Marco Polo’s famous 13th century journey from Venice to Beijing and beyond is retraced in modern times, exploring the worlds he wrote about, seeing what they look like now and asking searching questions about the relationship between East and West – then and now.
“What could he tell us about the Mongols and the most powerful empire on earth?” – Professor Qiguang Zhao is a teacher of Chinese culture who is tracing the journey that Marco Polo took in the 13th century, asking what the journey would look like today.
The Mongols were once proud rulers of the known world. Venice is long past its golden age, struggling to stay above water. And Marco Polo ... a kind of memory.
In around 1273, after two years journey, Marco Polo reached the Pamir Mountains on the edge of modern day China, where he follows the path of the Silk Road for himself, a trade route that was also the thoroughfare for ideas and beliefs.
From the markets of Kashgar, a merchant’s heaven, to the edges of the forbidding Taklamakan Desert.
Travelling further east, Marco Polo discovered the world of the Mongol Empire and the heritage of their leader Ghenghis Khan. Moving on, Marco Polo approaches the centre of Mongol power, ready to come face to face with ruler Kublai Khan at Xanadu.
Along the way we meet the modern guides on the ancient horse-drawn postal routes and discover the kingdom of women.
At the end of this stage of the journey, now lost worlds are a reminder of the bigger question of what, and who, survives history.