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Chinese World Map of 1418 Revisited

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The Chinese world map of 1418 / 1763 has generated much discussion attention on the Internet since The Economist ran a story on it last week. The excitement and the potential of having to rewrite history as a result if the document was proved to be true eventually started giving way to questions about its authenticity. Several writers have come out to say that the map is clearly a hoax, including Simon Jenkins of the Guardian Unlimited. The map is making the rounds on discussion groups and now is the subject of a broader analysis of modern politics and attitudes to China.

Undoubttedly, the discussion of the map’s authenticity will continue for sometime. What the discussion does do is highlight the nature of the Internet: a source of information and misinformation - on any topic. How to differentiate between the two can at times be a challenge and requires a critical mind. The veracity of a map or the accuracy of a dataset on the Internet should always be questioned, probed and judged for oneself.

The Chinese map of the world probably is a fake. I am leaving that to the experts to decide. Nevertheless, the possibility of its authenticity shakes up our views of reality. And that’s one of the things I appreciate about maps.

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