Cultures > China


Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration


Interactions between ancient China and Egypt are not well-documented, as these two great civilizations were geographically distant from each other and separated by vast deserts, mountains, and other challenging terrains. However, there are some points of potential indirect contact and influence that are worth noting:

  1. Geographical Separation:

    • Ancient China and Egypt were located far apart, with Egypt situated in northeastern Africa along the Nile River, and ancient China primarily along the Yellow River (Huang He) and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) in East Asia.
    • The vast distance and the natural barriers between them, including deserts, mountains, and steppes, made direct contact challenging.
  2. Silk Road:

    • The Silk Road, a network of trade routes connecting the East and West, facilitated indirect interactions between China and regions closer to Egypt, such as the Near East and the Mediterranean, starting around the 2nd century BCE during the Han Dynasty in China.
    • Goods such as silk, spices, and other luxury items from China reached the Near East and, by extension, could have indirectly made their way to Egypt through intermediary traders.
  3. Trade and Cultural Exchange:

    • While direct evidence of trade between China and Egypt during ancient times is scarce, it is likely that intermediary trade routes facilitated the exchange of goods and cultural influences between the two regions.
    • Egyptian artifacts such as glassware and jewelry have been found in Central Asia, suggesting that these items could have reached China through trade networks.
  4. Technological and Artistic Influences:

    • Indirect influences in technology and art may have occurred as ideas and innovations spread along trade routes.
    • For example, the production of silk in China and the technique of glassmaking in Egypt were highly advanced, and knowledge of these technologies could have traveled along trade routes, inspiring local adaptations.
  5. Historical Records:

    • Ancient Chinese historical records, such as those by Sima Qian in the "Records of the Grand Historian," make little mention of Egypt, and Egyptian records similarly lack references to China.
    • This lack of direct documentation suggests that any interactions were likely mediated by intermediary cultures rather than direct contact.
  6. Later Interactions:

    • More concrete evidence of interactions between China and Egypt emerges during later periods, particularly during the Roman and Byzantine empires, when trade routes became more established and direct contact between distant regions became more feasible.
    • By the medieval period, during the time of the Islamic Caliphates and the Mongol Empire, more direct trade and diplomatic contacts between China and the Near East, including Egypt, became more common.

In summary, while there is little direct evidence of interactions between ancient China and Egypt, it is likely that indirect contact and cultural exchange occurred through intermediary trade routes and cultures. The Silk Road and other trade networks facilitated the movement of goods, technologies, and ideas between East and West, allowing these two great civilizations to influence each other in subtle ways over time.




Sun Weidong, Records of the Grand Historian.

The eighteenth century French scholar Joseph de Guignes, for example, considered Egypt the font of civilization and therefore concluded that Chinese civilization derived from Egypt since Chinese writing resembled to him Egyptian hieroglyphics. A similar claim emerged in the late 1800s from Albert Terrien de Lacouperie, who argued that Chinese writing was a derivative of Mesopotamian cuneiform, and therefore China’s legendary early rulers were Babylonian exiles.

You trace the Blackwater to Sanwei, where it enters the southern sea; you trace the Yellow river from 'Stone-pile' to 'Dragongate,' southward to the north of Mount Hua, eastward to Tich‘u, again eastward to the ford Mêng, eastward you pass the junction of the Lo river to Tapei, northward past the Chiang water to Talu, northward the stream is divided and becomes the nine rivers, reunited it forms the opposing river and flows into the sea.

Sima Qian, Records, ch. 2, trans. Herbert J. Allen

Sun wrote in a 2016 paper published in the journal Scientific Reports (from the publishers of ​Nature) that he has determined that ancient Chinese bronzes were made out of Egyptian metals rather than native Chinese ore because African and Chinese bronzes both contain unusual levels of a radioactive lead isotope

And Salatis died after a reign of nineteen years; after him reigned Beon forty-four years; and he was succeeded by Apachnas, who reigned thirty-six years and seven months; after him reigned Apophis sixty-one years, and Ianias fifty years and one month. After all these reigned Assis forty-nine years and two months. These six were the first rulers amongst them, and, during all the period of their dynasty, they made war upon the Egyptians, in hope of exterminating the whole race. All this nation was styled Hyk-shos, that is, the Shepherd-Kings; for the first syllable, Hyk, according to the sacred dialect, denotes king, and sos signifies a shepherd; but this according to the vulgar tongue; and, of these two words is compounded the term Hyk-shos, whom some say were Arabians. This people, thus denominated Shepherd-Kings, and their descendants retained possession of Egypt for the space of 511 years.

Josephus, Against Apion 1.14, trans. I. P. Cory

Sun claims that the Hyksos possessed “technologies” that the Chinese had not yet developed—metallurgy, chariots, agriculture, literacy—and therefore must have brought them to China following their expulsion from Egypt in the 1500s BCE, sailing from Egypt to China. It’s true that the Hyksos introduced new metallurgical techniques and chariots into Egypt, but they didn’t come ex nihilo, and they were already in use in the Near East and Central Asia. Sun also seems to ignore the implication of his own hypothesis, specifically that it would make Chinese civilization more “Canaanite” than “Egyptian.”



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