Ancient Chinese Global Irony – Inside the Palace With Marco Polo
As far back as 1260, when Marco Polo was a boy of six, he would hear stories from his father and uncle. Nicolo and Maffeo were traders, and their great opportunity had come on their trading through Constantinople and they traded into the Crimea, and then continued as far east as Bukhara , where they met envoys of the great Khan of China, who invited them to return with them to Beijing, or Peking as they knew it. The mighty Khan had never seen white men from Europe, and was delighted. He knew of the Pope and of the story of Jesus, the prince of Peace.
Among the many amazing artifacts, jewels and diamonds they brought back to Venice was a written invitation by the Great Khan himself, to be read only by the Pope. But he showed them the letter before he sealed it, and they discussed the idea the great Khan proposed. His army dealt with foreign powers with little problem, but the people of China were restive under the rule of a Mongol. They needed a religion to calm them, have them more content with their taxes and duties but with some sense of comfort in an afterlife to look forward to. Christianity sounded just right.
When I read this, I was astounded. Not only did Marco and the Polo family bring the Renaissance with all this new knowledge: from gun powder to silk to early steel furnaces, but they brought, and delivered, an invitation for the Roman Catholic Church to send one hundred scholars of the Christian faith and virtues to spread the Christian faith through China and through East Asia. It is not Christians who detonate explosives against Asutralia citizens in Java.
In this give and take, we took so much knowledge and higher learning from east and west Asia, and in this chance for us to give a great gift and we did not: history had a Pope die, a long wait for another, finally the new Pope agrees it sounds like a fine idea. In theory, of course. But, all my advisers advise caution. We shall form a committee, meet every month. No, they advise every year. What a lost opportunity to have embraced each other: east and wise. We would all seem a lot less inscrutable to each other if we had all been discussing how the wise men were from the east, and it is right and fitting that this baby Jesus speaks for all, like Tiny Tim, when he blesses our souls into the hands of one common God.