Mongol Group c4

Marco Polo’s Description in The Book of India

Overview

Marco Polo’s description in the Book of India included details of what he saw in the kingdoms along the Indian Ocean that contributed to our understanding of the maritime world in the Mongol world. These entities in southern Asia that were left unconquered by Mongol Khans were still strongly influenced by Mongol rulership during the 13th and 14th centuries, manifested through trading and regular contact of some kingdoms with the Great Khan. How does different aspects of the maritime world in Marco Polo’s description fit into his portrayal of the Mongol World? This series of analysis approaches this question from several aspects, including maritimes trade and its agents, political history with Yuan Khanate, as well as religious beliefs and customs that were vivid in Marco Polo’s descriptions. Through several case studies on Java, Maabar, Champa, Ceylon and Japan, an overview of the history of these kingdoms demonstrates their interaction with the Great Khan and Mongol empire for these kingdoms in the periphery.

 

Outline for individual topics:

 

The project on Japan shows the deep-rooted influence of Mongol successes in Marco Polo’s minds, as manifested through his embellishments of failed Mongol conquests of the Island. Jaime’s project examines Marco Polo’s description of Japan through its war with the Mongols. His account can be called into question in multiple ways, as other scholarly sources also contest his account of the maritime invasion of Japan. In general, the naval prowess of the Mongolian invaders was inflated in Marco Polo’s recounting of the events, while contemporary scholars tended to take a more nuanced portrayal in their assessment of both Mongolian ambitions and naval power. These discrepancies demonstrated Marco Polo’s embedded admiration for the Mongol empire.

 

Celine’s project features Champa’s connection to the Mongol world through trading relations and wars initiated by Qubilai Khan. The kingdom of Champa was located at a crucial point that linked East and West, enabling great amount of ships to aggregate at their ports. Mongol Empire also played a role in necessitating Champa to link Mongol with the Middle East and Europe. With this geographical advantage, Champa fed their living by trading and exporting goods based on seaborne trades with neighboring countries and islands. Its affluence also caused Champa to be targeted by Kubilai Khan which triggered three wars between the two empires. These attacks, however, turned out to be a foothold for the Mongol empire in their efforts to conquer Southern Song Dynasty, and later Japan.

 

The project on Ceylon mainly approaches Mongol connection through its trading relations with the rest of Mongol empire in both eastern and western coasts of the island. Ceylon was inextricably connected to maritime affairs with different expertise to support their living, including particular transportation technologies, diversified export products, even piracies, among others. The maritime connection between the Mongol and Ceylon can be found on both the western and eastern coasts. The coast of the west exported jewelry like the rubies, upon the request of the Great Khan in Marco Polo’s account. On the eastern coast, the reputation of Adam’s peak was spread to the Mongols that the Great Khan dispatched an envoy for Adam’s hairs and bowls. These connections illustrated maritime cultural exchanges at both coasts between the Mongol and Ceylon.

 

The project on Major Java and Minor Java apporaches the Mongol connections through mercantile activities as well. Major Java is now called Java, while Minor Java is currently called Sumatra. Polo was astounded by its vast size and natural beauty after he arrived in Java. Since it would take substantial time to journey from China to Java, Khan avoided undertaking that expedition. There were also threats from other kingdoms, and pirates existed during the voyage. Therefore, the absence of a domineering ruler like Khan allowed local kings and businesspersons to conduct trade without impediments.

 

Maabar perhaps maintained the closest relationwhip with the Great Khan because it was part of the tributary system of the Yuan court established by Qubilai Khan. Through details of the commodities and tributes, Marco Polo’s trip to Maabar was testified. Using primary sources from Marco Polo and the Chinese official accounts, this section shows two political entities had tremendous contacts through trade, envoys and maritime expeditions. Nonetheless, the interaction between Maabar and Yuan was greatly reduced after the demise of Great Khan, or Kubilai Khan. Polo’s description of Maabar therefore marked a significant chapter in the development of travel routes and maritime trade that provides a more comprehensive story other than Chinese sources.

 
 
 
 

Conclusions

 

The Book of India in Marco Polo’s description shows connections to the Mongol world through aspects of maritime trade, maritime war, and mostly trading interactions that were vivid in Marco Polo’s descriptions. These entities in southern Asia that were left unconquered by Mongol Khans were strongly influenced by Mongol rulership during the 13th and 14th centuries, manifested mainly through their contact with the Great Khan. Case studies on Java, Maabar, Champa, Ceylon and Japan present us with an overview of the history of these kingdoms. Their lack of interactions with the Mongol world in turn demonstrates the waning of Great Khan and Mongol empire in these kingdoms in the periphery.

 

References:

 

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