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Tu Yu (or Du You): T'ung Tien (or Tongdian)
(Encyclopedic history of Institutions) (801)

Taken from:



Left: This town is Beit el Mouqaddes (Jeruzalem)  Taken from Origine de l’islamisme en Chine… par Gabriel Devéria (From way later date but the map from which this is a detail is information received through Zheng He.

In the text here Jeruzalem is called Yangsaluo.


The area described in this book is most probably in the Horn or Sudan but is taken over here because:
- It is the first mention of East Africa in China.
- The place Molin has been confused by many with Malindi, the most famous mistake is made by admiral Cheng Hu in the 15th century.
- This text is repeated throughout the centuries in many Chinese books on Africa, giving some idea on how up to date they were.
- The traditional religion here described is used to define the religion in East Africa before Islam.
Du Huan from Wannian, an officer of the T'ang dynasty army, was involved in a catastrophic defeat for the Chinese near Tashkent (the battle of the Tales river)(in Uzbekistan) in the year 751 and was captured together with over 20,000 other Chinese soldiers by the "Dashi" (the Arabs) and then brought to "Yajuluo" (near Baghdad in Iraq), the center of the Abbasid caliphate. Most Chinese prisoners became gold- and silversmiths, painters, weavers, and paper fabricants. After long journeys through Arab countries, Du Huan returned by ship to Kanton (Guangzhou). There he wrote his Jingxingji ("Record of My Travels"), which was almost completely lost except a few extracts, which give information on central Asian and Arab countries among others.
His relative Tu Yu (Du You) (735-812) in his encyclopedia Tung Tien (Tongdian) mentions Du Huan's travels with the following words, in a chapter discussing the defense of the borders to the West :

The relative Huan was fighting in the West under General Gao Xianzhi ; in the 10th year of the government device Tianbao [751] he arrived at the Western Ocean ; in the first year of the government device Baoying [762] he returned to Kanton on board of a trade ship and wrote the Jingxingji.

There are seven more notes on Du Huan's travels in Du You's encyclopedia. On Molin, Du Huan himself is quoted as following :

We also went to Molin, Southwest of Yangsaluo (Jeruzalem). One reaches this country after having crossed the great desert and having traveled 2,000 Li.(1300 km). The people there are black, their customs rough. There is little rice and cereals and there is no grass and trees. The horses are fed with dried fish, the people eat XX [word not identified] and also Persian dates. Subtropical diseases [Malaria] are widespread. After crossing the inland there is a mountainous country, there are a lot of confessions.(meaning religions)
The followers of the confession of the "Dashi" (the Arabs) have a means to denote the degrees of family relations, but it is degenerated and they don't bother about it. They don't eat the meat of pigs, dogs, donkeys and horses, they don't respect neither the king of the country, neither their parents, they don't believe in supernatural powers, they perform sacrifice to heaven and to no one else. According their customs every seventh day is a holiday, on which no trade and no cash transactions are done, whereas when they drink alcohol, they are behaving in a ridiculous and undisciplined way during the whole day.
Within the East Roman confession the medical doctors know diarrhea - or they recognize it already before the outbreak of the disease, or they open the brain and insects come out.

More about Du Huan's visit to Africa has been preserved by Hsin-t'ang-Shu (1060) including a third religion. It is again repeated by Ma Tuan-Lin (1295)