African Presence in Ancient China? (Email 5.8.2016)

Friday, August 05, 2016 21:03
Dear WL
Thank you for your insights and and erudite comments.  As you have said, (and I suspect) this will be an going study over the decades, with clarity emerging from better technology and perhaps one or two spectacular finds in Egypt.  The Rosetta Stone, as you know, changed everything.  On a separate but related note, I have been trying to find reliable evidence of African culture in early China – outside of the important rhetoric (as interesting as it is) of certain elements of Black Nationalism (which understandably seems to employ a counter-racism to combat Eurocentric racism).  In the Chinese records, those people referred to as ‘Black’ were probably not Africans (but the members of various localised, non-Han groupings), so if there was an ‘African’ presence in China, it might have been so long ago that it either pre-dates records, or the records have perished due to their age (particularly if written on bamboo).  I have been looking for ‘impartial’ sources that cannot be accused of being ‘bias’, or the product of racially loaded ideology/  It is not that I am unsympathetic to such sources (far from it), but I think I can assist the gathering of meaningful knowledge in a slightly different manner.  For instance, the African-American Paul Robeson (1898-1976), one of the most intelligent men I have ever had the privilege to encounter, lived in the UK from 1927-1939 – were he successfully studied 20 different African dialects at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS).  In his 1958 book entitled ‘Here I Stand’ (which I am writing about for a leftwing website in the UK), Paul Robeson states:
‘I felt as one with my African friends and became filled with a glowing pride in these riches, new found to me,  I learned that along with the towering achievements of the cultures of ancient Greece and China there stood the culture of Africa, unseen and denied by the imperialist looters of Africa’s material wealth.  I came to see the roots of my own people’s culture, especially in our music which is still the richest and most healthy in America.  Scholars had traced the influence of African music to Europe – to Spain with the Moors, to Persia, India or China, and Westward to the Americas.  And I came to learn of the remarkable kinship between African and Chinese culture (of which I hope to write at length some day.)’
Paul Robeson: Here I Stand – Chapter 1 – I Take My Stand (1958)
Robeson had a very positive experience in both London and the shires, and even befriended HG Wells!  It is seems incredible for me to read this about then – with the modern resurgence of the rightwing in the UK – courted by our mainstream media.  Still, I have a tantalising clue worthy of further research.  Did ancient Africans visit China?  Why not?  According to Robeson, at the very least, African cultural influences spread to China (and he always had a soft-spot for China, her people and her culture).  When did this happen – relatively recent or very ancient?  It is a firm basis for ongoing research.
Best Wishes
PS: I found the above video on a Chinese language website in China exploring the possibility of Africans in ancient China.

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