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Africa/China connections 1

A couple of years ago I watched this video on a different kind of migration – Nigerians living in China and of course every day something is written about Chinese investing in various parts of Africa – Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe to name a few.

As long as I can remember there have always been Chinese entrepreneurs in Lagos and probably other parts of the country along with Lebanese and Indians. But less is written about Nigerians living and engaged in business in these countries. Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba is a blog I just discovered via Twitter. She has an amazingly informative post on Africans in ancient China and Chinese in ancient Africa.

“… the first Africans who reached ancient China (the particular period was not specified) were two slaves given as gifts to the Emperor by an envoy of Arab traders. I found myself wondering what happened to them, were the slaves male or female, were they killed immediately or did they go on to serve the Emperor, did they have children (it was possible!) etc.”

One set of records that is clear are the 500 strong African body guards employed by Coxinga, a wealthy merchant and smuggler in the 17 century. The bodyguards freed men who had once been enslaved by Portuguese and brought to Macao just off Hong Kong. Again what happened to these men, their descendants surely there must have been many more Africans in China than just the 500 mentioned here. As for Chinese in Africa, the earliest records date back to the Tang dynasty (618-907).

“Apparently Du Huan was captured in battle, it was 751 A.D when China found itself in conflict with the Arabs at the Talas River. He ‘vanished into the dominions of the Abbasid caliphate‘ and 12 years later returned to China where he composed a ‘Record of my Travels’. It seems most of Du Huan’s memoirs have been lost but a few passages remain including that which tells of a country inhabited by black people called Molin (probably aroud modern day Eritrea or Ethiopia which at time would have been the coastal regions of the Kingdom of Axum). Molin was situated not far from the coast and was a multi-religious society with Christianity, Islam, the ‘Zimzim’ teachings (this could have been Zoroastrainism but some say it was Judaism) and animistic religions being practised. Du Huan was not impressed by the people of Molin because they were not loyal to their ruler or possessed filial piety, they did not restrict themselves sexually (and even supposedly practiced incest at least those who practised the ‘Zimzim’ teachings) and they liked their alcohol.”

This is really fascinating history and hopefully CKEY will keep researching and posting on this and other his/her stories.

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By Sokari Ekine

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