Learn more about Kubla Khan
"Kubla Khan", whose complete title is "Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.", is a famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge which takes its title from the Mongol/Chinese emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty. Coleridge claimed that it was written in the autumn of 1797 at a farmhouse near Exmoor, but it may have been composed on one of a number of other visits to the farm. It may also have been revised a number of times before it was first published in 1816.
The poem's opening lines are often quoted, and it introduces the name Xanadu (or Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan):
| In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Coleridge claimed that the poem was inspired by an opium-induced dream (implicit in the poem's subtitle A Vision in a Dream), but that the composition was interrupted by the person from Porlock. This claim seems unlikely, as most opium users have tremendous difficulty recalling dreams when opium was ingested just prior to sleeping. Some have speculated that the vivid imagery of the poem stems from a waking hallucination, albeit most likely opium-induced. Additionally a quote from William Bartram  is believed to have been a source of the poem. There is widespread speculation on the poem's meaning, some suggesting the author merely is portraying his vision while others insist on a theme or purpose. Others believe it is a poem stressing the beauty of creation.
The poem is perhaps most famous for its closing lines (lines 53–54), where Coleridge is likely referring to himself attaining paradise through his poem:
| For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
 In popular culture
- The first five lines of the poem are spoken by an alien in Torchwood episode 'Greeks Bearing Gifts', describing the cavernous, surreal underground base of the Torchwood team.
- The poem is extensively featured in the film Pandaemonium (film) (2000), which is based on the early lives of Coleridge, Dorothy Wordsworth and William Wordsworth.
- The last four lines are used by Robertson Davies in his novel Fifth Business to describe the character Dunny Ramsey's experience before regaining conscience.
- The poem is quoted at the beginning of the "March Of Time" sequence in the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane; Kane's palatial mansion is named Xanadu.
- In L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's fantasy novel The Castle of Iron, protagonist Harold Shea and friends are briefly stranded in a parallel universe that was the setting of "Kubla Khan" before being whisked off to other adventures in the world of Italian poety Ludovico Ariosto's epic, the Orlando Furioso.
- The plot of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a novel by Douglas Adams, is closely tied with Coleridge's poem, in a way that is obscure until the end of the book. Both "Kubla Khan", the visitor from Porlock, and Coleridge himself are referenced extensively in the book.
- The opening lines (slightly paraphrased) were also used by the 1980s UK band Frankie Goes to Hollywood and was the basis for the title track of their first Welcome to the Pleasuredome.
- The song "Mega Bottle Ride" from Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' 2001 album Global a Go-Go makes reference to the poem, speaking of being "in the discosphere like Kubla Khan."
- An edited version of the poem appears inside the front cover of the novel Descent From Xanadu, by Harold Robbins.
- The Rush song "Xanadu" is also based on the poem.
- The 1999 computer game Alpha Centauri uses the last lines of the poem in discussing the "Paradise Garden" base facility.
- Two science fiction novels titled Down to a Sunless Sea are explicitly named for a phrase in this poem, an apocalyptic work by David Graham, and an atmospheric Martian romance by Lin Carter.
- Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu hypertext system was named in honor of the poem.
- The name of the Xanadu Beach Resort and Marina, which was built in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas, is a reference to the poem.
- Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, who co-wrote the script of 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, described his experience in the following parody: For MGM did Kubrick Stan/A stately astrodome decree/While Art the science writer ran/Through plots incredible to man/In search of solvency. He claimed to remember only fragments of further verses, such as "Child star wailing for its demon mother."
- Xanadu was also the name of a 1980 film featuring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. While the movie was considered a flop on its initial release, the soundtrack album "went multi-platinum" and the film itself retains a cult status.
- A large column in Kartchner Caverns takes its name from the poem. The cavern itself was given the nickname Xanadu by its discoverers as a means of discussing the cave in public as not to attract potential vandals.
- Greg Bear's 1984 novel The Infinity Concerto incorporates this poem into its plot.
- The poem is referenced in Annie Dillard's literary essay "Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos" as a conclusion.
- In the animated television series Gargoyles, Xanadu is the name of the upstate retreat owned by David Xanatos.
- "Kubla Khan" inspired the creators of the Xanadu House in the 1980s to name it Xanadu.
- Indie rock band Pavement named their debut album Slanted and Enchanted after a rhyme in "Kubla Khan".
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Voice", Jerry Seinfeld refers to George Costanza's private restroom at Play Now as Xanadu.
- The last four lines of the poem are referenced by Doc Holliday in a deleted scene of the 1993 film Tombstone.
- Xanadu is one of several computerized virtual-reality backdrops (including Oz, London in War of the Worlds, Gormenghast, 16 century Venice, Bronze-age Ithaca) visited by the characters in the science fiction novel Otherland by Tad Williams.
- Xanadu is the home of the comic strip character Mandrake the Magician.
- Terrence McKenna was fond of reciting Kubla Khan in its entirety at speaking events.
- Kubla Khan is referenced many times, including the last 4 lines read by a character, in the computer game Obsidian
- Parts of the poem are quoted many times in the Disney comic "Back to Xanadu" by Don Rosa
- The character of DeeDee Osgood in Hanif Kureishi's novel "The Black Album" recites lines from Kubla Khan whilst high on Ecstacy
- Some of the action in Piers Anthony's book "Split Infinity" takes place in a recreation of Xanadu.
 External links
- Full text of the poem
- Coleridge's note and other notes about the poem
- "Kubla Khan" and the Embodied Mind, a detailed analysis of the poem
- One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light, an exploration of the poem's role in propagating the Xanadu meme
- Kubla Khan Set To Music, analysis & a musical approach to the themes of the poem for students & teachers of Englishit:Kubla Khan