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Explorer From China Who 'Beat Columbus To America'
The Telegraph (UK) ^ | 3-4-2002 | Elizabeth Grice

Posted on 03/04/2002 3:24:49 PM PST by blam

Explorer from China who 'beat Columbus to America'

By Elizabeth Grice
(Filed: 04/03/2002)

HISTORY books in 23 countries may need to be rewritten in the light of new evidence that Chinese explorers had discovered most parts of the world by the mid-15th century.

Next week, an amateur historian will expound his theory - backed up by charts, ancient artefacts and anthropological research - that when Columbus discovered America in 1492, he was 72 years too late.

And so were other explorers, such as Cook, Magellan and Da Gama, whose heroic voyages took them to Australia, South America and India.

Instead, according to Gavin Menzies, a former submarine commanding officer who has spent 14 years charting the movements of a Chinese expeditionary fleet between 1421 and 1423, the eunuch admiral, Zheng He, was there first.

According to Menzies, it was Zheng He, in his colossal multi-masted ships stuffed with treasure, silks and porcelain, who made the first circumnavigation of the world, beating the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan by a century.

Menzies will present his findings at the Royal Geographical Society on March 15 before an invited audience of more than 200 diplomats, academics, naval officers and publishers. Their initial reaction, based on an outline of his thesis, ranges from excitement to scepticism.

But if the number of acceptances - 85 per cent - is anything to go by, he will not be ignored.

He originally intended to write a book about the significance of the year 1421 around the world. While researching it in Venice, he was shown a planisphere, dated 1459, which included southern Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.

Yet the Cape was not "discovered" as a sea route by Vasco da Gama until 1497. On the planisphere was a note in medieval Phoenician about a voyage round the Cape to the Cape Verde Islands in 1420 - and a picture of a Chinese junk.

Menzies felt he was on to something.

Using Chinese star charts and maps that pre-date the expeditions of Cook, Magellan, de Gama and Columbus, he has reconstructed what he believes is the epic voyage of Zheng He.

He says his knowledge of astro-navigation helped him to work out that the Chinese, using the brilliant star Canopus to chart their course, had sailed close to the South Pole.

He determined their latitude and went on to find literary and archaeological evidence to show that the Chinese had effectively circumnavigated the world.

Menzies, 64, admits that his greatest fear was being ridiculed.

He said: "When I started, I was terrified people would think I was a crank. But although my claim is complicated and stands history on its head, I am confident of my ground.

He added: "What nobody has explained is why the European explorers had maps. Who drew the maps? There are millions of square miles of ocean. It required huge fleets to chart them. If you say it wasn't the Chinese, with the biggest fleets and ships in the world, then who was it?"

Admiral Sir John Woodward, who served on submarines with Menzies in the 1960s and will be at his lecture, describes him as a brilliant maverick.

He said: "I was his teacher on a commanding officers' qualifying course and he was the cleverest, sharpest and best I had seen. He is not some mad eccentric but a rational man, good at analysis - and he certainly knows all about charts."

Chinese ocean-going supremacy in the first half of the 15th century is not in question.

The expeditionary junks were three times the size of Nelson's Victory and dwarfed the 16th century ocean-going European caravels. Under his patron, the Yong-le Emperor Zhui Di, Zheng He made seven great voyages to bring foreigners into China's tribute system.

When he returned in October 1423, China was in political and economic chaos. The treasure fleet, now considered frivolous, was mothballed, admirals pensioned off and shipyards closed.

Although most of the records of Zheng He's voyage were expunged, a few maps and star charts survived.

Menzies believes they were taken to Venice by a merchant traveller, Nicolo da Conti, who had joined one of the Chinese junks in India. In his travel book published in 1434, da Conti claims to have sailed to China via Australia - 350 years before Captain Cook.

Menzies argues that, on his way through Venice in 1428, the King of Portugal's eldest son obtained the salvaged maps and incorporated them into a map of the world.

The most controversial part of his theory is that copies of parts of this mappa mundi were used by da Gama, Magellan and Cook. Some of these still survive in museums: Patagonia (1513), North America (1507), Africa (1502) and Asia and Australia (1542).

The letters and logs of the European explorers - including Columbus - certainly acknowledge that they had maps, says Menzies. "They knew where they were going before they set out."

Using his knowledge of winds and tides, Menzies has located what he believes are nine Chinese leviathans wrecked in the Caribbean in December 1421.

Pictures of the hull ballast on the seabed show stones identical in shape and size to those found in a Chinese treasure ship recently excavated in the Philippines.

