Charts & Graphs

Special Ambassadors

Diplomatic gifts animal, vegetable, and mineral.

A souvenir plate with an image of a giraffe.

giraffe fever (1826)

From: Muhammad Ali of Egypt

To: Charles X of France

A Sudanese giraffe nicknamed “La Belle Africaine” was sent by the Ottoman Empire to discourage French support for Greek independence. The gift failed to achieve this goal, but the animal became a celebrity in her own right: within six months 600,000 people had visited her in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where they could also buy giraffe-shaped souvenir soaps and cookies.

An Egyptian drawing of a man in a chariot shooting a bow and arrow.

you call that a gift? (c. 1350 bc)

From: Ashur-uballit of Assyria

To: Akhenaten of Egypt

Hoping to assert Assyria’s equal standing with Egypt, Ashur-uballit sent Akhenaten a chariot, two horses, and a lapis lazuli bead. Egypt sent gold in return, but Ashur-uballit complained that it was not enough to cover the cost of sending his messengers.

A photograph of a panda.

panda diplomacy (2005)

From: China

To: Taiwan

In an attempt to smooth over past threats of military force, China offered two pandas; Taiwanese president Chen Shuibian called them a “Trojan horse” and a “ploy” in 2005. Three years later, once relations had thawed, Taiwan spent $10 million preparing a habitat at the Taipei Zoo for Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. The pair produced a cub in 2013.

A black and white drawing of North American indigenous people meeting with a small group of white men in eighteenth-century military uniforms.

spoils of war (1756)

From: Nipissing Indians

To: Marquis de Montcalm

Thankful to receive reinforcements two years into the French and Indian War, the Nipissing presented Montcalm, a French army general, with a young English female prisoner of war. Montcalm reciprocated with the standard price for such a captive: forty silver ecus, plus an additional sum to demonstrate how honored he was by the lavish gesture.

A photograph of cherry trees in bloom, with the Washington Monument in the background.

cherry picks (1912)

From: Japan

To: United States

As a symbol of friendship, Japan sent 3,000 cherry trees to beautify the Potomac tidal basin. The United States has commemorated the gift with a cherry blossom festival every year since 1935, with the exception of the six years following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

A medieval manuscript depiction of elephants. They only vaguely resembles an elephant.

the caliph’s only elephant (802)

From: Harun al-Rashid, Abbasid caliph

To: Charlemagne, king of the Franks

To demonstrate the might of the Abbasids, Harun al-Rashid sent Charlemagne an elephant named Abul-Abbas. Rumors spread that Abul-Abbas had been the only elephant in Baghdad, leading the Franks to misinterpret the gift as a symbol of the caliph’s deference to Carolingian power.