Xanadu (or Shangdu) was the summer capital of Kublai Khan's empire (1215 - 1294), which covered much of Asia.
The Mongolian Khans made very few changes to their country, imbibing much of the Confucianist and Taoist philosophies, and remodelling their government on the native dynasties they had defeated. However, they opened up the empire to westerners, allowing travellers like Venetian explorer Marco Polo in 1275 to report the wonders of the Eastern capital to their fellow Europeans.
The reported splendour of Xanadu later inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write his great poem Kubla Khan and caused Xanadu to become a metaphor for opulence. Xanadu is remembered today largely thanks to this poem, which contains the following often-quoted lines:
- In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
- A stately pleasure-dome decree
The term Xanadu is widespread and used for many other subjects. Most uses of the word trace its origins to the meaning discussed above.
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