The Weilüe (Chinese: 魏略; pinyin: Wèilüè; Wade–Giles: Wei-lüeh) written by Yu Huan (Chinese: 魚豢; pinyin: Yǔ Huàn) between CE 239, the end of Emperor Ming’s reign, and 265 CE, the end of the Cao Wei (220-265 CE). Although not an "official historian," Yu Huan has always been held in high regard amongst Chinese scholars.

The original text of the Weilüe, or “Brief Account of the Wei Dynasty,” by Yu Huan has been lost. Fortunately, his chapter on the 'Xirong,' or ‘Peoples of the West’, was quoted as an extensive footnote to Chapter 30 of the Sanguozhi by Pei Songzhi, which was first published in CE 429. Other than this chapter, only a few isolated quotes remain in other texts.

Yu Huan does not mention his sources in the text that has survived. Some of this new data presumably came to China via traders from the Roman Empire (Da Qin). Land communications with the West apparently continued relatively uninterrupted to the northern state of Wei after the fall of the Han Dynasty.

Yu Huan apparently never left China, but he collected a large amount of information on the countries to the west of China including Parthia, India, and the Roman Empire, and the various routes to them. Some of this information had reached China well before Yu Huan’s time, and can also be found in the sections dealing with the ‘Western Regions’ of the Shiji, the Hanshu, and the Hou Hanshu. In spite of this repetition of earlier (and sometimes fanciful) information, the Weilüe contains new, unique, and generally trustworthy material, mostly from the late second and early third centuries CE. It is this new information that makes the Weilüe a valuable historical source. Most of the new information appears to have come from the Eastern Han, before China was largely cut off from the West by civil wars and unrest along its borders during the late 2nd century CE.

The Weilüe describes the maritime routes to the Roman Empire and it is quite possible that some, or all, of the new information on the Roman Empire and Parthia came from foreign sailors. One such record which may have been available to Yu Huan is detailed in the Liangshu of a merchant from the Roman Empire who in CE 226 arrived in Jiaozhi, near modern Hanoi, and was sent to the court of Sun Quan, the Wu emperor, who asked him for a report on his native country and its people.

Yu Huan also includes a brief description of "Zesan" which probably refers to the East African coast which was known to Greek and Roman authors as Azania, and what appears to be awareness of a route around Africa to the Roman Empire - "You can (also) travel (from Zesan) southwest to the capital of Da Qin (Rome), but the number of li is not known".[1] The Early Pandyan Kingdom of Tamilakam is referred to under the name, "Panyue".

The kingdom of Panyue (Pandya) is also called Hanyuewang. It is several thousand li to the southeast of Tianzhu (Northern India), and is in contact with Yi Circuit [in modern southern Yunnan]. The inhabitants are small; they are the same height as the Chinese. Traders from Shu (Western Sichuan) travel this far. The Southern Route, after attaining its most westernmost point, turns southeast until it reaches its end.[2]

The section on Daqin (Roman territory) from the Weilüe was translated into English by Friedrich Hirth in his pioneering 1885 volume, China and the Roman Orient. Hirth included translations of a wide range of other Chinese texts relating to Daqin and the Chinese text of each is included, making it an essential reference even today. In 1905, Édouard Chavannes translated the remainder of the Weilüe into French under the title of "Les pays d’occident d’après le Wei lio". Chavannes’ translation is accompanied by copious notes in which he clarified numerous obscurities, and convincingly identified many of the countries and towns mentioned in the Weilüe, especially along the eastern sections of the overland trade routes.


  1. ^ Hill (2004), Section 16.
  2. ^ Hill (2004), Section 8. [1] Draft Translation of the Weilüe by John Hill


  • Chavannes, Édouard. 1905. “Les pays d’Occident d’après le Wei lio.” T’oung pao 6 (1905), pp. 519-571.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation. [2]
  • Hirth, Friedrich. 1875. China and the Roman Orient. Shanghai and Hong Kong. Unchanged reprint. Chicago, Ares Publishers, 1975.
  • Yu, Taishan. 2004. A History of the Relationships between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 131 March, 2004. Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.

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