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Ban Chao

Modern statue commemorating Ban Chao in Kashgar

Ban Chao's names:
Given name Style name
Pinyin B n Ch o Zh ng Sh ng
Wade-Giles Pan Ch'ao Chung Sheng

Ban Chao (; Wade-Giles: Pan Ch'ao, 32 102 CE), courtesy name Zhongsheng ( ), was born in Xianyang, Shaanxi, and the younger brother of the famous historian, Ban Gu (, (32 92 CE) who, with his father Ban Biao, and sister, Ban Zhao, wrote the famous Hanshu, or 'History of the Former Han Dynasty'.

Ban Chao was a general and cavalry commander in charge of the administration of the "Western Regions" (Central Asia) during the Eastern Han dynasty. He repelled the Xiongnu and secured Chinese control over the Tarim Basin region, and was awarded the title of 'Protector General of the Western Regions'. He fought for 31 years.


Control of the Tarim Basin

Ban Chao, like his predecessors Huo Qubing and Wei Qing from the 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 Loulan, Khotan and Kashgar came under Chinese rule.

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 Zhangdi. He obtained the military help of the Kushan Empire in 84 in repelling the 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 to as 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, exhausted by the expedition, were finally turned back 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).[1]

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).[2] 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.[3] In 94 CE, Chao proceeded to again attack and defeat Yanqi [Karashahr]. Subsequently, more than fifty kingdoms presented hostages, and submitted to the Interior.[4]

In 97 CE Ban Chao sent an envoy, Gan Ying, who reached the Persian Gulf and left the first recorded Chinese account of Europe.[5] However, this interpretation has been criticized as a misreading.[6] The Shanjing gives no details on them.

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).[7] Following his death, the power of the Xiongnu in the Western Territories increased again, and subsequent Chinese emperors were never 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)[8] 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 ( B n Y ng) 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 ( ; 3-54; father)
    • Ban Gu ( ; 32-92; first son)
    • Ban Chao ( ; 32-102; second son)
      • Ban Xiong ( ; ?-after 107; Ban Chao's eldest son)
        • Ban Shi ( ; ?-130; Ban Xiong's son)
      • Ban Yong ( ; ?-after 127; Ban Chao's youngest son)
    • Ban Zhao ( ; 45-116; daughter)

Famous quotes

  • "If you don't enter the tiger's den, how can you catch the tiger's cub?" ( )
  • "Clear water can not harbor big fish, clean politics (or strict enforcement of regulations) can not foster harmony among the general public" ( )

Ban Chao in idioms

See four-character idiom:
  • "Throw away your writing brush and join the military!" ( ) based on his words "A brave man has no other plan but to follow Fu 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.
  • "Clear water harbors no fish." ( )

Ban Chao of today

Pan Chao (1108) is a frigate built in Taiwan based on the Oliver Hazard Perry class-design. It is currently in service for the Republic of China Navy.

See also

  • Battle of Yiwulu
  • Guo Xun
  • Zhang Qian
  • Ban Yong



  • Chavannes, douard (1906). "Trois G n raux 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.
  • The Tarim Mummies. J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair (2000). Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05101-1

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