Skip to comments.Marco Polo In Reverse
Posted on 02/26/2004 12:06:55 PM PST by blam
Special Report 2/23/04
Marco Polo in Reverse
In the spring of 1288 a curious throng packed the Vatican to celebrate Easter and glimpse a visitor from the far side of the world. Rabban Sauma, a Mongolian Christian, had braved a 7,000-mile trek from Beijing. But when he received the Eucharist from the pope, he broke down and sobbed. The crowd's loud amens shook the church.
Sauma was the Mongol Empire's first envoy to Europe, just 50 years after Mongol armies were repulsed at the gates of Vienna. Much of his diaries have survived, giving a unique perspective on the West. "Sauma is a reverse Marco Polo," says Morris Rossabi of the City University of New York, author of Voyager from Xanadu: Rabban Sauma and the First Journey from China to the West. And while Polo set out to find trading opportunities, Sauma aimed to forge an alliance to drive the Muslims from the Middle East. It was "an extraordinary example of early geopolitics," says Rossabi.
A calling. Sauma's mission began as a pilgrimage. Born near Beijing, he was a cleric in the Nestorian Church--now a small sect in Iran and Iraq but then flourishing in China. In 1275, in his 50s, Sauma and a disciple felt the call of the Holy Land. They left for Jerusalem without meeting Marco Polo, who reached the Beijing court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol ruler, about the same time.
Sauma's party crossed the Taklimakan Desert in western China on camels--"a toilsome and fatiguing journey of two months," he wrote. The trip from China to the Middle East took four years in all. But fighting near Jerusalem kept him from visiting, and he lingered in Baghdad.
In 1287 Iran's Mongolian ruler tapped Sauma to lobby Europe's kings for help in conquering the Middle East. Sauma shared mass with Edward I of England, visited King Philip IV in Paris, and stayed at the Vatican. His descriptions of Italy still resonate: It "resembled paradise; its winter was not [too] cold, and its summer not [too] hot. Green foliage is found therein all the year round."
Yet he failed to broker a deal between Europe and the Mongols and returned to Baghdad, where he died in 1294. "If Sauma had been successful, history would have been very different," says Jack Weatherford of Macalester College. "Europe would have ruled Jerusalem and Egypt, and they would not have sailed around looking for a new trade route," he says. In other words, no Vasco da Gama, no Columbus--and a world as strange to us as Europe appeared to Sauma. -Ulrich Boser
That's the latest that I've read. Some say he may never have left Bactria.
Does that get on anyone else's nerves? Where's the proofing for published articles these days?
Irritates me to no end...I see it everywhere these days.
Thanks. That's what I want to believe. So unless someone has some real good evidence to the contrary, that's what I'll believe.
Somebody is confusing Mongols with Turks here. There was nothing in Europe capable of repulsing the golden horde in 1240; Europe got lucky and the golden horde got recalled upon the death of Oktai Khan.
I remember reading that. Wasn't he one of the four brothers?
Yup. I thought Ghengis split the empire among his four sons.
The City of Light:
The Hidden Journal of the Man
Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo
by Jacob D'Ancona
tr by David Selbourne
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
Gods, Graves, Glyphs PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
OF KUBLAl KHAN
EMPEROR OF CHINA
THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND TRAVELS OF
RABBAN SAWMA, ENVOY AND
OF THE MONGOL KHANS TO THE KINGS OF
EUROPE, AND MARKOS WHO AS MAR YAHBH-
ALLAHA III BECAME PATRIARCH OF THE
NESTORIAN CHURCH IN ASIA
TRANSLATED FROM THE SYRIAC
SIR E. A. WALLIS BUDGE, KT.
THE PERSECUTION OF MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA AND THE CHRISTIANS IN MARAGHAH.
And a certain man, one of the Amirs, who was called NAWRIZ, and who feared not God bestirred himself, and sent letters by the hands of envoys, and he made to fly to the four quarters of the dominions of this kingdom, an order to this effect:--"The churches shall be uprooted and the altars overturned, and the celebrations of the Eucharist shall cease, and the hymns of praise, and the sounds of calls to prayer shall be abolished; and the heads (or chiefs) of the Christians, and the heads of the congregations [i.e. synagogues] of the Jews, and the great men among them shall be killed."
And that same night [the Arabs] seized Mar Catholicus in his Cell (i.e. palace) in MARAGHAH, and outside the building no man knew anything about the seizure of him until the day broke. And from the morning of that day, which was the second day of the week (Monday) they went into his Cell and plundered. everything that was in it, both that which was old and that which was new, and they did not leave even a nail in the walls.
Nestorian TabletThis remarkable record of the fact that Christianity flourished in medieval China is a huge stone about ten feet high. Carven dragons and a cross adorn its summit, and its main shaft is completely covered with some two thousand Chinese characters. It stands now in the Peilin or "Forest of Tablets" in Sian-fu, this Peilin being a great hall specially devoted to the preservation of old historic tablets. Up to a few years ago the ancient stone stood with other unvalued monuments in the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, exposed to all the assault of the elements. Only European urgence has led to its being preserved in the Peilin... [I]n the year A.D. 781 erected this stone in commemoration of its triumphs. Now, alas, only the stone remains. The record of the sect's decay has needed no stone to make it manifest. Nestorian Christianity, shut off from its mother land by the rise of the Mohammedan powers in between, proved unable to resist the inroads of ignorance and superstition and changing political affairs. It degenerated and disappeared.
by Paul Halsall
A History of Christianity in China
by Samuel Hugh Moffett
Christianity in Asia before 1500
by Ian Gillman and Hans-Joachim Klimkiet
The Jesus Sutras:
Rediscovering the Lost
Scrolls of Taoist Christianity
by Martin Palmer
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.
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