Ban Chao (Chinese: 班超; Wade–Giles: Pan Ch'ao; 32–102 CE),
courtesy name Zhongsheng, was a Chinese military general, explorer and
diplomat of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was born in Fufeng, now
Xianyang, Shaanxi. Three of his family members — father Ban Biao,
elder brother Ban Gu, younger sister
Ban Zhao — were well known
historians who wrote the historical text Book of Han, which recorded
the history of the Western Han Dynasty. As a Han general and cavalry
Ban Chao was in charge of administrating the "Western
Regions" (Central Asia) while he was in service. He also led Han
forces for over 30 years in the war against the
Xiongnu and secured
Han control over the
Tarim Basin region. He was awarded the title
"Protector General of the Western Regions" by the Han government for
his efforts in protecting and governing the regions.
1 Control of the Tarim Basin
2 A family of historians
2.1 Ban Chao's family
3 Famous quotes (Chengyu)
4 See also
Control of the Tarim Basin
Ban Chao, like his predecessors
Huo Qubing and
Wei Qing from the
Former Han Dynasty
Former Han Dynasty before him, was effective at expelling the Xiongnu
from the Tarim Basin, and brought the various people of the Western
Regions under Chinese rule during the second half of the 1st century
CE, helping to open and secure the trade routes to the west. He was
generally outnumbered, but skillfully played on the divisions among
his opponents. The kingdoms of
Kashgar came under Chinese
rule by A.D. 74. "Pan Ch'ao crushed fresh rebellions in Kashgar
(80,87) and Yarkand (88), and made the
Wusun of the Ili his
Ban Chao was recalled to Luoyang, but then sent again to the Western
Region area four years later, during the reign of the new emperor Han
Zhang Di. He obtained the military help of the
Kushan Empire in 84 in
Kangju who were trying to support the rebellion of the
king of Kashgar, and the next year in his attack on Turpan, in the
eastern Tarim Basin.
Ban Chao ultimately brought the whole of the
Tarim Basin under Chinese control.
In recognition for their support to the Chinese, the Kushans (referred
Da Yuezhi in Chinese sources) requested, but were denied, a Han
princess, even though they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In
retaliation, they marched on
Ban Chao in 90 CE with a force of 70,000
but were defeated by the smaller Chinese force. The Yuezhi retreated
and paid tribute to the Chinese Empire. (Later, during the Yuanchu
period, 114-120 CE, the Kushans sent a military force to install
Chenpan, who had been a hostage among them, as king of Kashgar).
Ceramic statues of a prancing horse (foreground) and a cavalryman on
Eastern Han Dynasty
Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD)
In 91 CE,
Ban Chao finally succeeded in pacifying the Western Regions
and was awarded the title of Protector General and stationed at Qiuci
(Kucha). A Wuji Colonel was re-established and, commanding five
hundred soldiers, stationed in the Kingdom of Nearer Jushi, within the
walls of Gaochang, 29 kilometres southeast of Turfan. In 94 CE,
Chao proceeded to again attack and defeat Yanqi [Karashahr].
Subsequently, more than fifty kingdoms presented hostages, as
submission to the Han Dynasty.
In 97 CE
Ban Chao sent an envoy, Gan Ying, who reached the Persian
Gulf and left the first recorded Chinese account of Europe. Some
modern authors have even claimed that
Ban Chao advanced to the Caspian
Sea, however, this interpretation has been criticized as a
In 102 CE
Ban Chao was retired as Protector General of the Western
Regions due to age and ill health, and returned to the capital Luoyang
at the age of 70, but the following month died there in the 9th month
of the 14th Yongyuan year (30th Sept. to 28th Oct., 102). See: Hou
Hanshu, chap 77 (sometimes given as chap. 107). Following his
death, the power of the
Xiongnu in the Western Territories increased
again, and subsequent Chinese emperors were never able to reach so far
to the west.
A family of historians
Ban Chao also belonged to a family of historians. His father was Ban
Biao (3-54 CE) who started the History of the Western Han Dynasty
(Hanshu; The Book of Han) in 36, which was completed by his son Ban Gu
(32-92) and his daughter
Ban Zhao (Ban Chao's brother and sister).
Ban Chao was probably the key source for the cultural and
socio-economic data on the
Western Regions contained in the Hanshu.
Ban Chao's youngest son
Ban Yong (班勇 Bān Yŏng) participated in
military campaigns with his father and continued to have a central
military role in the
Tarim Basin into the 120s.
Ban Chao's family
Ban Biao (班彪; 3-54; father)
Ban Gu (班固; 32-92; first son)
Ban Chao (班超; 32-102; second son)
Ban Xiong (班雄; ?-after 107; Ban Chao's eldest son)
Ban Shi (班始; ?-130; Ban Xiong's son)
Ban Yong (班勇; ?-after 127; Ban Chao's youngest son)
Ban Zhao (班昭; 45-116; Ban Chao's sister) She's the one who
petitioned the reigning Emperor to let his brother return home from
Famous quotes (Chengyu)
"Throw away your writing brush and join the military!" (投筆從戎)
based on his words "A brave man has no other plan but to follow Fu
JieZi and Zhang Qian's footsteps and do something and become somebody
in a foreign land. How can I waste my life on writing?
in Hou Hanshu.
"...he who does not enter the tiger's lair will never catch its
"To die without glory is not the act of valiant men." （）
"Renounce the pen and join the army." "Renounce the pen for the
"How can one obtain tiger-cubs without entering the tiger's lair."
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained." （不入虎穴，焉得虎子）
Battle of Yiwulu
^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University
Press. pp. 42–47. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
^ Hill (2009), p. 43.
^ a b c Hill (2009), p. 5.
^ Hill. (2009), p. 55.
^ J. Oliver Thomson, A History of Ancient Geography, Cambridge 1948,
p.311. Thomson cites Richthofen, China, 1877, I, 469 and some other
authors in support of the claim that
Ban Chao marched to the Caspian,
and Yule/Cordier, Cathay and the way thither, 1916 p.40 (p.40f in
vol.I of the 2005 edition by Asian Educational Services), Chavannes,
Seidenstrassen, p.8, and Teggart, Rome and China as references for
such claims being erroneous.
^ Chavannes (1906), p. 243.
^ Hill (2009), p. xv.
Chavannes, Édouard (1906). "Trois Généraux Chinois de la dynastie
des Han Orientaux. Pan Tch’ao (32-102 p.C.); – son fils Pan Yong;
– Leang K’in (112 p.C.). Chapitre LXXVII du Heou Han chou."
T’oung pao 7, pp. 210–269.
Hill, John E. (2009). Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the
Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, First to Second Centuries
CE. BookSurge. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
The Tarim Mummies. J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair (2000). Thames
& Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05101-1
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