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Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

The Travels of Marco Polo, Part IV: China: In The Realm of Kublai Khan (1271-1295)

"The Polos had entered the realm of Kublai Khan. His palace was still a thousand miles to the east but his influence reached far. As their caravan moved...(on)...Marco met with the Khan's subjects and heard stories about the great ruler." -Marco Polo for Kids


The Kublai Khan

"In Changanor, the Polos were met by couriers sent by Kublai Khan. The Khan had been told that the Polos were near and it was his wish that they hurry to his court...he was very eager to see his Italian visitors again. He ordered his couriers to escort the Polos to his summer palace and instructed the people in towns along the path to give the travelers every comfort..The Polos stayed at the Khan's palace as his esteemed guests Marco quickly absorbed the language and customs of the court. He learned everything he could about the Khan and his kingdom" - Marco Polo for Kids

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the things that is sited as the reason why many do not believe that Marco Polo made it to China. In ancient times, before China was a united country, small cities throughout Asia had built such walls to keep themselves safe from invasion. In the third century BC Emperor Shihuangdi rose to power and ordered his subjects to build a Great Wall. He ordered his people to link together different walls of the wide spread towns to make one Great Wall. Hundreds of thousands of subjects worked for 14 years to completed it, making it a 3,000 mile long wall.
So, how could Marco Polo have missed it? Have not mentioned something so grand?
Emperor Shihuangdi was a very cruel ruler and after his death the people of China revolted against his government. The peasant who led the revolt became the next emperor, the first of the Han Dynasty. The Great Wall, which symbolized to them Shihuangdi's cruel rule, fell into disrepair. The crumbling remains allowed Genghis Khan's hoarders to invade China years later.


The Silk Road & Spice Trade
The incentive for exploration of the West into the East was for trade. The Silk Road not only was the trade route for silk but also for many trade goods.
Spices were one of the most sought after trading goods.
While we are with Marco Polo in China, I thought it would be a good time to look at silk and the Silkworm and at spices. For the next few weeks we will be taking a spice a week and studying it. This week I thought we would look at pepper.

Marco Polo's travels followed the Silk Road and the routes of Spice Trade
The Silk Road
Silk and The Silk Worm

We printed out these Silkworm Sequencing Cards so that they could learn the steps in the silk-making process. We talked about how the moth lays her eggs on the leaves of a Mulberry tree. This was particularly interesting to us since we had just identified a Mulberry tree in our yard this past summer.
We then took a caterpillar from a set of soft, squishy plastic insects and compared him to the caterpillar.
We then talked about how the caterpillar when it is ready to become a pupa spins a cocoon of silk around himself.
We then wrapped our plastic caterpillar in dental floss.
(Sorry this is a bit blurry.)
Here is our caterpillar in a pupa stage.

Next we talked about how the silk worm growers next put the cocoons in hot water to loosen the silk. We began unraveling our floss.
This was quite a fun task.
Next the silk was wound onto a spool to be used for weaving into cloth.
The Spice Trade
Pepper
I am delighted that learning about spices intertwines so well with the Christmas season. There are so many recipes and crafts using them that tie in with Christmas.

We made Black Pepper Butter Cookies.

They were very buttery tasting with just a little kick at the end. I must admit, however, that it seemed to appeal more to the adults than the small children.

We also are making peppercorn Christmas ornaments,which are so easy to make.


Other Spice Trade Posts:
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3 comments:

  1. Okay, the whole wrapping the plastic caterpillar was very cool. But the first picture of the caterpillar at first glance wasn't looking so good.

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  2. I love your idea of winding thread around a plastic caterpillar to show how silk cocoons are made. My kids would love doing that!

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  3. OOh, I'll be stealing some of these ideas over the Easter period! Love the silk worm activity!

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