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Thursday, March 4, 2004 - 19:30

Did Marco Polo Really Come to China?

Dr. Liu Xiao
Associate Research Fellow Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;

Dr. Dang Baohai
Peking University

The Romanian Embassy

Most people do not seem to know that some eminent Mongolists and Sinologists have raised a serious challenge to Marco Polo's popular status. Among them are the German Herbert Franke and the British Frances Wood, who both provoked quite an upheaval among the Chinese scholars. Their research on Marco Polo's texts, especially the "Description of the World", led them to doubt the popular idea of Marco Polo's travels to China. Their thesis is based on “the question of omissions” from Marco Polo's memoirs (found in different manuscript versions) about important aspects of Chinese civilization such as the existence of the Great Wall and the use of chopsticks. Such views have ignited a trend of research among Chinese scholars for tangible evidence and historical facts as well as logical explanations to defend what is regarded as one of the earliest cultural contacts between China and Europe.

BIS has invited two reputable specialists of Yuan Mongol period who will share their interest in Marco Polo and their opinions on this debatable subject.

Dr. Liu Xiao is Associate Research Fellow with the History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His major research is the history of China under Mongol rule. He published “A Critical Biography of Yelü-chucai” and translated “Wind Against the Mountain: the Politics and Cultural Crisis in 13th-Century China”. His other publications include more than twenty articles on the political, economic and social history of Yuan China, especially pertaining to the conflict and compromise between Mongol and Chinese culture at that time.

Dr. Dang Baohai took up Mongol Yuan studies as a major field when he studied in Peking University's History Department. His focus was on the Mongol postal transportation system. In 1999, he became well-informed about Marco Polo's experience in China when he engaged in an extensive work of supervising and preparing detailed notes for a new Chinese version of Marco Polo's “Description of the World”.

BIS invites you to join this interesting and revealing lecture and discussion.