Travels on the Silk Roads
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, an Asian contemporary of Marco Polo travelled from today’s Beijing through Baghdad to medieval Rome and Paris. Rabban Sauma, as this extraordinary traveler was named, started his journey initially as a Nestorian monk to become an envoy of the Mongol IlKhan. Disembarking at the great harbor of Naples in 1287, Rabban Sauma recorded his extraordinary journey in a travelogue. Who was this reverse Marco Polo? And why did Rabban Sauma visit Europe’s rulers and kings? What did this monk of the Church of the East have in common with Europe, and why was his monumental journey from Asia to Europe so quickly forgotten?
Tjalling Halbertsma is Director International of the Centre for East Asian Studies Groningen (CEASG) and professor by special appointment of East Asian Studies, with a focus on modern day Mongolia. He is author of a number of travelogues on his travels in Mongolia and China, and numerous popular science publications. His latest publication concerns the first Dutch language text on Buddhism published as De predikant and the boeddha (Bornmeer 2019).