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And when the city of Bombay was founded in the 1680s, the Parsis, with their business acumen and their open worldview, played an important part, becoming brokers and supply agents to the British.

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Meanwhile, through the 19th century, an entire community of enterprising Parsi traders, clerks and bookkeepers settled in other trading centres across South East Asian, such as Canton, Penang, Singapore, Batavia, Macao and Amoy (some of them taking the name Chinai—or the more anglicised Chinoy—to indicate their China connection).

The spirit of this age has been wonderfully captured by Amitav Ghosh in his Ibis Trilogy, which tells the saga of the Parsi merchant Bahram Modi and, after him, his intrepid widow, Shireen.

The exchange of trade thus, as always, led ultimately, to an exchange of ideas.

It was a sophisticated system: Both the Sassanid and Chinese empires realised that they benefited from the trade and cooperated in policing the trade routes to protect caravans from bandits.

These coins date from the rule of Shapur II (4th century CE) to the last Sassanid emperor, Yazdegerd III (7th century CE).