Marco Polo (1254-1324) was an Italian merchant and traveler.
He was born in a merchant family in Venice. He went to China with his father and uncle at the age of 17. In 1275, he arrived in Shangdu (in today's Inner Mongolia) and became a favorite of Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He assumed several official posts in succession in the Yuan (1271-1368) court and served there for 17 years.
He traveled across the whole of China and once visited Burma. In 1295, Marco returned to Venice. There he commanded a galley in a war against the rival city of Genoa, and was captured during the fighting and spent a year in a Genoese prison, where one of his fellow-prisoners was a writer of romances named Rustichello of Pisa. It was only when prompted by Rustichello that Marco Polo dictated the story of his travels, known in his time asThe Description of the WorldorThe Travels of Marco Polo.
His account of the wealth of Cathay (China), the might of the Mongol empire, and the exotic customs of India and Africa made his book the bestseller soon after. The book became one of the most popular ones in medieval Europe and the impact of his book on the contemporary Europe was tremendous.