Friday, January 13, 2006

An awfully good map for one voyage

An old map to be unveiled in Beijing and London, showing a remarkably accurate map of the globe, including the Americas, is being hailed as evidence that a Chinese admiral discovered America almost a century before Columbus.

The map was bought for about $500 from a Shanghai dealer in 2001 by a Chinese lawyer and collector, Liu Gang.

According to the Economist magazine, Mr Liu only became aware of the map's potential significance after he read a book by British author Gavin Menzies.

The book, 1421: The Year China discovered America, made the controversial claim that a Chinese admiral and eunuch, Zheng He, sailed around the world and discovered America on the way.

Zheng He, a Muslim mariner and explorer, is widely thought to have sailed around South East Asia and India, but the claim he visited America is hotly disputed.

Count the Oklahomilist as a huge skeptic. Reasons?

1) The map is too good. Unless this "admiral" took a slow ride with one of those "ancient astronauts", his perspective on the continental land masses would have been no better than all those other seafarers, including Columbus, who sailed later.

2) the cutouts of the globe showing the rounding, including a huge Antarctica. Supposedly this is a 1763 copy of a map originally made in 1418. Not even in 1763 did anyone have a clue as to how large Antarctica was. Plus it shows a "mercatorish" display that would not have existed in 1418, (Mercator did his work in the late 1500s), so either the copyist added the projection details, or this Chinese admiral was one hell of a Renaissance man. It adds weight to the idea that the whole thing is a rip off.

3) Australia. This admiral sure did a lot of wandering around. But the copy guy, Mo Yi Tong, would have known about Australia in 1763.

4) The silence of history. Every European king and queen who sent out explorers, even if it was a shoestring budget and no real expectation that the mariner would return, couldn't resist the impulse to boast of their countries' achievements. We're supposed to believe that the Chinese emperor of this castrated super-admiral said nothing to anyone, not even his kids or best friends, so that there is no written verification of this map extent?

We know the Chinese are supposed to be inscrutable, but that pushes inscrutability past our credulity. (Translation: our B---S--- meter just went off scale).

5) There is a movement inside some circles of the People's Paradise to claim that the Americas by rights should belong to China. The key claim is that native Americans are thought to be descendants of Asians who crossed the old land bridge (now the Bering Strait). But wouldn't a clever little map be a nice piece of "evidence" to provide a second johnny-come-lately claim to the New World?

We seriously debated on whether to add a sixth reason: that a eunuch might not have enough testosterone for such a perilous voyage, considering the times.

But that might be considered extremely insensitive by our readers.

So we won't.

UPDATE -- In response to Mr. Anonymous, we did some searching for links to information that would verify the 1421 A.D. Chinese circumnavigation of the world, and we found two basic threads: one is a website advertising a book written by a retired British submariner claiming dramatic "proof" that the Chinese did it. The other sites were posts and articles by people whose basic theme was that the aforesaid submariner was dreadfully imaginative but lacked much in what is generally considered proof.

Just for fun we will post a few observations before the day is done and will provide a link here.

But please, dear Mr. Anonymous (if that's what your name really is), do not think we've blown our cork. Our cork is yet unblown. We are saving the blowing of the cork for some topic that might actually constitute clear and present danger to life as we know it, i.e., the Chinese actually trying to "recover" their lost American territory.


At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to read some existing good references on this particular history before you blow your cork, or you become just one of those you criticize. It is not just one map. For instance, please check out


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