with my friend Jeanne to search for it. From Beijing, we drove for ten hours northeast over bad roads, to a town called Dolonnor in Inner Mongolia, and then 17 miles to the west. There we found what’s left of Xanadu.
Khubilai Khan built a palace and city on this site around 1252-6, when he was just a regional prince. After he became Great Khan, he made it his summer capital. Marco Polo described Xanadu as having a marble palace, a cane palace, and fabulous gardens and woods. Xanadu was burned to the ground in 1369, when the Chinese overthrew the Mongols.
Today, there’s little to see, only a few ruins of a gate and the palace wall, built of stones. The rest is a sea of wildflowers. It’s sad to think that something so stunningly beautiful that it inspired imaginations through the ages could be reduced to nothing.
However, when I stood amidst those wildflowers, I could feel the magic! It was cool to connect with the place where the marble palace stood, where Marco Polo met Khubilai Khan, and to stand on the site of the lovely gardens where Marco and Emmajin (might have) walked and talked.
- October 13, 2010 -