Zhang Qian, the "first" ambassador of Central Asia in the XNUMXst century BC: a life and a history to be reviewed from the angle of new materials
Conference by Arnaud Bertrand Doctor of the Practical School of Advanced Studies in Sinology, associate researcher at the ArScAn research laboratory – Archeology of Central Asia (CNRS – UMR 7041), and teacher at the Catholic Institute of Paris.
The term "silk roads", introduced in the middle of the XNUMXth century and reactivated today by the highest Chinese authorities, actually translates China's multi-millennial desire to project itself towards Western countries to pursue military and commercial strategies. The Han period is particularly interesting to study because it marks the beginning of this movement after the period of consolidation of the Inner Empire. This is how fascinating characters appear like Zhang Qian, emissary of the emperor, who goes into contact with the peoples of the West and brings back a geographical and diplomatic knowledge that will allow the development of a diplomatic strategy and conquests, to the west. Taking advantage of his work on texts and archaeological data, between the Chinese northwest and Central Asia, we are going to retrace the story of Zhang Qian, a veritable Chinese "Marco Polo", of whom we ultimately have very little information. elements, in addition to his famous biography contained in the Shiji by Sima Qian. Its history is however the reflection of a Chinese "soft power", of which we still see examples today, it is therefore appropriate to dwell on it, by returning to the source of the original story, and by retracing as much as possible the geopolitical, ethnic and social reality of its missions to the west.