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The "Spice Islands" And China

In 1511 Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca to Portugal, then the center of Asian trade. East of Malacca, Albuquerque sent several diplomatic missions: Duarte Fernandes as the first European envoy to the kingdom of Siam (modern Thailand).

Getting to know the secret location of the so-called "spice islands"—the Maluku Islands, mainly the Banda, then the single world source of nutmeg and cloves, main purpose for the travels in the Indian sea- he sent an expedition led by António de Abreu to Banda, where they were the first Europeans to arrive in early 1512. Abreu then left for Ambon Island while his vice-captain Francisco Serrão sank off Ternate, where he obtained a license to build a Portuguese fortress-factory: the Fort of São João Baptista de Ternate, which founded the Portuguese presence in the Malay Archipelago.

In May 1513 Jorge Álvares, one of the Portuguese envoys, reached China. Although he was the first to land on Lintin Island in the Pearl River Delta, it was Rafael Perestrello—a cousin of the famed Christopher Columbus—who became the first European explorer to land on the southern coast of mainland China and trade in Guangzhou in 1516, commanding a Portuguese vessel with a crew from a Malaysian junk that had sailed from Malacca. Fernão Pires de Andrade visited Canton in 1517 and opened up trade with China, in 1557 the Portuguese were permitted to occupy Macau.

To enforce a trade monopoly, Hormuz in the Persian Gulf was seized by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1507 and 1515, who also entered into diplomatic relations with Persia. In 1513 while trying to conquer Aden, an expedition led by Albuquerque cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, and sheltered at Kamaran island. In 1521, a force under Antonio Correia conquered Bahrain ushering in a period of almost eighty years of Portuguese rule of the Gulf archipelago. In the Red Sea, Massawa was the most northerly point frequented by the Portuguese until 1541, when a fleet under Estevão da Gama penetrated as far as Suez.

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