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There are quite a few famous cases of Africans who traveled to Asia (voluntary or involuntarily) prior to 1700s such as Malik Ambar (India), Yasuke (Japan), and Ibn_Battuta (India, Sri Lanka, China, and more). In the other direction, Admiral Zheng He made voyages to East Africa in the 1400s, even bringing back a giraffe to China. Even more dramatically, Austronesians (originally from Taiwan) at some point made the journey from Borneo to Madagascar circa 500 A.D.

I'm curious about a few related questions:

  • What is the earliest supported example of an African traveling to Southeast/East Asia? Earliest voluntary example?
  • What are some other notable examples of Africans in Southeast/East Asia prior to the 1700s?
  • Did any Africans voyage with Zheng He's fleet back to China?
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    Ibn Battuta is most likely the earliest example we're going to have that has a definite name associated with it. However, there was sea trade going on between the Somali area in Africa and South Asia as far back as the written record, and likely earlier. – T.E.D. Sep 5 at 2:16
  • Minor detail, but the Austronesian contact with Madagascar came much later and (as the map shows) was by way of Borneo, not direct from Taiwan. theconversation.com/… – Brian Z Sep 6 at 13:50
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    @T.E.D. I agree Ibn Battuta is probably the first named example. However, due to the Indian Ocean trade links you mention, I sometimes wonder if any Africans made it to Southeast/East Asia and left behind graves that hint to African origin pre-Ibn Battuta. – Christian Bueno Sep 6 at 21:34
  • @Brian Z Good point. I made an update to reflect that. – Christian Bueno Sep 6 at 21:34
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    Er...? About 70,000 years ago? We are all Africans. – Zeus Sep 11 at 8:24

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