Recent Find Proves Marco Polo Never Really went to China

Marco Polo is one of history’s greatest explorers and his fame was established by journeys to China and the Far East. But modern day scholars feel Marco Polo never went to China. They think that the Venetian merchant adventurer picked up second hand stories about Japan, China and Mongol Empire from other Persian merchants he met during his voyage to the shores of Black Sea (which is thousands of miles short of the Oriental Empires). He put all the stories told by the Persian merchants together and used the information for his bestselling book “A Description of the World”. This is one of the first travel books of its type.

Marco Polo is a famous explorer for his travel to China and Far East

As a proof of their findings the archaeologists point to the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Marco Polo’s description of Kublai Khan’s attempted invasions of Japan in 1284 and 1281. Scholars feel Marco confused two details – about the first expedition and second expedition. In his account of Kublai Khan’s invasion he states that the fleet left Korea and was hit by a typhoon before reaching Japanese coast. These events happened in 1281 and not in Kublai Khan’s first expedition. It is unbelievable that an eye witness could confuse events that were separated by seven years.

Manuscript of A Description of the World

Recently the remnants of Marco Polo’s fleet were found. There is a sharp contrast between the real ships and their description by Marco Polo. The Venetian described the ships as having five masts but the ships found have only three masts. Such contrast in facts raised doubts over Marco’s expedition.

Remnants of Kublai Khan’s lost fleet were found

Further, Marco Polo describes Kublai Khan’s fleet using pitch to make their ship hulls watertight. He used the word ‘chunam’ which means ‘nothing’ in Chinese and Mongol. But this same word means pitch in Persian. Most of the local names and place names are Persian terms for Chinese or Mongol place names.

Marco Polo claimed to be an emissary to the court of Kublai Khan but no records are found

Marco Polo had also claimed that he worked as an emissary to the court of Kublai Khan. But the Mongol and Chinese records from those times do not have Marco Polo’s name anywhere. In his book Marco maintained a first person narrative, but in the sections about China and Mongolia he reverts to a second person narrative as though he had heard about these from someone else.  Marco Polo is also known to be an acute observer of daily life and rituals. But some of the prominent customs in China such as chopsticks, tea drinking or the Great Wall find no mention in his work.

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9 thoughts on “Recent Find Proves Marco Polo Never Really went to China

  1. This is all rubbish. It is not true that modern scholars feel that Marco Polo never went to China. Most scholars who specialise in Chinese studies and the Mongol empire are convinced that he did, in fact, go to China. The archaeologists referred to here are NOT specialists in Chinese history.

    Marco Polo does not mention the first Mongol invasion of Japan (in 1274, NOT 1284 – this was before Marco reached China). He only the mentions the invasion of 1281 – which occurred while he was in China. His account of the invasion is generally accurate.

    Many of the ships used in the invasion of Japan were Korean, not Chinese. There certainly were CHINESE ships with five masts at the period. The fact that Marco uses a Persian word to refer to ‘pitch’ is of no significance – there were many Persian-speakers in China during the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty. Nor does the fact that no one has yet been able to identify his name in any Chinese records mean anything. The simple fact is that no one knows what name he used while in China. He was very probably given a Mongol name by Khubilai Khan. As no one knows what name to look for, it is hardly surprising that it has not been found!

    It is not, in fact, true that Marco never uses first person narrative when talking about his experiences in China. Even if it were, it would again mean very little. Marco did not write the book himself – it was written down by Rustichello of Pisa, on the basis of what Marco said. The omissions mentioned above have been dealt with many times. There was no Great Wall when Marco was in China – the Great Wall seen today dates from the Ming dynasty, AFTER Marco’s time. Why would the Mongols have needed a Great Wall, as they ruled the land for a long way on both sides of where it now stands? Chopsticks may never have been adopted by the Mongols and other non-Chinese in Yuan China, or they may simply have been too mundane to be mentioned. The same could be said for tea. In any case, why was a drink made of hot water poured onto leaves anything special? Europe had its tisanes. Arguments about what Marco does NOT say have very little value.

    It has been conclusively shown that Marco gives accurate information about many things that it is extremely unlikely that he could have known about without going to China, and doing there everything that he claimed to do. See the book ‘Marco Polo’s China’, by Stephen G. Haw.

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  4. A further correction to the above:

    The word “chunam” that is claimed to mean “pitch” does NOT mean that at all! It means “lime”. Moreover, it is not a Persian word, but comes from an Indian language.

  5. It is strongly recommended to be aware that it is actually all about a attempt to revision history regarding Marco O ‘Polo travel. Notice the words “go to China” which is much different than “being in China”. In modern day maps we see Marco O’Polo routes mapped over China. You need information to map these routes. Also, the missing descriptions about local custom, tradition and even about The Great Wall may never be seen as evidence that he never was in China. When anyone feels the need to label any kind of information as confused or erroneous it doesn’t mean that you can label such details as evidence as well.
    To Stephen G. Haw we would say: It is not (always) necessary to be a professional in history. Good analyzing capabilities, carefully reading and being able to know how to research and how to use resources or information can also lead to professional results. In all: being familiar in history is one story. Being familiar in how to use information properly is another.

  6. Marco polo sailed on a Venetian vessel, those have 3 masts, but the boats they found had 5 masts. So, they were Chinese and that is why they didn’t find Marco Polo’s lost fleet.

  7. Oh I see! Stephen G. Haw I would appreciate if you could contact me because I would like to know everything you know about Marco Polo. You can contact me at: or you can call me at 563 562 7374 and if anyone else would like to share what they know contact me. Thanks for the blog!

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