Title may be misleading yet another fascinating History Chan
Naughty dynamo | Tierra maya | 05/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is not so much about what Marco Polo claims to have lived, but rather it questions whether his account is a first-hand experience or whether it is a mere compilation of travelers' and merchants' accounts of what went on in "the east".
The documentary starts by examining what life was like in Venice, what sort of people Marco Polo and his family may have been, and what may have caused them to travel east. It illustrates what kind of trip Marco Polo and his relatives may have had, what hardships they may have undergone, and what they encountered in Mongolian China during their 20 some year stay there. This is all of course taken off of his book, literary sources of the time (Chinese, Venetian and others), and contemporary interpretations of them.
Supporters of Marco Polo's account as real argue that his book is so vividly written it could have not been passed down to him. People who refute it argue that there is no cross-referencing of his visit to China,(apart from his book). He also missed details that would have been too important for a european to miss: the Great Wall, footbinding, chopsticks...
So was he there? Was he just a great writer? Did he even exist? This documentary ponders on that.
The reason I give it 5 stars and recommend it is, because, as a history major and lover, I agree with this documentary that, whether he was there or not, what matters is that Marco Polo's book ignited european's interest in the east, and started a conversation of China as a great civilization, and not merely a place with strange creatures on it as most europeans perceived it at the time.
Whether you believe he existed and made it to China or not, you will enjoy the debate.
If I may recommend another account of life in the eyes of a traveler in the XIII century, I encourage you to check out The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, by Ross Dunn, the account of a Muslim traveler in the east. You will delight yourself with a first hand account of an unknown world, in the eyes of someone from a different world as well.
Happy history hunting!"
Polo: Fact or Fiction?
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 12/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I only had vague knowledge of Marco Polo, so I thank this documentary for filling in many gaps. I never know there is doubt to his actual existence.
This documentary had only 3 interviewees, whereas many History Channel-ish works have much more. However, since Polo lived in the 13th Century, if he lived at all, there would be few that could speak on him and his times. This documentary is filled with cheesy reenactments. They also include paintings and drawings from the era and could have just used those.
Marco Polo's death is brought up 3/4 into the work, rather than at the end. I loved learning that Columbus used his text as fact and assumed Cuba was Japan.
The work mentions Arabia, Turkey, and then China. Where was India in all this? India's absence from Polo's travels would make me think Polo didn't exist, but the work says nothing on that. Also, one interviewee said, "Marco Polo probably went back to Italy because he wanted to get married." Why couldn't he marry a Chinese woman? Race, as an issue, was far different 800 years ago than now. Did the interviewee have a bias against interracial coupling that blocks this possibility from his mind? The work never explains who Marco Polo's name became part of a child's game. Lisa and Bart Simpson played that game when they met their Uncle Herb, voiced by Danny DeVito.
This documentary mentioned travelogues and their contemporary popularity. However, I thought they could have mentioned Herodotus before Polo and how travelogues influenced imperialists after Polo. Still, I thank this work for noting that Polo discussed Oriental lands as advanced, rather than backwards. Polo's writings could be viewed as anti-racist, or anti-xenophobic, and somewhat progressive."