The New York Times reported, “The Chinese map, which was drawn in 1763 but has a note on it saying it is a reproduction of a map dated 1418, presents the world as a globe with all the major continents rendered with an exactitude that European maps did not have for at least another century, after Columbus, Da Gama, Magellan, Dias and others had completed their renowned explorations.”
The voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He’s armada were rediscovered in Fujian province in the 1930s. The story was etched in a pillar. By the final, seventh voyage, the fleet had covered over 50,000 kilometers or 30,000 miles and was comprised of three hundred ships and 28,000 men.
But when the Yongle Emperor died in 1424, China’s Hongxi Emperor stopped the voyages of China’s largest fleet. – BBC
A century later, about 1529, another Ming Emperor burned all records of the fleet. This decision to withdraw from the world may have resulted in China not being ready to confront the Western Imperial powers that arrived in the 19th century starting the Opium Wars that devastated China leading to a century of war and unrest.
For a comparison, Christopher Columbus set sale in 1492 with 3 small ships and 88 men. Erik the Red, a Viking explorer, also crossed the Atlantic in even smaller ships to build a settlement in Greenland around 1,000 AD. Some archeologists suggest that the Phoenicians may have reached the Americas before the Vikings and Columbus around 500 BC. Some even say as early as 1500 to 1200 BC.
Columbia.edu says, “From 1405 until 1433, the Chinese imperial eunuch Zheng He led seven ocean expeditions for the Ming emperor that are unmatched in world history.” To learn more about the seven voyages, click the link in this paragraph.
In fact, many layers of myth surround China’s ancient mariner. According to Kenyan lore, some of his shipwrecked sailors survived and married local women in Africa. DNA tests have reportedly shown evidence of Chinese ancestry and a young Kenyan woman, Mwamaka Shirafu, was given a scholarship to study Chinese medicine in China.
Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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