Global Times: Popular history book unravels complicated history of exchanges bet… – Press Release


XINJIANG, China , July 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Born in Urumqi, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, writer Li Dong has long been enchanted with the historical culture of his birthplace.

The region was once a thoroughfare for the ancient Silk Road, a time when it was referred to as the “Western Regions,” but now it is a major hub for modern China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The popular history book 400 years of Western Regions, published earlier in 2023, was Li’s gift to the region. The work focuses on the exchanges between the Han people and the ancient nomadic Xiongnu tribe.

Both sides of history

Examining the history of the region during the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220), the book gives a detailed picture of 29 Han Dynasty emperors, 36 ancient kingdoms in the Western Regions such as the mysterious Loulan Kingdom and also 39 chanyu, an exclusive title for the tribal chiefs of the Xiongnu people.

Comprising five chapters such as “The Rise of Powerful Han” and “Dominating Xiongnu,” Li’s book maps out the Han-Xiongnu political relationship while also including the “subtle and always shifting attitudes” of the several small kingdoms caught between the two strong forces.

“The prosperity of the Central Plains sparked infinite longing among the Western Regions. The trade route expanded upon by [Han ambassador] Zhang Qian was under control of the Xiongnu people, who enslaved those small ancient kingdoms,” Li told the Global Times.

Sun Yijun, an expert in Silk Road history, told the Global Times that the nomadic Xiongnu tribe, which originated from the Mongolian Plateau, had several “back and forth rivalries” with the Han Dynasty in the region. 

While Li’s book is similar to many other publications that touch upon “ancient Xinjiang,” Zhang Pan, the book’s chief editor, told the Global Times that its narrative angle is unique as it puts “the stories of both the Han and Xiongnu people parallel to each other.”

This design allows readers to see how the…