Lesson 4: On the Road with Marco Polo: Crossing the Deserts of 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.

Guiding Questions

What routes did Marco Polo follow to the deserts of China?

What sorts of natural environments did he travel through?

What are some of the major means of transporting goods through the Taklimakan and Gobi deserts?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: Understand and describe the geography of China and the conditions for travel in ancient and medieval times.