the Weilue 魏略
by Yu Huan 魚豢
Third Century Chinese Account
Composed between 239 and 265 CE
Quoted in zhuan 30 of the Sanguozhi
Published in 429 CE
Draft English translation
John E. Hill
© September, 2004
was not born knowledgeable,
I am devoted to antiquity and am quick to seek knowledge.”
Qiu 孔丘 (Confucius).
Lunyu, 7, 19.
About this Translation
About Fonts and Characters
About the Text
About the Dating and Background of the Text
About Measurements and Administrative Divisions
Section 1. The Di Tribes
Section 2. The Zilu Tribes
Section 3. The Qiang Tribes
Section 4. The three main overland routes to the Western Regions
Section 5. The Southern Route
Section 6. The Kingdom of Linni (Lumbini)
Section 7. The Kingdom of Juli (the ‘Eastern Division’ of the Kushan Empire)
Section 8. The Kingdom of Panyue (Pandya)
Section 9. The Central Route
Section 10. Previous Misconceptions
Section 11. Da Qin (Roman territory/Rome)
Section 12. Products of Da Qin (Roman territory) – Product List
Section 13. The Sea Route to Da Qin (Roman territory)
Section 14. Roman Dependencies
Section 15. The Kingdom of Zesan (Azania)
Section 16. The Kingdom of Lüfen (Leukê Komê or modern Al Wajh)
Section 17. The Kingdom of Qielan (Wadi Sirhan)
Section 18. The Kingdom of Xiandu (‘Aynūnah = Leukos Limên?)
Section 19. The Kingdom of Sifu (Petra)
Section 20. The Kingdom of Yuluo (Karak)
Section 21. The Kingdom of Siluo
Section 22. The Far West
Section 23. The New Route of the North
Section 24. The Kingdom of Northern Wuyi (Khujand)
Section 25. The Kingdoms of Liu, Yan, and Yancai (the Alans)
Section 26. The Kingdom of Hude
Section 27. The Kingdom of Jiankun (Khirgiz)
Section 28. The Kingdom of Dingling
Section 29. The Kingdom of Duanren (‘Pygmies’)
Section 30. The Author’s Comments
Abbreviations and Bibliography
A. The Main Caravan Routes.
B. The territories of Haixi, Haibei and Haidong.
C. The “Great Seas” and the “Western Sea.”
D. Sea Silk.
E. Wild Silks.
F. Maritime Commerce and Shipping during the Han Period.
G. The Water Cisterns on the Route between Petra and Wadi Sirhan.
H. The Identification of the City of Angu with Ancient Gerrha and Modern Thaj.
I. The Spread of Ideas and Religions along the Trade Routes.
J. Climate and other Changes along the Silk Routes.
K. The Identification of Jibin as Kapisha-Gandhāra.
L. The Introduction of Silk Cultivation to Khotan in the 1st Century CE.
M. The Canals and Roads from the Red Sea to the Nile.
N. Kanishka’s Hostage in History and Legend.
There are several important Chinese texts relating to the early development of the “Silk Routes” that have not been translated into English previously. They include the ‘Chapter on the Western Regions,’ several biographies of the Chinese generals who expanded Chinese power to the west, from the Hou Hanshu (covering the period from 25-220 CE); and an important 3rd century geographical and historical text called the Weilue. My aim is to complete up-to-date, fully annotated translations of these texts, and make them easily available to all.
• My first translation, a draft annotated version of The Western Regions According to the Hou Hanshu, appeared on the Silk Road Seattle website in May of 2002. The response from readers was beyond any expectations. I was inundated with a wealth of new material, comments and suggestions from scholars in more than 30 countries. This led to a thorough revision and updating of my original draft which had been available on this site since July 2003. It is presently being revised once more before being published in book form.
• I am hoping, by the publication of this draft version of my annotated translation of the Weilue on the same site to elicit a similar response. This should lead to a more accurate and useful final document. I intend to add the biographies of several of the Chinese generals who were instrumental in opening the main “Silk Routes” to the west at a later date.
• I have included a number of lengthy quotations in the notes because I believe they are of importance, well-stated, and of particular interest. I have also included some notes sent to me privately in emails. I have tried to get permission from all these correspondents but have not heard back from all of them yet. If authors have any objections to my use of their material I hope they will contact me and I will gladly make adjustments.
• Some of the longer notes, which may be of more general interest, I have included as Appendices at the end of the document so they can be easily found and accessed.
• Publishing this translation will, I hope, make the Weilue of interest to the general reader, while retaining enough information in the notes to make it useful for specialists. I have tried to keep the text itself as uncluttered as possible so that it may be comfortably read as a whole.
• I hope the work will help rekindle interest in the extensive early contacts and exchanges between East and West, and how they shaped the development of our cultures and our technologies. May it inspire readers to search for answers to some of the many remaining mysteries in the text. I also hope that you will share at least some of the great pleasure I have received while studying this fascinating work.
• Your comments, corrections, criticisms or suggestions are most welcome and will be taken into account in future revisions and, if used, full credit will be given. Please contact me directly – not through the Silk Road Seattle website. I will try to answer any questions – my contact details are:
John E. Hill
PO Box 467
people have helped to encourage me and with the research that went into this
new draft version of the Weilue.
I would like to acknowledge the constant help and encouragement I have received from Jo Wynter, my beloved partner of almost 30 years. Without her untiring patience and constant help, editing and suggestions, none of my historical work would have ever come to fruition.
My special thanks go to Professor Fida Hassnain, who originally fired my enthusiasm in early Indian history, took me to visit many Kushan sites, helped me explore the archaeological collections held in Kashmir, while conveying the knowledge he had gained through his long career; Professor Daniel Waugh for his encouragement and for making it possible to publish my work on the Silk Road Seattle website; and to Professor Victor M. Mair for ongoing advice and assistance. Others who have generously provided valuable help include:
Nettie K. Adams, Dr. Farhad Assar, Dr. Thomas Bartlett, Professor Christopher I. Beckwith, Dr. Craig Benjamin, Professor Alison Betts, Professor E. Bruce Brooks, Professor Felix Chami, Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek, Professor Joe Cribb, Chris M. Dorn’eich, Professor Étienne de la Vaissière, Aayko Eyma, Professor Richard N. Frye, Professor M. Gawlikowski, Dan Gibson, Gaston Giulliani, Dr. Irene L. Good, Dr. David T. Graf, Paul Greenhall, Chris Hopkins, Professor Karl Jettmar, Agnes Korn, Henriette Kress, Whalen Lai, Valérie Lefebvre-Aladwi, Renzo Lucherini, Pavel Lurje, Thomas K. Mallon-McCorgray, Dr. Michael Macdonald, Professor Daniel L. McKinley, Raoul Mclaughlin, Felicitas Maeder, Josef Maier, Samir Masri; Professor Irina Merzliakova, John Moffett, Khademi Nadooshan, Professor Giorgio Nebbia, Mark Passehl, Prof. E. G. Pulleyblank, Lic. Paola Raffetta, Fr. Yves Raguin, S.J., Professor Nader Rastegar, Professor Donald Redford, Joachim K. Rennstich, Janet Rizvi, Peter Rowland, Dr. Edmund Ryden, Orit Shamir, Michael Schimmelpfennig, Professor Steven Sidebotham, Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams, Sören Stark, Dr. Sebastian Stride, Dr. Mehmet Tezcan, Professor E. H. Uphill, Dr. Chunyun WANG, Professor Donald B. Wagner, Antonia Willis, Richard Wong, and the Editorial staff of Shen-Nong of Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd., in Hong Kong (www.icm.com.hk).
inevitably I will have forgotten some who have helped me along the way –
and a few have asked not to be named. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you as
Thank you all so very much. I will be forever in your debt. This is your work as well as mine – there is no way I could have written it without the kind support and assistance I received from you. I hope you will find it worthy and will be pleased with it. I look forward to any suggestions you may have to improve it in the future.
• This translation has been made from the text of the Weilue as contained in the five volume Sanguozhi published by the New China Bookstore Publishing House, Beijing, 1975, zhuan 30: 858-863. I have also checked critical passages against other, earlier, editions.
• As in the modern world, the borders of countries were constantly changing. In addition, many of the peoples mentioned in the Weilue were nomadic, and regularly moved from place to place. Peoples of different ethnic backgrounds and even languages were sometimes grouped together under a common name as “confederations” or “tribes,” which at times can be quite confusing for the reader.
I have divided the text into numbered and headed sections for clarity and ease
of use. Modern place-name equivalents are in rounded brackets after the Chinese
names. Many are well-established and widely accepted. Tentative identifications
are indicated with a question mark, and the evidence is discussed in the notes.
The modern place-names adopted here sometimes only refer to the general location of the ancient sites mentioned in the text. Usually I have only given the name of the nearest modern town, or the main town of an oasis. For example, the oasis of Kashgar (Shule) contained several towns, as it still does, and these are sometimes referred to individually. Literal translations of place-names and products have been put within single inverted commas, such as: ‘Eastern Division.’
Where needed for clarity, I have added comments and notes in square brackets, eg: “the three heavenly bodies [the sun, moon, and stars].” Identifications that remain uncertain are indicated by a question mark.
• Because the older Wade-Giles system of Romanizing Chinese is still commonly used, you will find it employed in many of the quotes given in my notes. I have, therefore, included the Wade-Giles equivalents after the Pinyin for many names and terms in italics and within square brackets.
