From the Hou-Han-Shu, chs. 86, 88 (written 5th Century C.E.), for 25 - 220 C.E.:
During the 9th year [of Yung-yuan, 97 C.E.] the barbarian tribes outside the frontier and the king of the country of Shan [Armenia], named Yung-yu-tiao, sent twofold interpreters, and was endowed with state jewels. Ho-ti [Emperor, 89-106 C.E.] conferred a golden seal with a purple ribbon, and the small chiefs were granted seals, ribbons, and money. During the 1st year of Yung-ning [120 C.E.] the king of the country of Shan, named Yung-yu-tiao, again sent an embassy who, being received to His Majesty's presence, offered musicians and jugglers. The latter could conjure, spit fire, bind and release their limbs without assistance, change the heads of cows and horses, and were clever at dancing with up to a thousand balls. They said themselves: "We are men from the west of the sea; the west of the sea is the same as Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria]. In the south-west of the country of Shan one passes through to Ta-ts'in." At the beginning of the following year they played music at court before An-ti [Emperor, 107-126 C.E.], when Yung-yu-tiao was invested as a Ta-tu-wei [tributary prince] of the Han [Chinese] empire by being granted a seal and a ribbon with gold and silver silk embroidered emblems, every one of which had its own meaning. The city [Hira] of the country of T'iao-chih [Babylonia] is situated on a peninsula; its circumference is over forty li and it borders on the western sea [Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean]. The waters of the sea crookedly surround it. In the east, and north-east, the road is cut off; only in the north-west there is access to it by means of a land-road. The country is hot and low. It produces lions, rhinoceros, feng-niu [Zebu, Bos indicus], peacocks, and large birds [ostriches?] whose eggs are like urns. If you turn to the north and then towards the east again go on horseback some sixty days, you come to Ar-hsi [Arsacids, or Parthia], to which afterwards it became subject as a vassal state under a military governor who had control of all the small cities. The country of Ar-hsi has its residence at the city of Ho-tu [Hekatompylos], it is 25,000 li distant from Lo-yang. In the north it bounds on K'ang-chu, and in the south, on Wu-i-shan-li. The size of the country is several thousand li. There are several hundred small cities with a vast number of inhabitants and soldiers. On its eastern frontier is the city of Mu-lu [Avestan "Mouru", modern Merv], which is called Little Ar-hsi [Parthia Minor]. It is 20,000 li distant from Lo-yang. In the first year of Chang-ho, of the Emperor Chang-ti [87 C.E.], they sent an embassy offering lions and fu-pa. The fu-pa has the shape of a lin [unicorn], but has no horn. In the 9th year of Yung-yŁan of Ho-ti [97 C.E.] the tu-hu [governor] Pan Ch'ao sent Kan-ying as an ambassador to Ta-ts'in [Roman Syria], who arrived in T'iao-chih [Babylonia], on the coast of the great sea [Persian Gulf]. When about to take his passage across the sea, the sailors of the western frontier of Ar-hsi told Kan-ying: "The sea [Indian Ocean] is vast and great; with favorable winds it is possible to cross within three months---but if you meet slow winds, it may also take you two years. It is for this reason that those who go to sea take on board a supply of three years' provisions. There is something in the sea which is apt to make man home-sick, and several have thus lost their lives." When Kan-ying heard this, he stopped. In the 13th year [101 C.E.] the king of Ar-hsi, Man-k'u, again offered as tribute lions and large birds [ostriches] from T'iao-chih, which henceforth were named Ar-hsi-chiao [Parthian birds]. From Ar-hsi you go west 3,400 li to the country of Uk-man [Ecbatana, modern Hamadan]; from Uk-man you go west 3,600 li to the country of Si-pan [Ktesiphon]; from Si-pan you go south, crossing a river [or by river], and again south-west to the country of Yu-lo, 960 li, the extreme west frontier of An-hsi; from here you travel south by sea, and so reach Ta-ts'in [at Aelana, modern Elat]. In this country there are many of the precious and rare things of the western sea [Red Sea/Indian Ocean]. The country of Ta-ts'in is also called Li-kan and, as being situated on the western part of the sea, Hai-hsi-kuo [i.e., "country of the western part of the sea"]. Its territory amounts to several thousand li; it contains over four hundred cities, and of dependent states there are several times ten. The defences of cities are made of stone. The postal stations and mile-stones on the roads are covered with plaster. There are pine and cypress