Journey East

The road from Rome to Peking in eastern China was started during the Roman Empire. When it fell, the roads fell into disrepair. I wanted to write of the colorful travelers on the road but there was little information. When Marco Polo and his father and uncle traveled East in the lat 1200’s they seemed to be the only travelers on the road. They did get thru however. This is their story.

There was a road to China
in 200 BC.
It started off at Rome
going East to Peking.

But when the Roman Empire fell
the roads in disrepair
and people could not travel
or easily get there.

The roads were for the armies
and commerce to and fro,
trading with the East
and bringing silk in tow.

There were many mountains
and deserts to be crossed,
taking almost 2 years
to find your way across.

Marco Polo’s father
and uncle went this way,
returning after 9 years
from their China stay.

Marco had grown up
and wanted to return
when they went again,
a feat almost unheard.

When Genghis Khan came from the North
and took so many lands,
he built the roads again
for his troops to pass.

This was in the 1200’s
and Marco Polo too
lived just after this
and they could get thru.

The Khan did rule China
and all the lands straight thru
including eastern Europe
and part of Russia too.

Also he took Persia,
included Turkey too.
The middle east was mostly his
and so the roads went thru.

The father and the uncle
had traveled them before
but they were anxious to return
and trade with them some more.

They’d met the Mongol Khan
and stayed at court awhile
and he like these men
with manners that were mild.

He was grandson of the Khan
who conquered all the land
and his name was Kublai,
with power in his had.

He asked them to return
and with them then to bring
100 missionaries
for their enlightening.

He gave them each a tablet gold
to wear around their neck,
giving royal protection
and best of service yet.

But the monks did fear
and they would not go
on this perilous journey
full of many woes.

On their journey east beyond
the Mediterranean Sea,
they continued over land
and first they came to Turkey.

Marco was excited
at many things he saw
and made careful notes
of all that was in awe.

He also learned to speak
Mongolian, Persian too.
Also Hindustani
and Chinese he knew.

Invaluable to him in time
on missions for the Khan,
he could speak to people
as he went along.

In Persia They did come across
tombs of Magi three,
the kings that brought to Christ
the gifts for him to see.

Farther on along the road
they came to another place,
the castle of the fire worshippers
where they all did stay.

The priests explained that Jesus
had given the kings a gift
and on their way back home
they had opened it.

Inside was a stone
and they thought this most strange.
The cast it in a pit
and instantly were flames.

They took some fire from the pit
and took it home with them.
1200 years it’s not gone out,
they worship now as then.

In eastern Persia they did cross
a salt flat for 8 days.
They had to carry food and water,
for the horses grain.

They crossed Afghanistan
and came to Balishan
north of India
running east to China.

It was a wild land
where very few have gone,
with many lofty peaks,
swift rivers flowing on
and also deep ravines
very hard to cross.
The people too were wild
and wore the skins of beasts.
Roaming in great herds
were many flocks of sheep.

Then the Pamir mountains,
very high indeed.
Many of these peaks
were 20,000 feet.

For days they crossed these mountains,
climbing up and down
until they reached a high plateau
with only grass around.

This plateau of Pamir
was very high indeed
and there was a large lake
and an icy stream.

It took 12 days to cross this plain
and no one did they see
except a few of herdsmen
who were tending sheep.

Then for 40 days
they traveled up and down,
o’er mountains and thru valleys
where no one was around.

It was quite deserted
and very rugged too.
They had to carry all supplies
which just saw them thru.

They saw the bones of travelers
who perished on the way
but not a living soul
in these 40 days.

They finally reached Kashgar,
which is in Cathay.
We say China now
in a modern day.

Kashgar was the crossroads
for many different folk,
coming from the East and West
and moving to and fro.

It was the western edge
of China and the Silk Road
as it now is known,
full of hum and drone.

They next must skirt the desert Lop,
Taklimakan we now say
and joined a camel caravan
for safety on the way.

Now they rode the camels
and they had the guides,
suitable for desert fare
with 30 days supply.

They used the golden tablets
given by the Khan,
for the best of everything
as they traveled on.

They heard of evil spirits
that in the desert dwelled
who lured the traveler off his path
in whispers they knew well.

Many voices calling,
he found it was the sand - -
cooling in the night
or booming like a band.

The crossing was most desolate
and took a month or more
and they were glad they were across
for they were very worn.

Marco was the first to tell
of different wildlife there,
sheep with long and twisted horns
that nothing could compare.

In China there he saw a yak,
like a buffalo
but its hair was long and soft
and it was very strong.

He also saw a pheasant
that was beautiful
with feathers 6’ long
coming from it tail.

The roads were getting better
as they traveled East.
Trees were planted on the sides
the summer heat to ease.

There were soldiers on the way
protecting travelers.
The Khan had thought of everything
in the roads they traveled.

The roads were good for military
and for commerce too.
They were well constructed,
easy to get thru.

Also columns made of stone
where trees wouldn’t grow,
marked the way in winter
in the deepest snow.

The government had post houses
all along the way
where travelers could rest
and where that they could stay.

