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The Mystery of Jasmine and the Arab Counting-House in Canton

Pages 415 - 436


It has been alleged that Arabs had established a colony at Guangzhou in China as early as the third century ce. This is one of the foundations on which accounts of relations between China and the Arab world have been built. The evidence for the existence of this colony is that two kinds of jasmine were supposedly introduced to Guangzhou by Arabs in about 300 ce. The history of this “Arab counting-house in Canton” is examined and it is found that, in reality, there is no reason whatsoever to think that it ever existed. A similar claim of a Persian colony on the Malay Peninsula during the third century is also shown to be baseless.


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