In late 1762 Ahmad Shah Durrani sent an embassy to Beijing with a letter addressed to the Chinese Qing emperor Qianlong. The Afghan envoy presented the gifts of four horses to the Chinese emperor which were painted by Giuseppe Castiglione, the official court painter.
The text accompanying the paintings describes Afghans and Afghanistan as follow:
“The Khan, Aihamotesha [Ahmad Shah], lives in the walled city of Kaidaha’er [Kandahar]. Aiwuhan [the Afghan country] is surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is full of rich fields. The people engage in agriculture. Local residents build their own houses and live spread out from each other. There is no record of a census having been made. They use shotguns, knives and long lances in the battlefield. They do not use bow and arrow. Among the Hui (Muslim) tribes they have long been declared powerful and prosperous. Recently again they annexed a neighboring tribe, Hindustan. They are growing bigger and stronger.
In the twelfth month of the twenty-seventh year of the Qianlong emperor’s reign, looking up to [the emperor’s] majesty and virtue, Aihamotesha [Ahmad Shah] sent the envoy Hezhuomierhan with tribute horses. Their letter to the emperor was respectfully written on gold paper, and it had to be translated by the Siyi guan.
The people (Afghans) are tall and stout. They wrap their heads with silk that has decorative design. They wear brown, long-collared upper garments with a long brocade-rimmed, open-front overcoat. The women also wrap their heads with silk that has a decorative design and wear pearl-hair accessories. They wear long strings of pearls on their ears, which hang all the way down to their shoulders. Their upper garments have brocade borders. They are diligent in weaving and spinning. The region produces good horses. The four horses of their tribute are all seven Chi (three Chi are equal to 100 cm) tall and eight Chi long. [“Writing Travel in Central Asian History” edited by Nile Green, p-107]
‘Four Steeds of Aiwuhan [Afghan]’ paintings by Giuseppe Castiglione are placed in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan. Source