Equations are not being displayed properly on some articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Our apologies.

Sparavigna, A. (2017). From Sheberghan to Kashgar in the Travels of Marco Polo. PHILICA.COM Article number 1100.

ISSN 1751-3030  
Log in  
Register  
  1249 Articles and Observations available | Content last updated 22 November, 19:47  
Philica entries accessed 3 439 347 times  


NEWS: The SOAP Project, in collaboration with CERN, are conducting a survey on open-access publishing. Please take a moment to give them your views

Submit an Article or Observation

We aim to suit all browsers, but recommend Firefox particularly:

From Sheberghan to Kashgar in the Travels of Marco Polo

Amelia Carolina Sparavignaunconfirmed user (Department of Applied Science and Technology, Politecnico di Torino)

Published in humani.philica.com

Abstract
In a previous paper (Philica, Article 1097), we started an investigation concerning the travels of Marco Polo, using Google Earth and Wikimapia. In that article, we reconstructed the Polo’s journey from Beijing to Xanadu. Here we analyze his journey from Sapurgan, today Sheberghan in Afghanistan, to Cascar, the oasis city of Kashgar in Xinjiang. In particular, we are proposing a possible way for crossing the Pamir Mountains, after Polo’s words and roads, rivers and lakes displayed by Google Earth.

Article body


 

 

From Sheberghan to Kashgar in the Travels of Marco Polo

 

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Politecnico di Torino

 

In a previous paper (Philica, Article 1097), we started an investigation concerning the travels of Marco Polo, using Google Earth and Wikimapia. In that article, we reconstructed the Polo’s journey from Beijing to Xanadu. Here we analyze his journey from Sapurgan, today Sheberghan in Afghanistan, to Cascar, the oasis city of Kashgar in Xinjiang. In particular, we are proposing a possible way for crossing the Pamir Mountains, after Polo’s words and roads, rivers and lakes displayed by Google Earth.  

 

Keywords: Satellite Images, Google Earth, Wikimapia, Marco Polo, Afghanistan, Wakhan Corridor, Pamir Mountains, Xinjiang, China.

 

Introduction

The Travels of Marco Polo, or Il Milione in Italian, is a 13th-century book written by Rustichello da Pisa, reporting the stories told by Marco Polo while they were in prison together in Genoa. This book is describing the several travels through Asia of Polo and the period that he spent at the court of Kublai Khan [1]. In [2], some concerns about authenticity and veracity of this book are discussed, however many contents that we find in it are giving an “ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity" of the travels of Marco Polo [3].

As told in [4], an approach useful to demonstrate that Polo actually travelled from Venice to Beijing and visited the court of Kublai Kahn is that of verifying the accuracy of the itineraries described in the book.  For this purpose, we can use Google Earth and Wikimapia. In [4], we studied the road to Xanadu, the Summer Capital of Kublai Khan, from Beijing, the Winter Capital of the Yuan empire. The results were so good to encourage further analyses of the travels described in the Milione. Here we analyze the Polo’s journey from Sapurgan, today Sheberghan in Afghanistan, to Cascar, the oasis city of Kashgar in Xinjiang. In particular, we are proposing a possible way for crossing the Pamir mountains, after Polo’s words and the roads, rivers and lakes displayed by Google Earth. 

 

Henry Yule’s translation (from Sapurgan to Scasem)

The journey from Sapurgan to Cascar is described after the Polo’s tale of the “Old Man in the Mountain". The old man is thought to refer to Hassan-i Sabbah, Rashid ad-Din Sinan and subsequent leaders of the Assassins [5]. Let us read Polo’s words of the journey in the English version given by the Scottish orientalist Sir Henry Yule (1820–1889), that we can find at the web site https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Travels_of_Marco_Polo

[Concerning the City of Sapurgan] On leaving the Castle (of the Old Man), you ride over fine plains and beautiful valleys, and pretty hill-sides producing excellent grass pasture, and abundance of fruits, and all other products. … This kind of country extends for six days' journey, with a goodly number of towns and villages, in which the people are worshippers of Mahommet. Sometimes also you meet with a tract of desert extending for 50 or 60 miles, or somewhat less, and in these deserts you find no water, but have to carry it along with you. The beasts do without drink until you have got across the desert tract and come to watering places. So after travelling for six days as I have told you, you come to a city called SAPURGAN. It has great plenty of everything, but especially of the very best melons in the world. They preserve them by paring them round and round into strips, and drying them in the sun. When dry they are sweeter than honey, and are carried off for sale all over the country. There is also abundance of game here, both of birds and beasts.

[Of the City of Balc] BALC is a noble city and a great, though it was much greater in former days. But the Tartars and other nations have greatly ravaged and destroyed it. There were formerly many fine palaces and buildings of marble, and the ruins of them still remain. … Now, let us quit this city, and I will tell you of another country called DOGANA. When you have quitted the city of which I have been speaking, you ride some 12 days between north-east and east, without finding any human habitation, for the people have all taken refuge in fastnesses among the mountains, on account of the Banditti and armies that harassed them. There is plenty of water on the road, and abundance of game; there are lions too. You can get no provisions on the road, and must carry with you all that you require for these 12 days.

