Zhang Qian and Su Wu: the twin constellations of diplomacy in the Han Dynasty

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Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty made great efforts to govern the country. He “consulted the people at home, promoted their prosperity, and made contributions to them”. As a result, “a group of scholars yearned for their direction, and different people came out together”, forming an eye-catching cultural landscape with bright stars in history. In history, it was said that “the people of the Han Dynasty are prosperous here”. The names of Zhang Qian and Su Wu are in the forefront of the heroic spectrum of the Han Dynasty. As Ban Gu said, “if you are an envoy, you will be Zhang Qian and Su Wu”. They have lived up to their mission and composed a brand-new diplomatic poem.

In the second year of Jianyuan period (139 BC), Zhang Qian was appointed to lead more than 100 people to become an envoy to Dayue family. At that time, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty heard that Da Yueshi had the ambition to retaliate against the Xiongnu, so he sent envoys there, hoping to form a military alliance to attack the Xiongnu together. Zhang Qian encountered Xiongnu people on his way to the West and was detained for a long time before he escaped for about 10 years. He continued to perform his mission. He traveled to Dawan from the Congling mountains in the west to reach Dayue, who had settled on the North Bank of the Amu Darya River in Uzbekistan. However, due to the richness and peace of her new residence, Dayue had no intention of going east to fight against the Xiongnu for revenge. Zhang Qian had to return to the East. On his way home, he was captured by the Huns and detained for more than a year. Taking advantage of the civil strife of the Huns, Fang returned to Chang’an in the third year of Yuanshuo (126 BC). Zhang Qian was accompanied by more than 100 people when he traveled. 13 years later, only two people survived. He went to Dawan, Dayue, Daxia and Kangju in person, and carefully investigated the national conditions of the five or six large countries nearby. After returning to Chang’an, he reported the relevant information to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. Zhang Qian’s trip to the western regions, at the cost of 13 years of hardships, enabled the people in the Central Plains to obtain unprecedented and rich knowledge about the western regions. At the same time, the prestige of the Han Dynasty and the influence of the Han culture spread to the Western pole in the world view of the people in the Central Plains at that time. Although it can not be said that before Zhang Qian, China and the western regions had no contacts, as the first person to open up foreign traffic routes as an official envoy of the great unification Dynasty in the Central Plains, he did have a “hollow” significance for the achievements of the development of China and the West.

In the sixth year of Yuanshuo (123 BC), Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian followed general Wei Qing to attack the Huns. Because he knew the geographical situation and was familiar with water and grass resources, as a marching guide, he provided important transportation support for the victory of the expeditionary army. In addition, Zhang Qian was granted the title of Marquis of Bo Wang because he had previously made great contributions to the country. Based on his familiarity with the geography and Humanities of the western regions, Zhang Qian suggested that Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty unite the main area of activity in Wusun of today’s Yili River Basin. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty then worshipped Zhang Qian as a general of the Middle Kingdom and led 300 people to Wusun. Zhang Qian’s deputy envoy also went to Dawan, Kangju, Yueshi, Daxia and other countries. Wusun sent an envoy to send Zhang Qian back to the Han Dynasty, and offered a horse to thank him. Later, he finally married the Han Dynasty and marched together to defeat the Huns. After the Han army broke through the Huns and opened the Hexi channel, in the fourth year of Yuanshou (119 BC) of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian once again served as an envoy to the west, trying to attract Wusun to return to the East. Although this goal was not achieved, this trip strengthened the ties between the Han Dynasty and the western countries.

Thanks to Zhang Qian’s efforts, the western regions established formal ties with the Han Empire. Since then, the communication between Han and the western regions has been very frequent, and the folk trade has also developed. Zhang Qian enjoyed high prestige in the western regions. Later Han envoys were often called “Bo Wang Hou” to win the trust of various countries. The 50 countries in the western regions accepted the gifts of the Han Empire. As many as 376 Marquis and officials wore the seal ribbon of the Han family. There are also envoys from remote countries such as Kangju, Dayue, Sabbath, Kubin, Wuyi, etc. it is said that for a time, all countries “offer their own wonders and accept their love” (post Han Dynasty · biography of the western regions), so “if foreign matters flow in, the country will use them” (on salt and iron · ploughing). It is said that many Western products, such as grapes, alfalfa, pomegranates, walnuts and flax, were introduced into China by Zhang Qian. This statement may not be completely consistent with historical facts, but Zhang Qian’s first contribution to the official opening of the silk road cannot be erased.

