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Ancient China
Zhang Qian & The Silk Road



Zhang Qian & The Silk Road
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.76

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    harmonic, scant, profound, envoy, diplomatic, dynasty, subdue, avenge, present-day, dynamics, economical, reign, edgy, convey, bore, fend
     content words:    Great Wall, Zhang Qian, Silk Road, Emperor Wu, Western Han, But Emperor Wu, Before Zhang, Wu Sun, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Wu Su


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Zhang Qian & The Silk Road
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Looking back in history, China has not often had a stable relationship with its neighbors. Sometimes, the relationship was calm and harmonic. Other times, it was tense and edgy. Of all its neighbors, however, those that dwelled north of China were the most threatening. To fend them off, Chinese emperors tried various approaches, such as ordering the construction of the Great Wall of China, waging wars, and giving away money and valuable goods. Interestingly, it was through one of those tactics undertaken by Zhang Qian that led to the establishment of the Silk Road.
 
2     Emperor Wu of the Western Han dynasty was a great ruler. Under his reign (141 B.C. - 87 B.C.), the economy was booming and the society was prosperous. Things were great! But Emperor Wu was concerned. He was worried about a nomadic tribe called Xiongnu living in present-day Mongolia. Every now and then, the Xiongnu people would cross China's northern border to harass local residents. Their aggressiveness threatened the prosperity that the Chinese had grown to enjoy.
 
3     Emperor Wu wanted to address the issue and get rid of the Xiongnu once and for all. But he didn't want to commit his troops without a solid strategy. One day in 138 B.C., he received a very interesting intelligence report. Emperor Wu learned that the Yuezhi people, another nomadic tribe, held a deep grudge against the Xiongnu. Not so long ago, the Xiongnu had defeated the Yuezhi and had forced them to move westward. He heard that the Yuezhi people wanted to avenge the Xiongnu for the brutal death of their king. Right away, Emperor Wu had an idea. He wanted to build an alliance with the Yuezhi. He wanted to use the allied forces and open two war fronts one to the south with Chinese forces and another to the west with Yuezhi forces both against the Xiongnu. He figured that the Xiongnu could not sustain attacks from both sides, and victory would be a sure thing. To convey his proposal, Emperor Wu needed to send an envoy to the Yuezhi. He asked for a volunteer, and Zhang Qian came forward.

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