X is for Xanadu


1. An idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place. (Merriam Webster) 2. A particularly bad Olivia Newton-John romantic musical fantasy film (1980). 3. An ancient Chinese capital during the Yuan dynasty, ruled by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis). Visited by Marco Polo in 1275; world heritage site, only ruins exist today. Also known as Shangdu. 4. The inspiration for Samuel Coleridge's famous poem Kubla Khan. 5. A metaphor for a safe place for creative wanderlust and inspiration. (definition mine)
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
Down to a sunless sea. 
So twice five miles of fertile ground 
With walls and towers were girdled round; 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills, 
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 
                         --Samuel Coleridge Taylour
                          Kubla Khan

I admit it, I dug the Olivia Newton-John film. Because, Magic.

Cut me some slack, though-I was nine. And really into roller skating, music, and romance, which is essentially the entire plot of the movie. 

But Xanadu has a long history of being a retreat from reality. In the West, it became best known as a subject--and muse--for Samuel Coleridge Taylor's poem Kubla Khan:

"...The poem was composed one night after he [Coleridge] experienced an opium-influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan.[1] Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream...."
                                                                        -Kubla Khan Wikipedia

What is Xanadu for writers? A "stately pleasure dome?" "Fertile grounds?" "Gardens bright with sinuous rills (streams)?" "Forests ancient as the hills, enfolding sunny spots of green?" 

All of the above.

A place to let our imagination roam freely, meander, even, with no judgment, no restraint. A museum. The wilderness. A place of fantasy. A place that exists nowhere but in our minds. A place of refuge.

Where is your Xanadu? 

"There is at this place [Xanadu] a very fine marble palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment."
-Marco Polo


  1. Great post! I hadn't thought of a writer's Xanadu before, but you've made a good case for one :-) So I'd say my Xanadu is the quiet corner where I read good books and craft words, and often on my walks. Enjoyed this post!

    1. Thank you, Kenda. That's my Xanadu, too!

  2. I saw a book once titled Xanadu,but I thought it was a made up word.

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    1. Ha, I bet lots of people think that--sounds like it should be Klingon or something, right?


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