irst broadcast in 1982, this Emmy award winning epic adventure cost a staggering ten million dollars and featured an all-star, Oscar winning cast. Filmed on location in Italy, Morocco, Nepal and China this lavish mini-series was the first Western production to film in China after WWII and took over thirteen months to complete. An epic in every sense of the word. Born in Venice in 1254, Marco Polo was just 17 when he set off with his father and uncle to travel the Silk Road to China. Their adventurous journey through Asia, which lasted three and half years, took them through uncharted territory and went down in history as one of the greatest exploratory journeys of all time. Marco then spent 17 years in Peking as the guest of the Great Khan, winning the trust and respect of the Emperor for whom he carried out various diplomatic missions. Marco took great care to understand and record the culture, language, traditions and customs of the people he met during his long travels and as a result became one of histories legendary explorers.

Marco Polo - Netflix

Type: Scripted

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 50 minutes

Premier: 1982-12-05

Marco Polo - The Travels of Marco Polo - Netflix

Book of the Marvels of the World (French: Livre des Merveilles du Monde) or Description of the World (Devisement du Monde), in Italian Il Milione (The Million) or Oriente Poliano and in English commonly called The Travels of Marco Polo, is a 13th-century travelogue written down by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Marco Polo, describing Polo's travels through Asia between 1271 and 1295, and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan. The book was written in Old French by romance writer Rustichello da Pisa, who worked from accounts which he had heard from Marco Polo when they were imprisoned together in Genoa. From the beginning, there has been incredulity over Polo's sometimes fabulous stories, as well as a scholarly debate in recent times. Some have questioned whether Marco had actually travelled to China or was just repeating stories that he had heard from other travellers. Economic historian Mark Elvin concludes that recent work “demonstrates by specific example the ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity” of Polo's account, and that the book is, “in essence, authentic, and, when used with care, in broad terms to be trusted as a serious though obviously not always final, witness.”

Marco Polo - Authenticity and veracity - Netflix

Since its publication, many have viewed the book with skepticism. Some in the Middle Ages viewed the book simply as a romance or fable, largely because of the sharp difference of its descriptions of a sophisticated civilisation in China to other early accounts by Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and William of Rubruck who portrayed the Mongols as “barbarians” who appeared to belong to “some other world”. Doubts have also been raised in later centuries about Marco Polo's narrative of his travels in China, for example for his failure to mention a number of things and practices commonly associated with China, such as the Chinese characters, tea, chopsticks, and footbinding. In particular, his failure to mention the Great Wall of China had been noted as early as the middle of the seventeenth century. In addition, the difficulties in identifying many of the place names he used also raised suspicion about Polo's accounts. Many have questioned if he had visited the places he mentioned in his itinerary, if he had appropriated the accounts of his father and uncle or other travelers, or doubted if he even reached China, and that if he did, perhaps never went beyond Khanbaliq (Beijing). Historian Stephen G. Haw however argued that many of the “omissions” could be explained. For example, none of the Western travelers to Yuan dynasty China at that time, such as Giovanni de' Marignolli and Odoric of Pordenone, mentioned the Great Wall, and that while remnants of the Wall would have existed at that time, it would not have been significant or noteworthy as it had not been maintained for a long time. The Great Walls were built to keep out northern invaders, whereas the ruling dynasty during Marco Polo's visit were those very northern invaders. The Mongol rulers whom Polo served also controlled territories both north and south of today's wall, and would have no reasons to maintain any fortifications that may have remained there from the earlier dynasties. He noted the Great Wall familiar to us today is a Ming structure built some two centuries after Marco Polo's travels. The Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta did mention the Great Wall, but when he asked about the wall while in China during the Yuan dynasty, he could find no one who had either seen it or knew of anyone who had seen it. Haw also argued that practices such as footbinding were not common even among Chinese during Polo's time and almost unknown among the Mongols. While the Italian missionary Odoric of Pordenone who visited Yuan China mentioned footbinding (it is however unclear whether he was only relaying something he heard as his description is inaccurate), no other foreign visitors to Yuan China mentioned the practice, perhaps an indication that the footbinding was not widespread or was not practiced in an extreme form at that time. Marco Polo himself noted (in the Toledo manuscript) the dainty walk of Chinese women who took very short steps. It has also been pointed out that Polo's accounts are more accurate and detailed than other accounts of the periods. Polo had at times denied the “marvelous” fables and legends given in other European accounts, and also omitted descriptions of strange races of people then believed to inhabit eastern Asia and given in such accounts. For example, Odoric of Pordenone said that the Yangtze river flows through the land of pygmies only three spans high and gave other fanciful tales, while Giovanni da Pian del Carpine spoke of “wild men, who do not speak at all and have no joints in their legs”, monster who looked like women but whose menfolk were dogs, and other equally fantastic accounts. Despite a few exaggerations and errors, Polo's accounts are relatively free of the descriptions of irrational marvels, and in many cases where present (mostly given in the first part before he reached China, such as mentions of Christian miracles), he made a clear distinction that they are what he had heard rather than what he had seen. It is also largely free of the gross errors in other accounts such as those given by the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta who had confused the Yellow River with the Grand Canal and other waterways, and believed that porcelain was made from coal. Many of the details in Polo's accounts have been verified. For example, when visiting Zhenjiang in Jiangsu, China, Marco Polo noted that a large number of Christian churches had been built there. His claim is confirmed by a Chinese text of the 14th century explaining how a Sogdian named Mar-Sargis from Samarkand founded six Nestorian Christian churches there in addition to one in Hangzhou during the second half of the 13th century. Nestorian Christianity had existed in China since the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) when a Persian monk named Alopen came to the capital Chang'an in 653 to proselytize, as described in a dual Chinese and Syriac language inscription from Chang'an (modern Xi'an) dated to the year 781. In 2012, the University of Tübingen sinologist and historian Hans Ulrich Vogel released a detailed analysis of Polo's description of currencies, salt production and revenues, and argued that the evidence supports his presence in China because he included details which he could not have otherwise known. Vogel noted that no other Western, Arab, or Persian sources have given such accurate and unique details about the currencies of China, for example, the shape and size of the paper, the use of seals, the various denominations of paper money as well as variations in currency usage in different regions of China, such as the use of cowry shells in Yunnan, details supported by archaeological evidence and Chinese sources compiled long after Polo's had left China. His accounts of salt production and revenues from the salt monopoly are also accurate, and accord with Chinese documents of the Yuan era. Economic historian Mark Elvin, in his preface to Vogel's 2013 monograph, concludes that Vogel “demonstrates by specific example after specific example the ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity” of Polo's account. Many problems were caused by the oral transmission of the original text and the proliferation of significantly different hand-copied manuscripts. For instance, did Polo exert “political authority” (seignora) in Yangzhou or merely “sojourn” (sejourna) there. Elvin concludes that “those who doubted, although mistaken, were not always being casual or foolish”, but “the case as a whole had now been closed”: the book is, “in essence, authentic, and, when used with care, in broad terms to be trusted as a serious though obviously not always final, witness.”

Marco Polo - References - Netflix