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Rome and China

Grade 6 | Informative | Text-Dependent

Source Lexile®: 1070L-1080L

Learning Standards



Prompt: What did the ancient Chinese and Romans know about each other? Read the following accounts of ancient China and Rome. Explain what the ancient Chinese and Romans knew about each other. Cite specific evidence from the texts to support your response.



Source 1

(Chinese) Yu Huan, description of Romans, Weilue or Brief History of the Wei (excerpts), 265 CE


NOTE: Weilue, or the brief history of the Wei, was written by Yu Huan. Wei or Cao Wei was one of three states in that vied for power in the Three States Period of Chinese dynastic history (220-280 CE). In this passage Yu Huan draws on several sources to describe Romans.


This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone.


…The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.

The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu ('Western') clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.


They have always wanted to communicate with China but, Anxi (Parthia), jealous of their profits, would not allow them to pass (through to China).


From China Meets the West: The "Peoples of the West" During the 3rd Century CE According to the Weilue.


Source 2

(Roman) Pliny the Elder, description of China, Natural History (excerpts), 77 CE


NOTE: This text appeared in the Roman writer Pliny the Elder's Natural History VI, 54. He wrote several volumes on geography, which included the following text about silk production in China. Pliny the Elder refers to the people who created silk as Seres.


The Seres are famous for the woolen substance obtained from their forests; after a soaking in water they comb off the white down of the leaves… So manifold is the labour employed, and so distant is the region of the globe drawn upon, to enable the Roman maiden to flaunt transparent clothing in public.






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