Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE CONQUEST OF CENTRAL ASIA
 THE Chinese are the most practical and the least imaginative of the peoples of the earth. During their whole four
thousand years and more of historical existence the idea of military glory seems never to have dawned upon
their souls. They have had wars, abundance of them, but these have nearly all been fought for the purpose of
bolding on to old possessions, or of widening the borders of the empire by taking in neighboring lands. No
Alexander, Cæsar, or Napoleon has ever been born on Chinese soil; no army has ever been led abroad in search
of the will-of-the-wisp called glory; the wild fancy of becoming lords of the world has always been out of
touch with their practical minds.
If we consider closely the wars of China the truth of what is here said will appear. The great bulk of them
have been fought within the limits of the empire, for the purposes of defence against invasion, the
suppression of revolt, the overthrow of the power of feudal lords, or in consequence of the ambition of
successful generals who coveted the throne. The wars of external conquest have been singularly few, consisting
principally in the invasion of the domain of the Tartars, to which the Chinese were driven by the incessant
raids of the desert hordes.
 In addition, there have been invasions of Corea and Indo-China, but merely as passing incidents in the long
era of Chinese history, not as inaugurating a career of conquest. The great invasion of Japan in the
thirteenth century, the only pure war of conquest of China, was made by Kublai Khan, a Tartar emperor, and
largely with Tartar troops. In brief, the Chinese have shown themselves in disposition one of the most
peaceful of nations, only asking to be let alone, and are very unlikely to begin the war of conquest which
some modern military writers fear.
Yet there is one instance in Chinese history which seems to contradict what has here been said, that of the
career of a great conqueror who carried the arms of China over the whole width of Asia, and who seemed
actuated by that thirst for military glory which has inspired most of the great wars of the world and brought
untold misery upon mankind. This was the great leader Panchow, who lived under three emperors of the Han
dynasty, and whose career is full of interest and event.
Panchow first appears in the reign of the emperor Mingti, who came to the throne in
57 A.D. His victories were won in the west, in the region of Kokonor, where he brought to an end the invasions of the
Tartar tribes. Under Changti, the succeeding emperor, Panchow continued his work in the west, carrying on the
war at his own expense, with an army recruited from pardoned criminals.
Changti died, and Hoti came to the throne, a child ten years of age. It was under his reign that the
 events to be described took place. During the preceding reigns Panchow had made the power of China felt in
regions far west of that realm, bringing several small kingdoms and many tribes under subjection, conquering
the city of Kashgar, and extending the western borders of China as far into the interior of Asia as the great
upland region of the Pamir. The power of his arms had added Eastern Turkestan to the Chinese empire, a region
which it continues to hold to-day.
But these conquests were not enough to satisfy the ambition of the veteran general. Under the boy emperor Hoti
he was free to carry out his designs on a much larger scale. With a powerful army he set out on the only
campaign of ambitious warfare in which China ever indulged. His previous victories had carried the terror of
his name far over the kingdoms of the west, and be now led his army to conquest after conquest in the great
oases of Western Turkestan, subduing kingdom after kingdom until no less than fifteen had submitted to the
power of his arms, and his victorious army stood on the far-distant shores of the Caspian Sea,—the
Northern Sea, as it is named in Chinese annals.
To cross this sea would have brought him into Europe, which continent had never dreamed of invasion from the
mysterious land of Cathay, on the eastern horizon of the world. Panchow's ambition was not yet satiated. There
came to his mind the idea of crossing this seeming great barrier to his victorious career. He had, with his
army, overcome innumerable difficulties of waterless deserts, lofty
 mountain ranges, great rivers, and valiant enemies. Thus far his progress had been irresistible, and should a
mere expanse of water put an end to his westward march?
He was checked by dread of perils in the unknown land beyond. The people on the borders of the Caspian
represented that salt sea as being far more formidable than it really was. They dilated on its width, the vast
mountains which lay beyond, the fierce tribes who would render a landing difficult and dangerous, and the
desert regions beyond the mountains, until Panchow reluctantly gave up his scheme. He had already been for
several years warring with savage nature and barbarous man, and had extended the dominions of his emperor much
farther than any Chinese general had ever dreamed of before. It was time to call a halt, and not expose his
valiant followers to the unknown perils beyond the great inland sea.
The army remained long encamped on the Caspian, coming into communication through its envoys with the Roman
empire, whose eastern borders lay not far away, and forming relations of commerce with this rich and powerful
realm. This done, Panchow led his ever-victorious warriors back to their native land, to tell the story of the
marvels they had seen and the surprising adventures they had encountered.
That Panchow was moved by the mere thirst for military fame may well be doubted in view of what we know of the
character of the Chinese. His purpose was perhaps the more practical one of opening
 by force of arms new channels of trade, and overcoming the obstacles placed by the Parthians and other nations
of Asia in the way of freedom of commerce. On his return to China he found himself the idol of the people, the
trusted friend of the emperor, and the most revered and powerful subject of the empire. He died in his
eightieth year, enjoying a fame such as no general of his race had ever before attained.