A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People, by Zhou Daguan, translated with an introduction and notes by Peter Harris, foreword by David Chandler, and photographs by Julian Circo. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007, 150 pp., 595 bhats (paper)

In 1295, the same year that Marco Polo arrived back in Venice after his travels in China, a young Chinese — Zhou Daguan (circa 1270-1350) — set out on a shorter but no less interesting voyage to territories only somewhat less unknown.

He was headed for Champa (present-day southern Vietnam) and what is now Cambodia, and was part of an official delegation sent there by Kublai Khan's grandson, Temur, who had ascended to the imperial Chinese throne on the death of his grandfather.

Zhou's duty was to deliver an imperial edict securing recognition of Mongol suzerainty and its aim was to secure Cambodian tribute. Whether this aim was successful or not, the major result of the mission was this earliest record of life in the then newly reconstructed city of Yasodharapura — that great citadel we now know as Angkor.