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.
Read through the entire lesson plan and become familiar with the content and resources. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference.
Marco Polo was on the last leg of his journey home from China to Venice. After visiting several seaports in India, he and his party sailed across the Arabian Sea and to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, landing at the port city of Hormuz. Marco had visited Hormuz with his father and uncle many years before when they were on their way to China. At that time, they had considered a sea route too dangerous and decided instead to travel eastward across Asia following a land route. Perhaps they were right—by the time they arrived in Hormuz on their journey home, nearly all of the 600 people who had set out with them from China had perished! Historians attribute this to a combination of storms, disease, and combat with hostile natives encountered along the way.
After delivering the Mongol princess they were escorting to the Persian court, the Polos trekked northward through Persia and Armenia (part of modern Turkey) to the Black Sea.
The most famous building in Constantinople was the Hagia Sophia. It remains one of the most impressive churches in the world.
Learn about the Hagia Sophia by visiting the following websites (available through Labyrinth):
Marco and his father and uncle boarded a trading ship in Constantinople and sailed home to Venice. This final lap of their long journey from China was an easy voyage on the Mediterranean Sea.
Have the students write a short essay about Constantinople. It can be illustrated with images downloaded from the websites visited in this lesson or by original drawings.
1-2 class periods