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3.3 Early Travelers to the Far East

Europeans established direct contact with central and eastern Asia in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Pope and King Louis IX of France sought to convert the Mongols to Christianity, so as to secure their help as allies in the Crusades against the Muslims.

In 1245, a Franciscan monk, John of Plano Carpini, was sent on a journey through Poland and Russia, to the capital of the great Khan in Mongolia. He was followed by William of Rubruquis, another Franciscan monk, who traveled from Constantinople northward and eastward around the Black and Caspian seas. The books written by these Franciscans about their travels awakened the interest of Europeans in distant and strange parts of Asia.

The Polo brothers, who were merchants of Venice, were the first Europeans to travel to China and visit the court of Kublai Khan, about 1260. On their second trip to China, they took along young Marco Polo, son of one and nephew of the other, who became the most celebrated traveler of the Middle Age. They traveled for four years through Armenia and Persia, and across the Gobi desert, and traveled for 17 years in China. When the Polos left China by boat in 1292, they touched the Spice Islands and Southern India and sailed up the Persian Gulf. They traveled on land to the Mediterranean, arriving in Venice in 1295. Many Europeans including Christopher Columbus read Marco Polo’s valuable account of his travels.


The trails of the Polos were followed by European merchants and missionaries who traveled to China either over land through Russia and Mongolia, or by sea from Persia around India and Indo-China. During the rule of the Buddhist Mings, for nearly three centuries, Christianity was blotted out in China. However the lure of far Cathay, as China was called at that time, inspired Europeans to find new water routes to the Indies and to Cathay.

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Index

3.0 Introduction
3.1 Importance of Geographical Discoveries
3.2 Causes of Geographical Discoveries
3.3 Early Travelers to the Far East
3.4 Important Geographical Discoveries
3.5 The Consequences of the Discoveries
3.6 Dates & Events
3.7 Points to Remember

Chapter 4





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