• Chinese characters are omitted from the translation itself to make it easier to read. The characters for all major place-names and terms are included in the appropriate notes.
• For those wishing to check the reconstructed ancient pronunciations I highly recommend first checking Edwin Pulleyblank’s masterful Lexicon of Reconstructed Pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese, and Early Mandarin (1991), UBC Press, Vancouver. It is arranged alphabetically according to the Pinyin renderings and also contains references to the entries in Karlgren’s earlier, but still useful, Grammata Serica (Recensa). Pulleyblank’s listing of the reference numbers to the characters in Karlgren’s work probably provides the most convenient way of finding particular characters in that work, which is notoriously difficult to access. Some additional reconstructions have been added from the Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise. 7 volumes. Instituts Ricci (Paris – Taipei). Desclée de Brouwer. 2001, which is abbreviated as GR in the entries.
Note that the EMC reconstructions are only reliable back to the time when the Qieyun
dictionary was completed in 601 CE, as
Pulleyblank himself notes on p. 20 of his Lexicon. This means there was
a gap of over 300 years between the composition of the Weilue and the
best phonetic reconstructions for the characters we have at our disposal.
Although the reconstructions back to the late 6th century are frequently useful in helping to identify place-names, there were undoubtedly significant phonetic changes between the 3rd century and 6th century CE. Also, there were likely significant differences in pronunciation between the Chinese soldiers and settlers on the northwest frontiers and the inhabitants of the capital.
• The reconstructions of “Archaic Chinese” according to Karlgren’s Grammata Serica, in which he attempts to reconstruct pronunciations back to the Chou period (up to circa 220 BCE), are also included. These reconstructions of “Archaic Chinese” are indicated by the use of a preceding asterisk: *. Sometimes Karlgren’s attempts to provide these earlier reconstructions are of value, but they should be regarded with caution. They are followed by Karlgren’s “Ancient Chinese,” which are his reconstructions for the period equivalent to Pulleyblank’s EMC.
As entries are often difficult to find in Karlgren’s book, I have included his numbering system preceded by “K”, so a typical entry from his work will look like this: K. 139s *g’ân / γân.
• Quotes from French authors have been translated into English and usually adapted (e.g. by changing the French E.F.E.O. romanizations into Pinyin, leaving out unnecessary footnotes and some of the Chinese characters).
• Some notes from my earlier translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions According to the Hou Hanshu (abbreviated here as CWR) are duplicated here to save the reader the tedious task of checking the notes from one work to the other.
• I have avoided using Chinese characters in the Text itself. Chinese characters as found in the Notes will require the enabling of “Unicode” Chinese characters. Most modern computer programs come with the ability to display Chinese characters but some readers may have to install or “enable” them in their browser to be able to read the Notes and Appendices properly.
Some of the rarer characters may not be available in the fonts on your
computer. In this case, if you are using Windows 2000 or XP format, try to
obtain the very extensive “Simsun (Founder Extended)” font which is
available on the (unfortunately very expensive) Microsoft Office Proofing Tools
Those with Office XP 2002 or later should be able to install it from your Office XP CD using the information available at: http://www.i18nwithvb.com/surrogate_ime/background.htm
• For Mac users I recommend checking the
following website for information on Chinese fonts for the various OS X
operating systems: http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/pages/os_x.html
• For Linux users I recommend checking the following website for information on Chinese fonts: http://seba.studentenweb.org/thesis/linux.php
• For the balance of the document (including Chinese romanizations and the quotes from various other languages), I have used “Gentium” font throughout as it elegant, and contains the greatest number of diacritics (or accents) needed. Best of all, is free and available now in Linux, Mac and PC formats.
If this font is not on already your computer it can be easily downloaded and installed from this site, or: information on the Gentium font can be found at: http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&item_id=Gentium&_sc=1
Gentium fonts may be downloaded from: http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&item_id=Gentium_download&_sc=1 Fortunately, it is free, and not a large file, and so should not take too long to download and install in your “Fonts” folder.
The use of “Gentium” has allowed me accurately represent almost all
the diacritics employed in the quotes. Don’t forget, if you can’t
find exactly the diacritic you need already in the list of characters, you
can combine marks from the “Combining Diacritical Marks” heading,
by typing the character you wish to mark and then going to “Symbol”
and adding the appropriate diacritical mark. This works reasonably well in most
In spite of this, some readers may still experience difficulties. However, I believe that most of the notes will be meaningful even if the odd character is missed. If readers continue to have problems, or wish to discuss some point, contact the author directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org . But please – do not contact the Webmaster.
• The Weilue fills in many gaps in our knowledge of the extensive international contacts and trade networks at this early period. The kingdom of Wei was one of the ‘Three Kingdoms’ (Wei, Wu and Shu) formed after the disintegration of the Han dynasty in 220 CE. Its capital remained at Luoyang [Loyang], which had also been the capital of the Later Han dynasty.
“The Wei controlled the north and north-west, being based essentially on the Yellow River valley with their capital at Loyang ; the Wu in the south and south-east ruled the Yangtze valley and the two Kuang provinces, while the Shu were based on the Szechuan basin in the east, but also commanded the hills of Kweichow and part of Yunnan.” Needham (1978), p. 40.
• The original text of the Weilue, or “Brief Account of the Wei Dynasty,” by Yu Huan has, sadly, been lost. Fortunately, this chapter on the xirong, or ‘Peoples of the West’, was quoted in as extensive footnote to the Sanguozhi by Pei Songzhi, first published in CE 429.
Unfortunately, Yu Huan does not mention his sources in the text that has
survived. Some of this new data undoubtedly came to China via traders from Da
Qin. Land communications with the West apparently continued relatively
uninterrupted to the northern state of Wei after the fall of the Han dynasty.
Wei was the northernmost of the three kingdoms the Han empire had split into and it controlled access to Dunhuang and the main trade routes to the west. It was also, of course, the state that Yu Huan lived in. An entry of the “Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms” for the year 222 CE informs us:
“Second month (Mar. 1-29). The Kings of Shan-shan 鄯善, Ch’iu-tsŭ 龜玆 (Kutcha), and Yü-tien 于闐 (Khotan) each dispatched an envoy to offer tribute. [The Emperor said in an edict: “‘The Hsi-jung 西戎 came to submit to his arrangements,’ and ‘The Ti-ch’iang 氐羌 came to seek acknowledgment,’ – these lines are sung in praise in the Shih 詩 and the Shu 書. Now, the distant barbarian tribes of the Western Regions have all come to offer submission and allegiance to us. Envoys shall be sent to soothe them.”] From this time on, the Western Regions maintained contact with China, and the wu-chi chiao-yü 戊己校尉 was appointed.” Fang (1965), p. 98. [Note: this latter title is usually transcribed as: “wu- (or mao-)chi hsiao-wei” – which translates as the “Maoji Commandant” – see Hucker No. 2456 and TWR notes 1.5 and 22.5. Also, “the Ti-ch’iang” above would be better rendered as “the Ti and the Ch’iang.”]
• There is information in the Weilue about the maritime routes to the Roman Empire and it is quite possible that some, or all, of the new information on the Roman Empire and Parthia came from foreign sailors. One record of information obtained from such sources (which may have been available to Yu Huan) is recorded in the Liangshu:
“During the 5th year of the Huangwu period of the reign of Sun Quan [= CE 226] a merchant of Da Qin, whose name was Qin Lun came to Jiaozhi [Tongking]; the prefect [taishou] of Jiaozhi, Wu Miao, sent him to Sun Quan [the Wu emperor], who asked him for a report on his native country and its people. Qinlun prepared a statement and replied. At the time Zhuke [nephew to Zhuke Liang, alias Kun Ming] chastised Dan Yang [= Jiang Nan] and they had caught blackish coloured dwarfs. When Qin Lun saw them he said that in Da Qin these men were rarely seen. Sun Quan then sent male and female dwarfs, ten of each, in charge of an officer, Liu Xian of Huiji [a district in Zhejiang], to accompany Qin Lun. Liu Xian died on the road, whereupon Qin Lun returned direct to his native country.” Adapted from Hirth (1885), pp. 47-48.
Note: In the name of the “Roman” merchant Qin Lun above, Qin, as is standard Chinese practice with foreign names, stands for ‘from Da Qin’ or the Roman Empire. The old pronunciation of the personal name Lun 論 is reconstructed as: K. 470b *li̯wən / li̯uĕn or *lwən / luən; EMC lwən or lwənh. This, as Renzo Lucherini has kindly pointed out in a private communication of 23 May, 2004, may well have represented the Greek name of Leon.
• Yu Huan apparently never left China, but he collected a large amount of information on the countries to the west of China including Parthia, India, and the Roman Empire, and the various routes to them. Some of this information had reached China well before Yu Huan’s time, and can also be found in the sections dealing with the ‘Western Regions’ of the Shiji, the Hanshu, and the Hou Hanshu.
• In spite of this repetition of earlier (and sometimes fanciful) information, the Weilue contains much new, unique, and generally trustworthy material. Most of it dates from the late second and early third centuries CE. It is this new information that makes the Weilue such a valuable source. Most of the new information appears to have come from the Later Han dynasty, before China was to a large extent cut off from the West by civil wars and unrest along its borders during the late 2nd century CE.
