Chang Ch’ien was one of the earliest and most famous Chinese explorers. In 138 B.C., the Emperor Wu Ti sent Ch’ien west on a mission to find allies. But he was captured by China’s enemy, the Huns, and spent ten years in captivity.
He escaped and made contact with the Yiieh-chih, a nomadic tribe in what is today Afghanistan. Ch’ien reported back to the Chinese emperor in 116,B.C. Wu Ti sent him on another mission the following year, this time to the Wu-Sun, a tribe that lived in what is today southern Russia. On this journey, Ch’ien compiled information on Fergana, a city in Uzbekistan, and India and Parthia, modem-day Iran.
When Ch’ien’s journeys were complete, China had made contact with the civilization established by Alexander the Great. The Roman and Chinese empires began to exchange goods.