Menzies declines to name the uninhabited island because he believes some of the ships may still contain treasure and he wants to investigate them.

Gillian Hutchinson, curator of the history of cartography at the National Maritime Museum, is not persuaded that there is a provable link between the Chinese maps and those the Europeans used.

She says: "It is possible that Chinese geographical knowledge had reached Europe before the Age of Discovery. But Mr Menzies is absolutely certain of it, and that makes it difficult to separate evidence from wishful thinking."

Diplomats of the countries whose early history may be affected by his thesis are reacting with a surprising degree of warmth.

Gregory Baughen, first secretary at the New Zealand High Commission, says: "It sounds exciting. We're all ears. Chinese artefacts have been found around the coast for some time."

Luis de Sousa, press councillor at the Portuguese Embassy, says: "Magellan is in all the books and his descendants carry his name with -+pride. But if the Chinese circumnavigated the world first, which is quite possible, then let's give them their 15 minutes of limelight."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 1421; archaeology; china; clovis; gavinmenzies; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; historylist; navigation; phoeniciansgreeks; preclovis; romans; vikings
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1 posted on 03/04/2002 3:24:50 PM PST by blam
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2 posted on 03/04/2002 3:26:20 PM PST by Texaggie79
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To: blam

Zheng He's ship (400ft) compared to Columbus's (85ft).

3 posted on 03/04/2002 3:29:11 PM PST by blam
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To: RightWhale;LostTribe;farm friend;afraidfortherepublic;JudyB1938
FYI.
4 posted on 03/04/2002 3:30:52 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Could very well be so.
5 posted on 03/04/2002 3:33:01 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: blam
A friend of mine in So. Calif. says that ballast stones and fragments of Chineese pottery were found off the coast years ago.

Might be something to it.

6 posted on 03/04/2002 3:37:05 PM PST by narby
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To: blam;*History_list
Check the Bump List folders for articles related to the above topic(s) or for other topics of interest.
7 posted on 03/04/2002 3:37:18 PM PST by Free the USA
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To: blam
bttt
8 posted on 03/04/2002 3:37:23 PM PST by farmfriend
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To: blam
Zheng He

Zheng He (1371-1435), or Cheng Ho, is arguably China's most famous navigator. Starting from the beginning of the 15th Century, he traveled to the West seven times.

For 28 years, he traveled more than 50,000km and visited over 30 countries, including Singapore. Zheng He died in the tenth year of the reign of the Ming emperor Xuande (1435) and was buried in the southern outskirts of Bull's Head Hill (Niushou) in Nanjing.

In 1985, during the 580th anniversary of Zheng He's voyage, his tomb was restored. The new tomb was built on the site of the original tomb and reconstructed according to the customs of Islamic teachings, as Zheng He was a Muslim.

At the entrance to the tomb is a Ming-style structure, which houses the memorial hall. Inside are paintings of the man himself and his navigation maps. To get to the tomb, there are newly laid stone platforms and steps. The stairway consists of 28 stone steps divided into four sections with each section having seven steps. This represents Zheng He's seven journeys to the West. The Arabic words "Allah (God) is great" are inscribed on top of the tomb.

(OOPS!)

9 posted on 03/04/2002 3:37:26 PM PST by blam
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To: narby
"A friend of mine in So. Calif. says that ballast stones and fragments of Chineese pottery were found off the coast years ago.

Might be something to it.

George Carter agrees with your friend.

10 posted on 03/04/2002 3:39:43 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
So, let's return to the Great Mound at Cahokia. The last thread in FR concerning that place had a stone structure buried deep inside.

Chinese who could sail around the world could also have sailed up the Mississippi!

But, I digress and leap ahead of my story. The Sioux Indian sign language uses the human body to configure ideographs virtually identical to the Shang Dynasty characters. As late as 1541 people speaking several Sioux dialects lived in the vicinity of Cahokia. Witnesses at Pacaha's Town (Terre Haute, or "quaking earth") report that no one lived in the Great Plains at the time because there were too many buffalo.

OK, now back on track. The Chinese presence at Cahokia is apparant. There is a variety of brown (or river) birch that lives in Southern Indiana. It grows straight with little prompting and does not break up into clumps. People from Korea have reported to me that they have an identical, and very useful, type of brown birch growing in Korea, but all the others break up into clumps, just like here. I have often wondered who brought the seeds for those birch trees to the Ohio Valley.

11 posted on 03/04/2002 3:42:30 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: blam
Nancy Yaw Davis

The Zuni Enigma

Did a group of thirteenth-century Japanese journey to the American Southwest, there to merge with the people, language, and religion of the Zuni tribe?

