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According to Chinese history, the famous navigator of the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He, was sent in 1430 A.D. by the emperor to develop trade routes to the south sea. Subsequently, he made seven trips and visited the Philippines, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, and India. That was 62 years before Columbus sailed to America.

Zheng He brought back many fruits and products that China had never seen before. One of the most exotic and rare was bird’s nests.

The Chinese name for bird's nest soup, yàn wō (燕窝), translates literally as "swallow's nest". When dissolved in water, the birds' nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup or sweet tong sui. It is mostly referred to as "jin wo" unless references are made to the salty or sweet soup in Chinese cuisine. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird's nest soup.

According to many classical Chinese books about health food, swiftlet nest was imported into China from the Southeast Asian region since the T’ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). Chinese records on swiftlet nest consist mainly of several categories of historical documentation, including official histories, notes of scholars, travel records, books on dining, books on health food, and books on medical herbs. Swiftlet nest became well known by connoisseurs, encyclopedic scholars, and traders beginning in the early 17th Century. Consequently, swiftlet nest developed into a well-known and well-accepted precious health food.

From the historical documents, a progressive familiarity of the swiftlet nest evolved through time. The records of around year 1587 show that large amount of swiftlet nest was imported into China and an import duty was levied on the nest. In 1618, the amount of swiftlet nest imported had increased so much that a reduction on the import duty was granted by the emperor of the Ming Dynasty. At that time, swiftlet nest was well accepted as precious food by residents of Guangdong and Fujian Provinces. From then on, records about swiftlet nest became more detailed and covered even its place of origin.