African Historical Contact with China

African historical contact with China has been limited, but existed. Much artifact from trade have  been retrieved from Somali to Mozambique.  Chinese porcelin has been found in Great Zimbabwe and Swahili City State sites. Slave seems to have been presented as gifts to Chinese emperors as well as giraffes. Based on paintings, blacks could rise in status in Chinese society. 


In China, blacks were endowed certain stereotypical resourcefulness. They were viewed as being endowed with exceptional deep diving capabilities and swimming abilities. At sea they were used to caulk the seams of ships. This perspective was expressed in Phing Chou Kho Than (Table Talk at Phingchow) by Chu Fu, Superintendant of Merchant Shipping, in 1119.


Some blacks seem to have attained high status in Chinese society. The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco displays a painting from the 1300s with a black person. Based on his apparel and stance, the afro-descendant was of high status.


Chinese porcelin has been found in sites as Great Zimbabwe and Swahili City States. In fact, Chinese artifacts have been found from Somali to Mozambique, many from the Sung Dynasty. During the latter period, Chinese Junkers sailed the far reaches of the Indian Ocean. Ivory seems to have been the most sought after product by the Chinese. Between 1001-1200, the Swahili City States of Pate and Kilwa were exporting rhinoceros horns, elephant tusk, aromatic wood, myrrh, and tortoise shell to southern China.  Between 1417-1431, Ming emperors dispatch ships to the east coast of Africa. A giraffe was transported back to China, as proof of the expedition.


Black slavery in China was very small and limited to domestic activities. In 724, The Chronicle of the Tang Dynasty states a black girl was presented to the emperor. In the nineth-century a similiar tribute was presented to the emperor in the Sung Dynasty. In 976, Arab merchants brought black slaves Kun Lun to the Chinese imperial court. Black slave importation increased to China after the twelfth century. Chinese scholar, Chu Yu in the Sung Dynasty noted black slaves ("devil slaves", kueinu) in the Canton region, were kept by the wealthy. A custom of using black slaves as doorkeepers was widespread. Canton was an entreport for slaves in China.