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All three forms of li show similar reconstructed pronunciations. Since the King of Parthia obviously esteemed highly the Emperor of China, he naturally sent the best jugglers he could secure.
Several scholars have suggested that it must have been originally derived from ‘Alexandria’ or ‘Alexander.’ See, for example: Dubs (1957), pp. When these persons were asked whence they came, they of course replied “from Alexandria,” which word the Chinese who disliked polysyllables and initial vowels and could not pronounce certain Greek sounds, shortened into “Li-jien.”.
This is rather similar to the situation today when it is commonly said that one is “entering China,” when one enters territory inhabited by other people, but controlled by the Chinese, such as Tibet, or Chinese Turkestan (Sinjiang).
Similarly, ‘Mexico’ may be used to refer to either the city or the country.
Gerrha admirably fits the statements in the Weilue that Angu is, “on the frontier of Anxi (Parthia)” and is in close communication with Zesan [= Azania].”“There was more about Gerrha [in the Greek and Roman writers] than about any other place in Arabia, but even so it was not more than could be committed to a small piece of paper.
Oddly enough, in Arrian’s description of Alexander’s preparation for a campaign against Arabia, including the coastal explorations of 323 B. But Eratosthenes, writing about a hundred years after Alexander, tells of the merchants of Gerrha carrying their spices and incense overland to Mesopotamia. the Gerrhaei have become the richest of all tribes, and possess a great quantity of wrought articles in gold and silver, such as couches, tripods, basins, drinking vessels; to which we must add the costly magnificence of their houses; for the doors, walls, and roof are variegated with inlaid ivory, gold, silver, and precious stones.” The historian Polybius about the same time tells of a campaign of the Seleucid king, Antiochus III, who took a fleet along the Arabian coast in 205 B.
In the first, which has a parallel in Hànshū 61 but is not referred to by Leslie and Gardiner, it is said that after Zhāng Qiān’s death “more envoys were sent to Ānxí, Yăncài, Líxuān, Tiáozhī and Shēndú (India)” ; both translated as ‘pear’ (although Karlgren gives ‘to plough’ for the first character and ‘pear’ for the second, and GR No. XVIII-XXVI and 253-254 argue that Li-kan (Lijian) referred originally to the Seleucid Empire. Among the presents to the Chinese Emperor are stated to have been fine jugglers from Li-jien.
So, it is reasonable to deduce that Zesan was approximately half way between Angu to Egypt, and the northern part of Azania fits this description remarkably well.The Romans moreover had no name for their empire other than orbis terrarum, i.e., “the world,” so that these jugglers would have found it difficult to explain the name of the Roman empire! It seems probable that the ‘Angu’ of the Weilue refers to the ancient trading city of Gerrha, and its port on the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf.In such a fashion there probably arose the Chinese name Li-jien which, for them, denoted the Roman empire in general.” Dubs (1957), pp. See also Dubs’ detailed discussion of the various forms of this name, ibid., pp. 6.“It is possible that Li-jien originally meant ‘the land of Alexander’, just as An-hsi meant ‘the land of the Arsaces’; and that, having first been applied to the Seleucid kingdom, it was then extended to cover the nations (including Rome) whose rulers regarded themselves as the heirs of Alexander. We are told that to travel by boat from Angu to Haixi [= Egypt] with favourable winds took two months and with slow winds half a year.Although the term Ch’in referred to the Chinese as early as the second century A.D., the name Ta-ch’in perhaps is best understood as simply a reflection of Ch’in as the western region of China, i.e.
they present a fictitious religious world, not a real one.