CAMBALUC, the name by which the city on the site of the present Peking in China became known to mediaeval Europe. The word represents the Mongol Khan-Balik, "the city of the Khan," and was often, as by Longfellow, inaccurately spelt Cam balu. A city had long stood on its site, but it did not become the capital of all China until Kublai Khan transferred the capital of the Mongol confederacy from Karakorum up on the Mongolian steppe to Khan-Balik in the conquered lowlands of China. It was not until the Mongol conquests temporarily united western with eastern Asia that mediaeval travellers reached China from Europe and the place-names they took back with them were those em ployed by the Mongols.
Kublai Khan built a new city, completed in 2267, across a brook from the old city of Yenking and all but the northern third of his city is now occupied by the present "Tartar" city of Peking. Kublai's Palace seems to have stood on the same site as the Imperial Palace of the late Manchu dynasty. According to Marco Polo's description, Cambaluc was laid out on a rectangular plan and had a circuit of 24 miles. Its walls, So ft. high and on top 15 ft. broad, were each pierced by three gates, the roadways connecting them running straight across the city. Cambaluc was not only the capital of the eastern Khanate (which comprised besides China the plateaux and steppes of Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria) but was also the terminus of the overland trade route from western Asia and so from Europe across high Central Asia, just as Zaiton on the south-east China coast was the terminus of the sea-route from India by way of the Spice Islands. The Polos reached China by the first route and returned by the second. The population participating in this overland commerce seems to have lived outside the walls of Cambaluc and in Marco Polo's time, the last quarter of the 13th century, the population outside was greater than that within. The name Cambaluc refers essen tially to the city of the Mongol period and the succeeding Chinese Ming dynasty re-named the city Peking, the northern capital, as distinct from Nanking, the southern capital. (See also CATHAY and PEKING.)