Through a careful examination of the accounts of Daqin (大秦) — presumably the Roman Empire — and Fulin (拂菻) — Byzantinum —, we can depict a picture of how the Chinese imagined another ancient empire far away in the West. The Chinese annals not only give information on and the interpretation of the name of that mysterious country but also add details about its geography, administration, economy — including agriculture, domesticated animals and products -, trade and the envoys sent by Daqin (大秦) people. Such a description could be remarkable on its own but the accounts also emphasise the similarities between the two great empires that might have originated in their same cultural level.
Relations between the Roman and the early Chinese Empires have been considerably popular fields of research, however, principally from a trade-oriented point of view. Contextualising Roman-related glass finds unearthed in the People’s Republic of China provides a more complex nexus. Transparent glass vessels carry multiple testimonia of cultural impacts and interactions, leading towards a stereotyped and utopian perception of the Imperium Romanum.
This paper focuses on the complexity of such inter-imperial connections through contextualising the most significant Roman-interpreted glass finds in China. Furthermore, by a detailed and critical examination of Roman-related transparent glass vessels, it also aims to highlight problems of earlier identifications and interpretations. In addition, a precise recollection of the existing data not only allows to catalogue these various glass objects, but also helps to insert these glass artefacts into the Roman glass typology system.