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Did Zheng He create the first map of the world?


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#1
BrianMacSharry

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Hi

I came across this news story yesterday and wondered what everyone else thought?

A Chinese map collecter has found a copy of an ancient map he claims proves controversial theories that famed Chinese mariner Zheng He was the first person to discover America and circumnavigate the world. You can read the rest of the story in the yahoo link below and more in the other two links.

Personally i'm a bit dubious about this map as from what i remember about Zheng He was that he travelled around the Indian Ocean but was called back by the new Emperor who followed a more isolationist and insular ideology. Or i could be bitter as Ireland isn't mapped on the map.

What do people think?
yours
Brian


http://uk.news.yahoo...ed-america.html
http://www.1421.tv/
http://www.economist...tory_id=5381851

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I read about this in my newspaper. Apparently it's an 18th century copy of a map that supposedly dates back to 1418. There's no doubt in my mind that the Chinese undertook fantastic voyages around the Indian ocean, but I'm not sure about this map (check the economist link to see it). It shows an island of the west coast of America, which I assume is the Baja California peninsula (often shown as an island on European maps until well into the 18th century).

Most important of all: it's a copy! How can one be sure the copier didn't include the knowledge from his time into the map?

Some of the evidence presented on the 1421 site is a bit sketchy (and the author seems to forget Dutch sailors visiting Australia 150 years before Cook...) and some of the claims are quite bold (casually mentioning a Chinese fleet taking the Northeast passage around the Arctic, 150 years before the Barentsz expedition)
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#3
Martin Gamache

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I was reading about this in the economist this weekend.

The fact that it is a copy makes me suspicious....

However, Viking settlements existed in N. America well before Columbus so why not Chinese ships ....

#4
DaveB

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I was reading about this in the economist this weekend.

The fact that it is a copy makes me suspicious....

However, Viking settlements existed in N. America well before  Columbus so why not Chinese ships ....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It is interesting and intriguing, but, like the Viking discovery of and settlements in North America, apparently had no lasting effect even if it's true.

Until they can find original maps (not copies from a few hundred years later) and other physical evidence, like the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, I think it's just interesting speculation. More akin to the stories about Brendan the Navigator's voyages (no offense, Brian) and the Welsh discovery of North America or the voyages of Thor Heyerdahl and others.

Possible, but not proven. Still, fun to speculate about.
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#5
JB Krygier

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I came across this news story yesterday and wondered what everyone else thought?

A Chinese map collecter has found a copy of an ancient map he claims proves controversial theories that famed Chinese mariner Zheng He was the first person to discover America and circumnavigate the world. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



The Map History (MAPHIST) group has been discussing this claim; I have not
followed the discussion carefully but they seem quite dubious about it. A link
to the archives of the group - check the January postings:

http://mailman.geo.u...ermail/maphist/


john k.

#6
Kartograph

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I read the book 1421 by Gavin menzies, which I think started it all. i must say it´s interesting, BUT he takes his evidence from strange sources.
Everything you normally use to "proove" your favorite Atlantis theory is there:

- "detailed" sub-ice coastline of the Antarctic in 15th century maps
- 6th century chinese Stones in Santa Barbara (Who where used as ballast in ship hulls in the 19th cent. BTW)
- and last but definitely not least the all beloved Piri Reis map.

So it´s much more Daniken than anything else. Problem is: The chinese burned all evidence after the Voyages. So we´ll never know.

#7
Martin Gamache

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I've had that book on my shelf since I picked up a remaindered copy a couple years ago....is it worth reading?

#8
Hans van der Maarel

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Delving a bit more into the evidence... Certainly well-documented, but I do get a strong Daniken feel as well.

Wrote them an email about a claim that James Cook discovered Australia and New Zealand thanks to Chinese maps.

On a side note, for anybody who is interested in the research of old maps, I can strongly recommend "Maps Of The Ancient Sea Kings" by Charles Hapgood.
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#9
Kartograph

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The book is written in an accessible style. The first chapters really were fun to read, but it gets a bit repetitive. Mostly because Menzies lets the chinese not only discover America, but the whole world. Short of Europe that is.
And I don´t know much about sailing, he sounds authorative in that field, but if you are a sailor yourself, I don´t know if he makes mistakes there.
Still as a cartographer it´s good to know about the whacky theories that crop up every ten years about Piri Reis and the Antarctic shoreline. So you might as well read this book. Basically he combines cartographic mysteries into a coherent theory of himself, and it´s more realistic than Atlantis.
Basically he convinced me, that the chinese COULD have done it, if they chose to at the time. But he proves nothing, YMMV of course.




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