This article focuses on China’s initial encounter with the African continent from the perspective of a select literature overview. It reflects on the very earliest contacts between dynastic China and ancient Africa and shows that the current contestation in the Western media as well as literature over this more recent contact is not new. Given the dearth and disparate nature of the information on these first encounters, it does this through the lens of what has been written on the subject of the speculated first contact in a selection of secondary English-language literature. It does so by considering the prevalence of such literature in three distinct periods: prior to 1949; from 1950 to 1990; and a selection of research published thereafter. It shows that China’s encounter with Africa reaches far back into the history of the continent, but more importantly so does the volatile contestation surrounding the contemporary contact.