Several scholars have suggested that it must have been originally derived from ‘Alexandria’ or ‘Alexander.’ See, for example: Dubs (1957), pp. When these persons were asked whence they came, they of course replied “from Alexandria,” which word the Chinese who disliked polysyllables and initial vowels and could not pronounce certain Greek sounds, shortened into “Li-jien.”.When they also learned that this place was different from Parthia, the Chinese naturally used its name for the country of these jugglers.In such a fashion there probably arose the Chinese name Li-jien which, for them, denoted the Roman empire in general.” Dubs (1957), pp. See also Dubs’ detailed discussion of the various forms of this name, ibid., pp. 6.“It is possible that Li-jien originally meant ‘the land of Alexander’, just as An-hsi meant ‘the land of the Arsaces’; and that, having first been applied to the Seleucid kingdom, it was then extended to cover the nations (including Rome) whose rulers regarded themselves as the heirs of Alexander. We are told that to travel by boat from Angu to Haixi [= Egypt] with favourable winds took two months and with slow winds half a year.It was a convenient coincidence that one of the largest cities of the West also bore this man’s name; but, pace Dubs, it seems most unlikely that Roman soldiers would ever have described themselves as ‘Alexandrians’.” Sitwell (1984), p. In Section 16 of the text it says that that, from Zesan, “can take half a year to cross the water, but with fast winds it takes a month” (to reach Lüfen, which is only a short distance by land and “across the sea” by a very long bridge from Haixi or Egypt).It has also been observed, first by Shiratori and later by others, that the accounts of Ta-ch’in bear a deep resemblance to the Taoist Utopia and are therefore not to be completely understood literally, i.e.they present a fictitious religious world, not a real one.Yăncài, already mentioned in the text as a country northwest of Kāngjū (at that time in the region of Tashkend), has long been identified with the Aorsoi of western sources, a nomadic people out of whom the well-known Alans later emerged (Pulleyblank [1962: 99, 220; 192]).
In the first, which has a parallel in Hànshū 61 but is not referred to by Leslie and Gardiner, it is said that after Zhāng Qiān’s death “more envoys were sent to Ānxí, Yăncài, Líxuān, Tiáozhī and Shēndú (India)” ; both translated as ‘pear’ (although Karlgren gives ‘to plough’ for the first character and ‘pear’ for the second, and GR No. XVIII-XXVI and 253-254 argue that Li-kan (Lijian) referred originally to the Seleucid Empire. Among the presents to the Chinese Emperor are stated to have been fine jugglers from Li-jien.
6842, while giving ‘pear’ as the primary meaning, also gives, ‘old’, ‘aged’, ‘to divide’, and ‘dismember,’ as alternate meanings). The jugglers and dancers, male and female, from Alexandria in Egypt were famous and were exported to foreign countries.
All three forms of li show similar reconstructed pronunciations. Since the King of Parthia obviously esteemed highly the Emperor of China, he naturally sent the best jugglers he could secure.
As will become obvious later, this fact did not prevent Shiratori from respecting the essential historical framework of the Chinese accounts of Ta-ch’in.
For the most part, such mythological elements are so strikingly evident that they represent only a minimal problem.”“In the Roman world stories, some based on fact though often much distorted in transmission, others completely fanciful, began to circulate about the Seres, that is, the Silk People. At the same time the Chinese began to hear about a country in the far west which they called Dà Qín, Great Qín, apparently thinking of it as a kind of counter-China at the other end of the world.” Pulleyblank (1999), p.
So, it is reasonable to deduce that Zesan was approximately half way between Angu to Egypt, and the northern part of Azania fits this description remarkably well.