Known for his travels to Yuan China, Marco Polo’s travel notes provided historians with valuable sources to learn about the medieval China. Moreover, Marco Polo’s travels provided important insight into the other regions along his journey. The middle east and greater Turkey region, for instance, was both a frontier of Mongol conquest and inter-Mongol clashes. In Chapter 6 of Description of the World, Marco Polo recorded a “political history” of dissent between the Chinggisids after 1260s, depicting conflicts between Hulegu and BerkeQaidu and QubilaiToqto’a and Noqai as well as the succession crisis in the Ilkhanate. It was these conflicts after 1260s that fostered a transition from Mongol expansionary strategy to rivalries between fellow khans. It was the wars between them that truly transformed a previously unified Mongol empire to an empire existing merely by its name. It was the clashes of interest between key Mongol lords that resulted in the fragmentation of the Mongol empire into 4 independent khanates. Marco Polo’s Description of the World accounted for how people of the time know about their conflicts. By studying into Marco Polo’s notes, historians will get a better understanding of the process of imperial fragmentation in the Mongol uluses.


Although Marco Polo’s account on China was often considered as important historical reference, his notes on other regions were often questioned for lack of details and inaccuracy. Historians argue that Marco Polo himself did not experience the conflicts and wars that he described. Therefore, our group has derived the question: To what extent Marco Polo’s description of inter-Mongol conflicts is reliable and what can historians learn from Marco Polo’s description on these internal conflicts? To answer that question, we decided to evaluate whether Marco Polo’s description on the chronicles of the Greater Turkey region and the conflicts between key Mongol lords were accurate.



Marco Polo’s life


The history of the Golden Horde

Introduction to Ryan Zhang’s Page : Conflicts between Qaidu & Kubilai

The Qaidu-Qubilai Conflict was one of Yuan Dynasty’s bloodiest wars which led to the permanent division of the Mongol Empire. For more than 30 years between 1268 to 1301, the Great Khan himself and the most powerful Mongol ruler in central Asia were at constant warfare. Ryan’s project looks into Marco Polo’s account of this conflict from the book of Description of the World, while trying to find out just how reliable this source really is on this topic.

Conclusion of Ryan Zhang’s page:

Despite minor mistakes around certain background and some individual’s identities, Description of the World does effectively provide the bigger picture of the Qaidu-Qubilai conflict. Considering the conflict lasted for more than three decades and Marco Polo was only present for a short period among that time, he delivered the cruelty and scale of the wars between those two powerful Mongols.

Introduction to Corrine Zhang’s Page: Succession Crisis In Ilkhanate

After Abaqa Khan’s death in 1282, the royal candidates, Arghun and Ahmad, bid for the throne with the support from two powerful tribes. This Succession Crisis in Ilkhanate of Persia lasted two years with ceaseless clashes between two sides. In 1284, the conflict ended with the enthronement of Arghun, the fourth Ilkhan. More than the competition for throne between the two Ilkhante rulers, the succession crisis reveals tribal division and religion conflicts in Ilkhanate, which sets the background for its disintegration in the 14th century. In Corrine’s research “Succession Crisis in Ilkhanate”, she focuses on the reliability of Marco Polo’s account of this historical event and explores its implications.

Conclusion of Corrine Zhang’s page:

In The Description of the World, Marco Polo’s account of the succession crisis of Ilkhanate is mostly reliable. He had the correct big picture and got accurate details of the places, people, and sequence of events. However, there is still some exaggeration and omission in his description: he fails to mention the trigger of Arghun’s open rebellion, exaggerates the scale of battle between Arghun and Ahmad, and oversimplifies the cause that Buqa helped Arghun. These negligences undermines Marco Polo’s reliability in a certain degree.

Introduction to Jerry Xiong’s page: The conflicts between Hulegu & Berke

In “Hulegu—Berke Conflicts”, Jerry evaluated whether Marco Polo’s account on the conflicts between Hulegu and Berke was reliable. His research focused on how Marco Polo depicted the causes and process of one battle between Hulegu and Berke. Although Marco Polo’s writing lacked details and had often exaggerated the intensity of the combat, it still provided important historical reference for historians to learn about conflict between the two khans. Overall, analysis on Marco Polo’s account on Hulegu—Berke conflicts would suggest that Marco Polo provided largely accurate information on the battle. Furthermore, the legacies and importance of such rivalry on relationship between Golden Horde and Ilkhanate was evaluated, that the conflicts set a precedent for conflicts that would follow in the years to come and undermined the unity of the Mongol empire.

