Open Seminar in Melbourne: Great Ionia – The Chinese Connection

Open Seminar: Great Ionia: The Chinese Connection

Location: The Delphi Bank Mezzanine, The Greek Centre, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Date: THURSDAY 13/6/2019 @ 7:00pm
Presenters: Dean Kalimniou

Language of Presentation: English | R.M.L.G.*: 0 – No knowledge of Greek required.
Entry: FREE


It was the Chinese who gave the name Great Ionia to the Greek speaking kingdom that was founded on the outskirts of the Chinese Empire in Hellenistic times.

The Dayuan or Ta-Yuan (Chinese: 大宛; pinyin: dàyuān; Wade-Giles: Ta-Yuan, lit. “Great Yuan”) were a people of Ferghana in Central Asia, described in the Chinese historical works of Records of the Grand Historian and the Book of Han, which follow the travels of Chinese explorer Zhang Qian in 130 BCE and the numerous embassies that followed him into Central Asia thereafter. The country of Dayuan is generally accepted as relating to the Ferghana Valley.

These Chinese accounts describe the Dayuan as urbanized dwellers with Caucasian features, living in walled cities and having “customs identical to those of the Greco-Bactrians”, a Hellenistic kingdom that was ruling Bactria at that time in today’s northern Afghanistan. The Dayuan are also described as manufacturers and great lovers of wine.

The Dayuan were probably the descendants of the Greek colonies that were established by Alexander the Great in Ferghana in 329 BCE, and prospered within the Hellenistic realm of the Seleucids and Greco-Bactrians, until they were isolated by the migrations of the Yueh-Chih around 160 BCE. It has also been suggested that the name “Yuan” was simply a transliteration of the words “ Yona”, or “ Yavana”, used throughout antiquity in Asia to designate Greeks (“ Ionians”), so that Dayuan (lit. “Great Yuan”) would mean “Great Ionians”.

The interaction between the Dayuan and the Chinese is historically crucial, since it represents one of the first major contacts between an urbanized Indo-Aryan culture and the Chinese civilization, opening the way to the formation of the Silk Road that was to link the East and the West in material and cultural exchange from the 1st century BCE to the 15th century.

NOTE: Professor Vrasidas Karalis’s seminar had to be cancelled due to personal circumstances but will be rescheduled at a later date


Dean Kalimniou is also a well-known poet and short story writer within the Greek community. As a journalist he is popular within the Greek community of Australia through his column in the Melbourne Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos, entitled Diatribe, which has been running since 2001. He has published six poetry collections and has also translated numerous works of prominent Greek-Australian authors from Greek into English. In November 2007, Dean Kalimniou was awarded a Government of Victoria Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs.


We thank the following donor for making this seminar possible: Denise Zapantis in memory of Panagis Zapantis, Ratzakli Cefalinia.

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