For many years, anthropologists have understood the Zuni in the American Southwest to occupy a special place in Native American culture and ethnography. Their language, religion, and blood type are startlingly different from all other tribes. Most puzzling, the Zuni appear to have much in common with the people of Japan.

In a book with groundbreaking implications, Dr. Nancy Yaw Davis examines the evidence underscoring the Zuni enigma, and suggests the circumstances that may have led Japanese on a religious quest-searching for the legendary "middle world" of Buddhism-across the Pacific and to the American Southwest more than seven hundred years ago.

Nancy Yaw Davis holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington. Author of numerous articles, she has long researched the history and cultures of the native peoples of North America. Her company, Cultural Dynamics, is located in Anchorage, Alaska, where she lives.

12 posted on 03/04/2002 3:44:02 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Interesting. But the Vikings found America long before Columbus too. It isn't who landed here first that counts, it's who made it stick - who came back and settled.
13 posted on 03/04/2002 3:45:10 PM PST by JenB
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To: blam
Well so what!

At L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, are the remains of a 500 year old Viking colony.

Which is also nothing to the point.

Neither venture had any but the most transient effect on history.

14 posted on 03/04/2002 3:46:24 PM PST by Clive
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To: blam
Well that puts the Chinese at least 1000 years behind the Phoenicians who were here well ahead of the mid-15th century.

---max

15 posted on 03/04/2002 3:46:50 PM PST by max61
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To: All
Most of the American Indians, (native Americans for the intolerant PC crowd), are of Asian decent, so this is no surprise, if true. Alaska and Russia are much closer together than the islands of the North Alantic, so it's a credible theory. But as Frank Drebin said, "there's nothing to see here..."
16 posted on 03/04/2002 3:49:15 PM PST by Malcolm
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To: blam
Sounds like a lotta Commie revisionism to me!

What about the Irish, Ogam, petroglyphs found in a cave in West Virginia's, Wyoming County in 1983. These Irish/Runic writings are dated about AD 500 to AD 800. The story of these findings were printed in the State of West (by God) Virginias magazine, "Wonderful West Virginia".

Ancient Irish legends have always told of "St. Brendans Fair Isle", far off to the West.

If you ask me, and I know you aren't, the ChiComs are a bit late in their boast.

Don't ya' know.

17 posted on 03/04/2002 3:54:12 PM PST by elbucko
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To: Clive
OOPS.

Should have said 1,000 year old Viking colony.

18 posted on 03/04/2002 3:56:59 PM PST by Clive
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To: Clive;elbucko;Malcolm;max61;JenB
Let's not leave out ole Prince Madoc,1170
19 posted on 03/04/2002 4:07:40 PM PST by blam
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To: elbucko
(perhaps they were the Adena people?)

The Adena People

The Adena folk were unusually tall and powerfully built; women over six feet tall and men approaching heights of seven feet have been discovered.
It would seem that a band of strikingly different people of great presence and majesty had forced their way into the Ohio Valley from somewhere about 1000 B.C. - Robert Silverberg

20 posted on 03/04/2002 4:22:19 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
"Let's not leave out ole Prince Madoc,1170

Sure! An I'll be drinkin' a pint to the brave Welsh Prince, as well.

(Chinese discover world...what a load o'Commie Cr*p.)

21 posted on 03/04/2002 4:35:47 PM PST by elbucko
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To: blam
Regarding Chinese junks' anchor stones: these have indeed been found on the West coast, but they are of very recent date. Chinese junks and other asian shipping have been coming to California since at least the Gold Rush, over 150 years ago.

The Chinese fleets and ships mentioned in the article are very impressive, but they are a good example of "prestige politics" rather than serious commercial or scientific exploration. The fleet was sent out to overawe China's neighbors and to extract "tribute" (diplomatic gifts) to "prove" that China was the central kingdom and all other lands were tributaries of the central kingdom.

Naturally, when the Chinese emperor (or rather, the bureaucrats) got tired of financing this boondoggle, that was the end of the fleet. On the other hand, European exploration tended to pay for itself, and opened up new and greater possibilities for trade, conquest, and colonization, thereby forever changing the world and leading to the world we know today.

Had the Chinese fleets never sailed, history as we know it would have hardly been any different.

