This week I attended a symposium at the Royal Irish Academy about contacts between China and Ireland. Some interesting stories emerged.
In 1780 a porcelain Chinese seal with a monkey figure top was found in a bog near Portlaoise.
There was speculation in learned circles that it must be very old (since it was buried in a bog.) Later at least 60 more were discovered in different parts of the country.
Since there were no legends of Chinese invading, or even visiting, Ireland the seals must have been brought to Ireland by the Phoenicians, who possibly were even the ancestors of the Irish (or so it was theorised.)
At that time both nationalists and the English agreed that Irish culture (and language) was very different from that of Europe so it must have originated from beyond Europe, possibly the Far East! And the seals were proof of that!
Times have changed.
Nowadays experts take the more boring view that the seals probably arrived in cases of smuggled tea (tea was the item most often smuggled into Ireland, not brandy!) They were put in as a gift to the tea buyer from the Chinese merchant.
Also, the present Irish don’t want to be seen as different for anyone else, especially in Europe. They would like to see themselves as exactly the same as the British, or perhaps Americans. So, no Far Eastern ancestors need apply!
However, we will not be discouraged and will continue to search for other similarities and points of contact between the Chinese and the Irish, even if it seems we are not blood relatives.