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Thread: The "Western Regions" according to the Latter Han History3518 days old

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    Default The "Western Regions" according to the Latter Han History

    In this thread, I'll be posting the translation of the "Latter Book of Han," a historical record deals with the Latter Han dynasty. It is most notable for describing the "Western Regions," i.e. the lands and territories to the far West of China.) He Hou Han Shu overall covers the history of Eastern Han from 25 to 220 CE and forms part of the canonical Imperial Histories.

    The "Records of the Western Regions" were composed by a military General named Ban Yong and contain descriptions of the Western Regions. They were composed around between 123 AD and 125 AD.

    Any and all perspectives would be appreciated.

    Geographical Framework:
    The account covers a distance roughly 6,000 li (~2,595 km) from east to west, and more than 1,000 li (416 km) from south to north, from the Chinese border, to the Pamirs. However, the book mentions the far West Roman Empire.

    According to Volume 88, Book 2:

    In the north and the south there are high mountains. In the central region is a river [today the Tarim River Basin]. The "Southern Mountains" [Qilian Mountains] go east from Jincheng and join at Han Nanshan.

    The River flows from the place called Conling. The other source [of the Tarim] flows from Yutian Nanshan up to the north, and meets another river coming from the Conling Shan. Those rivers flow east into the Lake Puchang [today called Lop Nor] and they flow together to the east. They empty into Lake Puchang (Lop Nor). Puchang is also called the "Salty Swamp" and is 300 li (125 km) from the Yumen frontier-pass.

    Heading west from Dunhuang via the Yumen and Yang frontier-passes, you pass through Shanshan (the region of Lop Nor).
    Selected Countries and Regions: The Parthians and the Romans - For Brevity, these are taken from

    Section 10 – The Kingdom of Anxi 安息 (the Parthian Empire)

    The main centre of Anxi (Parthia)1 is the town of Hedu (Hecatompylos)2 . It is 25,000 li (10,395 km) from Luoyang. On the north, it is bordered by Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins),3 and on the south joins Wuyishanli (Kandahar). It is several thousand li across. There are several hundred small towns. The households, people, and men able to bear arms are extremely numerous. On its eastern frontier is the town of Mulu (Merv),4 which is also called Little Anxi, and is 20,000 li (8,316 km) from Luoyang.

    In the first zhanghe year [87 CE], during the reign of Emperor Zhang, this kingdom sent an envoy to offer lions and fuba (Persian gazelle). The fuba looks like a female unicorn but it doesn’t have a horn.5

    In the ninth yongyuan year [97 CE], during the reign of Emperor He, the Protector General Ban Chao sent Gan Ying to Da Qin (the Roman Empire).6 He reached Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana) next to a large sea. He wanted to cross it, but the sailors of the western frontier of Anxi (Parthia) said to him:

    “The ocean is huge. Those making the round trip can do it in three months if the winds are favourable. However, if you encounter winds that delay you, it can take two years. That is why all the men who go by sea take stores for three years. The vast ocean urges men to think of their country, and get homesick, and some of them die.”

    When (Gan) Ying heard this, he gave up his plan.7

    In the thirteenth year [101 CE], the king of Anxi (Parthia) named Manqu [= Manchihr I of Persis?]8 again offered lions, and some of the large birds of Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana), which people call ‘Anxi birds’ [ostriches].

    From [the eastern frontier of] Anxi (Parthia), if you travel 3,400 li (1,414 km) west,9 you reach the Kingdom of Aman (Herat).10 Leaving Aman and travelling 3,600 li (1,497 km), you reach the Kingdom of Sibin (Susa).11 Leaving Sibin (Susa) and travelling south you cross a river, then going southwest, you reach the Kingdom of Yuluo (Charax Spasinou) after 960 li (399 km).12 This is the extreme western frontier of Anxi (Parthia). Leaving there, and heading south, you embark on the sea and then reach Da Qin (Roman territory). In these territories, there are many precious and marvellous things from Haixi (‘West of the Sea’ = Egypt).13

    Section 11 – The Kingdom of Da Qin 大秦 (the Roman Empire)

    The Kingdom of Da Qin (the Roman Empire)1 is also called Lijian.2 As it is found to the west of the sea, it is also called the Kingdom of Haixi (Egypt).3 Its territory extends for several thousands of li. It has more than four hundred walled towns. There are several tens of smaller dependent kingdoms. The walls of the towns are made of stone.

    They have established postal relays at intervals, which are all plastered and whitewashed. There are pines and cypresses, as well as trees and plants of all kinds. The common people are farmers. They cultivate many grain crops and silkworm-mulberry trees.4 They shave their heads, and their clothes are embroidered. They have screened coaches (for the women) and small white-roofed one-horse carts.5 When carriages come and go, drums are beaten and flags and standards are raised.

    The seat of government (Rome) is more than a hundred li (41.6 km) around. In this city are five palaces each ten li (4.2 km) from the other. Moreover, in the rooms of the palace the pillars and the tableware are really made of crystal. The king goes each day to one of the palaces to deal with business. After five days, he has visited all of them. A porter with a sack has the job of always following the royal carriage. When somebody wants to discuss something with the king, he throws a note in the sack. When the king arrives at the palace, he opens the bag, examines the contents, and judges if the plaintiff is right or wrong.

    There is a government department of archives. [A group of] thirty-six leaders has been established to meet together to deliberate on affairs of state. Their kings are not permanent. They select and appoint the most worthy man. If there are unexpected calamities in the kingdom, such as frequent extraordinary winds or rains, he is unceremoniously rejected and replaced. The one who has been dismissed quietly accepts his demotion, and is not angry.

    The people of this country are all tall and honest. They resemble the people of the Middle Kingdom and that is why this kingdom is called Da Qin [literally, ‘Great China’].6
    Rome was considered "special" in some regards; China was the large, civilized country at the far East of the Silk Road, while to the Chinese explorers, the "Da Qin" Empire, or Rome, was the large, civilized country at the far West of the Silk Road.

    A few centuries later, when Christianity was first introduced to China through the missionaries of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Christian religion was first known as "the religion of Da Qin". There is in fact a memorial in Xi'an to "Memorial of the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion from Daqin" which commemorates the founding of the first Church in China.
    If you're ever in any trouble, just give me the signal and I'll send you one of my 357 Pain Pills.

  2. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to DrDawud For This Useful Post:

    curiousman (2010-02-04), EliasAlucard (2010-02-04), Simi (2012-11-29)

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