trees and all kinds of other trees and plants. The people are much bent on agriculture, and practice the planting of trees and the rearing of silk-worms. They cut the hair of their heads, wear embroidered clothing, and drive in small carriages covered with white canopies; when going in or out they beat drums, and hoist flags, banners, and pennants. The precincts of the walled city in which they live measure over a hundred li in circumference. In the city there are five palaces, ten li distant from each other. In the palace buildings they use crystal [glass?] to make pillars; vessels used in taking meals are also so made. The king goes to one palace a day to hear cases. After five days he has completed his round. As a rule, they let a man with a bag follow the king's carriage. Those who have some matter to submit, throw a petition into the bag. When the king arrives at the palace, he examines into the rights and wrongs of the matter. The official documents are under the control of thirty-six chiang [generals?] who conjointly discuss government affairs. Their kings are not permanent rulers, but they appoint men of merit. When a severe calamity visits the country, or untimely rain-storms, the king is deposed and replaced by another. The one relieved from his duties submits to his degradation without a murmur. The inhabitants of that country are tall and well-proportioned, somewhat like the Han [Chinese], whence they are called Ta-ts'in. The country contains much gold, silver, and rare precious stones, especially the "jewel that shines at night," "the moonshine pearl," the hsieh-chi-hsi, corals, amber, glass, lang-kan [a kind of coral], chu-tan [cinnabar ?], green jadestone [ching-pi], gold-embroidered rugs and thin silk-cloth of various colors. They make gold-colored cloth and asbestos cloth. They further have "fine cloth," also called Shui-yang-ts'ui [i.e., down of the water-sheep]; it is made from the cocoons of wild silk-worms. They collect all kinds of fragrant substances, the juice of which they boil into su-ho [storax]. All the rare gems of other foreign countries come from there. They make coins of gold and silver. Ten units of silver are worth one of gold. They traffic by sea with Ar-hsi and T'ien-chu [India], the profit of which trade is ten-fold. They are honest in their transactions, and there are no double prices. Cereals are always cheap. The budget is based on a well-filled treasury. When the embassies of neighboring countries come to their frontier, they are driven by post to the capital, and, on arrival, are presented with golden money. Their kings always desired to send embassies to Zhongguo [China], but the Ar-hsi wished to carry on trade with them in Han silks, and it is for this reason that they were cut off from communication. This lasted till the ninth year of the Yen-hsi period during the emperor Huan-ti's reign [166 C.E.] when the king of Ta-ts'in, An-tun [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus], sent an embassy who, from the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam] offered ivory, rhinoceros horns, and tortoise shell. From that time dates the direct intercourse with this country. The list of their tribute contained no jewels whatever, which fact throws doubt on the tradition. It is said by some that in the west of this country there is the Jo-shui ["weak water"--probably the Dead Sea] and the Liu-sha ["flying sands, desert"] near the residence of the Hsi-wang-mu ["mother of the western king"], where the sun sets. The Ch'ien-han-shu says: "From T'iao-chih [Babylonia] west, going over 200 days, one is near the place where the sun sets"; this does not agree with the present book. Former embassies from Zhongguo all returned from Wu-i; there were none who came as far as T'iao-chih. It is further said that, coming from the land-road of Ar-hsi, you make a round at sea and, taking a northern turn, come out from the western part of the sea, whence you proceed to Ta-ts'in.
The country is densely populated; every ten li [of a road] are marked by a t'ing; thirty li by a chih [resting-place]. One is not alarmed by robbers, but the road becomes unsafe by fierce tigers and lions who will attack passengers, and unless these be travelling in caravans of a hundred men or more, or be protected by military equipment, they may be devoured by those beasts. They also say there is a flying bridge [the bridge over the Euphrates at Zeugma] of several hundred li, by which one may cross to the countries north of the sea. The articles made of rare precious stones produced in this country are sham curiosities and mostly not genuine, whence they are not here mentioned.