Travel Books – IELTS Reading Passage

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27- 40, which are based on Reading Passage 234 below.

Travel Books

There are many reasons why individuals have travelled beyond their own soci­eties. Some travellers may have simply desired to satisfy curiosity about the larger world. Until recent times, however, travellers did start their journey for reasons other than mere curiosity. While the travellers’ accounts give much valuable information on these foreign lands and provide a window for the understanding of the local cultures and histories, they are also a mirror to the travellers themselves, for these accounts help them to have a better under­standing of themselves.

Records of foreign travel appeared soon after the invention of writing, and fragmentary travel accounts appeared in both Mesopotamia and Egypt in an­cient times. After the formation of large, imperial states in the classical world, travel accounts emerged as a prominent literary genre in many lands, and they held especially strong appeal for rulers desiring useful knowledge about their realms. The Greek historian Herodotus reported on his travels in Egypt and Anatolia in researching the history of the Persian wars. The Chinese envoy Zhang Qian described much of central Asia as far west as Bactria (modern- day Afghanistan) on the basis of travels undertaken in the first century BCE while searching for allies for the Han dynasty. Hellenistic and Roman geog­raphers such as Ptolemy, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder relied on their own travels through much of the Mediterranean world as well as reports of other travellers to compile vast compendia of geographical knowledge.

During the post-classical era (about 500 to 1500 CE), trade and pilgrimage j? emerged as major incentives for travel to foreign lands. Muslim merchants sought trading opportunities throughout much of the eastern hemisphere. They described lands, peoples, and commercial products of the Indian Ocean basin from East Africa to Indonesia, and they supplied the first written accounts of societies in sub-Saharan West Africa. While merchants set out in search of trade and profit, devout Muslims travelled as pilgrims to Mecca to make their hajj and visit the holy sites of Islam. Since the prophet Muhammad’s origin­al pilgrimage to Mecca, untold millions of Muslims have followed his exam­ple, and thousands of hajj accounts have related their experiences. East Asian travellers were not quite so prominent as Muslims during the post-classical era, but they too followed many of the highways and sea lanes of the eastern hemisphere. Chinese merchants frequently visited South-East Asia and India, occasionally venturing even to East Africa, and devout East Asian Buddhists undertook distant pilgrimages. Between the 5th and 9th centuries CE, hundreds and possibly even thousands of Chinese Buddhists travelled to India to study with Buddhist teachers, collect sacred texts, and visit holy sites. Written ac­counts recorded the experiences of many pilgrims, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing. Though not so numerous as the Chinese pilgrims, Buddhists from Japan, Korea, and other lands also ventured abroad in the interests of spiritual enlightenment.

Medieval Europeans did not hit the roads in such large numbers as their Muslim and East Asian counterparts during the early part of the post-classical era, al­though gradually increasing crowds of Christian pilgrims flowed to Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela (in northern Spain), and other sites. After the 12th century, however, merchants, pilgrims, and missionaries from medieval Europe travelled widely and left numerous travel accounts, of which Marco Polo’s description of his travels and sojourn in China is the best known. As they became familiar with the larger world of the eastern hemisphere – and the profitable commercial opportunities that it offered – European peoples worked to find new and more direct routes to Asian and African markets. Their efforts took them not only to all parts of the eastern hemisphere, but eventually to the Americas and Oceania as well.

If Muslim and Chinese peoples dominated travel and travel writing in post- classical times, European explorers, conquerors, merchants, and missionaries took centre stage during the early modern era (about 1500 to 1800 CE). By no means did Muslim and Chinese travel come to a halt in early modern times. But European peoples ventured to the distant corners of the globe, and European printing presses churned out thousands of travel accounts that described foreign lands and peoples for a reading public with an apparently insatiable appetite for news about the larger world. The volume of travel litera­ture was so great that several editors, including Giambattista Ramusio, Rich­ard Hakluyt, Theodore de Biy, and Samuel Purchas, assembled numerous travel accounts and made them available in enormous published collections.

