In the summer of 1634, Jean Nicolet (1598-1642) set out from the French colony in Quebec to sort out tribal conflicts on the Great Lakes that were threatening the fur trade, Canada’s small part in the world economy. Nicolet was also instructed to make his way, if he could, to the Mer de l’Ouest. Natives directed him to Lake Michigan, and over this Western Ocean, he was sure, lay China. Determined to make a good impression, he packed what he thought would be suitable for meeting Chinese. How he got his hands on a Chinese damask robe woven with flowers and multicolored birds we do not know, but by 1634 silks had been flowing from China to Europe for a century. He crossed Lake Michigan and put on his robe, only to find Green Bay.

— Timothy Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China