22 posted on 03/04/2002 5:05:12 PM PST by Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
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To: blam
Very cool. Too bad it was abortive like most of China's discoveries and innovations, swept away when the new regime came into power. Sounds a lot like what happened in the 1950's. At least their maritime pioneering made it possible for others with sticking power to quickly spread throughout the world.
23 posted on 03/04/2002 5:17:49 PM PST by aruanan
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To: Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
Had the Chinese fleets never sailed, history as we know it would have hardly been any different.

Except that the Western maritime explorers wouldn't have had the maps.
24 posted on 03/04/2002 5:19:39 PM PST by aruanan
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To: JenB
Interesting. But the Vikings found America long before Columbus too. It isn't who landed here first that counts, it's who made it stick - who came back and settled.

The Vikings were my first thought as I began to read this article.

25 posted on 03/04/2002 5:24:10 PM PST by dougherty
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To: blam
Instead, according to Gavin Menzies, a former submarine commanding officer who has spent 14 years charting the movements of a Chinese expeditionary fleet between 1421 and 1423, the eunuch admiral, Zheng He, was there first.

Nah...couldn't be. He didn't have the stones for it.

26 posted on 03/04/2002 5:29:33 PM PST by Pharmboy
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To: blam
This is all true! In fact there is evidence that the first Chinese restuarant was founded in San Franscisco when Columbus was still a small child.
27 posted on 03/04/2002 5:30:37 PM PST by dvan
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To: dvan
This being so perhaps the Chinese have squatter's rights on the U.S.!!!!
28 posted on 03/04/2002 5:32:21 PM PST by dvan
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To: aruanan
I believe that Columbus found maps - or at least legends - that came from the Vikings, who reportedly heard the stories from the Irish. Or did Marco Polo bring back maps with him? And why hasn't this story come out before, if there are five hundred year old maps with Chinese written all over them?
29 posted on 03/04/2002 5:43:52 PM PST by JenB
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To: blam
intresting read bump
30 posted on 03/04/2002 5:50:12 PM PST by Ditter
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To: blam
HISTORY books in 23 countries may need to be rewritten in the light of new evidence that Chinese explorers had discovered most parts of the world by the mid-15th century.

Interesting but whoopdedoo, as far as who got here first. The Phoenicians were here 3000 years before that. Not to mention there were Hebrews here just before Christ in 107 BC.

31 posted on 03/04/2002 5:50:50 PM PST by #3Fan
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To: blam
Using his knowledge of winds and tides, Menzies has located what he believes are nine Chinese leviathans wrecked in the Caribbean in December 1421.</>

Now if he could bring them to the surface, then he really got a story.

32 posted on 03/04/2002 5:51:12 PM PST by Fishing-guy
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To: blam
On the planisphere was a note in medieval Phoenician . . .

I've never heard of Medieval Phoenician before and can hardly imagine what it could refer to. Phoenicia, the seagoing empire of Eastern Med coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos with their various colonies, had left the stage before the Roman Empire was an Empire.

33 posted on 03/04/2002 5:59:21 PM PST by VadeRetro
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Comment #34 Removed by Moderator

To: blam
I still believe the Phonecians were first to the New World. There was, if I remember correctly, pictoglyphs in Central America depicting visitors who were not the typical Mayan. In fact, the pictoglyph showed shoes with points curled and beards that looked Sumerian.

There was also a clay tablet found in South America ( can't remember the source ) that had cunieform writing on it.

Lastly, the infamous Piri Reis map, which depicted the Antarctic continent as recently verified by satellite.

35 posted on 03/04/2002 6:28:39 PM PST by Tench_Coxe
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To: muawiyah
There are brown birch trees in Indiana, and there are brown birch trees in Korea, and therefore a Chinese eunuch discovered America?

As Fluellen says in Henry the Fifth, Act IV, Scene VII, "There is a river in Macedon; and there is also moreover a river at Monmouth...and there is salmons in both." Therefore Alexander the Great visited England?

36 posted on 03/04/2002 6:34:08 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: muawiyah
The Olmecs And The Shang
37 posted on 03/04/2002 6:48:37 PM PST by blam
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To: Tench_Coxe;VadeRetro;#3Fan
This figurine was found in the ruins of an Olmec site in Southern Mexico.


38 posted on 03/04/2002 6:59:45 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Cool. Have you recieved your latest edition of Ancient American yet? (I think that was you that also subscribes.)
39 posted on 03/04/2002 7:09:12 PM PST by #3Fan
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To: #3Fan
"Have you recieved your latest edition of Ancient American yet? (I think that was you that also subscribes.)"

Yup. But, I'm behind in my reading.

