Notes to 
The Western Regions according to the Hou Han shu


John E. Hill
 September 2002


Following Edwin Pulleyblank’s Lexicon of Reconstructed Pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese, and Early Mandarin (1991), I have used the abbreviation ‘EMC’ in these notes to indicate the reconstructed pronunciations of words in ‘Early Middle Chinese.’ 
        As Pulleyblank makes clear ibid, p. 20, he believes it is not “possible at present to offer any complete reconstruction for stages of the language earlier than the Qieyun, first published in 601 CE.” 

        The reader should, therefore, take into consideration that, while these reconstructions often provide valuable clues to original place names, the language had obviously changed considerably between the time of Gan Ying’s report to the Emperor in 125 CE and the time of the Qieyun. Furthermore, the reconstructions do not indicate possible dialectical differences between the language as spoken in Central China and the usage amongst soldiers and settlers on the northwestern frontiers.

        I should add here that I have not relied on Pulleyblank’s reconstructions alone but have also made use of those in Bernhard Karlgren’s Grammata Serica (1940) and the new encyclopaedic dictionary, Le Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise (2001).  



1. For the domestication of the horse see: “First to Ride” by William Speed Weed in Discover Magazine (March, 2002), pp. 54-61. For a thought-provoking, up-to-date discussion of the early development of the land routes see: “Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History” by David Christian, Journal of World History 11.1 (2000), pp. 1-26; or download from the Journal of World History website at:


2. See Sarianidi (1971), pp. 13-14.