World Travelers

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In search of new goods to trade, Marco Polo encountered many items and ideas not found in Europe at the time.

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World Travelers

  1. 1. TEACHER MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS Purpose Students will use their critical thinking skills to try to figure out what Marco Polo was describing in each of the excerpts from his book. This will allow students to imagine what it must have been like for Europeans who were reading about Polo’s “discoveries” in Asia for the first time. Process Divide students into small groups and have them read each of the four passages from the writings of Marco Polo. In each passage Polo describes a food, object, or habit that he observed in China but was unknown to Europeans. Students should explain what Polo was describing in each passage and how they came to that conclusion. When all groups are finished, have each group share their answers with the class. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY
  2. 2. TEACHER MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS(ANSWER KEY) Directions: Read the following four passages, and then discuss with your partner or group. Working as a team, decide what Polo is describing in the passage and how you came to that conclusion. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage One “It is a fact that all over the country of Cathay there is a kind of black stone existing in beds in the mountains, which they dig out and burn like firewood. If you supply the fire with them at night, and see that they are well kindled, you will find them still alight in the morning; and they make such capital fuel that no other is used throughout the country. It is true that they have plenty of wood also, but they do not burn it, because those stones burn better and cost less.” What are the “stones” Polo is describing? What clues convinced you? Coal Coal is made from dead vegetation that sank underground and carbonized over millions of years. It looks like a black stone and it is mined from the ground. When coal is burned, it glows (like charcoal) and can give off heat for hours.
  3. 3. TEACHER MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS(ANSWER KEY) BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Two “When these sheets have been prepared they are cut up into pieces of different sizes.... All these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; and on every piece a variety of officials, whose duty it is, have to write their names, and to put their seals. And when all is prepared duly, the chief officer deputed by the Khan smears the Seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it on the paper, so that the form of the Seal remains printed upon it in red; [it] is then authentic.... and he makes them to pass current universally over all his kingdoms and provinces and territories, and whithersoever his power and sovereignty extends. And nobody, however important he may think himself, dares to refuse them on pain of death. And indeed everybody takes them readily, for wheresoever a person may go throughout the Great Khan’s dominions he shall find these pieces of paper current, and shall be able to transact all sales and purchases of goods by means of them….” What are the “paper” Polo is describing? What clues convinced you? Paper currency / money Government officials had to sign their names and put official seals on it in order to make it accepted as currency. These officers all work for the Khan (ruler) and therefore, all paper with these markings is accepted as payment for “sales and purchases of goods.”Also, no one refuses to accept these pieces of paper as payment because “nobody, however important he may think himself, dares to refuse them on pain of death” because refusing them would be akin to questioning the power of the ruler.
  4. 4. TEACHER MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS(ANSWER KEY) BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Three “Now you must know that from this city of Cambaluc proceed many roads and highways leading to a variety of provinces, one to one province, another to another.... [and] every twenty-five miles of the journey [there is] a station which they call Yamb, or, as we should say, the “Horse-Post-House.” And at each of those stations… there is a large and handsome building… in which they find all the rooms furnished with fine beds and all other necessary articles.... At some of these stations, moreover, there shall be posted some four hundred horses standing ready.... at others there shall be two hundred, according to the requirements, and to what the Emperor has established in each case.... Even...through a roadless tract where neither house nor hostel exists, still there the station-houses have been established just the same.... But they are provided with horses and all the other necessaries just like those we have described, so that the Emperor’s messengers, come they from what region they may, find everything ready for them.... And in this way the Emperor, who has an immense number of these runners, receives dispatches with news from places ten days’ journey off in one day and night; or, if need be, news from a hundred days off in ten days and nights; and that is no small matter!” What kind of “system” is Polo describing in this passage? What clues convinced you? A postal system There are roads and highways connecting the provinces together and there are stations along the way. Each of these stations has a “Horse- Post-House” where messengers and horses can stop to rest, refuel, and exchange messages. These station houses exist even in the middle of nowhere so that the emperor can know what is happening throughout his entire empire. There are “an immense number of these runners,” or messengers, so that the emperor receives “news from places ten days’ journey off in one day and night; or, if need be, news from a hundred days off in ten days and nights”.
