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Chinese World Map of 1418

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A map depicting the world as the Chinese knew it in 1418 indicates that perhaps Coulmbus wasn’t the first explorer to set eyes on North and South America. A 1763 copy of a 1418 map is set to go on display in Beijing and at the National Martime Museum in Greenwich, U. K. next week.

Between 1405 and 1435 Admiral Zheng He went on a bit on an exploratory spree, documented in a book entitled 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered the World. The map seems to reflect this - the continents of the Western Hemisphere are clearly visible as are the shape of Africa and Europe. Still, questions remain about the map and the extent of Zheng He’s travels around the globe.

The map was discovered in 2001 by Liu Gang and bought for $500. He suspected that the map might have been a modern fake but an inspection by a number of map collectors indicate that the map was at least 100 years old.

From The Economist story on the map: “The consequences of the discovery of this map could be considerable. If it does indeed prove to be the first map of the world, ‘the history of New World discovery will have to be rewritten,’ claims Mr Menzies. How much does this matter? Showing that the world was first explored by Chinese rather than European seamen would be a major piece of historical revisionism. But there is more to history than that. It is no less interesting that the Chinese, having discovered the extent of the world, did not exploit it, politically or commercially. After all, Columbus's discovery of America led to exploitation and then development by Europeans which, 500 years later, made the United States more powerful than China had ever been.”

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