While Sicily’s ports were rather small, Quanzhou was one of the largest and busiest ports in the medieval world. Located on China’s southeast coast, Quanzhou was a primary destination for Arab, Persian, Indian, and Southeast Asian ships carrying merchants eager to buy China’s famed porcelain and silk. Because of its extensive internal economy and technological advances, China exported more than it imported. Although the land route to China was sometimes difficult to travel, shipping to and from the southeast coast meant that China was never isolated from outside world. China was also the largest and most centralized state in the medieval world, and government regulations of merchants and foreigners were more thorough. As one of the official trade cities of the Chinese empire, Quanzhou had large foreign communities. In this lesson, students read excerpts about Quanzhou by two famous travel writers, Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Both sources must be read critically, because Marco Polo is not always reliable and Ibn Battuta may not have actually reached China. Students are introduced to the uses and problems of travel narratives which are an integral part of the rest of the unit. Why was Quanzhou Such an Important Site of Encounter?
Why was Quanzhou Such an Important Site of Encounter?