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The Giraffe of Bengal: A Medieval Encounter in Ming China

The Medieval History Journal , Volume 7 (1): 1 – Apr 1, 2004


Sage Publications
Copyright © 2004 by SAGE Publications
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The Giraffe of Bengal: A Medieval Encounter in Ming China


This paper chronicles the development of diplomatic relations between China and Bengal in the early-fifteenth century, culminating in the pre sentation of a giraffe by Bengal to the court of China in 1414. It examines Chinese sources that recorded the visits of envoys from Bengal to China and from China to Bengal during the period of the Chinese maritime ex peditions from 1405 to 1433. Discussion centres on the historical context for these exchanges in the two countries, the relationship between the Chinese maritime expeditions and these diplomatic missions, and the reliability of Chinese sources in recording the events and rulers of Bengal. An effort is made to elucidate the many complexities that surrounded this seemingly straightforward event.
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