In 1957, American sinologist Homer H. Dubs published A Roman City in China, a book detailing the academic’s theory that a group of Roman soldiers worked as border guards for the Western Han Dynasty at the empire’s western edge. These ancient expatriates, Dubs suggests, were survivors of Rome’s catastrophic loss to Parthia at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE, afterwards moving to the eastern front of the Parthian Empire before eventually finding their way into battle with Chinese troops. In defeat, Dubs claims, the out-of-place legionaries were moved by the Western Han Dynasty to “a specially created frontier city, to which the Chinese of course gave their name for Rome, which was Lijien (now Liqian).”
Today, Liqian is a small village of earth-rammed homes located in Gansu province and, in the decades since the publication of A Roman City in China, Dubs’ theory has led researchers, archeologists and even geneticists to visit the town, all looking to answer the same tantalizing questions: did a Roman legion settle in ancient China? And, if so, are those living in Liqian today the descendants of these lost troops?
In the cover story for our November 2018 issue, we explore these questions while transporting you to modern day Liqian. You can read this fascinating story right now by clicking here.
[Cover image via HelloRF]