Conclusion of Jerry Xiong’s page:

After evaluating Marco Polo’s source on HuleguBerke war, Jerry concluded that Marco Polo had provided a generally accurate account. Moreover, Jerry believes that Hulegu–Berke war had constructed the foundation of a balance of power in the middle east region, and left enduring legacies that contributed to the fragmentation of the Mongol empire.

Introduction to Emily’s page: The battle between Nogai &Toqto’a

The battle between Nogai and Toqto’a happened in 1291, just after Toqto’a had got the lordship of the Golden Horde. The battle has an siginificant meaning for both Toqto’a himself and the Golden Horde. It represented the end of Nogai’s inappropriate control of Golden Horde and a new period of this Khanarate. Thus, in Emily’s page, she examined the reason of the battle and the what caused the consequence of the battle. Also, she found resources to prove whether the DW can be use as a historical souce in this part. However, in the DW, Macro Polo only included the first part of the battle. The second part of the battle was more important. So Emily found other sources to present the whole battle between Nogai and Toqto’a and anyalze the meaning of this battle in her own page.

Conclusion of Emily Shi’s page:

According to the researches and analysis, The Description of the World is a reliable historic resources for Nogai and Toqto’a’s war. Although it was not so completed, the detailed description of the battle can be used as a valuable resource since there are not much record of this war.


After evaluating the reliability and historical implications of Marco Polo’s account in Chapter 6, our group had reached the consensus that Marco Polo had provided a reliable in each of the conflicts that he outlined. Although Marco Polo did not provide some key details, our group members agreed that it does not prevent historians from getting a better understanding of these conflicts.

Overall, our group believes that Marco Polo’s account on inter-Mongol conflicts would provide historians with valuable insight into a key transition in Mongol history. While HuleguBerke conflicts and QaiduKubilai wars had resulted in the division of the Mongol empire into independent khanates united merely by its name, the internal conflicts in Golden Horde and succession crisis in Ilkhanate showed that such instability was consistent even within independent khanates, as rival factions clash with one another for their self-interests. For historians, Marco Polo’s account on these inter-Mongol conflicts could be proven valuable when studying this period of Mongol history, during which the Mongo empire underwent a transition from a previous expansionist strategy to localization and consolidation of their rule.

  1. The Description Of The World chapter 6 by Macro Polo

  2. The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde “金帐汗国兴衰史 ” by Suglev

  3. The Secret History of Mongol

  4. 钦察汗国之疆域以及其历史变迁” by 田庆锋

  5. “The Encyclopedia of Empire, Nogai Horde”, 2016

  6. Arslanova, Alsu A. “Russian Research on the Interrelations of the Golden Horde with the Ilkhans of Iran and the Chaghatayids.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol. 58, no. 3, 2005, pp. 277–293., doi:10.1556/aorient.58.2005.3.6.

  7. Berca .” Notes on Marco Polo Volume 1, by Paul Pelliot, Imprimerie Nationale, 1963, pp. 93–98.

  8. Biran, Michal. “Il-Khanate Empire.” The Encyclopedia of Empire, 2016, pp. 1–6., doi:10.1002/9781118455074.wbeoe362.

  9. “Golden Horde.” Taḥrīr-i Tārīh̲-i Waṣṣāf, by Ibn-Faḍlallāh Waṣṣāf al-Haḍrat ʻAbdallāh and Āyatī ʻAbd-al-Muḥammad, Mu’assasa-i Muṭālaʻāt Wa Taḥqīqāt-i Farhangī, 1993, pp. 145–177.

  10. Halperin, Charles J. “The Kipchak Connection: the Ilkhans, the Mamluks and Ayn Jalut.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 63, no. 2, 2000, pp. 229–245., doi:10.1017/s0041977x00007205.

  11. Jackson, Peter. “Hülegü’s Campaigns and Imperial Fragmentation (1253–62).” The Mongols and the Islamic World, 2017, doi:10.12987/yale/9780300125337.003.0006.

  12. Jackson, Peter. “The Era of Inter-Mongol Warfare.” The Mongols and the Islamic World, 2017, pp. 182–209., doi:10.12987/yale/9780300125337.003.0008.

  13. Morgan, David. The Mongols. Blackwell, 2008.

  14. Ṭabīb Rashīd al-Dīn. The Successors of Genghis Khan. Columbia University Press, 1971.

  15. Yule, Henry et al. The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian: Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East. Murray, 1920.

Ryan Zhang

group leader & author of the home page and “Qaidu-Kubilai Conflicts”

Jerry Xiong

author of the home page &”Hulegu-Berke Conflicts

Corrine Zhang

author of the home page &”Succession Crisis

Emily Shi

web maker & author of “Toqto’a and Noqai”