26-04-2021 di redazione
The story of the first Chinese to land on the shores of the Indian Ocean is six hundred years old.
According to Beijing scholars who recently published a book on the voyages of the great oriental navigators, it was in fact 1417 when Zeng He arrived in Malindi with a fleet of 40 ships, after having visited India, Persia, Oman, Mecca and probably the coast of Eritrea.
A few years ago, the discovery of Chinese coins in Mambrui by a pool of eastern and Kenyan archaeologists had already brought back the story of this great traveller sent to explore worlds still little known to the Chinese empire.
Earlier, the currents and the expectation of gold had brought eastern fleets to Madagascar and from there northwards to Mozambique.
Some had probably already sailed up the Horn of Africa, but Zeng He got there directly without straying too far from the coast.
Zeng had been put in charge of a fleet of sailing ships by Emperor Ming Zhu Li.
Chosen because he was from a Muslim family, Zeng reached India and sailed from there to Africa, but was shipwrecked on the island of Pate where he lost most of his vessels.
Legend has it that many of his men stopped here and mixed with the local population, giving rise to a race, which the inhabitants of the Lamu archipelago call 'wasanga'.
The wasangas themselves are believed to be descendants of the Chinese.
Then Zeng He, who knew India, Indonesia and the whole Indian Ocean as far as Guangzhou, was fascinated by Malindi and stayed there for a long time, returning or stopping over after other sea adventures.
Historian Wang Ming describes his encounter with the people of Malindi as unusual, peaceful and with a 'surprise', a special gift from the local king to the Chinese navigator.
On his fourth voyage to the western seas, Zheng He reached the kingdom of Malindi in East Africa, which then sent a delegation to China and gave the Chinese emperor a giraffe. At the time, the giraffe was called Qilin by the Chinese, and considered an auspicious animal, which became a historical testimony to the friendly exchanges between China and Africa. It should be remembered that in Somali, the giraffe is called 'jili'.
Some scholars believe that the Chinese of the time named the giraffe Qilin after the Somali diction.
What is certain is that Zheng He's trip to Kenya initiated friendly exchanges with the African people.
Today, the Chinese are a regular fixture in Africa.
They do not come for cultural exchanges but to sell services and economically colonise willing states. Intents quite different from those of the Islamic explorer Zeng He, the first African-sick 'Mandarin' in history.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
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