“The time of the Han dynasty, especially the Later Han, was one
of the relatively important scientific periods in Chinese history. There were
great advances in astronomy, improvements in the calendar, an outstanding
development in the earth sciences, and foundations laid for methods of
classifying plants and animals; alchemy flourished, and the first book ever
written on the subject appeared (A.D. 142). A sceptical and rationalist way of
thinking developed, particularly about A.D. 80 in the hands of Wang Chhung
[Wang Chong].., while there were two Han princes who also took part in active
intellectual life. One, Tê of Ho-Chien, was a scholar and bibliophile who
preserved the important ‘Artificer’s Record’ section of the Chou
Li (Records of the Rites of Chou), the other was the almost legendary Liu
An of Huai-Nan, who gave his name to the Huai Nan Tzu, a compendium on
all the science of the day and one of the most important monuments of ancient
Chinese scientific thought. Indeed, bibliography as a whole received great
stimulus, for the Han period marked the first systematic development of book
lists; compiled by experts in astronomy, medicine, military science, history,
magic and divination, these were incorporated into the Han histories and list
some 700 works written on wooden or bamboo tablets, and on silk. Buddhism also
entered China in Later Han times and the first sutras were translated into
Chinese at the capital, Loyang.
In technology the Han age was marked by the invention and spread of the use of paper, by numerous developments in ceramics such as the first glazes and the introduction of a material that was the forerunner of porcelain, by advances in architectural techniques such as making decorated bricks and tiles, and by raising the level of textile technology to a stage not approached by Iran or Europe until centuries later. A large number of natural products new to China were also imported: alfalfa and the grape-vine from the west, oranges, lemons, betel nuts and lychees from the south and south-west. From the west also came improved breeds of horses, and from Khotan, possibly from Burma too, jade arrived in large quantities. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Han people in nautical technology was the cardinal invention of the axial rudder at least as early as the first century A.D.
Towards the end of Later Han times, palace revolutions became increasingly frequent, and in 184 a farming crisis led to a peasant revolt guided, in this case, by the ‘Yellow Turban’ secret society. Although the revolt was suppressed, it left some of the army generals in positions of great power, and by 220 the central government found itself ineffective. The country became divided, and for the next half century remained fragmented into three independent kingdoms in a state of permanent mutual hostility.” Needham (1978), pp. 39-40.
• Along with these great scientific and technological exchanges came new ideas, philosophies and religions. Foreign ideas and religions spread incredibly quickly via the trade routes across the whole of Eurasia and much of Africa. The acceleration of information exchange was unprecedented. Buddhism became established in Central Asia well before the turn of the millennium and in China during the 1st century CE.
• There is also some fairly convincing evidence that Christianity and Judaism had reached both China and India by the first century CE, and Christianity was definitely well-established in southern India at least by the second century CE. This rapid spread of religions was to continue in later centuries with Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam. See: Appendix I: “The Spread of Ideas and Religions Along the Trade Routes.”
• The section on Da Qin (Roman territory) from the Weilue was translated into English, with excellent notes, by Friedrich Hirth in his pioneering volume, China and the Roman Orient, first published in 1885. He also included translations of a wide range of other Chinese texts relating to Da Qin (the Roman Empire) and the Chinese text of each is included, making it an essential reference, even today.
This was followed in 1905 by a translation of the rest of the text of the Weilue
into French by Édouard Chavannes, under the title of, “Les pays
d’occident d’après le Wei lio.”
Chavannes’ translation is accompanied by copious notes in which he clarified numerous obscurities, and convincingly identified many of the countries and towns mentioned in the Weilue, especially along the eastern sections of the overland trade routes. These are, to my knowledge, the only translations of significant portions of the text into European languages to date.
In 1980 I was living in India, beginning to study the history of the Kushan
Empire, when Professor Edwin Pulleyblank very kindly sent me copies of
Chavannes’ annotated French translations of the Weilue and the
chapter on the ‘Western Regions’ as well as other key texts from
the Hou Hanshu. I translated Chavannes’ accounts into English as
an aid to my studies. What a wonderful treasure chest of information I
It was soon clear to me, however, that the translations and notes were badly in need of expansion and updating, and, as there had never been a complete translation of the whole texts into English, I decided to began teaching myself Chinese so I could study and translate the original Chinese texts.
I had not realised when I first started in 1980 what an immense and lengthy, but rewarding, task the translating and annotating the Weilue would be. It was an audacious undertaking, as my knowledge of Chinese was (and still is) very limited. It would have been impossible without the help of many experts and friends and any merits this new translation might have are due largely to their kind and generous suggestions and advice.
• An excellent and detailed review of Chavannes’ translation of the Weilue (which, unfortunately, excludes the section on Da Qin or the Roman Empire) was published by Paul Pelliot in BEFEO 6 (1906), pp. 361-400, in which he corrected some of the major mistakes and weaknesses in Chavannes’ pioneering translation. I include here some of his more important observations and notes:
“Mr. Chavannes always makes use of the edition of the
twenty-four historians published by the library of Tushujicheng in Shanghai
from 1888. This edition has the advantage of being printed clearly in a
convenient format and is relatively inexpensive. It accurately reproduces the
Imperial edition published in the 18th century by order of Qianlong
and which is authoritative in China today. It is just that this edition in
moving characters1, generally correct for the Shiji or the Histories
of the Han, and which is at the same time the first and the only true
reflection of the dynastic histories, is quite careless from the Sanguozhi
onwards. Additionally, Mr. Chavannes has had at his disposal the edition of the
Sanguozhi known as the Baorentang (p. 550, n. 2; p. 555, n. 1),
but he does not seem to have always checked it for, in at least two cases it is
unlikely that the Baorentang edition gives readings which, in the
edition of Shanghai are clearly printing errors: on p. 522, “自項氐
Zixiang Di” is incorrect for “白項氐
Baixiang Di” and the correct reading is found in the example in the
xylographic edition published by Jiangnanshuju in 18871. It
is the same for the 魏卑 Weibi of p. 526 where Mr. Chavannes clearly sees
that it ought to be written 鮮卑 Xianbi and which is, in fact, correctly written
Xianbi in the edition of Jiangnanshuju and, very probably, in that of
the Baorentang. The edition of 1877 that I quote here is, however, far
from being satisfactory itself. In the section on Da Qin that Mr. Chavannes has
not translated, it presents a printing fault which has misled Mr. Hirth and
which I have already had the occasion to note (B.E.F.E.-O., iv, p. 175,
n. 3). As to the rest of this section taken from the Weilue, one will
find in the large format edition of 1887 the faulty readings: 祿福 Lufu
in place of the 福祿 Fulu of Mr. Chavannes (p. 521); 絶精
Juejing instead of 精絶 Jingjue (p. 556). On the other hand, this same
edition of 1887 gives readings or characters in certain places that one cannot
reject a priori: such as the fact that it always writes Yuedi 月氐 and
not Yuezhi 月氏2,
領 ling in place of 嶺 (although I
do not believe the two characters were used interchangeably); in the name of
Yulai (p. 558), one finds于 yu
in place of its equivalent 於 ; Danduo (p. 526) is written with 柘 to
and not with 拓 tuo [note Chavannes (1905), p. 526, n. 5, writes: “The character 拓 is also
pronounced zhi; but the pronunciation tuo appears preferable when
it refers to the pronunciation of foreign sounds [there is a typographical
error here where Chavannes gives ‘nons’ instead of ‘sons’].”
The 皮亢 Pikang of p. 558 is not a priori better
than the 皮宂 Pirong given in the edition of 1887. In the enigmatic
title that the edition of the library of Tushujicheng gives in the form of 白疏聞 bosuwen (p. 550), the edition of 1887 agrees with other
sources that have 閒 xian in place of 聞 wen.
All these examples show that one cannot safely translate using a single
contemporary edition of the dynastic histories. The first palace edition alone
deserves complete trust for the text adopted under Qianlong, and yet modern
criticism can only see there the version which was followed by the scholars of
the 18th century, but not a sufficiently reliable text that
comparison with the editions of the Sung, Yuan, or the Ming would be without
All these editions, from whatever period, have this in common, that they have not modified the text even if it was clearly in error. Disregarding the copying or printing faults that they inevitably present in greater or lesser numbers, the differences between the editions to which Chinese or European science are able to refer to always provide various readings furnished by previous printed or manuscript examples, and the various editors have not chosen between them in the same manner. This prudence, this respect for the text, is one of the principal merits of Chinese scholarship and it is, in part, due to this that the dynastic histories have retained such great authority. But, as a result, commentaries are necessary to establish, whether by comparison between the dynastic histories or referring to other works of Chinese literature, if a certain passage is certainly or probably in error, and in which manner it ought to be corrected. It is principally under the present dynasty, which is the great period of Chinese exegesis, that this research has been undertaken.”
Page 365, note 1. I have several times, and with others with me, spoken of the lithographic or photolithographic edition of the twenty-four historians. This is the edition used here by Mr. Chavannes ; it was published in 1888 and in the following years in a small format, and, in fact, has been carried out with the use of mobile metallic characters. The same applies to the corresponding edition of the Tushujicheng.
Page 366, note 1. This xylographic edition of 1887 does not, however, reproduce the official edition of the 18th century, but that published under the Ming by the 汲古閣 Jiguge. It is known that the Jiguge of the 毛 Mao family was the best publishing house existing during the Ming. There is the catalogue of what was published there (cf. WYLIE, Notes on Chinese literature p. 60). The edition of the Jiangnanshuju which appeared in 1887 is in the library of the École des Langues orientales.
