Han Dynasty

Zhang Qian and the Silk Road
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138 BCE Jan 1

Zhang Qian and the Silk Road

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Zhang Qian's travel was commissioned by Emperor Wu with the major goal of initiating transcontinental trade in the Silk Road, as well as create political protectorates by securing allies. His missions opened trade routes between East and West and exposed different products and kingdoms to each other through trade. He brought back valuable information about Central Asia, including the Greco-Bactrian remains of the Macedonian Empire as well as the Parthian Empire, to the Han dynasty imperial court.


Zhang's accounts were compiled by Sima Qian in the 1st century BCE. The Central Asian parts of the Silk Road routes were expanded around 114 BCE largely through the missions of and exploration by Zhang Qian. Today, Zhang is considered a Chinese national hero and revered for the key role he played in opening China and the countries of the known world to the wider opportunity of commercial trade and global alliances. He played an important pioneering role for the future Chinese conquest of lands west of Xinjiang, including swaths of Central Asia and even lands south of the Hindu Kush. This trip created the Silk Road that marked the beginning of globalization between the countries in the east and west.


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Last Updated: : Wed Jan 31 2024