Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Ban Chao of Han Dynasty -- A Pioneer Diplomatist in History of China

Ban Chao (32 -- 102) was one of the greatest diplomatists in the history of China.

 

He led 36 warriors conquered and pacified over 50 countries in the west of the Han Empire, and defeated the powerful Kushan Empire.

 

As a diplomat with limited numbers of warriors, his achievements were as extraordinary as an exceptional marshal. 

 

Growing Up in the House of Historians 

Ban Chao came from a respectable Confucianism family, whose father was a knowledgeable historian of the Han Dynasty. His big brother was an even more talented litterateur and poet, who impressed the current emperor by his book in respect to history of the Han Dynasty. 

 

Ban Chao's big brother soon was nominated as the most honorable historian, and then wrote the Book of Han, which is one of the most important historical masterpieces in Chinese culture. He also assisted a marshal achieved excellent military success, but was framed up and the departed in the prison decades later. 

 

Ban Chao’s little sister was an exceptional historian and litterateur as well. She was widely trusted and respected among the nobles, even include the emperor, because of her outstanding talent.

 

After her big brother was framed up and passed away, left his masterpiece, the Book of Han, unfinished; her second brother Ban Chao refused to keep writing, and wanted to do something else.

 

So she took over this job and finished it excellently. Afterwards, she also participated in politics and was highly trusted by Empress Dowager Deng Sui

 

As for Ban Chao, in his early years, he was taught to be a historian, just like his father and big brother. He had served as an officer in the historical documentation department for a long time, and then was supposed to help his big brother to finish that masterpiece, the Book of Han. 

 

Inspired by the Story of General Fu Jiezi

One day, Ban Chao read about a diplomat named Fu Jiezi, who was supposed to condemn a king for having helped the Huns murdered some merchants of Han Empire.

 

Instead, Fu assassinated that king and supported their crown prince, an admirer of Han’s culture, to inherit the throne.

This decapitation operation shocked Ban a lot; he thought that he should be serving the country like hero Fu Jiezi, or great marshal like Wei Qing and Huo Qubing.

So, Ban Chao put away his books and writing brush, and joined the Han's army in his 40s. He got promoted soon because of his braveness and talent, and then was sent on a diplomatic mission. 

 

Ban Chao's First Mission as Diplomat and the Assassination 

At that time, the Huns were already retreating far away and didn’t dare to fight with Han directly in the battlefield, but they were still a powerful country in the northwest of Han. Therefore, many small countries in this area either complied to Han Empire or the Huns, or swinging between those two. 

 

Ban was sent to one of those swing regimes with 36 people. They sensed that the king was polite but indifferent; soon Ban found out that the Huns also sent a big group with hundreds of warriors and diplomats at the same time, trying to make this country to comply.

 

So, Ban led his 36 soldiers ambushed and then attacked the Huns’ big diplomatic group first; afterwards, he told the king that the Huns were evil and they had been wiped out.

 

Since then, the king decided to send his son to Han as hostage and his country completely stopped swinging. 

Successful Diplomat Ban Chao and His 36 Warriors 

Ban’s courage and decisiveness impressed his emperor, so he was then promoted and given more diplomatic missions.

 

He refused a big army that the emperor assigned him, and took only his former 36 followers started his westward journey.

 

They came to two other swing countries and made them comply again; Ban killed a regent who was supported by the Huns in one country, kidnapped and replaced a king in another. 

 

After he made three countries complied within two years, the current emperor of Han departed at a young age and a 12 years old crown prince inherited the throne.

 

The Huns planned to further expand when Han was in this transition, so Han decided to summon Ban back and drawback for a while.

 

However, people from those countries that Ban had conquered begged him not to leave, one of the prime minister even killed himself to persuade Ban to stay.

 

Therefore, Ban chose to keep fighting in the west of the Han Empire, instead of enjoying an honorable and wealthy life back in his hometown. 

 

Rejecting of Political Marriage & Defeating of Kushan Empire 

When Ban was 56 years old, a country that was supported by the Huns, betrayed the Han Empire; then Ban led around 20, 000 of other complied countries' soldiers successfully defeated the allied army, which was constituted of over 50,000 warriors, and occupied stronghold of the Huns. 

 

In this war, the Kushan Empire was also contributive to Han Empire's success, so their king paid some tributes and requested to marry a princess of Han; but Ban refused them, without asking the emperor.

 

The king of the Kushan Empire was furious and sent around 70, 000 of his fine soldiers to seek for revenge; however, they were soon defeated by Ban.

 

Afterwards, this king surrendered and the border came back to peace again. 

 

Within around 20 years, Ban pacified and built diplomatic relations with 55 countries alongside the Silk Road. 

Failed Searching for the Roman Empire 

When he was 66 years old, Ban Chao was excited to hear that there was a powerful Roman Empire in the west.

 

However, he was too old for another long distance adventure, so Ban sent a team searching for Roman Empire and trying to build a diplomatic relation.

 

This team reached the Persian Gulf and was told that the Roman Empire was very far away and dangers and might take them years to reach there; so their leader then decided to go back instead of keeping going.

 

Han and Roman, two powerful empires of that time, lost the chance to directly communicate with each other. 

Returning of Exceptional Diplomat and General Ban Chao

Three years later, Ban was older and felt sick, so he plead to come back to his hometown.

 

His little sister, now an influential female politician, also wrote to the emperor to summon Ban back. 

 

After Ban finally came back to the Han Empire, he was highly respected and achieved countless rewards. 

 

He passed away two years after his returning; his two sons were excellent generals as well, his grandson even married a princess of Han afterwards. 

 

Ban Chao was widely respected and documented as a great diplomat in the history of China, who completely got through the Silk Road, isolated nearby countries from the Huns, protected his country from the attack of the Kushan Empire, and further weakened and expelled Han Empire's enemy.

 

His experience was an incredible legend with braveness, insistent and glorious victory.