mandag 29. april 2024

The Scholar Bringing Marco Polo Back to China

This year marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Marco Polo (1254–1324), the legendary Venetian traveler who introduced Asia to the West.

Yet despite Marco Polo’s widespread recognition in China, there exists only one rigorous Chinese translation of “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Completed by Feng Chengjun and published by the Shanghai Commercial Press in 1936, this translation falls short of meeting modern standards of accuracy, fluency, and elegance. Feng summarized each chapter using classical Chinese, adhering to the literary conventions of that era. Furthermore, he relied on a modern French edition annotated by A. J. H. Charignon that was itself not always accurate.

In 2011, Rong Xinjiang, a history professor at Peking University and a leading scholar of Sino-foreign relations during the medieval period, brought together a study group to annotate “The Travels of Marco Polo.” The group was a who’s who of Chinese medievalists, including experts on Mongol history, Iranian studies, and Chinese relations with the Silk Road kingdoms. While their translation — based on a 1938 edition of the text annotated by A.C. Moule and Paul Pelliot — remains unfinished, their work has already resulted in multiple books on Marco Polo, the Silk Road, and medieval trading hubs like the eastern city of Yangzhou.