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Marco Polo

Marco Polo (1254 - January 8 1324) was a Venetian merchant and explorer who, together with his father Matteo and uncle, was among the first Westerners to claim to travel the Silk Road all the way to China. They supposedly lived there for seventeen years before returning to Venice. During the wars of Venice in Italy, Marco was captured and held prisoner. Then he dictated to Rusticello da Pisa a widely read book (Il Milione) about his travels.

While most historians do not doubt that Marco Polo did indeed reach China, in recent times some skepticism has been advanced as to whether Polo actually visited China or only retold information he had heard from others. Among other omissions, his account fails to mention the unique Chinese written form, chopsticks, tea, foot binding, or the Great Wall whose actual form was build afterwards, and Chinese records of the time do not mention him, despite the fact that he claimed to have served as a special emissary to Kublai Khan. Given the extreme level of record-keeping in China at that time, this is a source of strong suspicion but he lived with the Mongols who ruled the country.

Legend has that Marco Polo introduced in Italy some products from China, like ice cream and pasta, especially spaghetti. Probably, this was just a means of adding a bit of prestige to a rather anonymous history.

Some Croats claim that he was born in the Venetian island of Curzola in the Adriatic (currently Korcula, Croatia) and even that the Polo family was Slav in origin.

Marco Polo is believed to have described a bridge which was the site of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, a battle which marked the beginning of the Japanese invasion of north central China in World War II.

In his book, he called what is now known as Japan by its Chinese name "Zipang" or Cipangu. This is usually considered the first appearance of Japan in Western literature.

The airport in Venice, Italy is named Marco Polo International Airport.


Marco Polo is also a popular children's game played in a pool.

The child who is "it" must swim around the pool with his eyes closed, attempting to tag the other players. The "it" child can only sense where the other players are by calling out "Marco!," at which point all the other players are required to yell "Polo!". By judging where the sounds are coming from, the child who is "it" is able to overcome his self-imposed blindness and hopefully tag somebody else, who then becomes "it." There are other rules to this game, varying from region to region (see 'fish out of water').

See also the Marcopolo satellites.