Armenians and Chinese have known about each other’s existence since time immemorial. “The word Armenia in Chinese sounds like “Ya-mai-ni-ya”, which means “beautiful Asian girl”. In Armenian sources, legends, and fairy tales, China is called the country of Chensi, Chinumachin, China. There is reliable information that even before our era, Armenians often traveled to China for commercial purposes and exported silk and other goods. Armenian medicines, paints, and minerals were in demand in China, especially Vordan red, which was used to dye the best types of Chinese and Indian silk. Armenian merchants traded silk, and other goods.
During the excavations of the Armenian fortresses of Garni, Dvin, Ani, Amberd, archaeological materials were discovered. Various Chinese goods were brought to Armenia along the Great Silk Road, including fabrics embroidered with silver and gold threads. There was a certain connection between medieval Armenian and Chinese painting. In the miniatures of the Cilician school, you can find images of Chinese dragons, lions-dogs, and in the paintings of Vaspurakan-Chinese household items. Movses Khorenatsi, Anania Shirakatsi, Stepanos Orbelian and the King of Cilicia Hetum wrote about China in their works. They described in detail the land, its nature, culture, peoples, and traditions. There is a tradition of Chinese origin of the Armenian princely families -Mamikonians and Orbelians. In the book “History of Armenia” Khorenatsi tells where and how the Mamikonian dynasty appeared. ” In Shapuhi’s time, it was said that the ancestor of the Mamikonyan dynasty came to Armenia from the north-east, from a noble and large country, the first among the northern peoples, that is, from the Jen. ” The first Armenian settlements in China began to appear in the early 13th century after the Mongols captured Armenia. Later, the Armenians penetrated into the depths of the country, reached the Pacific coast, and settled in the city of Canton (Guangzhou).
The Armenians were familiar with the routes to India and China, spoke local languages, knew the traditions and peculiarities of the local population. Therefore, most Europeans hired them as guides and interpreters for successful trips. Academician Hrachya Acharyan pointed this out in the XVII-XVIII centuries. Armenians, taking advantage of the patronage of the Chinese authorities and the sympathy of the population, have gained significant influence in different parts of the country. “China has always kept its doors closed to foreigners, especially Christians, but the Armenians were an exception and enjoyed absolute freedom.” writes G. Acharyan. One of the most famous Chinese Armenians was Hovhannes Ghazaryan, known by the nickname John Lazar. At the beginning of the 19th century, he was the first to translate the Bible into Chinese. At the end of the XIX century, Russia began to build the East China Railway. In this regard, many Armenians from Russia, as well as from Syunik and Artsakh moved to China. In the first half of the 20th century, Armenians lived in Manchuria, Harbin, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau, Changchun. Up to 400 Armenian families lived in Harbin, an Armenian church operated (it was subsequently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution), and there were also public organizations. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, most of the Armenians left the country, leaving mainly for the USA and Australia.