Page 366, note 2. This form 月氐 Yuedi has not been neglected, if one refers to the remarks of Mr. FRANKE in his Beiträge aus Chinesischen Quellen zur Kenntnis der Türkvölker und Skythen Zentralasiens (Berlin, 1904), where its existence prior to the Weishu is disputed : yet there was a printing fault. One sees that it is a matter of the edition. In reality, I believe that the ancient manuscripts rarely distinguished between 大 da and 太 dai, 氐 di and 氏 zhi, 祗 zhi and 祇 qi. The unity of the ancient forms of these dual characters has survived until now in spirit. As for the form 月支 Yuezhi, it should be noted that it has also served for writing the name of a Korean principality (Sanguozhi, ch. 30, folio 13).
Page 366, note 3. We have not so much as mentioned ancient Chinese manuscripts. Meanwhile, exception should be made for those that have been rediscovered in Japan over the last few years. Among them is a manuscript from the Tang period giving the 食貨忎 Shihuozhi of the Qian Hanshu of Ban Gu with commentary by Yan Shigu, that is to say, a portion of the three canonical histories which have never ceased attracting attention and which, as a consequence, have been transmitted with the greatest care. Now, on this chapter alone, there are about a hundred characters different from the usual text. Cf. on this subject B.E.F.E.-O., ii. 335.
Translated and adapted from Pelliot (1906), pp. 365-367 and nn.
• Throughout this translation I have relied primarily on the Weilue as quoted in the Sanguozhi, New China Library 1975 Edition, published by the New China Bookstore Publishing House, Beijing. This is generally regarded as an authoritative an accurate rendition, with the added advantage of including punctuations. Occasional small differences with other editions have been dealt with in the Notes.
• Paper was a new invention, first recorded in China in the year 105 CE (although recent research indicates it was probably invented previous to this usually accepted date). Prior to this books were usually written on bamboo slips or on silk. It is unclear whether Yu Huan had access to paper or not. The reader should be aware that this chapter has only survived because it was included as an extensive note to the Sanguozhi. Often it is possible to tell whether a bamboo slip has been lost because they usually only had a limited number of characters on them; a page of paper could contain a larger text. Unfortunately, here one cannot tell for certain, but it does seem possible that one or more bamboo slips were lost before the chapter was recorded in the Sanguozhi – particularly near the end of Section 10.
• The notes, which I hope will make the translation more meaningful and accessible for readers, have proved to be even more difficult and demanding than the translation itself. In particular, the identification of some of the place-names and products mentioned in the text are still unresolved; and continue to be vigorously debated.
Chavannes, in his introduction, convincingly dates the composition of the text:
“The biography of Yu Huan has not been admitted to the canonical histories. Therefore, we would only be able to guess at the date at which this author wrote if a celebrated critic of the Tang period, Liu Zhiji 劉知幾, had not left us, in his Shi tong 史通 published in 710, this very short bit of information:
‘Previously, during the Wei period (220-265), Yu Huan, originally from the capital (Changan), composed the Weilue without being officially given the job. The narrative of these events comes to a halt during the reign of Emperor Ming (227-239). . . . ’
The evidence of Liu Zhiji, dating from a time when the Weilue had not yet disappeared, cannot be put in doubt. It fixes the composition of the Weilue in the twenty-six years between CE 239, the end of Emperor Ming’s reign, and 265, the end of the Wei dynasty.” Translated and adapted from Chavannes (1905), pp. 519-520.
Pelliot adds the following information about the date and status of the text in his review:
“The first question to resolve was to establish clearly in which period the Weilue was composed. It is known that the author was called 魚豢 Yu Huan, and various indications support the late testimonies that place him under the Wei (220-265), but Mr. Chavannes is the first to base this date on a text definitely from the 8th century. This text is found in the 史通 Shi tong of Liu Zhiji 劉知幾 [661-721], published in 710. Mr. Chavannes believes that it is unique and decisive. In fact, it is truly the only text that the Chinese bibliographers quote regarding Yu Huan that is not taken from the canonical histories. However, the fact of not coming from the official compilations, regarding material on Chinese history, does not give more authority to a work. Henceforth we will be able to call upon a text more than a hundred years older, and more reliable. It is said in the chapter on literature of the dynastic history of the Sui (581-617) that Yu Huan occupied a post of langzhong 郞中 (“Palace Gentleman”) under the Wei2.”
2. Sui shu, 淮南書局 Huainan shuju edition (1871) ch. 33 folio 4 b.
Translated and adapted from Pelliot (1906), p. 362.
“After the Tang, the only title that survived, before the complete disappearance of the work, is the Weilue in 50 chapters, mentioned still in 1225 in the 史畧 Shilue of Gao Sisun 高似孫. Xin Zhu reports another work of Yu Huan, the Zhongwai guan 中外官, of which the title has been preserved for us in the Nanqi shu 南齊書 chapter dedicated to the administration. This was, without doubt, a sort of table of the metropolitan and provincial functionaries. Yu Huan is this time qualified as a 官儀 guanyi, but there is no doubt that it refers to the same individual. Here again it is said that Yu Huan lived under the Wei. As the Nanji shu deals with the years 479-501, and was compiled in the first half of the 6th century, we have in this passage new evidence, 100 years previous to the Shui shu, and 200 years before the Shih tong, which allows us to fix the period in which the Weilue was written in the second third of the 3rd century.” Translated and adapted from Pelliot (1906), pp. 363-364.
• Although the Weilue was never classed among the official or ‘canonical’ histories, it has always been held in the highest regard by Chinese scholars as a unique and precious source of historical and geographical information. Pelliot notes:
“Tianlue and Weilue are classed among the 雜吏 zashi. Mr. Chavannes translates this term by “historians of mixed value.” I am not sure that this is the meaning. Wylie (Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 25) renders zashi by “miscellaneous” and perhaps he was right. The term tsa “mixed” could apply here to the nature of the subjects dealt with, which are “various,” and not to the greater or lesser knowledge or talent which the author would have to prove.” Translated and adapted from Pelliot (1906), p. 362, n. 2. [Note: The ABC p. 1230, defines 雜吏 as an “unofficial history.”]
Since the time of Chavannes and Pelliot, there has been almost a century of
scholarship devoted to various aspects of the text by scholars from many
Recent archaeological finds, and research on other key texts, notably the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, and the chapters on the ‘Western Regions’ in the Shiji, the Hanshu, and the Hou Hanshu, have helped to throw light on this difficult but important work.
In spite of all this attention, many place-names in the text remain unidentified (or the identification is not convincing), and some sections of the routes outlined in the text have remained unclear. This is especially true of the sections relating to the Roman Empire, and the sea routes between China and Egypt, where the data available is very sparse.
• The Weilue contains many place-names which are no longer known in Chinese and which, if left unidentified, make the trade routes, and much else besides, impossible to decipher.
• Local place-names frequently change, and the ancient names of places are often long forgotten. Nor are we certain of the local pronunciations in the second and third centuries CE. As in English, the Chinese sometimes used descriptive names, such as ‘Salt Lake’, or ‘Red Valley,’ and, at other times, literal translations of foreign names.
• The pronunciation of words change over time, as do the pronunciations of the Chinese characters that have been used to transcribe them. The Han transcriptions of the sounds of local place-names often amount to little more than rough approximations. Sometimes syllables were dropped, sometimes the pronunciations were drastically altered, particularly as certain foreign phonemes did not exist in Chinese. These processes are also common in English where we find examples such as ‘Roma’ transcribed as ‘Rome’ (single syllable) and ‘Paris with an ‘iss’ sound at the end instead of the French ‘ee’.
• It was recognised by both Hirth and Chavannes that, although the Weilue was composed during the Wei dynasty, most of the geographical information it contains, especially that on the regions to the west of the Tarim Basin, must have been collected at an earlier date.
• The Weilue includes much of the information on the Roman Empire already recorded in zhuan 118 of the Hou Hanshu on the “Western Regions.” This information seems to have been mainly based on the accounts of the Chinese envoy, Gan Ying, who had been sent by the famous Chinese General Ban Chao, Ban Yong’s father, in CE 97, to the west to gather information. It has been either paraphrased from the Hou Hanshu itself, or taken from the same sources. On the other hand, much of the information on Parthia and the Roman Empire is additional to that included in the Hou Hanshu. It was presumably collected after the report of the Chinese General Ban Yong to the Emperor in, or just before, CE 125.
• Gan Ying got as far as the banks of the Persian Gulf but was persuaded not to go further by the Parthians. He returned to China in 101 CE. Much of this information is duplicated in the Weilue. Fan Ye, the compiler, who died in CE 445, added a few bits of later material to the Hou Hanshu (dating up to about CE 170). These include this fascinating passage:
“The king of this country [Da Qin] always wanted to send envoys to the Han, but Anxi (Parthia), wishing to control the trade in multi-coloured Chinese silks, blocked the route to prevent [the Romans] getting through [to China].
In the ninth Yanxi year [166 CE], during the reign of Emperor Huan, the king of Da Qin (the Roman Empire), Andun (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), sent envoys from beyond the frontiers through Rinan (Commandery on the central Vietnamese coast), to offer elephant tusks, rhinoceros horn, and turtle shell. This was the very first time there was [direct] communication [between the two countries]. The tribute brought was neither precious nor rare, raising suspicion that the accounts [of the ‘envoys’] might be exaggerated.” Hou Hanshu, ch. 118. See TWR Section 12.
