The Word (Xanadu)

The word "Xanadu" has a long and detailed history. Here are some of the things it has meant. And here are some of the more recent things it has meant in popular culture. What follows is an abridged and somewhat annotated timeline.


1256: Xanadu City Built

The ideograms for XanaduThe original spelling of the city looks like these ideograms to the left. The city has since been called Xanadu, Shangdu, Ciandu, Chandu, Xandu, and Sandu. So we are actually just hijacking an English transliteration of a word in another language. The city was the summer palace of Kublai khan (aka Kubla Khan, Cathaian Can, Cubla Khan).

Read more about the original city >>

1275: Marco Polo visits Xanadu

He writes a great description.

1797: Samuel Taylor Coleridge Writes "Kubla Khan"

Coleridge makes up a preface to the poem explaining how he was reading about Xanadu (based on a second-hand account derived from Marco Polo's first-hand account) while on opium and he fell asleep and had a dream and in his dream he wrote a 300 line dream-poem and then he woke up and started writing out the poem but was interrupted by a businessman and then he couldn't remember the rest of the poem. The preface goes on to say that the first part of the poem is a fragment from the dream, and the second part of the poem is just whatever. But the preface is made up also. So the poem plus the preface are about meta-contexts and fragments and the difference between the actual (as romanticized and mis-remembered) vs. the poetic (as just plain old made up). Or something. At first nobody likes the poem, but gradually everybody likes the poem.

Read the poem >>

Read about the poem >>

1935: Pan-Pacific Auditorium Built

It's the art deco auditorium that will be used as the location of the roller disco in the movie Xanadu, but nobody knows this in 1935. Then after the movie is filmed, it burns down.

Read about it here >>

1941: Citizen Kane released

Charles Foster Kane's mansion is called Xanadu. "Rosebud."

Read about it here >>

1948: Frank Lloyd Wright builds the V.C. Morris Gift Shop

It's like a mini-proto-Guggenheim. It will later be called Xanadu Gallery, but nobody knows this in 1948. It's still there in San Francisco, right across the street from Britex Fabrics (the coolest fabric store in the world).

Read about it here >>

1960: Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu proposed

The ideal web! The proto-web! The web that makes the current web look like a big joke! Except it's still in demo phase, 55 years later. Xanadu.

Read about it here >>

1975: Xanadu Casino proposed

A Vegas casino, proposed but never constructed. Xanadu.

Read about it here >>

1977: Rush writes a song called "Xanadu"

And there was much rejoicing.

You know you want to watch the video right now >>

1979: Xanadu: Home of the Future

Several futuristic demo homes were built. All of them are now falling apart.

Read about it here >>

take an awesome futuristic video tour here >>

1980: Art Deco Roller Disco Hollywood Musical

At the beginning of the Xanadu Hijack (2015), this instantiation has most hijacked the web. Gene Kelly quoting Coleridge to Olivia-Newton John.

2003: Meadowlands Xanadu (currently American Dream Meadowlands) begins construction

So, you know, a mega-mall called Xanadu with an indoor ski slope and a waterfall in New Jersey. What could possibly go wrong? Still under construction.

Read about it here >>

2006: Xanadu Region on Saturn's Moon Titan

"The features are likely carved in water ice by liquid methane or ethane." Likely.

Read about it here >>

2007: Xanadu on Broadway

And I'm out.

Read about it here >>