Marco PoloBiography >> Explorers for Kids
- Occupation: Explorer and Traveler
- Born: Venice, Italy in 1254
- Died: January 8, 1324 Venice, Italy
- Best known for: European traveler to China and the Far East
Marco Polo was a merchant and explorer who traveled throughout the Far East and China for much of his life. His stories were the basis for what much of Europe knew about Ancient China for many years. He lived from 1254 to 1324.
Where did he grow up?
Marco was born in Venice, Italy in 1254. Venice was a wealthy trading city and Marco's father was a merchant.
The Silk Road
The Silk Road referred to a number of trade routes between major cities and trading posts that went all the way from Eastern Europe to Northern China. It was called the Silk Road because silk cloth was the major export from China.
Not many people traveled the entire route. Trading was mostly between cities or small sections of the route and products would slowly make their way from one end to the other trading hands several times.
Marco Polo's father and uncle wanted to try something different. They wanted to travel all the way to China and bring the goods directly back to Venice. They thought they could make their fortune this way. It took them nine years, but they finally made it home.
When did he first travel to China?
Marco first left for China when he was 17 years old. He traveled there with his father and uncle. His father and uncle had met the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan during their first trip to China and had told him they would return. Kublai was leader over all of China at the time.
Where did he travel?
It took Marco Polo three years to get to China. Along the way he visited many great cities and saw many sites including the holy city of Jerusalem, the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Persia, and the Gobi Desert. He met a lot of different types of people and had many adventures.
Living in China
Marco lived in China for many years and learned to speak the language. He traveled throughout China as a messenger and spy for Kublai Khan. He even traveled far to the south to where Myanmar and Vietnam are today. During these visits he learned about different cultures, foods, cities, and peoples. He saw many places and things that no one from Europe had ever seen before.
Kublai Khan by Anige of Nepal
Marco was fascinated by the wealth and luxury of the Chinese cities and of Kublai Khan's court. It was nothing like he had experienced in Europe. The capital city of Kinsay was large, but well organized and clean. Wide roads and huge civil engineering projects like the Grand Canal were well beyond anything he had experienced back home. Everything from the food to the people to the animals, like orangutans and rhinos, were new and interesting.
How do we know about Marco Polo?
After twenty years of traveling, Marco, along with his father and uncle, decided to head home to Venice. They left home in 1271 and finally returned in 1295. A few years after returning home, Venice fought a war with the city of Genoa. Marco was put under arrest. While he was under arrest, Marco told detailed stories of his journeys to a writer named Rustichello who wrote them all down in a book called The Travels of Marco Polo.
The Travels of Marco Polo became a very popular book. It was translated into multiple languages and read throughout Europe. After the fall of Kublai Kahn, the Ming Dynasty took over China. They were very wary of foreigners and little information about China was available. This made Marco's book even more popular.
- The Travels of Marco Polo was also called Il Milione or "The Million".
- The Polo's traveled home in a fleet of ships that also carried a princess who was to marry a prince in Iran. The journey was dangerous and only 117 of the 700 original travelers survived. This included the princess who made it to Iran safely.
- Some have speculated that Marco made up much of his adventures. However, scholars have checked his facts and believe many of them are likely true.
- During the time when the Mongols and Kublai Khan ruled China, merchants were able to elevate themselves in Chinese society. During other dynasties merchant were considered lowly and looked down upon as parasites on the economy.
- Marco had to travel across the great Gobi Desert to get to China. It took months to cross the desert and it was said to be haunted by spirits.
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For more reading and reference see these books:
Marco Polo: The Boy Who Travelled the Medieval World by Nick McCarty. 2006.
Marco Polo: A Journey Through China by Fiona MacDonald. 1997.
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Marco Polo by Grevembrock
Marco Polo was one of the most important and famous explorers and writers from Europe; however, the details of his early life and person life are hard to discover.
Facts About Marco Polo
- Marco Polo was an Italian merchant adventurer.
- He was born in Venice.
- His birthday was in 1254.
- The exact date of his birth has been up for debate at various times.
- Some people debate over the location where he was born.
- His father's name was Niccolo Polo. His mother died when he was very young.
- Both his father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo were wealthy jewel merchants.
- His father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo went to China in 1266 to set up a trading business. Marco did not go with them.
- Niccolo and Maffeo met the Mongol prince Kublai Khan who asked them to go to the Pope and request that 100 European priests come to China to teach.
- The Polos were some of the first Europeans who traveled to China and Mongolia.
- Marco's first trip to Asia was in 1271 when he was 17 years old. He traveled with his father and his uncle to the Mongol Empire in China.
- It took four years for Marco, his father and his uncle to reach China.
- They stayed for 17 years in China and worked as an advisor and aide to Kublai Khan.
- Marco is famous for his journeys through Asia where he documented what he saw for Kublai Khan.
- On his return trip to Europe, the three Polo men escorted the daughter of one of Kublai Khan's regional rulers to Persia in 1292. This caused his return trip to take three years.
- After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, it was basically impossible to go to those same regions that Marco had once explored.
- When he returned to Venice he was captured at the age of 44 by the people living in Genoa and put in jail due to a conflict between Genoa and Venice.
- During his time in jail he dictated his book The Travels of Marco Polo
that chronicled his travels.
- He dictated his book to another prisoner, Rustichello da Pisa, who was an Italian romance writer. Rustichello became the co-author of Marco's book.
- His book greatly described the Silk Road in China. It was printed in French, Italian and Latin.
- For hundreds of years, Polo remained the only European source about China.
- Polo's descriptions eventually wound up influencing Christopher Columbus. Columbus took a copy of Marco Polo's book with him when he set off to find a new route to the Orient.
- Although Polo was not the very first European to make these travels, Marco brought back the most information and had the seemingly best experience of all of the others.
- Marco was released from prison in 1299.
- In 1300 he married Donata Badoer.
- Donata and Marco Polo had three daughters - Bellela, Fantina and Moretta.
- Marco Polo was a Christian.
- Marco Polo became ill and doctors tried to heal him, but they were not successful and he passed away.
- He lived until the age of 69, although he was just a few months short of 70 at his death on January 8, 1324.
- He is buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice.
- The Marco Polo sheep was named after him.
- Polo grew to bear the name "Il Milione" because he was considered to be a great storyteller of his time.
Now you know a great deal of information about Marco Polo, the famous explorer who brought a wealth of knowledge to Europe from Asia.