Contact with the Outside World in Yuan Dynasty

On learning of the religion and culture of the Yuan Dynasty, you will find that the cultural and commercial contact between China and the outside world, such as Arabia and Persia, had been very intensive and widespread. Precisely because of the communication with these countries, China's contact with some European countries also gradually began.

In an age without any advanced means of communication, the only way to make contact with distant foreign countries was through envoys or individual travelers. That is, those envoys and travelers could be regarded as important links between different countries. Among these, the most famous was the great European traveler, Marco Polo.

In 1266, Marco Polo came to China and met with Emperor Shizu of the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan. Later, Kublai Khan dispatched envoys to follow Marco Polo back to Italy to deliver a letter to the Pope. In 1275, Marco Polo returned to Yuan's capital in response to Emperor Shizu's letter. From that time, Marco Polo remained in China for a further 17 years. During this period he was appointed for a time as an official in charge of Yangzhou, and was also sent by the Yuan rulers on diplomatic missions to a number of countries. In 1291, he returned to his hometown Venice. Later, his experience in China was compiled into a book entitled ‘Travels of Marco Polo'. This book described in detail the prosperity of the Yuan Dynasty. This was an eye-opener for many westerners.

Following Marco Polo, increasingly more and more European visitors came to China, and conversely more Chinese traveled to Europe. In 1294, an Italian missionary, John of Montecorvino, came to China. During his stay, three churches were built in the capital Dadu (now Beijing) and the Christian New Testament was translated into Mongolian. During the reign of Emperor Shundi of Yuan, an official mission dispatched to Rome was warmly welcomed by the Pope. In a later period, an Arabian traveler named Yiben Battuta came to China and subsequently wrote a travelogue that later became an important resource about the relations between China and Arabian countries.

Meanwhile, a Chinese traveler named Wang Dayuan twice successively traversed the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. It is said that he was the first Chinese to have visited Morocco and Tanzania. His travelogue, Daoyi Zhilue, described Arabian society in almost all respects and this book was thus listed as an indispensable source of information on the Arabian areas in the Middle Ages.

- Last updated on Aug. 09, 2022 -
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