Review by: Michael C. Brose
Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 36, No. 1
(2002), pp. 157-159
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Canadian Association of African Studies
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4107412 .
Accessed: 01/12/2014 17:47
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Reviews / Comptes rendus
Anshan Li. A History of Chinese Overseas in Africa (FeizhouHuaqiao huaren shi). Beijing:Chinese Overseas Publishing House, 2000. 666 pp. Editor'snote: This book is written in Chinese
Contraryto popularbelief, China did not develop in isolation. Rather,from the earliest days of their recordedhistory, Chinese traveledto other partsof the world as traders,explorers,and religious pilgrims. Many of those travelers left accounts, and their writings, along with secondhand accounts, form a fascinatingpartof the Chinese historical record.It is, however, unusual to readabout Chinese travelersto Africa (with some notable exceptions, such as Zheng He's voyages to the East African coastal areas and the occasional tributebearersfrompartsof Africa).Thus, with greatinterest, I readAnshan
Li's thorough study of the Chinese in Africa.
This is a fascinating study of a largely neglected topic, and the book presents a wealth of materials on Chinese communities in Africa.The book works on at least two levels: Li's chronological presentation of Chinese people in Africacan be readas a straightforwardhistory of Chinese in Africa
(especially in parts one and two) and as a sociological study of Chinese in
Africa (partthree). These three sections are also amplified by seven appendices, each of which contains summaries of data of various activities of
Chinese in present-dayAfrica.
Before Li begins his historical treatment of the Chinese in Africa, he lays out his methodology and objectives in the foreword to the book. He examines the story of Chinese in Africafrom four perspectives:(1)from the perspective of migrations in world history; (2) from an economic history perspective; (3) from a history of China's foreign relations; and finally (4) from a social history perspective. Each approachbrings its own methodological and theoretical assumptions and sources, and Li mines these to great effect in his narrative. One of the things that I liked best about this book is the fact that Li does not privilege any one approach;economic and social history are treated with the same level of scrutiny as are political history and international relations.
The first section in the book is titled "Understanding - Contacts Interactions" (Renshi - Jiechu - Jiaowang) and consists of four chapters.
Chapter 1, entitled "Development of Relations between China and Africa in EarlyHistory,"is a straightforwardaccount of Chinese knowledge about
Africa from the TangDynasty (618-907)through the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1912). This chapter details the earliest written records of
Chinese impressions of, and of visitors to, Africa. The next two chaptersin this section deal with the establishment of