Gan Ying


Gan Ying

Gan Ying (Zh-cw|c=甘英|w=Kan Ying; Hanyu Pinyin: Gān Yīng), was a Chinese military ambassador who was sent on a mission to Rome in AD 97 by the Chinese general Ban Chao. He was part of Ban Chao's expeditionary force of 70,000, which had travelled as far west to the western border of Parthia.

Although Gan Ying probably never reached Rome, he is, at least in the historical records, the Chinese who went the furthest west during antiquity and he gathered what information he could.

According to the Hou Hanshu, the Chinese history of the later Han Dynasty (AD 25-220):

:"In the ninth year [97 CE] , Ban Chao sent his Subaltern Gan Ying, who probed as far as the Western Sea, and then returned. Previous generations never reached these regions. The Shanjing gives no details on them. No doubt he prepared a report on their customs and investigated their precious and unusual [products] ."

:"In the ninth Yongyuan year [97 CE] , during the reign of Emperor He, the Protector General Ban Chao sent Gan Ying to Da Qin [the Roman Empire] . He reached Tiaozhi Characene and Susiana next to a large sea. He wanted to cross it, but the sailors of the western frontier of Anxi Parthia said to him: ::"The ocean is huge. Those making the round trip can do it in three months if the winds are favourable. However, if you encounter winds that delay you, it can take two years. That is why all the men who go by sea take stores for three years. The vast ocean urges men to think of their country, and get homesick, and some of them die."

:When [Gan] Ying heard this, he gave up his plan."

Another part of Hou Hanshu, also states:

:" [Roman] territory extends for several thousands of li. It has more than four hundred walled towns. There are several tens of smaller dependent kingdoms. The walls of the towns are made of stone. They have established postal relays at intervals, which are all plastered and whitewashed. There are pines and cypresses, as well as trees and plants of all kinds."

Gan Ying also described the adoptive monarchy of Nerva, and Roman physical appearance and products:

:"Their kings are not permanent. They select and appoint the most worthy man. If there are unexpected calamities in the kingdom, such as frequent extraordinary winds or rains, he is unceremoniously rejected and replaced. The one who has been dismissed quietly accepts his demotion, and is not angry. :The people of this country are all tall and honest. They resemble the people of the Middle Kingdom and that is why this kingdom is called Da Qin [literally, ‘Great China’] . This country produces plenty of gold [and] silver, [and of] rare and precious [things] they have luminous jade, 'bright moon pearls,' "Haiji" rhinoceroses, coral, yellow amber, opaque glass, whitish chalcedony, red cinnabar, green gemstones, gold-thread embroideries, woven gold-threaded net, delicate polychrome silks painted with gold, and asbestos cloth. :They also have a fine cloth which some people say is made from the down of 'water sheep,' = sea silk but which is made, in fact, from the cocoons of wild silkworms. They blend all sorts of fragrances, and by boiling the juice, make a compound perfume. [They have] all the precious and rare things that come from the various foreign kingdoms. They make gold and silver coins. Ten silver coins are worth one gold coin. They trade with Anxi [Parthia] and Tianzhu [North-western India] by sea. The profit margin is ten to one. . . . The king of this country 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] ." (Cited in Hill).

ee also

*Sino-Roman relations
*Battle of Yiwulu

References

* "The Roman Empire in Chinese sources", Leslie and Gardiner, Rome, Bardi, 1996.
* Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the "Hou Hanshu"." 2nd Draft Edition. [http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html]
* "The Silk Road", Frances Wood, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-24340-4
* Yu, Taishan. 2004. "A History of the Relationships between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions". Sino-Platonic Papers No. 131 March, 2004. Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.


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