Much of the new information in the Weilue is very specific and quite detailed,
giving distances and directions between cities, and must have been based on
actual travel notes. Who supplied this information is not clear, although the
routes described strongly suggest that they were mainly gathered from Arab,
possibly Nabataean, traders.
However, the many references to Anxi (Parthia) indicate that the information in the Weilue on the Roman Empire and Parthia must date from before the collapse of the Parthians and the founding of the Sasanian Empire in 224 CE.
Indications in the text strongly suggest that the information on Parthia and the Roman Empire was gathered after the accession of Meredat to the throne of Mesene/Characene (i.e. sometime after CE 116), and before the fall of Sura on the Euphrates (along with the whole region between Dura-Europos and Edessa), to the Romans in CE 164-165.
• Wherever possible, the information in the Weilue has been checked with that of the 1st century Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. This work can now be confidently dated to between 40 and 70 CE and, most probably, between CE 40 and 50. See: Fussman (1991); Robin (1991); and Casson (1989): pp. 6-7.
To gain background on the period, and especially of the trade between the Roman Empire and the Orient, the Weilue can be read alongside the following texts:
– the Shiji [Shih-chi] by Sima Qian [Szu-ma Ch’ien], particularly chapter 123 on Dayuan [Ta-yüan] which covers up to the end of the 2nd century BCE. See the very readable translation in: Watson, Burton, 1961, II: 264-289.
– the chapters on the Western Countries (zhuan 61 and 96) of the Hanshu which covers the period 125 BCE to 23 CE (translated and amply annotated by Hulsewé and Loewe in China in Central Asia, 1979). (Covers 125 BCE to CE 23)
– the chapter on the Western Regions (zhuan 118), of the Hou Hanshu (23 CE to late 2nd century, with most of the information on distant countries dating prior to 125 CE): See the 2nd edition of the annotated translation of my The Western Regions According to the Hou Hanshu (abbreviated as TWR in this work), which is freely available on the Silk Road Seattle website: http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html
– the chapter on Chinese expansion into the Tarim Basin (zhuan 77) of the Hou Hanshu (French translation by Chavannes in T’oung pao 7, 1906, pp. 149-234). (1st and early 2nd century CE). (I hope to make an English translation of these biographies available soon.)
– the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c. 40-50 CE). See the excellent translation (from H. Frisk 1927 with up-dates and improvements) with the Greek text and extensive notes by Lionel Casson: The Periplus Maris Erythraei. (1989), Princeton, Princeton University Press. Also still useful is William H. Schoff’s 1912 translation: The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea. Wilfred H. Schoff. New York, Longmans, Green, and Co. Second Edition. Reprint, New Delhi, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation. 1974. The main text from the earlier translation by Schoff is now fortunately available to all on this website, although one should still consult both his book and Casson’s more recent one for their useful commentaries.
– the Naturalis historia by Pliny the Elder - completed, except for finishing touches, in 77 CE. For a full translation see: Natural History. Pliny the Elder (77 CE). Translation by W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. (1961). For a widely available, readable and useful selection see: Natural History – A Selection. Pliny the Elder (77 CE). Translated by John F. Healy, London, Penguin Books. (1991).
– the Geography by Ptolemy completed c. 150 CE. The only available English translation is by Edward Luther Stevenson in Geography of Claudius Ptolemy. Reprint New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1991. It is, unfortunately, full of mistakes. Additionally the Greek names have been Romanized, which often makes identifications unnecessarily difficult.
I have not included maps with this translation but strongly recommend having a good atlas at hand while reading the book. Some of the maps available on the “Silk Road Seattle” website will also prove helpful, especially the detailed map showing the main routes across the Tarim Basin and the one accompanying the Schoff’s translation of The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea. Interactive maps and much additional information may be accessed at the following sites: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~chgis/chgis_home.html, and http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~chgis/tools/
About Measurements and Administrative Divisions
• The basic units of measurement employed in the Weilue, were the 里li and the chi 尺. They have varied considerably through the ages and from district to district. Fortunately, measurements remained stable over the Qin and Han periods, and an inscribed bronze standard measure, dated 9 CE, was discovered in 1924 at the Imperial Palace in Beijing. This has allowed accurate conversions to modern measurements. The Han chi, or ‘foot’ is given as equalling 0.231 metres (or 9.095 inches).
On the basis of this lucky discovery, the li was calculated by Dubs
(1955): 160, n. 7 to be 415.8 metres. See also Chapter IV, Appendix I, Standard
Weights and Measures of Han Times, ibid., 276-280.
In most cases, I have given the exact equivalents to the nearest kilometre based on this measurement even when the number of li given is obviously an approximation (e.g. 8,000 or 10,000 li). For relatively short distances (less than 100 li), I have calculated to the nearest tenth of a kilometre.
Most, though not all, of the distances between places given in the Weilue
– where they can be checked – prove to have been surprisingly
accurate, especially those in areas controlled at times by the Chinese.
Sometimes there are mistakes in the distances given in the text. This may be because it is not clear exactly where the ancient route went between two points (or which of several alternatives was used). Occasionally, especially over longer distances, the figures given are obviously widely inaccurate.
• All other conversions of Chinese measurements are based on the values calculated by Wan Kuo-ting for the Qin [Ch’in] and Han periods as described by A. F. P. Hulsewé in T’oung pao Archives, Vol. XLIX, Livre 3, 1961: 206-207.
• The main administrative divisions of the Han Empire were the 郡 jun “commanderies” (or ‘provinces’) and 王國 wangguo ‘kingdoms.’ These were subdivided into 縣 xian “counties,” 鄕 xsiang “districts,” and 里 li “wards.”
Some Chinese words have no exact equivalent in English. One such example is the
word 城cheng, which literally translates as ‘walled town,’ but it was
also used for large towns that were not walled. It is sometimes rendered
‘city,’ but only a handful of the cheng mentioned in the Weilue
would be large enough to be called a ‘city’ in our age of
megalopolises. Most of them were what we would think of as country towns or
provincial centres. I have translated the word simply as ‘town’ and
leave it to the reader to add the nuances according to the context.
Similarly, 國 guo is used to refer to entities ranging from tiny fiefdoms or even villages to entire empires and can be translated as ‘kingdom,’ ‘fief,’ ‘nation,’ ‘state,’ ‘country,’ or ‘empire.’ I have translated it as ‘kingdom,’ unless the context specifically indicates otherwise, as most of these territories seem to have had a hereditary system of rulers at this period.
• I have used “Western Regions” for the term 西域 xiyu rather than the usual translation as “Western Countries.” I emphasize that xiyu is sometimes used in the specific sense of the kingdoms actually controlled by China on the routes to the west of “China Proper” (the “Inner” region – the land within the Wall), and sometimes in the far more general sense of all countries to the west of China.
The character du 都 is frequently translated as ‘capital’
in spite of the fact that there are many examples of more than one du
existing in a single state. Additionally, Dubs (1938), p. 28, n. 2, says that
in “ancient times” it referred to “a large walled
city”. I have, therefore usually translated this word as ‘major
centre’ or ‘large town.’ Sometimes the Weilue
designates a town as a wangzhi 王治 which
translates literally as the “king’s chief town or residence”
and this is much closer to the concept of ‘capital’ as we use it
today, so I have translated it variously as “the (king’s)
capital,” or “the king’s residence.”
In one place in Section 11, just after referring to the fact that Rome controlled hundreds of minor kings, the text becomes more specific, using the term wangsuozhi cheng王所治城 which can be translated as “the king’s centre of administration city,” which I have rendered: “the king’s administrative capital” – i.e. Rome itself. See note 11.25.
• Territories referred to as ‘Han,’ ‘Tianzhu’ (India), ‘Anxi’ (Parthia), or ‘Da Qin’ (Rome) were sometimes used very specifically for the home territory, but often far more loosely for territories controlled by, or tributary to, the main seat of power. Thus, in the Hou Hanshu, we find references to the ‘King of Da Qin’ (that is, the king of Rome) and, at the same time, subject territories such as Egypt, or the ‘Roman Orient,’ are also referred to simply as Da Qin.
The Weilue’s Chapter on the Western Rong (‘Peoples of the West’),1 says:
The Di2 have their own kings. They originally came from far away.
When the Han opened Yi zhou,3 and established Wudu Commandery,4 they drove back the people of this race who dispersed, and took refuge in the mountain valleys. Some were at Fulu,5 and others in the neighbourhood of Qian6 and Long. 7
They are not an homogenous race. They are said to be the descendants of Panhu.8 Some are called the Qing Di (Green Di), others the Bai Di (White Di), and others the Ran Di (Giant Python Di),9 referring to the class of reptiles in which they are placed.
Each (of their tribes) has its kings and chiefs who, in most cases, received their lands and titles from the Middle Kingdom, and are required by it to fulfil their responsibilities, or they are demoted.
In the sixteenth year [= CE 211 – but should read 213 CE], they joined forces with Ma Chao and rebelled.14 After (Ma) Chao had been defeated [in 214], Angui was attacked and killed by Xiahou Yuan. Qianwan made his way to the southwest and entered Shu (Western Sichuan).15 His tribes were not able to get away and all submitted.