  5. 5. TEACHER MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS(ANSWER KEY) BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Four “There are wild elephants in the country, and numerous unicorns, which are very nearly as big. They have hair like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick. They do no mischief, however, with the horn, but with the tongue alone; for this is covered all over with long and strong prickles and when savage with anyone they crush him under their knees and then rasp him with their tongue. The head resembles that of a wild boar, and they carry it ever bent towards the ground. They delight much to abide in mire and mud.” What animals are the “unicorns” that Polo is describing in this passage? What clues convinced you? Sources: Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, The Travels of Marco Polo, Volumes 1 and 2. Trans. Henry Yule. Ed. Henri Cordier. A Project Gutenberg EBook. Release Date 1 January 2004. EBook-No. 10636. Accessed 3 July 2013. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10636/pg10636.txt Passage 1: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapter XXX Passage 2: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapter XXIV Passage 3: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapters XXVI-XXVII Passage 4: Volume II, Book III, Chapter IX Rhinoceros Rhinos resemble elephants and buffalo in that they are large, slightly hairy, and grey. However, like a unicorn, most have a single horn in the middle of their head. The description of the animals’ behavior is in keeping with what we know of them.
  6. 6. STUDENT MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS Purpose Imagine living in fourteenth-century Europe and reading The Travels of Marco Polo. Use your critical thinking skills to try to figure out what Marco Polo was describing in each of the excerpts from his book. This will allow you to imagine what it must have been like for Europeans who were reading about Polo’s “discoveries” in Asia for the first time. Process Your teacher will divide the class into small groups. All members of your group with read each of the four passages from the writings of Marco Polo. In each passage, Polo describes a food, object, or habit that he observed in China but was unknown to Europeans. After reading, answer the following questions: 1. What’s Polo describing in each passage? 2. What made you come to that conclusion? Once your group has finished, your teacher may call on you to share your group’s ideas with the whole class. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY
  7. 7. Name: Date: STUDENT MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS Directions: Read the following four passages, and then discuss with your partner or group. Working as a team, decide what Polo is describing in the passage and how you came to that conclusion. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage One “It is a fact that all over the country of Cathay there is a kind of black stone existing in beds in the mountains, which they dig out and burn like firewood. If you supply the fire with them at night, and see that they are well kindled, you will find them still alight in the morning; and they make such capital fuel that no other is used throughout the country. It is true that they have plenty of wood also, but they do not burn it, because those stones burn better and cost less.” What are the “stones” Polo is describing? What clues convinced you?
  8. 8. Name: Date: STUDENT MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Two “When these sheets have been prepared they are cut up into pieces of different sizes.... All these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; and on every piece a variety of officials, whose duty it is, have to write their names, and to put their seals. And when all is prepared duly, the chief officer deputed by the Khan smears the Seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it on the paper, so that the form of the Seal remains printed upon it in red; [it] is then authentic.... and he makes them to pass current universally over all his kingdoms and provinces and territories, and whithersoever his power and sovereignty extends. And nobody, however important he may think himself, dares to refuse them on pain of death. And indeed everybody takes them readily, for wheresoever a person may go throughout the Great Khan’s dominions he shall find these pieces of paper current, and shall be able to transact all sales and purchases of goods by means of them….” What are the “paper” Polo is describing? What clues convinced you?
  9. 9. Name: Date: STUDENT MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Three “Now you must know that from this city of Cambaluc proceed many roads and highways leading to a variety of provinces, one to one province, another to another.... [and] every twenty-five miles of the journey [there is] a station which they call Yamb, or, as we should say, the “Horse-Post-House.” And at each of those stations… there is a large and handsome building… in which they find all the rooms furnished with fine beds and all other necessary articles.... At some of these stations, moreover, there shall be posted some four hundred horses standing ready.... at others there shall be two hundred, according to the requirements, and to what the Emperor has established in each case.... Even...through a roadless tract where neither house nor hostel exists, still there the station-houses have been established just the same.... But they are provided with horses and all the other necessaries just like those we have described, so that the Emperor’s messengers, come they from what region they may, find everything ready for them.... And in this way the Emperor, who has an immense number of these runners, receives dispatches with news from places ten days’ journey off in one day and night; or, if need be, news from a hundred days off in ten days and nights; and that is no small matter!” What kind of “system” is Polo describing in this passage? What clues convinced you?
  10. 10. Name: Date: STUDENT MATERIALS WORLD TRAVELERS BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 8.1 ACTIVITY Passage Four “There are wild elephants in the country, and numerous unicorns, which are very nearly as big. They have hair like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick. They do no mischief, however, with the horn, but with the tongue alone; for this is covered all over with long and strong prickles and when savage with anyone they crush him under their knees and then rasp him with their tongue. The head resembles that of a wild boar, and they carry it ever bent towards the ground. They delight much to abide in mire and mud.” What animals are the “unicorns” that Polo is describing in this passage? What clues convinced you? Sources: Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, The Travels of Marco Polo, Volumes 1 and 2. Trans. Henry Yule. Ed. Henri Cordier. A Project Gutenberg EBook. Release Date 1 January 2004. EBook-No. 10636. Accessed 3 July 2013. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10636/pg10636.txt Passage 1: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapter XXX Passage 2: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapter XXIV Passage 3: Volume 1, Book II, Part I, Chapters XXVI-XXVII Passage 4: Volume II, Book III, Chapter IX

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