The Importance of Marco Polo. After interest in the East was revived, there were some enterprising individuals who made contact with Cathay, as China was then called. Among those who went from Europe to the lands of the Far East were missionaries, merchants, and other travelers. Perhaps the most famous of the merchant travelers was Marco Polo, who as a boy of seventeen went with his uncle to Cathay.
Marco Polo arrived at Peking, then the capital of China, where he gained the favor of the Chinese ruler, Kublai Khan, and remained in his service for a period of about twenty years. He returned to Venice in 1295, and while attending a banquet given in his honor he revealed some of the riches of China to the astonished citizens of his home town. He appeared in beautiful garments made of the finest silk. He also displayed many precious jewels, thus proving to the Venetians that he had traveled in a country of great wealth.
Soon after his return, war broke out between the Italian cities, Venice and Genoa, in which Marco took part and was taken prisoner. While in prison he told the story soon printed in the Book of Marco Polo, which is an account of his travels, and tells of the great wealth of the East. This book further aroused the interest of Europeans, and created a desire on the part of many to reach this new land of wealth.