In 139 B.C. a Han emperor by the name of Wudi sent out one of his generals to explore other nations. This general was a man by the name of Zhang Qian. Zhang Qian and his army marched throughout distant regions visiting other civilizations and nomadic tribes.
The armies of Zhang Qian were viewed as a threat by many of these nomadic tribes, as a result, these tribes attacked and destroyed many of Zhang Qian's men. Zhang Qian himself was captured and kept in bondage for a period of 10 years. After 13 years, Zhang Qian was finally able to return to the emperor and report.
He told Wudi about stories he had heard from the nomadic tribes of a great civilization to the West that equaled the glory of China. This was the first time Wudi had heard anything of any other civilizations. Wudi was a smart and wise ruler, who saw the potential for trade between the two cultures.