China and the Mediterranean World

For more information on the progress of the project on relevant Classical and Chinese sources


Archaeological Sources and Written Documents, from the earliest times until the end of the tenth century A.D


Project description

in Chinese > pdf-file


In the world today, which is often characterized in terms of globalization as a major feature and in which China is becoming an increasingly important actor on the global scene, understanding the historical dynamics of Sino-European contacts and interaction is more meaningful than ever. To enhance our understanding in this regard is the fundamental purpose of the UAI Project ”China and the Mediterranean World: Archaeological Sources and Written Documents”. This project can be divided into three subprojects: 

1. Collecting and publishing objects from one cultural area found in the other cultural era. 

2. Collecting and translating texts: Chinese texts on the Mediterranean world and European texts on China. Much of this work has already been done by previous scholars. The great bulk of the Chinese language material was collected and translated in a seminal study by two Australian scholars, D.D. Leslie and K.H.J. Gardiner, entitled The Roman Empire in Chinese Sources by D.D. Leslie and K.H.J. Gardiner published in 1996. This material has also been collected and annotated in Chinese by Professor Yu Taishan in his paper “Hanwen shiji youguan Luoma diguo de jizai” (References to the Roman Empire in Chinese historical records).    

     As for early European texts containing references to the Chinese world, the great bulk of these were collected and translated from Greek and Latin into French long ago by the French scholar George Coedès in his work Textes d’auteurs grecs et latins relatifs a l’Extreme-Orient depuis le IV siecle av. J.-C. jusqu’au XIVe siècle published in 1910. Now Professor Samuel Lieu of the Australian Academy heading a team of scholars has translated this material from Greek and Latin into English.

3. The third major subproject is to initiate synthetic studies of the meaning and significance of the data collected within the first two subprojects. As has become clear from the above, this work has already begun in connection with the collection of data. But more efforts will be devoted to this once the work to collect and publish the original sources has been largely completed. It will never be possible to say that this work has been definitively completed, since new sources will continue to emerge.     In terms of scholarly significance, two points should be emphasized. First, it will make knowledge about early contacts between China and the Mediterranean world which already exists but which is scattered and not easy to find easily accessible and so stimulate further research in this important field. Second, as a collaborative project involving scholars in different parts of the world, it will strengthen scholarly cooperation between China and Europe.

The project is administered by a committee with the following members:

     Michael Alram (Austria)

     Bei Yunxiang (China), Chinese chair

     Lise Hannestad (Denmark, chair), European chair

     Jiang Bo (China)

     Torbjörn Lodén (Sweden)

     Desmond Durkin-Meisternst (Germany)

     Samuel Lieu (Australia and Great Britain)

     Nicholas Sims-Williams (Great Britain)