Conceptualising the Far West: Early Chinese Notions of Da Qin and the Indian Ocean Trade

Cobb, Matthew (2021) Conceptualising the Far West: Early Chinese Notions of Da Qin and the Indian Ocean Trade. In: The Archaeology of Knowledge Traditions of the Indian Ocean World. Routledge, London, pp. 56-78. ISBN 9780367337810

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Abstract

This chapter considers a few early Chinese texts which discuss the land and people of Da Qin (principally the Weilüe, Hou Hanshu and Liangshu); a term often understood by Sinologists and Classicists as referring to the Roman Empire (or at least parts of it). In the narratives given, a number of interesting, and often peculiar claims are made about Da Qin, its wealth, the customs of its people, their rulers, and the territory’s location near the mythic western edges of the world. The precise sources of this information is not definitively known. Some have assumed that these accounts were based on the diffusion of genuine (if garbled) information via Indian Ocean merchants or through ambassadors like Gan Ying. Others point to the more imaginative elements in the text. It is argued here that much of the narrative in these texts are better understood within the context of Chinese mythical, religious, cultural and geographical frameworks for viewing the world – especially the more fantastical and utopian claims. Consequently, we should be very wary of using these works to try and reconstruct details about Indian Ocean trading activity, more broadly, and Sino-Roman contact in the early centuries CE, in particular.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Matthew Cobb
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2023 13:19
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2023 13:19
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/2456

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