A History of the Relationship between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions
by Taishan Yu
"The Western Regions" is a geographical concept as seen in the "official history books" of the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, which refers to a vast region to the west of the Yumen 玉門 and Yang 陽 Barriers under most circumstances, but sometimes refers to the Tarim Basin and its surrounding area. In other words, it had both a broad sense and a narrow sense. In this book, "the Western Regions" is used in the broad sense, but the focal point of the study is located in the region which is called Central Asia today, especially to the east of the Pamirs. This was determined by the actual relationship between the Western Regions and the Western Han 漢 Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties.
The study of the history of the relationship between the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions is an important topic in the study of ancient Chinese history; its significance is self-evident. The task of this book is to ascertain the related historical facts as far as possible. The facts can be summarized as follows:
The purpose of the Western Han 漢,Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties in managing the Western Regions can be summed up with the statement "it would be possible to extend [Han 漢] territory for 10,000 li 里. With [the help of] a series of interpreters, those whose customs were strange could be brought to court, and imperial prestige could be exercised throughout the area within the four seas". It is quite obvious that this purpose was mainly political. In contrast; the purpose of the various states of the Western Regions in contacting the Western Han 漢 Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties was primarily economical, namely the "wish to exchange their goods and conduct trade" .Of course, they were also the interested in absorbing the advanced culture of the latter, namely they "admired and took pleasure in the Middle Kingdom". In addition, the various states to the east of the Pamirs also sought protection from the depredations of the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall.
The management of the Western Regions by the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties often went hand in hand with the struggle with the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall. Sometimes management of the Western Regions was in order to defeat the latter, and sometimes defeating the latter was in order to manage the Western Regions. In fact, management of the Western Regions and defeating the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall were both components of "the task of subduing the various barbarian peoples", hence the purpose of both was essentially the same.
The management of the Western Regions by the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties all aimed to make them into subjects "by the exercise of moral pressure", and believed that "it would be possible to present them with gifts and hold out advantages with which to bring them to court". Though sometimes armed strength was employed, it was usually only to threaten the states in the Western Regions, but generally not to plunder them. Li Guangli 李廣利 made an expedition against Dayuan 大宛, taking a period of over three years. As a result, the resources "within the four seas were spent and wasted", but "the Han 漢 army selected some of the best horses, numbered by the tens". This can be regarded as evidence. The exceptions were Lü Guang's attack on Qiuci and Wan Dugui's attack on Yanqi.
In contrast, the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall regarded the various states in the Western Regions as "slaves", ceaselessly extorting young women and marten coats and so forth, and they often "took precautions to prevent any evasion of its exactions, raised their value, and were strict in regard to prompt payment". This was determined by the nature of the power of the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall themselves at that time. It thus is certain that they were unpopular in the Western Regions. Therefore, the nomadic tribes beyond the Great Wall could dominate the Western Regions only when the dynasties in the Central Plain were just getting established, were in decline, or were divided. In other words, the blame for the relationship between the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions being weakened or even interrupted at times has to be imputed to the dynasties in the Central Plain themselves.
In fact, only the Western and Eastern Han 漢 Dynasties really ruled over the Western Regions (to the east of the Pamirs) during the period of the Western Han 漢, Eastern Han 漢, Wei 魏, Jin 晉, and Northern and Southern Dynasties. This is because only the Western and Eastern Han 漢 Dynasties were powerful and unified for a sufficient time. At other times, the Western Regions were controlled by the powers of the nomadic tribes or some "large states" in the locality. However, the regions both east and west of the Pamirs yearned for the dynasties in the Central Plain all the while. Sending envoys to pay tribute, sending their sons to attend at court, or accepting the conferment of titles of nobility, they kept up contact as best they could and were not particular about form. These sporadic links were like small streams which, when the time comes, eventually become mighty rivers. During the period of the Northern Wei 魏 east-west communication eventually culminated in the situation "from the Cong (the Pamirs ) Mountains westwards to Da Qin one hundred states and one thousand towns all gladly attached themselves to us (the Northern Wei 魏 dynasty); foreign traders and merchants came hurrying in though the passes every day". It should be noted that cultural and economical factors played the main roles here. Naturally, nobody could be fully cognizant of this at the time.include '../includes/navbar.html'; ?> include '../includes/footer.html'; ?>