In Xanadu: A Quest

non-fiction by William Dalrymple


In Xanadu is a 1989 travel book by William Dalrymple.
In Xanadu traces the path taken by Marco Polo from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the site of Shangdu, famed as Xanadu in English literature, in Inner Mongolia, China.
The book begins with William Dalrymple taking a vial of holy oil from the burning lamps of the Holy Sepulchre, which he is to transport to Shangdu, the summer seat of the King Kubla Khan. It has been mentioned that Kubla Khan wanted a hundred learned men armed with Christian knowledge to come to his Khanate and spread the knowledge of Christianity. However, that plan was abandoned, and Marco Polo, along with his uncle, set out from Jerusalem on the silk route to Shang-du, to deliver a vial of the holy oil, which was rumoured to be inexhaustible, and therefore kept the lamps at the Sepulchre constantly burning. The rest of the journey is outlined with descriptions of most of the ancient sites along the Silk Route, which Marco Polo was supposed to have passed.
The author compares the old time splendor of the cities on the Silk Route to their present physical and political conditions, and thereby illustrates the changes.

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