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For those who are wondering which photo of Marco Polo I’m talking about – it could very well be this one.

I’d like to share a little secret with you now. There’s a certain photo of Marco Polo that appears rather more than it should on this site. That’s because it brings a lot of traffic my way. So he’s going to pop up every couple of months or so, when he gets buried in the back of the blog and the love that Google feels for him, suddenly drops off.

However, in the interests of fairness. I’d like to tell you about Marco Polo, however that seems vaguely problematic. Modern historians don’t agree on much when it comes to the famous explorer, except that they do agree that he was an inveterate liar.

Apparently he was so caught up in himself that he invented much of his diaries and tales told elsewhere for the attention that he knew they would garner. Thus it becomes impossible to separate the fact from the fantasy – at least for someone like me.

So in this one instance, I’m not going to speculate too much. I will say that Marco Polo did not “discover” China, as the Chinese had taken care of that several thousand years before he was born. And in fact the country had been repeatedly discovered by other races, and in one case – that of Genhis Kahn, his sons, and the Mongol horde – been completely conquered by them too.

He almost certainly did travel the whole of the silk road, an epic feat that should have given him enough real stories to last a lifetime. I’d like to do that too one day. If they ever make it a little easier for Western travellers to get visas to all those Middle Asian nations along the route. Though I might skip the Xi’an to Xinjiang stretch because it seems like a lot of work to run through the new industrial heartland of China.

However for all the fibs he told, his name still resonates centuries later. In fact somebody even named a hotel chain after him. I’m wondering if I spent less time researching and more time lying about stuff – if I could have a chain of hamburger restaurants named after me? I’d also like to thank Marco Polo for all the Internet explorers he brings Shards of China too. What a chap.

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