In 119 BC, Zhang Qian started on his second trip to the Western Territory with a view to establishing diplomatic ties with Wusun. Accompanying him on the trip were 300 cohorts. They took 600 horses, 10,000 sheep and cattle, and large quantities of precious silk, which they would present to the king of Wusun when they arrived.
The king of Wusun received Zhang Qian in the same way he had received a chieftain of the Xiong Nu. But, what was considered a most elaborate and honorific reception ceremony in the local culture was not good enough for Zhang Qian, who insisted that the emperor of the Han Dynasty, whom he represented, deserved much more than a chieftain of the Xiong Nu. He told the king of Wusun: "My Emperor is the Son of Heaven. The beneficiary of whatever he confers must go down on his knees.
So, either Your Lordship should kneel, or I take these presents back." After the king of Wusun obliged with the Han etiquette, Zhang Qian told him that the Han government would marry a princess to him if the state worked together with the Han Dynasty to drive away the Xiong Nu. But, Wusun being close to the territory of the Xiong Nu while far from that of the Han Dynasty, geopolitics made the royal court of Wusun believe that making war with the Xiong Nu was very unwise. Zhang Qian was finely treated in the palace of the king of Wusun, but he could not convince the king to enter into an alliance with the Han Dynasty.
All he could do in Wusun was to dispatch envoys to many other states in the Western Territory. Han representatives made it as far as the Persian Gulf. In 115 BC, Zhang Qian returned to Chang'an together with an envoy from the Wusun royal court. He died the following year. The trail that Zhang Qian blazed in his diplomatic journeys was later used by caravans as well as envoys, and came to be called the "Silk Road," a trade route across the Eurasian continent, bringing elements of Chinese culture all the way to Western Asia, and Europe.
* The Silk Road
Since Zhang Qian successfully arrived at the Western Territory on a diplomatic mission, large amount of silk fabrics of China were transported into those European and Asian countries along his course to the Western Territory. This road, which is famed for its major function of transportation of China's silk products across the Asia, is commonly called Silk Road. The road connecting China, Parthia, Greece, Rome, Arab, Macedonia and some other countries played a significant role in ancient inland trades.
Zhang Qian, Envoy to the Western Territory-Sequel І
From the day it was founded, the Han Dynasty was beleaguered by a pastoral tribe from the north called the Xiong Nu, or Huns. Little could be done to stop these exploiting invaders, until the dynasty reached its zenith during the reign of Emperor Wu Di (r. 140-188 BC). An economic recovery policy characterized by little government intervention and light taxation, as adopted by previous emperors, meant that Emperor Wu Di was financially ready to act more aggressively on the issue of national security. Apart from sending troops to fight the Xiong Nu, the emperor also started appointing ambassadors to the Western Territory, a geographical term used during the Han Dynasty to refer to the states and people inhabiting today's Xinjiang and the regions beyond the Congling Mountains (Pamirs), with the objective of eliciting an alliance in the war on the Xiong Nu. Zhang Qian (born in Hanzhong, Shaanxi) was the first government envoy dispatched to the Western Territory.
In 138 BC, a Han delegation led by Zhang Qian started traveling west from Longxi. They did not travel long before they fell into the hands of the Xiong Nu, who detained them for ten years. The Xiong Nu gave a young woman in marriage to Zhang Qian, and they had children. But Zhang Qian still never stopped thinking of his mission. At last, together with his family and a few cohorts, he managed to escape the Xiong Nu. The group traveled west across the Congling Mountains into Ferghana (Dawan). The king of Ferghana recommended Zhang Qian and his delegation to another state, Kangju, from where they moved to Tukhara.
The political situation changed in a way that did not favor a Han-Tukhara alliance against the Xiong Nu. Zhang Qian spent over a year in Tukhara without ever being able to interest the king ofTukhara in what he had come to do. In 126 BC, Zhang Qian returnd in Chang'an, the capital of the Han Dynasty. He had left with a delegation of over a hundred, but returned with only one partner accompanying him.
The expedition into the Western Territory took 13 years. It did not bring about an alliance with Tukhara, but it allowed Zhang Qian to learn a great deal about the lands of the Western Territory and the peoples living there. In recognition of the useful knowledge that Zhang Qian had returned with, as well as of the pioneering political groundwork he had done for future diplomacy, Emperor Wu Di promoted Zhang Qian to be superior grand master of the palace and his assistant commissioner.