Hans Ulrich Vogel, German sinologist – Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Tübingen – tries to prove that the legendary traveler, Marco Polo really went to Chine in person. He says the Polo’s reports about the Chinese money and salt what he wrote to Venetian merchants seems genuine.
For centuries, many people accused the famous merchant-traveler that he only collected his knowledge about the Black Sea, Constantinople and Persia from Persian books which now-lost. Doubts have been raised since the mid-eighteenth century about Marco Polo’s journey in China. Some skeptics say that Marco Polo didn’t mention The Great Wall. The Great Wall as we know is a product of the Ming Dynasty. Before this there were mud walls which disintegrated and had lost the military role. Another argument used is that in any Chinese document don’t mention Marco Polo’s, his father or his unlce name. But have to add it that the Chinese historiographers sometimes didn’t mention important visits in their works. For example they didn’t write about Giovanni de Marignolli nuncius’s visit with his 32 followers at the Chinese emperor in 1342.
Vogel professor scrutinized Marco Polo’s descriptions of currency, salt production and revenues from the salt monopoly. He concluded that the Venetian traveler is the only one to describe precisely how paper for money was made from the bark of the mulberry tree. And he is also the only one – among his contemporaries – who explained that paper money was not in circulation in all parts of China. Polo not only details the size and shape of the paper, he also described the use of seals and the various denominations of paper money. According to Marco Polo silver, gold, gems and pearls were monopolized by the Chinese state. These enforced a compulsory exchange for paper money. He also mentioned that there was punishment for the counterfeiters. Because of the private transactions and worn-out notes the Chinese introduced the exchange fee which was 3%. In addition his description of the salt production is also unique and accurate. In his opinion along regions of Yangtze salt, gold and silver were the main currencies. He listed the most important centres of salt production as Lianghuai, Yunnan, Changlu and Liangzhe. These centres were the authorities administering as well. This information is confirmed by Chinese by archaeological evidence and other sourches too. However, because of he couldn’t read in Chinese, most of these sources were collated or translated long after Polo’s time.
These and other information all indicate that Marco Polo really did serve the Great Khan. Vogel in his book – A Marco Polo was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues – to the conclusion that Marco Polo knew what he was talking about. In his opinion the book which based on work carried out in the DFG Research Training Group 596 “Monies, Markets and Finance in China and East Asia, 1500-1900” is provides ample evidence that Marco Polo did go to China.
Written by Ilona Kaszanyi