[Of Taican, and the Mountains of Salt. Also of the Province of Casem] After those twelve days' journey you come to a fortified place called TAICAN, where there is a great corn market. It is a fine place, and the mountains that you see towards the south are all composed of salt. People from all the countries round, to some thirty days' journey, come to fetch this salt, which is the best in the world, and is so hard that it can only be broken with iron picks. 'Tis in such abundance that it would supply the whole world to the end of time. … When you leave this town and ride three days further between north-east and east, you meet with many fine tracts full of vines and other fruits, and with a goodly number of habitations, and everything to be had very cheap. … When you have ridden those three days, you find a town called CASEM, (Scasem in [1]) which is subject to a count. His other towns and villages are on the hills, but through this town there flows a river of some size. … This town of Casem is at the head of a very great province, which is also called Casem. The people have a peculiar language. The peasants who keep cattle abide in the mountains, and have their dwellings in caves, which form fine and spacious houses for them, and are made with ease, as the hills are composed of earth.

 

 

Figure 1: Itinerary from Sapurgan (Shibargan, Sheberghan) to Taican (Taloqan) of about 350 km. From Balkh (Balc) to Taican, we have 210 km.

 

Figure 2: A possible itinerary from Taican (Taloqan) to Scasem (Keshem) and then to Eshkashem (270 km).

 

 From Sapurgan to Scasen on Google Earth

First of all, let us show the itinerary from Sapurgan to Taican. Sapurgan is today the town of Sheberghan (Shibargan). Balc is Balkh and Taican Taloqan. The location of Dogana is unknown. It is very easy to find the road, as shown in the Figure 1. Marco Polo told of a journey of 12 days from Dogana to Taican. The travel from Balkh to Taloqan is 210 km long, which is too short for a 12 days’ journey. Yule is proposing seven days (VII) instead of twelve (XII).

To find the itinerary from Taican to Scasem, the fundamental problem is to identify the last place. It is in the direction between north-east and east, “fra greco e levante” [1] of Taloqan. In this direction on the Google Earth map we find Keshem, along the Taloqan-kshem Road (50-60 km from Taloqan) (see Figure 2). After this site, we enter the Badashan, that is, the Badakhshan Province. Then, following the Kokcha River and the road along it on the map, we find also Eshkashem (Ishkashim), given in [6] as a place linked to Marco Polo’s travel. But this place is too far from Taloqan, and therefore it is Keshem the Polo’s Scasen, the place that we can find when we had “ridden” three days from Taloqan.

 

Henry Yule’s translation (from Scasem to Cascar)

After leaving the town of Casem (Scasem), you ride for three days without finding a single habitation, or anything to eat or drink, so that you have to carry with you everything that you require. At the end of those three days you reach a province called Badashan, about which we shall now tell you.

[Of the Province of Badashan] Badashan is a Province inhabited by people who worship Mahommet, and have a peculiar language. It forms a very great kingdom, and the royalty is hereditary. … It is in this province that those fine and valuable gems the Balas Rubies are found. … There is but one special mountain that produces them, and it is called SYGHINAN. … There is also in the same country another mountain, in which azure is found; 'tis the finest in the world, and is got in a vein like silver. There are also other mountains which contain a great amount of silver ore, so that the country is a very rich one; but it is also (it must be said) a very cold one. It produces numbers of excellent horses, remarkable for their speed. They are not shod at all, although constantly used in mountainous country, and on very bad roads. … Those mountains are so lofty that 'tis a hard day's work, from morning till evening, to get to the top of them. On getting up, you find an extensive plain, with great abundance of grass and trees, and copious springs of pure water running down through rocks and ravines. … In this kingdom there are many strait and perilous passes, so difficult to force that the people have no fear of invasion. Their towns and villages also are on lofty hills, and in very strong positions. …

[Of the Great River of Badashan; and Plain of Pamier] In leaving Badashan you ride twelve days between east and north-east, ascending a river that runs through land belonging to a brother of the Prince of Badashan, and containing a good many towns and villages and scattered habitations. The people are Mahommetans, and valiant in war. At the end of those twelve days you come to a province of no great size, extending indeed no more than three days' journey in any direction, and this is called VOKHAN. The people worship Mahommet, and they have a peculiar language. … And when you leave this little country, and ride three days north-east, always among mountains, you get to such a height that 'tis said to be the highest place in the world! And when you have got to this height you find [a great lake between two mountains, and out of it] a fine river running through a plain clothed with the finest pasture in the world; insomuch that a lean beast there will fatten to your heart's content in ten days. There are great numbers of all kinds of wild beasts; among others, wild sheep of great size, whose horns are good six palms in length. From these horns the shepherds make great bowls to eat from, and they use the horns also to enclose folds for their cattle at night. [Messer Marco was told also that the wolves were numerous, and killed many of those wild sheep. Hence quantities of their horns and bones were found, and these were made into great heaps by the way-side, in order to guide travellers when snow was on the ground.] The plain is called PAMIER, and you ride across it for twelve days together, finding nothing but a desert without habitations or any green thing, so that travellers are obliged to carry with them whatever they have need of. The region is so lofty and cold that you do not even see any birds flying. And I must notice also that because of this great cold, fire does not burn so brightly, nor give out so much heat as usual, nor does it cook food so effectually. …

