Book review: Marco Polo (by John Man)

Title: Marco Polo
Author: John Man
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers


The book can be divided into 5 sections:

  1. How the trip came about
  2. The journey to China
  3. Marco Polo in China
  4. The journey home
  5. The book and its effects on the world

John Man not only narrates the story of Marco Polo, he traces Marco Polo’s footsteps and gives extra details not mentioned by Marco Polo. For the places Marco Polo mentioned, John Man tells the reader a bit of history and geography of those places eg Wakhan pass and Kashgar. He visited the places and shares some observations and experience from the ground eg Taklamakan and Dunhuang. By the time his narration reaches Xanadu, the reader will have a basic appreciation of the places along Marco Polo’s route, including some places and details Marco Polo somehow failed to mention.


The section on Marco Polo in China is the central stage of this book. John Man tells us about his experience and observations in Xanadu and Beijing, and how some artefacts matched Marco Polo’s description, proving his presence. He also gives a history of the Mongol empire and Kublai Khan, giving the reader a basic understanding of Kublai Khan and his reign.


Throughout the book John Man points out how some stuff written by Marco Polo could be hearsay eg some places were mentioned by Marco Polo but it was impossible for him to have visited as they were too far off the route, and some claims made by Marco Polo on the battle of Xiangyang differ from what the historians recorded.


In a nutshell, the author sorts out the facts and myths of Marco Polo’s travel tales.


PS: I borrowed this book from the library. I have not received any form of compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the publisher or author mentioned in the post.





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