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Marco Polo (Marko Polo in Croatian),(1254 - January 8 1324) was a Venetian merchant and explorer who, together with his father and uncle (Matteo), was among the first Westerners to claim to travel the Silk Road all the way to China. They supposedly lived there for seventeen years before returning to Venice. During the wars of Venice in Italy, Marco was captured and held prisoner. Then he dictated to Rusticello da Pisa a widely read book (Il Milione) about his travels.
Many relevant sources do claim that he was born in by Venetian ruled island of Curzola in the Adriatic Sea (currently Korčula, Croatia) and that the Polo family was Croatian in origin. The story tells us that Marco Polo was born to an old Korčula family where his native house stands still. His father Nikola (Niccola) and uncle Mate (Matteo) were successful merchants with the East and set out to Asia in 1255, reached China in 1266, arriving at Khanbaliq near Peking. They were the first Europeans to reach China overland, and returned from China as Kublai Khan's envoys with a letter for the Pope asking to be sent educated people to teach in his empire, to inform the Mongols about their way of life.
Matteo and Niccola Polo set out on the return journey with the Pope's message to Kublai Khan in 1271. This time Niccola took his son Marco whose intelligence and ability to learn soon won the favour of Kublai Khan who made him his adviser. Soon afterwards he became the governor of big provinces and the Khan's diplomat. In the twenty years of service to the Khan Marco Polo became acquainted with the vast regions of China and numerous achievements of Chinese civilization at that time superior to the European.
On their return from China in 1295, the family settled in Venice where they became a sensation to the crowds of listeners, but also had difficulties in proving the authenticity of their reports relating to distant China. His own spirit drove Marco Polo to take part in the naval battle between Genoa and Venice of Korčula in 1298. Being captured he spent few months of his imprisonment dictating a detailed account of his travels in the then unknown parts of the Far East. His Book of World Miracles was written in the Provencal language and was soon translated into many European languages.
While most historians do not doubt that Marco Polo did indeed reach China, in recent times some skepticism has been advanced as to whether Polo actually visited China or only retold information he had heard from others. Among other omissions, his account fails to mention the unique Chinese written form, chopsticks, tea, foot binding, or the Great Wall whose actual form was built afterwards, and Chinese records of the time do not mention him, despite the fact that he claimed to have served as a special emissary to Kublai Khan. Given the extreme level of record-keeping in China at that time, this is a source of strong suspicion, but he lived with the Mongols who ruled the country.
Marco Polo is believed to have described a bridge which was the site of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, a battle which marked the beginning of the Japanese invasion of north central China in World War II.In his book, he called what is now known as Japan by its Chinese name "Zipang" or Cipangu. This is usually considered the first appearance of Japan in Western literature.
Legend has it that Marco Polo introduced to Italy some products from China, like ice cream, piņata and pasta, especially spaghetti. Probably, this was just a means of adding a bit of prestige to a rather anonymous history.
Marco Polo is also a popular children's game played in a pool. The child who is "it" must swim around the pool with his eyes closed, attempting to tag the other players. The "it" child can only sense where the other players are by calling out "Marco!," at which point all the other players are required to yell "Polo!". By judging where the sounds are coming from, the child who is "it" is able to overcome his self-imposed blindness and hopefully tag somebody else, who then becomes "it." There are other rules to this game, varying from region to region (see 'fish out of water').