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Nabataeans And China

Chinese Texts

Through out Chinese history, Chinese explorers, ambassadors, and merchants made occasional trips to the western world. Many of their reports were written down. The Chinese text, however, that is of real importance to us is one known as Xiyu chuan (“Chapter on the Western Regions”) taken from Hou Han shu 88. The Hou Han shu, the official history of the Later (or ‘Eastern’) Han Dynasty (25-221 CE), was compiled by Fan Ye, who died in 445 AD. Fan Ye used a number of earlier histories, including the Shi ji by Sima Qian and the Han shu by Ban Gu plus many others (including some that were also entitled Hou Han shu), most of which have not survived intact. The particular chapter in his History of China, of interest to us covers 25 - 55 AD. John Hill has recently completed the translation of this text, and has even made it available over the Internet, complete with his notes. We wish to thank John for the contribution he has made to ancient study, and to this part of Nabataea.Net. Discussion of this text has been taking place on the Discussion Board. Below are some links that will provide you with more information.

The Xiyu chuan (“Chapter on the Western Regions”) from Hou Han shu 88 (25-55 AD) Translated by John E. Hill. This is the key text from which we can learn about the Arab world from a Chinese perspective. Possible name places include: Gerrha, Petra, Kerak, al-Jauf, and perhaps, Leuce Come.

You can access John Hill's research by clicking on the link below and visiting the University of Washington's Web Page
The notes attached to John Hill's translation (above). This large file is not quite complete but should be made into smaller documents in the near future.
More ancient Chinese documents can be found here. This is a good site to bookmark and browse when you have time because it contains a vast amount of information.
Silk Road site at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington
“Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History” by David Christian, Journal of World History 11.1 (2000), pp. 1-26. Online from the Journal of World History

Another good book to read is China and the Roman Orient by Friedrich Hirth (1875) and republished recently by Ares Publishers in Chicago. An excellent French book is: "Les pays d’Occident d’après le Heou Han chou” in T’oung pao 8 in T’oung pao 8 by Édouard Chavannes, (1907) Many of Chavannes' notes are out of date. John Hill's translation of the Chinese texts and accompanying notes are more up to date.
An annotated translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of the Han shu by A. F. P. Hulsewé‚ and M. A. N. Lowe is available in China in Central Asia, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1979 (including detailed notes on the identification of many place-names also found in the Hou Han shu), The Roman Empire in Chinese Sources by D. D. Leslie and K. H. J. Gardiner, Bardi Editore, Roma, 1996 contains translations of almost all of the relevant texts relating to the Roman Empire accompanied with copious notes but, unfortunately it is rather hard to find, and does not include the Chinese originals. It does, however, contain material unavailable elsewhere in English and is a useful reference.
 Another good source is: Records of the Grand Historian of China: Translated from the Shih chi of Ssu-ma Ch’ien by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1961. (Check out chapter 123: The Account of Ta-yüan, on pp. 264-289)

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