A Chinese explorer named Zhang Qian is often called the Father of the Silk Road. His travels opened the way for trade between China and its western neighbors.
In 138 B.C.E., a Han emperor sent Zhang Qian west with 100 men. His mission was to persuade western peoples to form an alliance against China's northern enemy, the Huns. Zhang Qian traveled across Central Asia to what is now the country of Iran.
Chinese Warriors don't take no guff.
Zhang Qian never achieved an alliance. But his trip was a success in other ways, as it helped the Chinese learn about a number of cultures to the west. Zhang Qian brought back word of such places as Persia, Syria, India, and Rome.
Over time, Chinese traders traveled farther west. Smaller trade routes connected to form larger networks. The most famous of these routes became known as the Silk Road, named after the product that traders valued most of all: Chinese silk.