Marco Polo describes the three-day journey of heading eastwards from Chin-kiang-fu to Chang-chau. He says a traveler would cross many cities containing people who “are all idolaters, subject to the Great Khan, and using paper money” (Polo, 211).
Marco Polo gives a general overview of Chang-chau. Marco Polo says the people of this city “are idolaters, subject to the Great Khan, using paper money” (211). He then discusses that they are known for trade and commerce. He notes that they have an abundance of silk and produce cloths made of gold and other silk fabrics. Marco Polo also says they have abundant animals such as birds and beasts most likely referring to large animals. He then says they have lush soil providing life to sustain the city.
It is evident Marco Polo feels strongly about the attributes he uses to describe these cities. This seems to be his way of suggesting that these cities are vastly foreign in comparison to the Christian and governmental views of Western Europeans. For instance, the word “idolaters” refer to a religious group that worships idols which counters Christian beliefs. This is Marco Polo’s way of saying not only are these people, not Christian, they go against Christian beliefs. Similarly, “burning their dead” also greatly contrasts Christian beliefs that believe burning of the body will not only cut themselves off from any chance of resurrection. Paper money shows the currency used which is practical for travelers to know and further speaks to the difference between these cultures. Lastly, in saying people are subject to the Khan, it is important to note since it is necessary to have an idea of the laws and who one is subject to depending on one’s location. It additionally provides a window for the Western Europeans to have an idea of the influence and expansion of the Great Khan’s empire.
Marco Polo’s discussion of trade is a common thread among his many descriptions of cities. As a traveling merchant, it makes sense as to why he would view this area to be crucial in determining a city’s success. It also speaks to the not only foreign goods but the luxurious items he came across in his travels. Marco Polo emphasizes that “gold” was incorporated into the fabric which would have further emphasized the value of this material. This would be appealing to Western Europeans who would have viewed these as foreign and valuable items. Marco Polo’s mention of birds, beasts, and soil was used to further the success of the vegetation and livelihood of the city.
Marco Polo then shares a story about the city and describes it as a devilish action that resulted in rightful punishment by the people of Chang-chau. Following the fall of Manzi to the Great Khan, Bayan, a commander of Great Khan’s army, sent his men to take down Chang-chau. Marco Polo identifies the men sent as Alans and Christians. When the Alans were outside Chang-chou, they stumbled across wine. As a result, they drank too much causing the men to lose their sense of right and wrong. The citizens of the city witnessed their captors’ drunken behavior and considered these men as good as dead. Without waiting to act, the city men killed all of the captors that night. When word reached Bayan who was the leading commander of the captors, he was furious and sent many troops to conquer the city by force. The city, as a result, was destroyed and Bayan’s men killed the entirety of the city.
Marco Polo begins his story opening with his strong opposition to the drunken actions of the Alans that they justly deserved. Marco Polo then uses religion to identify the groups that were a part of Bayan’s men. Marco Polo was emphasizing that Christians were among the Great Khan’s men to shut down Western European fears of the Great Khan. This could also infer Marco Polo’s harbored racist feelings towards non-Christian groups. Marco Polo puts the blame solely on the Alans as if to separate and blame this race for its uncivilized behavior. Marco Polo seems to agree with the actions of the Chang-chau since he condemns the drunken behavior even going as far to say it as to label it as “wicked.” His strong opposition also presents a warning to Western Europeans for the evil caused by drinking to excess. Yet, Marco Polo also supports Bayan’s decision to eliminate everyone in the city. Ultimately, Marco Polo sides with the Great Khan and shaped their victory as deserved in order to further express the power of their empire.