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Chinese Explorer May Redraw Map of History

Xinhuanet 2002-03-06 23:24:48

   BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhuanet) --  Chinese historians and navigation
experts are preparing to rewrite the history books after a British
historian's claim that Chinese explorers found America 72 years
before Christopher Columbus.
   According to the London-based Daily Telegraph on Monday, Gavin
Menzies, a former submarine commander and an amateur historian,
has pointed to an ancient chart to prove that Chinese admiral
Zheng He had discovered most parts of the world by the mid-15th
century and reached America 72 years earlier than Columbus.
   Li Xiaocong, deputy-director of the China Ancient History
Research Center of Beijing University, said that if experts
confirmed the authenticity of the chart which was claimed to be
drawn in 1459, navigation history would be rewritten.
   The chart, according to the report, clearly marked the location
of the Cape of Good Hope, with detailed depiction of Chinese
expeditionary vessels and included navigation notes which recorded
that a fleet once navigated across Cape of Good Hope to reach Cape
Verde Islands.
   Menzies will present his findings at Britain's Royal
Geographical Society on March 15 to an audience of more than 200
scholars, academicians and publishers.

   "So far I cannot say Menzies' new view is well-founded because
I have not seen that chart and as far as I know, China lacks
charts drawn in the mid-15th century. I cannot offer relevant
evidence to support his view," Li said.
   Chen Yanhang, director of the Chinese Ancient Vessel Research
Center said, "I suppose the new view might be true because records
show that the vessel used by admiral Zheng He was 126 meters long
and 51.5 meters wide, big and advanced enough to reach America.
   "In fact the domestic academic field raised the idea as early
as the 1980s that the farthest point Zheng He's fleet reached was
the Cape of Good Hope, but not the widely accepted Mombasa.
Actually, where Zheng He reached has always been a disputed issue.
Therefore we rule out the possibility that he set foot in America,
" he continued.
   Zhu Jianxiu, research fellow with Zheng He Research Society,
said, "The major task for us now is to make sure the chart was
really drawn in 1459 and truly used by Zheng He. If we can prove
the two points mentioned above, maybe we can say Menzies is right."

   Zhang Rujie, professor of geodesic, photogrammetry and
cartographic science and technology at Wuhan University, said that
he doubted Menzies' viewpoint.
   He explained that Zheng He was once a eunuch for Emperor Yongli
of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) before he was made an admiral. He
was well-known at the time and his life was recorded in detail in
the book "The History of Ming Dynasty".
   "In addition, Zheng He also recorded his navigation routes
himself. If he really had been to America, why have we never found
any clue in historical records?" he asked. 
   But Chen Yanhang said that according to historical records, Liu
Daxia, a official and contemporary of Zheng He, strongly opposed
his navigation and burned reports Zheng had written to the throne,
as well as navigation notes recorded by Zheng himself.
   "It is still unknown that the truth was hidden in the documents
which had already been destroyed," he added. Enditem

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