[Of the Kingdom of Cascar] Cascar is a region lying between north-east and east, and constituted a kingdom in former days, but now it is subject to the Great Kaan. The people worship Mahommet. There are a good number of towns and villages, but the greatest and finest is Cascar itself. … The people of the country have a peculiar language, and the territory extends for five days' journey.

 

From Scasen to Cascar on Google Earth

The itinerary proposed in the Figure 2 is following the roads that we find in Google Earth, and also the Kokcha River. Here the list of some places we have along the itinerary: Taloqan, Taloqan-kshem Rd, Astana Tepa, Kalafgan, Keshem (Scasen), Bala Jari, Barlas, Nar Darrah, Kokcha River, Feyzabad, Kokcha River, Zebak, Saricha Road, Bazgir, Eshkashem Rd,  Eshkashem. From this place, it starts the most difficult part of the travel to be shown on Google Earth. However, Polo gives the references to a large river, to the Vokhan province and to a large lake between two mountains, and a river out of it, and we can use his words. And then an itinerary is given as in the Figure 3.

 

 

Figure 3: A possible itinerary followed by Marco Polo for crossing the Pamirs. The river followed from Eshkashem to the Wakhan Corridor is the Panj River.

 

Before proposing the itinerary, let us read again the Polo’s words: “in leaving Badashan you ride twelve days between east and north-east, ascending a river”. Therefore the title of the chapter “Of the Great River of Badashan” was not the proper one. In fact, Polo is describing not the Kokcha River, which is flowing in Badashan, but a river that he found after leaving this province. Actually, after leaving the Badakhshan we find Eshkashem and, flowing through this place, the Panj river which is running between east and north-east (as precisely stated by Polo). Following this river, we arrive to a road bringing to the Wakhan Corridor. Henry Yule tells that Polo passed in this corridor, that he is mentioning as the VOKHAN country.

Therefore let us continue passing in the Wakhan Corridor. The itinerary is the following: Eshkashem, (Panj River) Qazi Deh and Yamit, Khandud, Ab Garch, Gaz Khun, (end of the path between east and north-east along the river), Pur Sang, Rachiv, Khargush, (Wakhan Corridor), Ab Gach, Sast, other places, Baza’I Gonbad, Chakmaktin Kul (great lake between two mountains), Besh Utek Kol river, Kyzylrabot, Tokhtamysh, G314 National Rd, large lake, Bulunkou Su Puketi, G314, Kashgar. Let us stress that Polo is describing a great lake between two mountains, probably the Chakmaktin Kul.

As we have seen, using the details given by Marco Polo, and the maps of Google Earth, we can imagine an itinerary of his travels. In a forthcoming article, we will show the itinerary from Kashgar to Xanadu, the Summer Capital of Kublai Khan. It seems that Marco Polo moved towards this capital when he left the Taklamakan desert.

 

References

[1] Bellonci, M., Rimoaldi, A. M., & Della Valle, V. (2013). Il Milione di Marco Polo. Oscar Mondadori.

[2] Vv. Aa. (2017). Wikipedia. The Travels of Marco Polo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ The_Travels_of_Marco_Polo

[3] Vogel, H. U. (2012). Marco Polo Was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues, BRILL.

[4] Sparavigna, A. C. (2017). The road to Xanadu in the Travels of Marco Polo, PHILICA Article number 1097, ISSN 1751-3030

[5] Vv. Aa. (2017). http://www.artandpopularculture.com/ Old_Man_in_the_Mountain

[6] Belliveau, D., & O'Donnell, F. (2008). In the Footsteps of Marco Polo: A Companion to the Public Television Film, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Information about this Article
This Article has not yet been peer-reviewed
This Article was published on 13th August, 2017 at 11:06:45 and has been viewed 433 times.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.
The full citation for this Article is:
Sparavigna, A. (2017). From Sheberghan to Kashgar in the Travels of Marco Polo. PHILICA.COM Article number 1100.


<< Go back Review this ArticlePrinter-friendlyReport this Article



Website copyright © 2006-07 Philica; authors retain the rights to their work under this Creative Commons License and reviews are copyleft under the GNU free documentation license.
Using this site indicates acceptance of our Terms and Conditions.

This page was generated in 0.2989 seconds.