When Zhang Qian was in the summer of Central Asia, he once saw Qiong bamboo sticks and Shu cloth, and learned that there was a road leading to poisoning in the southwest of Ba and Shu. “Shendu” is an ancient translation of India. Based on this discovery, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty sent envoys from Bashu in the first year of Yuanshou (122 BC), trying to realize the communication with the western regions. As a result, the Han Dynasty and the Yunnan, Yelang and other tribes in Southwest China, which were called “Southwest Barbarians” at that time, gradually became closely linked. Some people call this road the “Southwest Silk Road”.

Another figure who can be compared with Zhang Qian, that is, suwu, who is also famous for “serving envoys”, was detained by the Huns for 19 years and did not return to the Han until the sixth year of Shiyuan (81 BC) of emperor Zhao of the Han Dynasty. Su Wu was not moved by threats and inducements, and even “stabbed himself with a sword” until he died. In the most difficult times, I used to satisfy my hunger with snow and felt. He was an envoy in his prime. When he returned to the Han Dynasty, his beard and hair were white. The typical deeds of suwu are the so-called “shepherding on the stick and Han Festival, lying up and handling, and falling down at the festival”. Ban Gu believed that he was a model for practicing the principle of “benevolent people with lofty ideals, killing people to become benevolent, and harming benevolence without seeking survival” and “serving the four directions without humiliating the king’s life” (Han Shu · biography of Su Wu). At the time of Emperor Xuan of the Han Dynasty, Su Wu had become one of the 11 famous ministers whose pictures appeared in the Qilin Pavilion.

The image of suwu shepherd has become an example of moral education focusing on “loyalty” and “Festival” for thousands of years. Su Wu has a very high position in the folk public opinion inherited from generation to generation. Many paintings with the theme of “suwu shepherd” passed down from generation to generation. According to the research of scholars in the history of traditional opera, there are plays about Su Wu’s deeds, such as the story of Su Wu shepherd, also known as the story of Su Wu holding a festival in the North Sea Shepherd, and the story of Su Wu harmonizing with the pan. Yuan zaju includes “returning home with Su Wu at the Han Festival”, and also includes “returning to the dynasty with Su Wu at the Han Festival”, “returning to the dynasty with Su Wu”, “maintaining the festival with Su Wu” and “maintaining the festival with Su Wu as a hero”. Legends include the story of the white goose, and the Qing Zaju has the Secretary of the wild goose, which also tells the story of Su Wu. However, Zhang Qian, who was at the same time as Su Wu, failed to leave a tall and successful envoy on the ancient stage.

The situation presented by folk culture is actually related to the political orientation of the ruling class. According to the official history records after the Han Dynasty, “Su Wu” appeared far more frequently than “Zhang Qian”. It seems that in the sense of Chinese orthodoxy, the so-called “Zhang Qian’s meritorious service in a foreign land” (the biography of ban Chao in the book of the later Han Dynasty) is not as good as “Su Wu does not lose his integrity” (the biography of Wang Ji in the book of Jin); The so-called “Zhang Qian’s strategy of cherishing the future” (Biography of the western regions in the book of the later Han Dynasty) is not as good as “Su Wu’s virtue of chastity with bald Festival” (Biography of Zhang Heng in the book of the later Han Dynasty). The position of Zhang Qian and Su Wu in the cultural balance of later generations reflects the subtle inclination of Chinese traditional culture in value orientation. This phenomenon also reveals that due to the establishment and consolidation of the unified dynasty since the Qin and Han Dynasties, the national consciousness has been strengthened, and the social concept has shown such a tendency: the latter is more important in terms of achieving diplomatic success (such as Zhang Qian’s “air chiseling”) and maintaining national dignity and showing political loyalty (such as Su Wu’s “integrity”), which is different from the diplomatic genius of the pre Qin period, Su Qin The situation of Zhang Yi’s time is obviously different.

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