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Chinese Roman interaction.
#1
Ave everyone,

I am going to post an unusual topic, here so bare with me here.
I have always wondered if East Asian cultures in the Roman Empire ever interacted to the point, where there would be merchants and dignitaries living in the others Empire. I have some knowledge of the East -West interaction, which I will post. If anyone has any more information about this subject pleases post.

There were a serious of steps that lead up the ancients’ interaction with the east starting with Alexander in 329 B.C. when he founded the town of Alexandria Eschate in the modern day Khozdent, Tajikistan. For the next three centuries the Greeks stayed in Central Asia, and established the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in Bactria. This kingdom kept pushing westward past Alexandria Eschate with possible contact with the Han dynasty around 200 B.C. This is back up by the writings of the Greek historian Starbo who wrote that “they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (China) and the Phryni".

After this first contact, the Han dynasty developed a growing interest in the west sending dignitaries out ever so often. Most of these dignitaries made contact with Middle East and India, These cultures all ready had trade with the Mediterranean world. Around 1 B.C. the Parthians introduces silk to the Romans. The first dignitaries and traders that might of reached Rome where under the reign of Augustus. The Roman historian Florus documented this encounter "Now that all the races of the west and south were subjugated, and also the races of the north, (...) the Scythians and the Sarmatians sent ambassadors seeking friendship; the Seres too and the Indians, who live immediately beneath the sun, though they brought elephants amongst their gifts as well as precious stones and pearls, regarded their long journey, in the accomplishment of which they had spent four years, as the greatest tribute which they rendered, and indeed their complexion proved that they came from beneath another sky.—(Florus Epitomae II, 34). In this passage the phrase "and the Indians" could refer to the Chinese. I have heard from hearsay that the Romans would refer to all people to the east of India as Indians, However, I can not validate this.

At the same time The Chinese set up a port near modern day Hanoi in Vietnam, this trade route ran from Sir Lanka through India to the ports of Egypt. They have found Roman coins in Vietnam, through this trade route. Then in 161 A.D. Marcus Aurllius set up an envoy to travel to China. They arrived in China in 166 A.D and this is validated by the emperor Huan and the Han dynasty. This envoy went through the southern port through the route listed above.

In the interaction with the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty there are also many other cases of interaction through castaways, soldiers on the frontier becoming captured. And cartographer maps from the period. However this is just a short synopsis of the topic.

The site I took the quotes from and some of the information is listed as follows, this website goes in to more depth on the subject.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Roman_relations
William Summe

(Felix Agrippa)

Quando omni flunkus moritati

When all else fails, play dead
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#2
The Seres should not be automatically equated with the Chinese, just as, from a Chinese perspective, Da Qian should not be always taken for the Roman Empire. More often, it appears to have the general meaning of 'the Far West'. All in all, the knowledge of one another must have been very fuzzy and very few, although Wikipedia, being Wikipedia, is naturally attracted to the unusual and exotic, and thus inclined to blow up the importance of the few contacts we may have.

A more sober report, though, gives Edwin G. Pulleyblank. Allow me to quote from his survey of contemporary Han Chinese sources:

Quote:The earliest datable occurrence seems to be with reference to Gan Ying's mission of 97 c.E. In the preamble to the chapter on "Western Regions" in the Hou Hanshu we read:

In the sixth year (of Yongyuan, 94 c.E.) Ban Chao again attacked and overthrew Yanqi MH (Karashar) and thereupon over fifty countries all offered hostages and submitted. Of them, Tiaozhi, Anxi, and the various coun¬tries reaching to the edge of the sea over 40,000 li distant, all offered tribute through multiple interpreters. In the ninth year (97 c.E.) Ban Chao sent his aide Gan Ying xyz who got as far as to look upon the Western Sea and return. These were all places that had not been reached in previous ages and are not described in the Classic of Mountains [and Seas] (Shdn[hai ] jing xyz. He gave a full account of their land and customs, telling of their precious and strange products. Thereupon distant countries, Mengqi xyz EMC mawrj gia and Doule xyz EMC taw lak, came in submission and sent envoys with tribute.

Quote:Gan Ying's mission is again referred to in the same chapter of the Hou Hanshu in the account of Anxi, leading up to the separate account of Da Qin:

The Protector-General Ban and Chao sent Gan Ying on a mission to Da Qin. He reached Tiaozhi, looked upon the Great Sea and wished to cross, but the mari¬ners on the western edge of Anxi said to Ying: "The sea is very broad and vast. With favorable winds those who come and go on it can cross in three months but if they encounter delaying winds it sometimes takes two years. Therefore those who set out on the sea always take sup¬plies for three years. Voyaging on the sea makes people long for sight of land and suffer from homesickness, and many perish." When Ying heard this he gave up his plan.

