A Chinese Biographical Dictionary/Chang Ch'ien

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29Chang Ch'ien 張騫 (T. 子文). 2nd cent. B.C. A. Minister under the Emperor Wu Ti of the Han dynasty. Celebrated as the first Chinese who penetrated to the extreme regions of the west; hence he was spoken of by ancient historians as having "made a road." About 138 B.C. he was sent on a mission to Bactria, but was taken prisoner by the Hsiung-nu and detained in captivity for over ten years. He managed however to escape, and proceeded to Fergana or Khokand, whence he is said to have brought the walnut, and the cultivated grape to China, and to have taught his countrymen the art of making wine, which he had learnt from the Persians. One name for this wine was 黑水晶 "black crystal"; it has also been confused with koumiss. From Fergana he went on to Bactria and obtained the knotty bamboo, returning home in 126 B.C., after having been once more captured by the Hsiung-nu and detained for about a year, escaping in the confusion consequent upon the death of the Khan. He is also said to have introduced hemp into China. In 122 B.C. he was sent to negotiate treaties with the kingdoms of the west; and by the year 115 a regular intercourse with the thirty-six States of this region had become established through his efforts, for which he was ennobled as Marquis. Legend says that he was commissioned to discover the source of the Yellow River, which was popularly supposed to flow from heaven and to be a continuation of the Milky Way. With this object he sailed up the stream for many days, until he reached a city where he saw a girl spinning and a youth leading an ox to the water to drink. Chang Ch'ien asked what place this was; and in reply the woman gave him her shuttle, telling him to show it on his return to the astrologer Yen Chün-p'ing, who would thus know where he had been. He did so, and the astrologer at once recognised the shuttle as that of the Spinning Damsel (α Lyræ); further declaring that on the day and at the hour when Chang received the shuttle he had noticed a wandering star intrude itself between the Spinning Damsel and the Cowherd (β γ Aquilae). Thus Chang was actually believed to have sailed upon the bosom of the Milky Way. Some authorities, however, maintain that the hero of the above legend was quite a different person from the Chang Ch'ien of history.