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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chimerica Today: China's Deep History with Africa

Posted by on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Everyone is talking about how China is making big investments in Africa...

But it seems this economic relationship is not new at all...
A joint expedition of scientists led by Chapurukha M. Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan R. Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago has unearthed a 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda that shows trade existed between China and East Africa decades before European explorers set sail and changed the map of the world.

Anyone who has studied African history with any kind of depth (which I did in high school—one of the few great achievements of the post-revolution Zimbabwe government was the implementation of college-level courses in African history at the O Level) will not be surprised by this finding. Many in the West have no idea of how rich and fluid the African past was...
"Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China," said Dr. Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum. "It's wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya," he added.
Dr. Kusimba continued, "This finding is significant. We know Africa has always been connected to the rest of the world, but this coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations."


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seatackled 1
There's a recent book (sometime in the last ten years, I think) called When China Ruled the Seas that's about Zheng He and his explorations, including the journeys to Africa.
Posted by seatackled on March 14, 2013 at 9:25 AM · Report this
lark 2
Good Morning Charles,
You probably know this but an African (a Moroccan), Ibn Battuta was one of the greatest and earliest travellers known in human history. He definitely eclipsed Marco Polo's range. I've read "The Travels" by Polo. Battuta largely roved the Muslim world. He was quite the intrepid voyager. National Geographic did a feature story on him years ago.

Posted by lark on March 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
Sure, Zheng He went to Africa and all over Asia -- there are Mosques dedicated to him in Indonesia, for example (he was a Muslim eunuch admiral). But unlike Colombus and the others who followed (well, and preceded), the Chinese had a look around the rest of the world (some theorize that they made it to the west coast of the Americas) and decided that they were far more technologically advanced (they were) and culturally superior and that they had little to learn from sailing around the world and exploring. Combined with internal political disunity and crises, the Chinese rejected "globalization" and didn't advance much over the next several hundred years, facilitating the technologically superior British to force the Chinese to open them up to (opium, tea) trade. Tough lesson learned, I think the Chinese are figuring it out this time around.
Posted by carnivorous chicken on March 14, 2013 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Check out the twee-history youtube series "Crash Course World History" on the Monsoon Marketplace.
Posted by dirge on March 14, 2013 at 9:46 AM · Report this
lots of people know about Zheng He, stop making such ridiculous assumptions and maybe people will start taking you seriously
Posted by velour on March 14, 2013 at 10:17 AM · Report this
The Chinese built really big ships then as well. Far larger than the Dutch, English and Americans who later ruled the sea.
Posted by pupuguru on March 14, 2013 at 11:20 AM · Report this

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