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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Marco Polo's golden ticket: the paiza

When Marco Polo's father and uncle returned to Venice after a fifteen-year adventure in the east, they brought with them a very important item called a paiza.

A Gerege in Mongolian script.
 The paiza was a tablet of authority that enabled nobles of Mongolia to travel safely through the land and access goods and services from people they met as they traveled. While Marco Polo traveled, if anyone saw the "golden ticket" they obeyed its authority immediately. If they didn't, they risked punishment by Kublai Khan.

Official pass with Mongolian inscription in 'Phags-pa script reading "By the power of eternal heaven, [this is] an order of the Emperor. Whoever does not show respect [to the bearer] will be guilty of an offence."

A nightwatchman's pass of the Mongol empire, with inscriptions in Persian (left), Mongolian in 'Phags-pa script (centre), and Uyghur (right). The Mongolian inscription reads "Announcement: Beware of evil-doers".

We don't know what Marco Polo's paiza looked like. But the above are some examples of such "tickets."

It would be cool to have one today, wouldn't it? You could show it to someone running a restaurant and they would have to give you what you ordered.

All for free.

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