The Travels of Marco Polo

by Marco Polo

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How does Marco Polo describe the Shangdu palaces?

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Marco Polo describes the palace at Shangdu, or Xanadu, in positively glowing terms. He tells us it is a very beautiful place, renowned for the elegance of its design. It has been built out of marble and other stones, and its interior, with its gilt halls and chambers, is very handsome.

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It's fair to say that Marco Polo is mightily impressed by Kublai Khan's luxurious palace Shangdu, otherwise known as Xanadu. And with good reason, too. The palace has been built using nothing but the finest materials, erected out of marble and other fine stone. The elegance of the palace's design is matched only by the remarkable skill demonstrated by the building's execution.

Inside, the palace is even more impressive. Marco Polo is particularly drawn to the glittering gilt halls and chambers, all of which are a wonder to behold.

As well as the building itself, there is an adjoining park, a beautiful haven full of luscious meadows and a bewildering variety of animal life. There are deer and goats, which provide food for the hawks and other birds used for hunting. There are some two hundred of such birds by Polo's estimation, and he tells us that Kublai Khan himself visits them at least once a week to inspect them.

Whenever he rides about his enclosed forest, the Great Khan carries one or more small leopards on horseback behind their keepers. Sometimes, if the mood takes him, he lets the leopards loose on a game animal such as a stag, a goat, or a fallow deer.

All in all, Marco Polo's detailed description of Shangdu leaves us in no doubt that this is one of the most impressive palaces ever built. It stands as a testimony to Kublai Khan's enormous power and vision.

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