Polo really ever reached China:
"Did Marco Polo Really Go To China?" by Morris Rossabi

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