KHUBILAI KHAN: His Life and Times by Morris Rossabi

KHUBILAI KHAN: His Life and Times

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Drawing on Chinese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Armenian, Syrian and Venetian sources, Rossabi (School of Chinese Studies/China Institute) has put together the most complete portrait of the legendary Mongol likely to appear for some time. Rossabi has organized his facts with a sure hand, but has offered little in the way of colorful anecdotes or descriptions of the time general readers with Coleridge in mind will expect. In large part, the author focuses on the political maneuverings of the Khan of Khans and on his military exploits. Little of the Khan's human personality comes through, undoubtedly because little such material is to be found in the official documents Rossabi has been forced to rely on. Interest does quicken, however, when the visits of Marco Polo come under consideration. Rossabi points out that there are some suspicious discrepancies in the Venetian's chronicles--events Polo claimed to have taken part in which actually occurred at other times, uses of Persian terms that suggest Polo relied more on second-hand reports than on first-hand observation. Rossabi's explication of Khubilai Khan's assimilation of the nomadic society of the Mongols into the ""sedentary"" society of the Chinese is clear and convincing. The author suggests too that the leader's mother and his favorite wife played essential roles in his rise to power and his retention of it. Without their guidance, apparently, the Khan descended to drunkenness and debauchery. In details like these, Khubilai is brought to life in a way often missing elsewhere in the text. An important addition to Asian Studies, then, one that will be applauded by professionals in the field. Less involved readers, however, may find it fairly heavy going.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0520261321
Publisher: Univ. of California Press