40 posted on 03/04/2002 7:15:34 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
One of the older buildings at Chichen Itza, which I have seen, is called 'The Nunnery'. The frieze that runs above the doorways has several pictoglyphs, and the postures in them bear a striking resemblance to the same postures depicted in Hindu art. This is all anecdotal, and means nothing, but I have read speculation that Asians had reached Central America and had carried on limited commerce. It would be fascinating if there was more evidence found.
41 posted on 03/04/2002 7:19:45 PM PST by Tench_Coxe
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To: blam
Couldn't be from the Chinese fellow- a few years is far to short for such thourough cultural integration. Same goes for the post above. Would have to be an earlier group of explorers: perhaps some that never made it home to report?
42 posted on 03/04/2002 7:30:07 PM PST by Cleburne
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To: Tench_Coxe
Yup. I've seen that. I used to spend two weeks each Christmas roaming around the Yuchatan. Here is an interesting site if you make it back down there: Coba It hasn't been cleared out yet. Very interesting site and somewhat off the tourist trail. Also, the El Bocadito is a reasonable place to stay. It was a Club Med when I was there last time.
43 posted on 03/04/2002 7:32:49 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
I've been meaning to get back down there. I'd like to visit Palenque and Tikal when I do. Thanks for the link to the Coba site. I'll look it over.
44 posted on 03/04/2002 7:37:46 PM PST by Tench_Coxe
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To: blam
...the eunuch admiral, Zheng He, was there first.

Maybe.

He went a lot of places.

He was a muslim and he is the basis for Sinbad the Sailor.

There is probably a group of people on the east coast of Africa who are descended from a ship wreck of Zheng's fleet.

His accomplishments say a lot about the stupidity of the Chinese emperors since. After his voyages they banned such sea travel and destroyed his ships and any ships that could travel the world.

45 posted on 03/04/2002 7:37:47 PM PST by tallhappy
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To: blam
Yup. But, I'm behind in my reading.

Check out the story of coins found by pipe diggers 100 feet below the surface in Illinois in 125 million year old clay. Very strange if true.

46 posted on 03/04/2002 7:38:20 PM PST by #3Fan
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To: Cleburne
"perhaps some that never made it home to report?"

Think about it. A lot of people never made a report back home. One thing that every explorer who ever did report back home could report the same thing, "We Found People."

47 posted on 03/04/2002 7:38:40 PM PST by blam
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To: dvan
This being so perhaps the Chinese have squatter's rights on the U.S.!!!!

So did the American Indians and look what happened to them.

48 posted on 03/04/2002 7:38:50 PM PST by Centurion2000
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To: #3Fan
"Check out the story of coins found by pipe diggers 100 feet below the surface in Illinois in 125 million year old clay. "

I do wish they would not describe things in that manner, for example, my garden is planted in 1.2 billion year old dirt. (See what I mean) Now, I really do have some 7,000 year old wood.

49 posted on 03/04/2002 7:49:54 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
I just love it when somebody comes up with something "new"! Anybody who has read PALE INK: THE CHINESE CLASSIC OF MOUNTAINS & SEAS; two ancient records of Chinese exploration in America, by Henrietta Mertz (a translation from Chinese writings) already knew who was here first.

There's another one I haven't read: The Classic of Mountains and Seas by Anne Birrell.

Plus, there's another book written by a Chinese missionary who documents a lot of it. I can't remember his name - my son in Maine has the book.

That's why I find it so amusing when people say the Olmnec heads are negroid. As far as I am concerned, they have Asian features.

Here's something about Henrietta Mertz:

Very often the researches of educated amateurs uncover more information and understanding than the work of specialists limited by unproved theories that have hardened into 'fact.' For instance, Henrietta Mertz' little-known but perceptive book Pale Ink examines texts of some ancient Chinese voyagers, and by careful analysis shows them to provide exact descriptions of the topography of western America, especially California and Mexico. She identifies Quetzalcoatl with one of the early navigators.

These Chinese writings are the precis of previously condensed versions of yet earlier works written by the very persons who set sail in various expeditions -- from hundreds of years B.C. to the early centuries A.D. -- and reached the Pacific shores of the Americas. The original accounts have disappeared because every now and then the Emperors of China would order a drastic reduction of the vast accumulation of literature. Those items worth preserving were reduced to the bare essentials; in the process the genuine travelogs were so constricted that the meaning was lost to later generations who assumed that the reports of unfamiliar landscapes and strange peoples were mere fables, figments of someone's imagination.

50 posted on 03/04/2002 11:11:27 PM PST by JudyB1938
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