Mongol Group D4


The book The Description of the World is an account of Marco Polo’s journey to the Eurasia continent in the late 13th century. The book’s detailed and vivid descriptions revealed the mysteries of the East to the Europeans and made significant literal, historical, and geographical impacts on the western world view during the Middle Ages. Marco’s account of the Mongol Empire and its khanates ranging from central Asia to the far eastern countries, for example, Japan, have consequently shaped the major impression of European travelers and inspired a number of subsequent explorations to the east. At the same time, skepticism was also raised as scholars from various countries studied Marco Polo’s story. His failure to mention key architectures, for instance, the Great Wall, and ambiguous descriptions of cultural practices cast doubt on the credibility of the book.

The fourth chapter included Marco’s experiences in “Mangi”, or Southern China. In order to analyze Marco Polo’s authenticity in relation to his account of Mangi, we have chosen four important areas in the region: 1. Yangzhou 2. Zhenjiangfu, Changzhou, Suzhou, Wujiang [Vugiu], Huzhou[Vughin] and Chang’an [Ciangan], 3. Quinsai, and 4. The Fuzhou Kingdom (Fuzhou and Quanzhou).



Marco Polo claimed that he served three years as the governor of Yangzhou. However, no evidence of him was found in Chinese historical sources. Some suggest the claim was an error of translation, where the “sejourna”-travel was mistaken for “seignora”-political authority, others cast doubts based on Marco’s language ability and his limited contact with the bulk population. In my webpage I will inspect the truth of his claim as the governor of Yangzhou based on his itinerary in and around Yangzhou, the accuracy of his descriptions, and the previous claims regarding his relationship with Kubilai Khan. Marco’s position in Yangzhou, indicating a source of financial income and the purpose of his three years stay, if proved true, can provide important insights into whether his journey really reached southern China.

Marco Polo’s route in Mangi and the descriptions of Zhenjiangfu, Changzhou and Suzhou

Marco Polo’s journey in Mangi started from Huai’anzhou and ended in Fuzhou, was a zig-zag route towards the south. In The Description of the World, he records all the cites he visited, things he observed and stories he heard of along this route, which provide crucial information for us to analyze. And Zhenjiangfu, Changzhou and Suzhou were cities he passed on his way from Yangzhou to Quinsai, in present Jiangsu Province. And analyzing the route and details he provided in the book, we could prove whether he travelled to Southern China.

Hangzhou (Quinsai)

Quinsai is nowadays Hangzhou, which is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang province. In the Description of the World, Marco Polo spent lots of paragraphs to describe the prosperity of this city and the local people from geographic and humanistic perspective. These descriptions serve as evidence of proving Marco Polo’s presence in Southern China.

Fuzhou Kingdom

Fuzhou and Quanzhou are cities located at the south-eastern coastal regions of China, in present Fujian province. As an area that has always been trade-wise developed through out history, the Fujian province region is neighbor to Guangdong province, Jiangxi province and Zhejiang province. In Marco Polo words, the Fuzhou Kingdom have gained enormous wealth with unique local customs through their vital purpose to conduct massive trade. We must try our best to trace back to evidence regarding every characteristic Marco have told about the Fuzhou Kingdom, so that we can then attempt to verify Marco’s authenticity and offer potential explanations of bot his correct and false addresses.

Findings & Conclusion
  • In his description of Yangzhou, he provides details on it and its nearby cities that couldn’t be otherwise mentioned. His position in Yangzhou should be treated with caution due to the number of confirmed exaggerations in the text. His absences in official document can be excused by the general underrepresentation of foreign workers and travelers in Chinese sources.


  • Besides that, his travel route in Zhenjiangfu, Changzhou, Suzhou, Wujiang [Vugiu], Huzhou[Vughin] and Chang’an [Ciangan] has been proved reliable from the map we draw. Also, the detailed description of Mar Sergius and his two churches in DW is proved by 《至顺镇江志》(Zhishun Zhenjiang Zhi). Besides these two, the framework of guarding battle of Changzhou, which proved by 《宋史》(History of Song), is also correct, and the misunderstanding of the Chinese proverb also has an explanation. And only the exaggeration of the number of bridges in Suzhou could not disprove his travel in Southern China.


  • And in the part of describing Quinsai (Hangzhou), Marco Polo provided large amount of details about the geographic information, record of local customs, the extent of prosperity of the makert. These information also matches with the Chinese historical resource 《梦粱录》and《宋史》. By examining theaccuracy and matching degree with other primary sources, we can conclude that Marco Polo has been to Quinsai (Hangzhou).


  • Finally, in the area of Fuzhou and Quanzhou, we carefully examnine Marco Polo’s description of algricuture and its production, society and its people, and the Zaytun port. Major information regarding local production and commerce did match with other historical records, including the Tai Ping Huan Yu Ji 《太平寰宇记》, while Marco made errors in his narration of a portion of local people. Considering the level of detailed information that Marco offered, we can roughly conclude that Marco Polo has been to Fuzhou and Quanzhou, even if some of the data he provided could be based on hearsay.


  • In conclusion, although in the Description of the World some numbers are significantly exaggerated, and many stories are based on hearsay, these errors are not enough to disprove his travel in Southern China. Instead, some facts and details in DW, which match the Chinese historical sources, could not be obtained without travelling to those areas. So we believe that Marco Polo did travel to Southern China.