The (Chinese) government transported those who had taken a questionable stance during these events, to a separate place in Meiyang (in the Commandery) of Fufeng.16
Their customs and language are not like those of the Middle Kingdom, but similar to those of the Qiang22 and several Hu peoples.23 Each person has a family name, like the family names of the Middle Kingdom. They prefer blue and deep red clothes.
They are commonly skilled at weaving cloth; they are good farmers; they breed and rear pigs, oxen, horses, donkeys, and mules.
When a woman marries, she wears a renlu24 that, in the way that it is trimmed and decorated, sometimes resembles the renlu of the Qiang, and sometimes the tunic of the Middle Kingdom. All braid their hair.
Many of them know the language of the Middle Kingdom because they have lived in the Middle Kingdom and mixed among the people. Nevertheless, when they return to their tribes they naturally speak the Di language.
Their marriage (customs) resemble those of the Qiang.
Although, at present, the fiefdoms28 are administered by the (Chinese) commanderies and kingdoms,29 previously they had their own kings and feudal princes living in (now) empty villages. They also had more than ten thousand (people) living in the region of Wudu,30 and in the neighbourhood of Yinping31 and Jie.32
Section 2 – The Zilu Tribes
The Zilu1 originated among the Xiongnu.2 Zi is the name the Xiongnu used for slaves. Formerly, in the Jianwu period [CE 25-55], the Xiongnu became weak and dispersed. Their slaves fled and hid in the region of Jincheng,3 Wuwei,4 and Jiuquan (Commanderies),5 north to Hei Shui (‘Black River’) and Xi He (‘Western River’).6
Wandering from east to west, they care for their flocks by leading them in search of water and pasture. They make raids on the territory of Liangzhou.7 Their tribes have progressively increased until they number several tens of thousands of men.
They are not the same as the eastern tribes, who are the Xianbi.8 They are not all of one race. There are Dahu,9 Dingling,10 and also quite a large number of Qiang living among them. This is because they were originally slaves of the Xiongnu.
During the period (at the end) of the Han and (the beginning) of the Wei [circa 220 CE], one of their great chiefs was named Tantuo.11 After he died, some great chiefs, descendants of his, were living to the south near the frontier of Lingju (Prefecture) in Guangwei (Commandery).12 There was Tugui13 who came (to invade our territory), and rebelled several times. He was killed by (the Prefect of) Liangzhou. Now there is (the chief named) Shaoti.14
Sometimes these tribes come to submit, sometimes they withdraw in hiding. They often make trouble on the routes to the western provinces.15
Section 3 – The Qiang Tribes1
From Dunhuang in the Western Regions2 to the Chuo Qiang (‘Disobedient Qiang’)3 in the Nan Shan (‘Southern Mountains’),4 and several thousand li west to the Congling (the Pamirs),5 are the remnants of the Yuezhi6 and the Congzi (‘Brown Onion’),7 the Baima (‘White Horse’),8 and the Huangniu Qiang (‘Yellow Ox’ Qiang).9
Each of these peoples has its’ own chief. They are bordered to the north by various kingdoms. Neither the distance (from China), nor the extent (of their territories), is known.
It is rumoured that the Huangniu Qiang (‘Yellow Ox’ Qiang) are of a separate race, and are born after a pregnancy of (only) six months. To the south, they border on the Baima Qiang (‘White Horse’ Qiang).
Section 4 – The three main overland routes to the Western Regions
It was at the beginning of the Han that the routes were opened leading to the kingdoms of Xiyu (‘The Western Regions’ – the countries of the Tarim Basin and adjoining areas).1
At this time the kingdoms numbered thirty-six. Later they split into more than fifty. From the Jianwu period [CE 25-55] to our time, they have torn each other to pieces, and destroyed one another, and now they number twenty.2
 Heading west from the Yumen (‘Jade Gate’) Frontier Post, and passing through (the territory of) the Chuo Qiang (‘Disobedient Qiang’),5 one turns west to pass over the Congling (the Pamirs),6 and through the Xuandu (the ‘Hanging Passages’ in northern Hunza),7 to enter (the territory of) the Da Yuezhi (Kushans).8 – This is the Southern Route.9
 Heading west from the Yumen (‘Jade Gate’) Frontier Post, leaving the Dadu jing (The Protector General’s Well),10 turning around the northern end of the Sanlongsha (‘Three Sand Ridges’),10 one passes by the Julu cang (‘Depot Dwellings’).12 Then, on leaving the Shaxi jing (‘West-of-the-Sand Well’),13 and turning northwest, passing by the Longdui (‘Dragon Dunes’),14 one arrives at ancient Loulan15 and, turning west, goes to Qiuci (Kucha),16 and on to the Congling (Pamir) mountains. – This is the Central Route.17
 Heading northwest from Yumen (‘Jade Gate’) Frontier Post, passing through Hengkeng (‘East-West Gully’ = the Bēsh-toghrak Valley),18 one avoids the Sanlongsha (‘Three Sand Ridges’)11 as well as the Longdui (‘Dragon Dunes’),14 and emerges to the north of Wuchuan (‘Five Boats’)19 and arrives in the territory of Jushi at Gaochang (47 km SE of Turfan),20 which is the residence of the Mao (Wu) and Ji Colonel (in charge of the agricultural garrisons).21 Then it turns to the west and rejoins the Central Route to Qiuci (Kucha). This is the New Route.22 [Note that there is also a ‘New Route of the North’ outlined below in Section 10].
Previous historians have already described the products of the Western Territories in detail; therefore, I will now be brief.
Section 5 – The Southern Route
The Southern Route1 heads west to:
• the kingdom of Qiemo (Cherchen),2 the kingdom of Xiaoyuan (‘Little Yuan’ – 3 marches south of Qiezhi),3 the kingdom of Jingjue (Niya),4 the kingdom of Loulan (north of Lop Nor),5 which are all dependencies of Shanshan (Lop Nor and surrounds).6
• the kingdom of Ronglu (4 marches south of Jingjue or Niya),7 the kingdom of Hanmi (Keriya),8 the kingdom of Qule (south of Keriya),9 and the kingdom of Pikang (modern Pishan or Guma),10 which are all dependencies of Yutian (Khotan).11
• the kingdom of Jibin (Gandhāra- Kapisha),12 the kingdom of Daxia (Bactria),13 the kingdom of Gaofu (Kabul),14 and the kingdom of Tianzhu (Northern India),15 which are all dependencies of the Da Yuezhi (Kushans).16
Section 6 – The Kingdom of Linni (Lumbini)
Regarding the kingdom of Linni (Lumbini),1 the Buddhist books say:
“The king of this country fathered Futu (the Buddha).2 The Buddha was the heir apparent. His father was called Xietouye (Suddhodana). His mother was called Moye (Maya).
The Buddha wore yellow clothes. His hair was silky black. The hair on his chest was black; his complexion a coppery-red.3
Initially Moye (Maya) dreamed of a white elephant and became pregnant. When the Buddha was born, he emerged from the left side of his mother.4 At his birth, he had a topknot (the ushnisha) of hair.5 As soon as he touched ground, he was able to take seven steps6.”
This kingdom is in the centre of the towns of Tianzhu (Northern India). Also, there was another holy man named Shalü (Sāriputra)7 in Tianzhu (Northern India).
Previously, in the first Yuanshou year (2 BCE), during the reign of Emperor Ai of the Han dynasty, the National University Student,8 Jing Lu, received verbal instructions from Yicun, the envoy of the king of the Da Yuezhi (Kushans),9 on the Buddhist sūtras which say this man (the Buddha) is the one who is reincarnated.10
The Buddhists mention linpusai (upâsaka – a male lay disciple),11 sangmen (śramaṅa – monks, ascetics),12 bowen,13 shuwen (śrāvaka – ‘a hearer’, a follower of the Hīnayāna),14 baishuwen (‘white’ or ‘pure’ or ‘elder’ śrāvaka’),15 biqiu (bhiksu – an ordained monk),16 chenmen (‘Guardian of the Gate’),17 which are all terms for disciples.
The Buddha’s [teachings] are related to, but different than, the scriptures of Lao Zi of the Middle Kingdom. Indeed, it is believed (by the Taoists) that Lao Zi left the passes and, heading west, crossed the Western Regions to Tianzhu (Northern India), where he taught the Hu (Westerners).18
There are, altogether, twenty-nine titles for disciples of the Buddha, which I am not able to give in detail, so I have summarised them as above.19
Section 7 – The Kingdom of Juli (or, rather, Dongli)
It is more than 3,000 li (1,247 km) to the southeast of Tianzhu (Northern India).4 This country is low, humid, and very hot.
The king rules from the town of Shaji (or Shaqi = Sakēta).5 There are several tens of other towns.
The people are cowardly and weak. The Yuezhi (Kushans) and Tianzhu (Northwestern India) attacked and conquered them.6
This territory is several thousand li from east to west, and north to south. The men and women of this nation are all eighteen chi tall [mistake for 8 chi = 1.85 metres, or just over 6 feet, as in the Hou Hanshu].7 They ride elephants and camels into battle. Currently they provide military service and taxes to the Yuezhi (Kushans).8
Section 8 – The Kingdom of Panyue (Pandya)
The kingdom of Panyue (Pandya) is also called Hanyuewang.1 It is several thousand li to the southeast of Tianzhu (Northern India), and is in contact with Yi Circuit.2 The inhabitants are small; they are the same height as the Chinese. Traders from Shu (Western Sichuan) travel this far.3
The Southern Route, after attaining its most westernmost point, turns southeast until it reaches its end.
