Historic links between Africa and China: Part One

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FIRST and foremost, it is important to note that the Han ethnic group which makes up the majority of China today began to emerge in the region of China around 700 BCE and came to rule around 210 BCE.
They arrived from the north after all the things we will be discussing today were already in existence.
China’s earliest history is of black people.
The evidence is mounting and the same goes for the rest of East Asia.
The artefacts of the early Buddhas in China, Japan and Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia are a telling sign of the presence of blacks in that region.
They are depicted with black skin, kinky hair, broad noses and lips.
These sculptures and paintings can be found in many museums and monuments throughout East Asia.
They sat in a style known as fuzuo in Chinese, which involved interlocking their legs while sitting on the ground.
This is known as kupfunya chisero in Zimbabwe and was a traditional way of sitting for males in ancient times.
Chinese archeologists are now convinced that indeed the first inhabitants of their land were blacks.
The first two traceable dynasties in China are the Xia, followed by the Shang. These people were called nakhi in some ancient dialects which literally meant blacks.
Even the dynasties which followed and preceded the Han were known as limin which meant the black (dark) populace.
This title also hinted that the majority of the inhabitants of China were black.
The earliest Chinese people used an ancient writing form called jiaguwen. It was carved on stones, wood (bamboo strips) and tortoise shells.
The characters were hieroglyphic in nature and existed at the same time as those of ancient Egypt.
The word for moon was a drawing of a moon and so forth. The modern Chinese characters evolved from jiaguwen.
The earliest domiciles of inhabitants were round, single-roomed mud huts with straw roofs.
These are identical to the traditional homes of Africans, particularly those in sub-Sahara.
For thousands and thousands of years, mud and straw huts continued to be the habitats of the poor and thus the majority of the Chinese; even throughout the periods that the affluent were constructing the signature Chinese style architecture that the world has come to know.
In modern China, there are still groups in places like rural Fujian which continue to use the mud building technique.
However, their houses have assumed a rectangular shape to mimic the modern buildings, yet still using the ancient technique that rural Africa is still familiar with. The thatching techniques of the ancient Chinese mud huts and those of rural Africa are exactly the same.
The crop planted by the earliest Chinese people was neither rice, nor wheat, but millet.
This was the same in African countries like Zimbabwe before the more recent introduction to maize after the coming of the Portuguese, who had procured it from the Americas.
Sadza was made out of millet until the coming of maize around 500 years ago.
In China, millet or xiaomi was used to make porridge (congee) which continues to be eaten by women after giving birth in traditional communities.
The earliest noodles in China were made of millet.
It is now believed that rice was engineered out of millet which grew wild in China and was cultivated as far back as
4 000 years ago.
No wonder why both millet and rice are called mi in Chinese, with millet being called little mi and rice being called white, red or black mi; depending on the type.
Another interesting fact is that the earliest form of alcohol in China was made out of millet and called xiaomijiu.
In Zimbabwe, traditional wine is made out of the different varieties of millet that can be found in the country and is called mhamba/doro/hwahwa.
This is evidence that the people in ancient China and Africa had the same staple food and in both cases, millet grew wildly and was also cultivated.
Millet is renowned for being the source of fuel which built China in the Mao Zedong period as the millions upon millions of Chinese people used it as their main food source. It is therefore nicknamed ‘the grain that built modern China’.
It continues to be used to this day, though not to the extent of rice and wheat.
Millet has similar protein properties to wheat but is more nutritious and has no gluten.
It has less starch and more fibre than rice and more and more scientific evidence is suggesting that both wheat and rice came from millet which is more resistant and can grow in places where the two fail.
The tools used to process these grains in China were also similar and in some cases identical to those used in Africa, particularly sub-Sahara.
For example, China has a traditional grain pounding mortar called yanbo while the pestle is yanchu.
In ancient times, the mortar was made out of wood and resembles the Zimbabwean duri and mutswi in all respects.
These tools are still used in some parts of rural China in the same way as they are used in some parts of rural Zimbabwe.
Modifications have also been made for the modern kitchen with smaller grain pounding mortars and pestles found in the form of hardwood or stone, for the purpose of crushing spices such as cumin.
After crushing the grain, the ancient Chinese used flat baskets for winnowing which they called lanboji or zhulanboji if made of bamboo strips. This is the rusero that can still be found in Zimbabwe and is often used in the rural areas. The rural parts of China continue to use this tool. Its material and weaving technique is in no way different to that of the Zimbabwean rusero.
The Chinese use it for the same reasons of separating the grain from the chaff and they also make use of the wind whilst doing so.
Besides this, in Fujian, the lanboji is used to prepare steamed rice pulp flat cakes called bojiban.
The Chinese rusero is also used as a cover when preparing steamed stuffed buns called baozi which are eaten daily by most Chinese people for breakfast.
The early Chinese used baked clay pots called niguo to prepare their meals. These niguo are what we call hari in Zimbabwe.
To this day, broken clay pots from long back are still being found, reconstructed, preserved and displayed in Chinese museums.
These predated the ceramics that earned the name china because they were typically Chinese.
But the niguo of ancient times, like the hari, had earthen colours ranging from brown to black and was void of paintings.
Such similarities between early China and traditional Africa paint the picture of the inhabitants of both lands having the same roots, culture and technology.
The differences we see between us and the modern Chinese are owed to distance and time.
They are also owed to the coming of foreign groups to the region and the consequential drop in numbers of the pioneering fathers of the Chinese nation.
However, the contemporary Chinese uphold their history and heritage, and through so doing, such discoveries of the black presence in ancient China have been made possible.

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