A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.
In the 13th century, a young Venetian named Marco Polo set out with his father and uncle on a great adventure. Following a series of trade routes, they traveled across the vast continent of Asia and became the first Europeans to visit the Chinese capital (modern Beijing). Marco so impressed the reigning emperor of China, Kublai Khan, that he was appointed to the imperial court. For the next 17 years, Marco was sent on missions to many parts of Kublai's sprawling empire. The Polos finally returned to Venice via the sea route. Marco later wrote a book about his experiences, which inspired new generations of explorers to travel to the exotic lands of the East.
After completing this lesson, students will have
Read through the entire lesson plan and become familiar with the content and resources. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference.
After a long trek across the Gobi Desert, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle finally arrived at the Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan. At last they stood face to face with the Emperor of China (painting available through Asia Source)
At this time, most of Asia was under control of the Mongols, a nomadic people whose homeland was in the Gobi. In the 12th century, Mongol leader Genghis Khan had unified the many tribes of the Mongols and then led armies across Asia.
Kublai Khan was very impressed with Marco's powers of observation and his skill with language (he had picked up several local languages as he traveled through Central Asia). So he appointed him to his court. For the next 17 years, Marco was sent on many missions throughout Kublai Khan's realm.
Kublai's capital was built on the site of modern Beijing. It was known as Khanbalik (a Mongol term meaning “City of the Khan” [note the alternate spelling: Cambaluc]) and was located about 160 miles south of Shangdu. Kublai's vast empire was made up of mountains, deserts, high plains, rivers, and fertile valleys.
The Chinese city of Chang'an was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. As you would expect, it was a bustling center of trade, where merchants brought products from Central Asia and even as far away as Europe to trade for Chinese products.
The major Chinese products of the 13th century were silk, ceramics, carved jade, lacquerware, and tea.
View images and descriptions of these five Chinese products by accessing the following resources available through Asia Source:
Distribute copies of the blank map of China, which you downloaded while preparing this lesson. Instruct the students to label the approximate locations of Beijing (Khanbalik), Shangdu, and Chang'an, referring to the maps previously viewed. You might also wish to have them sketch in the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers as well as the Taklimakan and Gobi Deserts.
After completing the map, have the students choose one of the five products described in this lesson (silk, porcelain, jade, lacquerware, and tea) as the topic of a short report. Additional information can be found through EDSITEment-reviewed resource Internet Public Library.
1-2 class periods