This book discusses two intertwined themes. The first is the growth of commercial culture and its interest in aristocratic romance. The second lies behind the first and concerns the simultaneous development of trade across Asia conducted by merchants, first made possible by the Mongol Eurasian system. In the Renaissance, the Portuguese reopened Asia by a sea route to India and East Asia. Later, the English tried to reopen the caravan route, sending agents to travel with the Russians to Inner Asia. Such trade brought a new dimension to romance, since some writers sent their heroes to Asia. In so doing, these writers celebrated mercantile adventure under an aristocratic guise. The book focuses mostly on the imagination and attitudes that still affect Western thinking about Asia to this day.