Section 9 – The Central Route
The Central Route goes west to:
• the kingdom of Zhenzhong (Arach?),9 the kingdom of Suoju (Yarkand),10 the kingdom of Jieshi,11 the kingdom of Qusha,12 the kingdom of Xiye (Khargalik),13 the kingdom of Yinai (Tashkurghan),14 the kingdom of Manli (modern Karasul),15 the kingdom of Yire (Mazar – also known as Tágh Nák and Tokanak),16 the kingdom of Yuling,17 the kingdom of Juandu (‘Tax Control’ – near Irkeshtam),18 the kingdom of Xiuxiu (‘Excellent Rest Stop’ – near Karakavak),19 and the kingdom of Qin,20 which are all dependencies of Shule (Kashgar).21
Leaving there (Kashgar), and going west, you reach Dayuan (Ferghana),22 Anxi (Parthia),23 Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana),24 and Wuyi (Arachosia and Drangiana – capital, Kandahar).25 Wuyi is also called Paizhi.26 These four kingdoms succeed each other to the west. These are kingdoms that existed previously and have not been modified.
Section 10 – Previous Misconceptions
In earlier times, it was mistakenly thought that Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana) was west of Da Qin (Roman territory). Now it is known to be to the east.1
In earlier times it was also mistakenly thought to be more powerful than Anxi (Parthia), but it has been changed into a dependency said to mark the western frontier of Anxi (Parthia).
In earlier times it was also mistakenly thought that the Ruo Shui (‘Weak River’) was west of Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana). Now it is (thought to be) west of Da Qin (Roman territory).2
In earlier times, it was also mistakenly thought that if you left Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana), and travelled more than two hundred days to the west, you reached the place where the sun goes down. Now, (it is thought that) you travel west from Da Qin (Roman territory) to reach the place where the sun sets.3
Section 11 – Da Qin (Roman territory/Rome)
From the city of Angu (Gerrha)4, on the frontier of Anxi (Parthia), you take a boat and cut directly across to Haixi (‘West of the Sea’ = Egypt).5 With favourable winds it takes two months; if the winds are slow, perhaps a year; if there is no wind, perhaps three years.6
The country (that you reach) is west of the sea (haixi), which is why it is called Haixi (literally: ‘West of the Sea’ = Egypt). There is a river (the Nile) flowing out of the west of this country, and then there is another great sea (the Mediterranean). The city of (Wu) Chisan (Alexandria)7 is in Haixi (Egypt).
From below this country you go north to reach the city of Wudan (Tanis?).8 You (then) head southwest and cross a river (the Sebannitus branch of the Nile?) by boat, which takes a day. You head southwest again, and again cross a river (the Canopis branch of the Nile?) by boat, which takes another day.9 There are, in all, three major cities [that you come to].10
Now, if you leave the city of Angu (Gerrha) by the overland route, you go north to Haibei (‘North of the Sea’ – the lands between Babylonia and Jordan), then west to Haixi (Egypt),11 then turn south to go through the city of Wuchisan (Alexandria). After crossing a river, which takes a day by boat, you circle around the coast (to the region of Apollonia, the port of Cyrene). (From there, i.e. the region of Apollonia) six days is generally enough to cross the (second) great sea (the Mediterranean) to reach that country (Da Qin = Rome).12
This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions.13 The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber).14 The outer walls of the city are made of stone.
This region has pine trees, cypress, sophora, catalpa, bamboo, reeds, poplars, willows, parasol trees, and all sorts of plants.15 The people cultivate the five grains [traditionally: rice, glutinous and non-glutinous millet, wheat and beans], and they raise horses, mules, donkeys, camels and silkworms.16 (They have) a tradition of amazing conjuring. They can produce fire from their mouths, bind and then free themselves, and juggle twelve balls with extraordinary skill.17
The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.18
The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu (‘Western’) clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.19
They have always wanted to communicate with China but, Anxi (Parthia), jealous of their profits, would not allow them to pass (through to China).20
The common people can write in hu (‘Western’) script.21 They have multi-storeyed public buildings and private; (they fly) flags, beat drums, (and travel in) small carriages with white roofs, and have a postal service with relay sheds and postal stations, like in the Middle Kingdom (China).
From Anxi (Parthia) you go around Haibei (‘North of the Sea’ – the lands between Babylonia and Jordan) to reach this country.22
The people (of these countries) are connected to each other. Every 10 li (4.2 km) there is a ting (relay shed or changing place), and every 30 li (12.5 km) there is a zhi (postal station).23 There are no bandits or thieves, but there are fierce tigers and lions that kill those travelling on the route. If you are not in a group, you cannot get through.24
This country (Rome) has installed dozens of minor kings. The king’s administrative capital (Rome) is more than 100 li (42 km) around.25 There is an official Department of Archives.
The king has five palaces at 10 li (4.2 km) intervals. He goes out at daybreak to one of the palaces and deals with matters until sunset and then spends the night there. The next day he goes to another palace and, in five days makes a complete tour. They have appointed thirty-six leaders who discuss events frequently.26 If one leader does not show up, there is no discussion. When the king goes out for a walk, he always orders a man to follow him holding a leather bag. Anyone who has something to say throws his or her petition into the bag. When he returns to the palace, he examines them and determines which are reasonable.27
They use glass to make the pillars and table utensils in the palaces.28 They manufacture bows and arrows.
They divide the various branch principalities of their territory into small countries such as that of the king of Zesan (Azania?),29 the king of Lüfen (Leucos Limen),30 the king of Qielan (Wadi Sirhan),31 the king of Xiandu (Leukê Komê),32 the king of Sifu (Petra),33 (and that of) the king of Yuluo (Karak).34 There are so many other small kingdoms it is impossible to give details on each one.
Section 12 – Products of Da Qin (Roman territory)
They have fine brocaded cloth that is said to be made from the down of ‘water-sheep’. It is called Haixi (‘Egyptian’) cloth. This country produces the six domestic animals, which are all said to come from the water.3
It is said that they not only use sheep’s wool, but also bark from trees, or the silk from wild cocoons,4 to make brocade, mats, pile rugs, woven cloth and curtains, all of them of good quality, and with brighter colours than those made in the countries of Haidong (“East of the Sea”).5
Furthermore, they regularly make a profit by obtaining Chinese silk, unravelling it, and making fine hu (‘Western’) silk damasks.6 That is why this country trades with Anxi (Parthia) across the middle of the sea. The seawater is bitter and unable to be drunk, which is why it is rare for those who try to make contact to reach China.
The mountains (of this country) produce nine-coloured jewels (fluorite) of inferior quality. They change colour on different occasions from blue-green to red, yellow, white, black, green, purple, fiery red, and dark blue.7 Nowadays nine-coloured stones of the same type are found in the Yiwu Shan (a mountain range east of Hami).8
In the third Yangjia year (CE 134), the king of Shule (Kashgar), Chen Pan [who had been made a hostage at the court of the Kushan emperor, for some period between 114 and 120, and was later placed on the throne of Kashgar by the Kushans],9 offered a blue (or green) gem and a golden girdle from Haixi (Egypt).10
Moreover, the Xiyu Jiutu (‘Ancient Sketch of the Western Regions’) now says that both Jibin (Kapisha-Gandhāra) and Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana) produce precious stones approaching the quality of jade.11
Note: The translator has added the numbering in brackets for the convenience of the reader in checking the notes on the various items. For information on any of the items mentioned in the list, please click on the blue superscript No. 12 after “Product List” above, and then scroll down the page of notes until you come to the number you are looking for. For instance, if you want to check the notes on tin, scroll down until you reach note number 12.12 (6).
Da Qin (the Roman Empire) has plenty of:
(7) ‘divine tortoises’ – tortoises used for divination
(8) white horses with red manes
(9) fighting cocks
(11) sea turtle shell
(12) black bears
(13) ‘red hornless (or immature) dragons’ (which produced the famous “dragons’ blood” resin)
(14) ‘poison-avoiding rats’ = mongooses
(15) large cowries
(18) ‘southern gold’
(19) kingfisher feathers
(21) coloured veined jade
(22) ‘bright moon’ pearls
(23) luminescent ‘pearls’ or pearl-like jewels (probably large diamonds)
(24) genuine white pearls
(25) yellow amber
(26) (red) coral
(27) ten varieties of glass: red, white, black, green, yellow, blue-green, dark blue, light blue, fiery red, purple
(28) a magnificent jade
(29) white carnelian?
(30) rock crystal or transparent glass
(31) various semi-precious gems
(35) multicoloured jade or gemstone
(36) ten sorts of wool rugs: yellow, white, black, green, purple, fiery red, deep red, dark blue, golden yellow, light blue and back to yellow
(37) finely patterned multicoloured wool carpets
(38) nine colours of multicoloured lower quality wool carpets (kilims rather than knotted carpets?)
(39) gold threaded embroidery
(40) polychrome (warp twill) fine silk or chiffon
(41) woven gold cloth
(42) purple chi cloth
(43) falu cloth
(44) purple chiqu cloth
(45) asbestos cloth
(46) fine silk gauze cloth
(47) shot silk, ‘clinging cloth’ or ‘cloth with swirling patterns’?
(48) dudai cloth
(49) cotton-wool cloth?
