Zhang Qian (Chang Chien; pinyin : Zhāng Qiān; simplified Chinese: 张骞; traditional Chinese: 張騫 pronounced Jang-Chyen) - referred to in some texts as Chang Ki Yen - was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty. He was the first official diplomat to bring back reliable information about Central Asia to the Chinese imperial court, then under Emperor Wu of Han, and played an important pioneering role in the Chinese colonization and conquest of the region now known as Xinjiang.
Today Zhang Qian's travels are associated with the major route of transcontinental trade, the Silk Road. In essence, his missions opened up to China the many kingdoms and products of a part of the world then unknown to the Chinese. Zhang Qian's accounts of his explorations of Central Asia are detailed in the Early Han historical chronicles, Records of the Grand Historian or Shiji, compiled by Sima Qian in the 1st century BCE . The Central Asian sections of the Silk Road routes were expanded around 114 BC largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian. Today Zhang Qian is considered a national hero and revered for the key role he played in opening China to the world of commercial trade.