Quote:...One such source of information would have been the so-called embassy from the king of Da Qin, Andun xyz an twan, that reached the Han court by sea in 166 c.E. Since the name Andun can be plausibly identified either with the emperor Antoninus Pius (reg. 138-161) or his suc¬cessor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (reg. 161-180), this provides at least one firm link to Rome itself. There is not much else.

A point that needs to be stressed is that the Chinese conception of Da Qin was confused from the outset with ancient mythological notions about the far west.

So, overall not very spectacular. Romans and Chinese might have met in India though, but then again, the first Chinese in India we know of, a Buddhist monk in search for Sanskrit textes, came as late as the 4th century AD. At that time, the heyday of Roman-Indian trade was already over, although we have literary and archaeological evidence for trading as late as the 6th century AD.

Source: Edwin G. Pulleyblank: The Roman Empire as Known to Han China, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 119, No. 1. (Jan. - Mar., 1999), pp. 71-79.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#3
Quote:So, overall not very spectacular. Romans and Chinese might have met in India though, but then again, the first Chinese in India we know of, a Buddhist monk in search for Sanskrit textes, came as late as the 4th century AD. At that time, the heyday of Roman-Indian trade was already over, although we have literary and archaeological evidence for trading as late as the 6th century AD.

I agree the evidence for any Sino-Roman contact is virtually nil, but the above is not at all accurate.

Trade to India intensifies, not lessens in the late period and there are extensive trade contacts to India through the Byzantine empire up until the 7th C. where it stops for obvious reasons, but it is still happening through the agency of the muslims so contact is still ongoing, though much less direct.

Travis
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aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

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#4
I can add that there have been several founds of Roman coins at excarvations in Cambodia ;-) )

But I never got any further with the question: why!?
Susanna

<a class="postlink" href="http://www.musica-romana.de">www.musica-romana.de

A Lyra is basically an instrument to accompaign pyromanic city destruction.
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#5
Thank you for that info Susanna.
William Summe

(Felix Agrippa)

Quando omni flunkus moritati

When all else fails, play dead
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#6
Quote:I can add that there have been several founds of Roman coins at excarvations in Cambodia ;-) )

But I never got any further with the question: why!?

Simply the Romans had do pay for the Oriental goods:
spices, silk and perfumes.
And they did pay a lot of money each year.
I`ve got book by the Russian scientist A.M. Petrov "West-East. From the history of ideas and goods" (Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 1996) - sorry no English translation. He underlined that Oriental spices and even perfumes (per fumum - via smoke - healing, clearing with the help of the smoke) were widely used in the medicine of Antique and Medieval Europe - that`s why the prices were so high - now we are also paying big money for the cures and medical treatment. Silk clothes were healthy - no louses - if you are living in the world where epidemies happened constantly, and don`t forget that everyday life in Antique world wasn`t so clear. In this book and in his "Great Silk Road: about most simpliest but less known matters" (the same year of edition) there are many references to Antique and Medieval sourses - so you could believe me. That was the general cause why Roman coins could be founded in Cambodia or Vietnam. Globalization stated much earlier than we are usually thinking of it.
Though I don`t think that Roman civilization could more or less impress the Chinese if this interaction was much closer and direct (not via transit trade).
Now there is exhibition in Moscow - famous terracotta warriors from the tomb of Chinese Emperor Shi Huandi. What impress me most - not the figures itself - we saw them many times in the books, on TV etc., but a part of bronze Chinese arbalet trigger mechanism of the III cent. B.C. And there`s a proposal that many of these figures (and of course real warriors in that times) were armed with arbalets. This mechanic part of arbalet looks like it was made in Late Medieval Europe. I mean the quality of work, not the construction of it or material - I don`t know much of European arbalets.
Rome was more interested in contacts with the Orient and China - Chinese couldn`t get much interesting for them from Antique, Medieval and Early Modern times Europe: only silver and gold.
Only in the 19th century Great Britain founded out (in India) this thing, which was interesting for the Chinese and they were ready to pay Europeans for it - opium. Situation in trade with Russia was different - in Russia were rarely used spices and silk - it is cold here and tradtions of medicine and food were different - but still Russia payed in silver for Chinese tea.
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#7
The Han crossbow mechanism looked more like modern triggers, not like Medieval nut locks with their pulling rod.

Whether the Chinese would not have been impressed with Greco-Roman culture I am not sure. Actually, until the voyage of Zheng to the Kushan (late 2nd century BC), the Chinese knew very little of the outside world, that is India, Persia, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and the whole Mediterranean. To be not impressed of all these cultures would have rather meant cultural ignorance.

