Xanadu Again

“The Travels of Marco Polo” is almost unreadable. I struggled for several pages and had to give up. There’s no pleasure in reading it, but my curiosity of the man and his travel can’t be appeased. That’s why I searched and found this book, which is comprehensive in its content, engaging in its language. It even points out the accuracy and the inconsistency in Marco Polo’s chronicle of his travel.

This is the best travel books I’ve ever read. Not that I’ve read many travel books. The very few I’ve read, I never really like them much. The human relationship seems too perfunctory and too transient to be interesting; observations too much on the surface; opinions often prejudiced. It’s really strange that we travel to escape our own immediate surroundings and to see something exotic; however when something exotic is right in front of us, we are shocked, panicky, even angry. Is it so hard to be happy? Fortunately for Marco Polo, he’s often more delighted than dismayed, except when women’s virtue is involved and when murder is committed–often he’s equally concerned by the former as well as the later. Considering the fact that he lived in medieval time and was indoctrinated with rigid moral standards, he’s actually pretty liberal and ahead of his time.

The best part of the book are the stories of Ahmad Fanakati, who climbed up the administrative ladder during Kublai Khan’s reign; the stories of invasion of Japan; the stories of South and Southeast Asia. I wish there are more details of these stories, but I guess in order to know more details I probably have to go through the original book by Polo, which I have no wish to do.

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