Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chinese discover America. Yes. And ... No.

You may remember the story of the Chinese map, purportedly a copy of one made in 1418, which showed the 2 Americas. I posted about it on Friday the 13th. Well, yet another hoax.

Even normally chauvinistic Chinese scholars have rubbished the find. They pointed out last week that the cartographic portrayal of the Earth as two circles on a flat sheet is European. The most obvious "mistake," showing California as an island, is clearly borrowed from mistakes made in 17th-century European maps.

Nor are the Chinese characters properly medieval, that for the western God postdating the arrival of Jesuit missionaries. Zheng He's 15th-century travels in the Indian Ocean were indeed sensational, but they were well authenticated. Why diminish them by faking a circumnavigation? Besides, since the map is a copy, there is no way of verifying any original.
I read in La Repubblica that Italian geographers had been quite sure that the map was a fake, and yet were fearful of spoiling the party and that no-one would listen to them. In addition,
in the Anglo-American world, scientifically hegemonic, there is a strong urge to discard Columbus, an Italian, son of an immigrant people with cardboard cases. He couldn't possibly be the father of the world's greatest power.
You see what passions and resentments these things arouse.

No comments: