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Did Marco Polo Go To China? Paperback – Jan 9 1998
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From Library Journal
Wood (A Companion to China, LJ 4/1/90), the head of the Chinese department at the British Library, presents a revisionist view of Marco Polo, arguing that he may not have made the fabulous journey described in his book, A Description of the World. Not really an itinerary, according to Wood, Polo's book is a general geography of Asia containing information that could have been gleaned from the works of other travelers, including Polo's father and uncle, who had visited the Mongol capital Karakorum. Polo's work was dictated to a ghost writer named Rusticello, who, Wood suspects, padded Polo's original tale with any information about Asia that he and Polo could locate. Wood is not dogmatic in her examination and in fact presents all sides of the scholarship fairly. Still, her argument falls apart, since she doesn't say where Polo was if not in China (he could have been a minor civil servant and thus not mentioned in the records of the day). Given the importance of Polo's book to European expansion, it almost seems irrelevant to ask if he actually reached China. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.?Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Chopsticks: this is a good argument, however, there are many people in Central Asia that use chopsticks. In the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China for example, most if not all Uighurs use chopsticks when eating noodles and dumplings. Perhaps Polo would have been surprised to see people in Central Asia using chopsticks at first, but by the time he traveled all the way eastward to China he had become accustomed to seeing the use of chopsticks and so this was not such an exciting thing. And what about the Middle East where people eat with their right hand and wipe with their left? Why is'nt this mentioned by Polo?
The Great Wall: another decent argument. However, there is absolutely no way to verify the exact route Polo took and so how can we discern if he ever had the chance to actually see the wall or not? Many travelers have tried to trace his route but none have succeeded. Wood describes the Wall as being made of yellow sand and mud. If you have ever been to China, you will see how well the old original parts of the wall blends in with the countryside. Only now can we really make out the wall with all of its brick renovations/restorations. It would be like someone coming to visit New York City and seeing the Empire State Building. Impressive? Yes.Read more ›
Marco Polo may indeed have exaggerated his own importance. Instead of being ruler of a province, being a major player in the salt business, on the face of it, was probably more likely his position. But Marco was a businessman brought up in a mercantile family. Unlike the author's idea, a seventeen year old in the thirteenth century was not considered a "boy" -- in fact, he was coming up on half his life expectancy. Even if the "great wall" of that day was the wall we see today (it wasn't, the impressive brick facade came later), we can hardly expect boyish wonder.
Without positive evidence, Frances Wood runs across the problem of those who believe Shakespeare didn't write his plays, or that he didn't exist. They can only argue from negative evidence, and a negative can't be proven.Read more ›
In 1995 Dr Frances Wood published a book titled Did Marco Polo Go To China?, which became Marco Polo Did Not Go To China in the German version. This book, purporting to unmask Marco Polo as a fraud, has enjoyed considerable attention - which it fully merited as an entertaining piece of light reading. Unfortunately, Wood's argument appears to have been taken at face value in some academic circles, so much so that a word of warning now seems appropriate: Wood's story is neither original, nor is it scholarly. The gist of Wood's argument has been commonplace through the ages and, especially, in the 19th century. In its present form it was suggested in a lighthearted way some years ago by the eminent German sinologist Herbert Franke who now categorically rejects Wood's thesis. As for the scholarship of Wood's book, it is impugned on a series of counts, notably in an exhaustive study published in 1997 by Igor de Rachewiltz of the Australian National University wherein Wood's arguments are discussed one by one, not infrequently on the basis of documents that the author overlooked, or even deliberately ignored as inimical to her story. One case in point shall suffice here to cripple Wood's thesis. It concerns the accounts in a 15th century Chinese encyclopaedia (publ. in 1941 by Yang Chih-chiu) and in the Persian historian Rashid al-Din's Collection of Histories (discussed by F.W. Cleaves in 1976) of the 1291-3 naval expedition conveying the Mongol princess Kokecin from China to Persia - of which Marco Polo bears detailed witness as a participant. It really should be incumbent on authors in Dr Wood's position, as a matter of intellectual correctness, clearly to signal the distinction between historical fancy and the reporting of serious research. Canberra, Australia
Most recent customer reviews
As with any book of historical perspective, the reader should take into account the historian's viewpoint, but also what is not said. Read morePublished on Dec 29 2002 by Matthew J. Fery