During the 19th century, European travellers made their way to the interior regions of Africa and the Americas, generating a fresh round of travel writing as they did so. Meanwhile, European colonial administrators devoted numer­ous writings to the societies of their colonial subjects, particularly in Asian and African colonies they established. By mid-century, attention was flowing also in the other direction. Painfully aware of the military and technological prowess of European and Euro-American societies, Asian travellers in particu­lar visited Europe and the United States in hopes of discovering principles useful for the organisation of their own societies. Among the most prominent of these travellers who made extensive use of their overseas observations and experiences in their own writings were the Japanese reformer Fukuzawa Yu-kichi and the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.

With the development of inexpensive and reliable means of mass transport, the 20th century witnessed explosions both in the frequency of long-distance travel and in the volume of travel writing. While a great deal of travel took place for reasons of business, administration, diplomacy, pilgrimage, and mis­sionary work, as in ages past, increasingly effective modes of mass transport made it possible for new kinds of travel to flourish. The most distinctive of them was mass tourism, which emerged as a major form of consumption .for individuals living in the world’s wealthy societies. Tourism enabled consumers to get away from home to see the sights in Rome, take a cruise through the Caribbean, walk the Great Wall of China, visit some wineries in Bordeaux, or go on safari in Kenya. A peculiar variant of the travel account arose to meet the needs of these tourists: the guidebook, which offered advice on food, lodging, shopping, local customs, and all the sights that visitors should not miss seeing. Tourism has had a massive economic impact throughout the world, but other new forms of travel have also had considerable influence in contemporary times.

Questions 27-28

Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.
Write your answers in boxes 27-28 on your answer sheet.

27. What were most people travelling for in the early days?

    A. Studying their own cultures
    B. Business
    C. Knowing other people and places better
    D. Writing travel books

28. Why did the author say writing travel books is also “a mirror” for travellers themselves?

    A. Because travellers record their own experiences.
    B Because travellers reflect upon their own society and life.
    C Because it increases knowledge of foreign cultures.
    D Because it is related to the development of human society.

Questions 29-36
Complete the table on the next page.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from Reading Passage 234 for each answer.

Classical GreeceHerodotusEgypt and AnatoliaTo gather information for the study of (29) ………………..
Han DynastyZhang QianCentral AsiaTo seek (30) ………………..
Roman EmpirePtolemy, Strabo, Pliny the ElderThe MediterraneanTo acquire (31) ………………..
Post-classical era (about 500 to 1500 CE)MuslimsFrom East Africa to Indonesia, MeccaFor trading and (32) ………………..
5th – 9thCenturies CEChinese Buddhists(33) ………………..To collect Buddhist texts and for spiritual enlightenment
Early modern era (about 1500 to 1800 CE)European explorersThe New WorldTo satisfy public curiosity for the New World
During 19th centuryColonial administrators Asia, Africa  To provide information for the (34) ………………..
By mid-century of the 1800sSun Yat-sen,FukuzawaYukichiEurope and the United States To study the (35) ……………….. of their societies
20th centuryPeople from (36) ……………….. countriesMass tourism For entertainment and pleasure 

Questions 37-40

Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

Write your answers in boxes 37-40 on your answer sheet.

37. Why were the imperial rulers especially interested in these travel stories?

    A. Reading travel stories was a popular pastime.
    B. The accounts are often truthful rather than fictional.
    C. Travel books played an important role in literature.
    D. They desired knowledge of their empire.

38. Who were the largest group to record their spiritual trips during the post-classical era?

    A. Muslim traders
    B. Muslim pilgrims
    C. Chinese Buddhists
    D. Indian Buddhist teachers

39. During the early modern era, a large number of travel books were published to

    A. meet the public’s interest.
    B. explore new business opportunities.
    C. encourage trips to the new world.
    D. record the larger world.

40. What’s the main theme of the passage?

    A. The production of travel books
    B. The literary status of travel books
    C. The historical significance of travel books
    D. The development of travel books

27. C
28. B
29. Persian wars
30. allies
31. geographical knowledge
32. pilgrimage
33. India
34. colonies
35. organisation
36. wealthy
37. D
38. B
39. A
40. D