Actually, the Romans mostly bought only raw silk and then worked it for their markets with their own looms at Antiochia (Syria). So, perhaps they were not overtly impressed with Chinese artisanship either, who knows? There was almost no direct interaction between these two cultures.

Certainly though the Romans left a disproportionaly greater architectural heritage, both in quantity and quality:

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... highlight= [/pre]
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#8
You are right, most of the time they bought raw silk. But we have also a few founds in Roman Sarkophages containing silk clothes with chinese impressions (I saw somehing like a dragon) on it.

Would be funny to wear this reconstruction of the gravefound on a Roman event... :wink:
Susanna

<a class="postlink" href="http://www.musica-romana.de">www.musica-romana.de

A Lyra is basically an instrument to accompaign pyromanic city destruction.
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#9
Quote:The Han crossbow mechanism looked more like modern triggers, not like Medieval nut locks with their pulling rod.

the Chinese knew very little of the outside world, that is India, Persia, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and the whole Mediterranean. To be not impressed of all these cultures would have rather meant cultural ignorance.
http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... highlight= [/pre]

You said it well - Chinese trigger mechanism looks quite modern...
As to their ignorance - probably it helped China to survive, to keep its cultural identity. Where is Roman Empire now and there is China? If we would speak honestly Chinese civilization was and still is more strong than European and Russian civilization (not only because of overpopulation).
Their outlook of the world is quite differs from our.
It could be interesting to write a fantasy novels - Roman world through the eyes of Chinese traveller and vice versa.
I`m talking not about idealisation of China - I think we could use some elements of their attitude to life, which helps them, in our outlooks.
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#10
Quote:As to their ignorance - probably it helped China to survive, to keep its cultural identity.

Nothing to do with ignorance, rather with geographic isolation. China had no cultural or ideological rival for practically all its history, because the buzz had always been going on in Western and Southern Eurasia (Judaism, Christianism, Buddhism, Communism, Capitalism, Democracy, Republic, etc.), therefore the risks and chances cultural change had there always been much greater. China just got little waves which it could accomodate. Perhaps until now.


Quote: If we would speak honestly Chinese civilization was and still is more strong than European and Russian civilization (not only because of overpopulation). Their outlook of the world is quite differs from our.

I am now together with a Chinese girl for two years, and I can say honestly that this is not so. Both of your assumptions.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#11
Maybe, but there were invasions of Huns, Mongols, Manchurians, opium wars in the 19th century, wide-spread using of opium, European and American colonialist policy, Russo-Japanese war, long civil war, Japanese invasion, Second World War, victory of Communist party... It`s all not looks like geographical and political isolation and absence of the rival.
There was such opinion in European literature of the 18th century about China, but I`m sure that it`s not all that simple.
And my experience of communication with the people of the Orient is a little bit wider than one girl and I`m sure that their outlooks and attitude to life are quite differ from ours. Of course your personal experience is differs from mine. Big Grin
I`m not stating these facts as axiomatic - it`s only a possibility to think of it and of ourselves.
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#12
If you can understand a women, you can understand the mysterious Orient twice and thrice! What's the complexities of the Orient against the moods of a woman?! Big Grin
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#13
O.K. Big Grin
By the way my idea about novel of Roman-Chinese interaction isn`t that original.
The novel is written!
http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Dragons-Va ... F8&s=books
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#14
Ave Civitas,

I just read the posts on Roman-Chinese contact.

N.H.H. Sitwell has a book "The world the Romans knew" and in his section of China (Chapter 9) he speaks of the Parthians settling some of the survivors of Carrahae in Merv. (450 miles east of the Caspian - and still a long-long way from China). It is a book in my "To be read yet" pile, so I have not digested it.

He also wrote of the possibility of Roman trade ports in South East Asia.

Has anyone read any about the trade centers. Who really settled there, etc. It might help explain Sussana's coins.

Tom
AKA Tom Chelmowski
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#15
Quote: Where is Roman Empire now and there is China?

Just an observation, assuming you meant "where is the Roman Empire now and where is China?"

In many ways, the Roman Empire still exists, the new Roman Empire is the Western World, and has been for 1500 years. When the Germanic "barbarians" conquered Rome, were they not conquered themselves? When a mix (albeit mostly English) of Europeans founded a new nation on a different continent, whence came their inspiration for its government? Rome.
Rome has become much more than the sum of the territories it held and government.
Marshal White

aka Aulus FABULOUS 8) <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" />8) . . . err, I mean Fabius

"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
- Pericles, Son of Athens
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