They could get provisions
for the horse and them
and there were sleeping quarters
ready for the men.

If they were on missions
and could not delay
they got a fresh horse from the stables
and hurried on their way.

Government officials
did not have to pay
but could stay there free
and then go on their way.

His father and his uncle
used their golden tablet
given by the Khan
for quick and easy travel.

The stables were so large
that in some of them
4,000 horses ready
to carry traveling men.


Religious freedom much impressed
this young and growing lad.
It had the blessing of the Khan
and all the people had.

The Moslems and Buddhists
existed side by side
and there were some Christians
much to his surprise.

They came 400 years
after Christ had died,
escaping persecution
in Europe at that time.

There still was persecution
of a horrible kind
but it was not found here
where peacefulness resides.

It made him very glad
and he was most impressed
by this religious freedom
that the Khan had blessed.

They saw the Wall of China
stretching endlessly
far into the distance,
as far as they could see.

Up and down the mountains,
going to the see
from east to west undaunted,
a wonder to believe.

He was most impressed
by this endless wall
but you have heard of it
many times in all.

The Khan heard of their coming
and sent his men to meet
these weary travelers from the West
and these men to greet.

Escorting them along the way
they filled their every need
to see that they were comfortable
and had enough to eat.

40 days of journey more
before they saw the Khan
emperor of all these lands
they had traveled on.

When the Mongols conquered China
they razed the capital
but later Khans rebuilt
it and it was beautiful.

Kublai was the grandson
of the Genghis Khan
and waited in his palace
while these men rode on.

At last stood in his presence
and he welcomed them.
The father introduced his son
Marco to him then.

The Khan was very pleased
he spoke Mongolian so well
and when he found he spoke the others,
was happy, so they tell.

The father said his son had come
to serve the Emperor Khan
and many missions it is true
that he sent him on..

He ruled many peoples
and wanted much to know
all about his subjects,
their lives and such and so.

He asked about the missionaries,
why they hadn’t come.
They explained to him
the journey was too rough.

He was disappointed
because he did believe
that learning was the crown
of empire and of cities.

They rested several days
and he commanded food
and within the palace walls
the best of royal rooms.

Then the Khan did send for Marco
him once again
and tell his of his journey
and all of the events.

He asked him of the people
and how they worked and lived.
Also gems and minerals - -
he answered all of this.

The Khan was very pleased
and he became his friend
and sent on many missions
to tell him how things went.

He found a guide for him
to show him all around
the royal palace rooms
and the palace grounds.

When Marco saw the city
he was much impressed
by the paper money
used with all the rest.

On front there was a dragon
and vermilion seal
of the Kublai Khan
who guaranteed this deal.

Paper money was unknown
in Europe at this time.
They used metal coins,
safer in their sight.

He also saw a water clock
where 1 drop at a time
dropped into a tub
with deep and shallow lines.

The palace was of marble
and the ceilings high.
There were 2 walls around it
so no one could get by.

Besides the huge halls for the throne,
banquet rooms were too,
and the Khan’s apartments
and state guests many rooms.

There were rooms for weaving rugs
and many of the arts - -
translating Chinese classics
written from the heart.

There were also kitchens
that were very vast
and quarters for the servants
who lived there for their tasks.

Hanging by the throne
was a woolen coat.
It was Genghis Khan’s
the only one he owned.

He did not care for luxuries,
he was a man of war.
Reminding of his presence
was the coat he wore.

There were terraces
around the palace walls,
leading into gardens
and parks they saw withal.

Outside were 2 buildings
where the emperor kept
all his gold and silver
and many precious gems

Also the apartments
of his concubines.
Also here were living
the emperor’s 4 wives.

Each of them was empress
in their way of thought
and living in the palace
was an honor sought.

His sons were 22
and the eldest lived
in apartments too - -
his empire he would give.

In the parks did graze
tame deer and gazelles
and peacocks, other birds
he did not know too well.

There was a green pagoda
and many lovely trees.
Marco stood awhile
admiring all of these.

The he showed him stables
for the horses white.
There were 1,000 of them,
and this he did admire.

They are considered sacred
and get the best of care.
They are breeding horses
for his army’s fare.

Besides the winter palace
was a summer one
in the cool hills
away from summer sun.

It was in Mongolia
where the Khan had lived
and he loved hi homeland,
every bit of it.

Every summer for 3 months
they traveled to live here
amidst the greatest beauty
they did ever hear.

Some palaces were marble
but his was of bamboo
with golden carvings on it
and some of lacquer too.

The rooms were decorated with
vermilion and with gold
and there were paintings on the walls
that a story told.

The grounds were like a park,
very, very big
with a river thru it
with islands in the midst.

These were joined by bridges
and there were heron too
and many water birds
and pleasure boats anew.

Pagodas there were many
and tea houses too
for their summer pleasure
with this gorgeous view.

Marco saw the emperor
many, many times,
telling of his journeys
and growing yet more wise.

These men were envoys of the Khan
for over 20 years,
serving in his empire
and glad that they were here.

Back to top