Romans in Han Dynasty China


‘In the year 113 BCE the Han dynasty first sent two thousand armed men and then sent a marine force south to unseat an autonomous ruler of Vietnam, taking the Viet stronghold of Pan-yu and setting up nine administrative commanderies in the south, briefly encompassing even the island of Hainan. The History of the Later Han reports frequent visits of Roman merchants to Fu-nan (Cambodia), Jih-nan (Annan), and Chiao-chih (Tonkin). The History of the Liang mentions that a Roman merchant named Chin-lun arrived in southern China by way of Jih-nan and Chiao-chih. Yu Ying-shih describes the importance of Chiao-chih:

During the decades from Wang Mang’s time to the early years of the Later Han, in which relations between China and the Western Regions were generally interrupted, Sino-Indian overseas silk trade probably became more flourishing as a result of the cutting off of the overland trade route. During this period, there seems to have been even some increase of Chinese silk in the Roman market, which, it is believed, was due to the more frequent use of the sea route by the Indian intermediary. It may further be conjectured that the growth of the overseas silk trade between the east and the west resulted partially also from the fact that both sides found it desirable to avoid the Parthian monopoly. At any rate it is beyond doubt that in Later Han times Sino-Indian economic intercourse often resorted to the sea route… In Later Han times, overseas trade seems to have gained much progress. In this respect, both Jih-nan and Chiao-chih played a very important role by serving as a link of intercourse between China and the various maritime countries… The prosperity of Chiao-chih (Tonkin) as a seaport during the Later Han particularly deserves attention. Chiao-chih was known especially for the production of such curiosities as pearls, ivory, tortoise-shell, incense, and so forth, from which its immense wealth derived… It is also highly significant that toward the end of the Later Han period when the famous Shih Hsien (186-226) was Governor of Chiao-chih, the streets of Tonkin were filled with barbarian merchants. All these facts can be properly comprehended only against the commercial background of Chiao-chih at that time. I can think of no better explanation than overseas trade that can account at the same time for both the prosperity of Chiao-chih and the frequent presence of foreigners there,’

Extracted From: How Master Mou Removes Your Doubts (1997), Sri Satguru, by John P Keenan – Pages 50-51

Author’s Note: The area known as ‘Vietnam’ today, was once part of Mainland China. The ‘Yieh’ people used to live in the Guangdong area of South China, but when the ‘Tang’ people of the north migrated into the Guangdong area (the ‘Tang’ people are now referred to as the ‘Cantonese’, or ‘Guangdongren’), the ‘Yieh’ people moved further south and settled in ‘Vietnam’. This where the ‘Yieh’ people became known as the ‘Viet’, and the place they lived as the ‘South’ (i.e. ‘Nam’). Vietnam fought a 1000 year war with China before gaining its independence in 938 CE. Many Western historical narratives hostile to ‘Communist’ China tend to depict the Vietnamese people as ‘non-Chinese’ in ethnic origin. This is incorrect, even if Vietnam is not administered by China today, and the Vietnamese people are self-determinant. ACW (1.1.2018)

One comment

  1. You should check out the Women’s Museum if you are ever in Hanoi. They have an exhibit about pre-Confucian Vietnamese religion.

    I’ve also read that the Romans exported glasswork to China and that Roman coins have been unearthed in Xian.


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