(50) multicoloured tao cloth
(51) crimson curtains woven with gold
(52) multicoloured ‘spiral curtains’?
(58) probably dhūṇa – an incense made from the resin of the Indian Sal tree.
(59) bai fuzi – lit. ‘white aconite’ – but it is not clear what plant this refers to here. See notes.
(61) turmeric, saffron or tulips
(62) rue oil
(63) Oriental lovage – Lysimachia foenum-graecum Hance
Altogether (they have) twelve types of aromatic plants.13
Section 13 – The Sea Route to Da Qin (Roman territory)
As well as the overland route from Da Qin (Roman territory) through Haibei (‘North of the Sea’ – the lands between Egypt and Parthia), one can also follow the sea south along the seven commanderies of Jiaozhi (stretching down the north Vietnamese coast),1 which are in contact with foreign countries.2 Nearby (or ‘North’)3 is a waterway (the Red River)4 which leads to Yongchang5 in Yizhou (a commandery in present-day southern Yunnan).6 That’s why rare items come from Yongchang.
In early times only the maritime routes (to Da Qin) were discussed because they didn’t know there were overland routes.7
Section 14 – Roman Dependencies
Now, (the Roman Empire) can be summed up as follows: the number of people and families cannot be given in detail. It is the biggest country west of the Bai Congling (‘White Pamir Mountains’).1 They have installed numerous minor kings so only the bigger dependencies are noted here:
Section 15 – The Kingdom of Zesan (Azania)
The king of Zesan (Azania)1 is subject to Da Qin (Rome). His seat of government is in the middle of the sea.2 To the north you reach Lüfen (Leukê Komê).3 It can take half a year to cross the water, but with fast winds it takes a month.4
Section 16 – The Kingdom of Lüfen = Leukê Komê or modern Al Wajh
From the city of Lüfen (Leukê Komê) going west to Da Qin (alongside the Butic Canal), you cross over the sea by an ‘elevated bridge’ 230 li (96 km) long;3 then you take the sea route southwest, travelling around the sea (coast), and then head west (to reach Da Qin).4
Section 17 – The Kingdom of Qielan (Wadi Sirhan)
The king of Qielan (Wadi Sirhan)1 is subject to Da Qin (Rome). From the kingdom of Sitao (Istakhr, Stakhr)2 you go south, cross a river (the Rūd-i Kor), then head west 3,000 li (1,247 km) to go to Qielan (Wadi Sirhan).3 The route leaves south of the river (the Rūd-i Kor), only then do you head west.4
From Qielan (Wadi Sirhan) you again travel west 600 li (250 km) to the kingdom of Sifu (Petra).5 The Southern Route joins (this east-west route) at Sifu (Petra). Also, (a route) goes southwest to the kingdom of Xiandu (‘Aynūnah).6
Section 18 – The Kingdom of Xiandu (‘Aynūnah = Leukos Limên)
Section 19 – The Kingdom of Sifu (Petra)
Section 20 – The Kingdom of Yuluo (Karak)
Yuluo (Karak)1 is subject to of Da Qin (Rome). The seat of government is northeast of Sifu (Petra) across a river (the Wadi al-Ḥesa).2 From Yuluo (Karak) you go northeast, and again cross over a river (River Arnon).3
Section 21 – The Kingdom of Siluo (Sura)
Northeast of Siluo (Sura)1 you again cross over a river (the Euphrates). The kingdom of Siluo (Sura) is subject to Anxi (Parthia), and it borders on Da Qin (Roman territory).
Section 22 – The Far West
West of Da Qin (Rome) is sea water. West of the sea water are rivers. West of the rivers there are big mountains running south to north.1 West (of this) is the Chi Shui (‘Red River’ = Kāshgar-daryā?).2 West of the Chi Shui (‘Red River’ = Kāshgar-daryā?) are the Baiyu shan (‘White Jade Mountains’).3
West of these four kingdoms is the Hei Shui (‘Black River’),8 which is as far west as I have heard of.
Section 23 – The New Route of the North
The New Route of the North1 goes west reaching the kingdom of Eastern Jumi (near modern Dashito),2 the kingdom of Western Jumi (near modern Mulei),2 the kingdom of Danhuan,4 the kingdom of Bilu,5 the kingdom of Pulu,6 and the kingdom of Wutan,7 which are all dependencies of the king of the Further Jushi Section (near Jimasa).
The king has his capital in the city of Yulai.8 The Wei (dynasty) conferred the title of ‘Probationary Wei Palace Attendant’9 on Yiduoza, the king, with the honorific name of ‘Great Defender of the Wei’.10 He received the ‘Seal of King (appointed by the) Wei’.11
The (New Northern) Route then turns northwest to reach Wusun (Issyk-kol and Semirechiye),12 and Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins).13 These kingdoms existed previously and have neither grown nor shrunk.14
Section 24 – The Kingdom of Northern Wuyi (Khujand – Alexandria Escharte)
Northern Wuyi (modern Khujand)1 is a distinct kingdom in the northern part of Kangju.
Section 25 – The Kingdom of Liu (Turkestan? Kzyl-Orda?), Yan (north of Yancai), and Yancai (= the Alans between the Black and Caspian Seas).
Then there is the kingdom of Liu (between Kangju and Yancai?),1 the kingdom of Yan (to the north of Yancai),2 and the kingdom of Yancai (between the Black and Caspian Seas),3 which is also called Alan.4 They all have the same way of life as those of Kangju.
To the west, they border Da Qin (Roman territory), to the southeast they border Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins).
These kingdoms have large numbers of their famous sables.5 They raise cattle and move about in search of water and fodder. They are close to a big marsh (to the northeast and north of the Aral Sea).6 Previously they were vassals of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins). Now they are no longer vassals.7
Section 26 – The Kingdom of Hude
The kingdom of Hude is north of the Congling (the Pamirs), northwest of Wusun (Issyk-kol and Semirechiye), northeast of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins). They have more than 10,000 men able to bear arms. They follow their cattle. They produce excellent horses, and have sables.
Section 27 – The Kingdom of Jiankun (Kirghiz)
The kingdom of Jiankun (Kirghiz)1 is northwest of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins). They have more than 30,000 men able to bear arms. They follow their cattle and have lots of sables and excellent horses.
Section 28 – The Kingdom of Dingling (Around Lake Baikal and on the Irtish River)
The kingdom of Dingling is north of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins).1 They have 60,000 men able to bear arms. They produce famous sable pelts,2 as well as white and blue Arctic fox pelts.3
Of these three states Jiangun (the Kirghiz – in the region of Omsk?), is the central one. It is 7,000 li (2,911 km) from the court of the Chanyu (Shah)4 of the Xiongnu (which was close to modern Ulan Bator) on the Anxi River (Juul Gol?).
It is 5,000 li (2,080 km)5 south to the six kingdoms of Jushi;6 3,000 li (1,247 km) southwest to go to the frontier of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins); 8,000 li (3,326 km) west to go to the capital of the king of Kangju.
It was thought that perhaps these Dingling were the Dingling to the north of the Xiongnu (around Lake Baikal), but the Northern Dingling are west of Wusun (and north of Kangju), and it seems they are of another race. Furthermore, north of the Xiongnu (near modern Ulan Bator) is the kingdom of Hunyu, the kingdom of Qushi, the kingdom of Dingling, the kingdom of the Gekun, and the kingdom of the Xinli.7
It is known that if you go south from Bei Hai (‘Northern Sea’ = Lake Baikal) you find the Dingling again. They are not the same as the Dingling to the west of the Wusun (Issyk-kol and Semirechiye).8
The Wusun elders say that north of the Dingling is the kingdom of Majing (‘Horses Shanks’). These men make sounds like startled wild geese. From above the knee, they have the body and hands of a man, but below the knees, they grow hair, and have horses’ legs and hooves. They don’t ride horses as they can run faster than horses. They are brave, strong, and daring fighters.9
Section 29 – The Kingdom of Duanren (‘Short Men’)
The kingdom of Duanren (‘Short Men’)1 is northwest of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins). The men and women are all three chi tall [0.693 metres or 2.27 feet]. They are very numerous.
It is a long way from Yancai (at the mouth of the Syr Darya near the Aral Sea) and the other kingdoms. The elders of Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins) say that merchants frequently cross this kingdom.2 It is possibly more than 10,000 li (4,158 km) from Kangju (Tashkent plus the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins).
Section 30 – Yu Huan’s Comments
Yu Huan (the author) observes: It is commonly believed that a fish living in a little stream does not know the size of the Qiang (Yangtze River) and the sea.1 The mayfly,2 for that matter, does not know of the changing of the four seasons. Why is this so? Because one lives in a small place, and the other’s life is short.
I am, at the moment, intensively examining Da Qin (the Roman Empire) and all the other foreign kingdoms. Still, it seems to me that I am neglecting to (fully) instruct the uninformed.
Moreover, as to the speculations of Zou Yan,3 or the hypotheses of the Dayitai xuan, “The Great Mystery of the Noble Yi (-jing)”,4 alas, I am limited to travelling by foot, and living in the puddle left in the hoof print of an ox.5 Besides, I don’t have the longevity of Peng Zu.6
It has not been my fate to see things first hand, travelling with the rapid winds, or enlisting swift horses to view distant vistas. Alas, I have to strain to see the three heavenly bodies [the sun, moon, and stars] but, oh, how my thoughts fly to the eight foreign regions!7