And I dare to say that the Phoenicians may have started this long before the period in the opening post. Traders are traders, now and always. Many will have gone to great lengths to make a profit.
Travelling by sea (coast hopping) is a lot easier and faster than travelling over mountains and through deserts.
When you look at this chart of sea currents in the Indian Ocean...
... then it is very possible the Phoenians traded with people from the Indus Civilization, who in their turn traded with people from SE Asia who in their turn traded with ancient China.
Not that there is any direct proof as far as I know (maybe The_Spartan has a thing or two to say about that), but it sure must have been possible.
Concerning the Indus Civilization, I found this site:
Myths, Hypotheses and Facts Concerning the Origin of Peoples
The Indus Valley History Chronology
(Until the 11th Century C.E.)
That looks like a good website, Abe. I'm going to read it when I get home and have more time. Thanks for posting it.