In 1260, two Venetian brothers, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, set off on an amazing journey. They had traveled as far as Russia and were on their way home by way of the Caspian Sea when they met some envoys from the court of Kublai Khan, the emperor of China. Instead of returning to Italy, the two brothers decided to accompany the envoys to the Khan’s palace in Peking. They were well received and did not return to Venice until 1269.
Two years later they set out for the Khan’s court once more. This time Marco, Niccolo’s 17-year old son, traveled with them. The three went on and on, across arid deserts and over high mountains and finally arrived in Peking. The Khan was greatly taken by young Marco and began to send him on special missions throughout his vast empire. Marco served the Khan for seventeen years and kept detailed notes on everything he saw. He visited nearly every part of the Chinese empire about which Europeans knew very little. He finally returned home at the age of forty-one and wrote a book about his strange and wonderful adventures. Unfortunately the Italians, who had no idea of what the Far East was like, mistrusted his book and believed it to be full of lies. It was not until many years after his death that other explorers confirmed the truth of what Macro had written.