In January 2006, a Chinese collector, Liu Gang, announced that he had acquired, in 2001, a hand-drawn map that referred to Admiral Zheng He’s expedition in 1418. The Economist (12 January 2006) ran an article, 'An ancient map that strongly suggests Chinese seamen were first round the world', describing it as 'a copy, made in 1763, of a map, dated 1418'
There are two issues: the supposed connection with Zheng He, which was seen as tying in with Gavin Menzies's theories about a 1421 discovery of America; and the question of whether the map (supposedly subjected to radiocarbon-dating testing) was a (misinterpreted?) eighteenth-century original or a modern fake.
Both sides of the argument can be accessed via the '1421 exposed' site, which sets out reasoned arguments against the overlapping Menzies and Liu Gang theories. See also 'The "Liu/Menzies" world map: a critique' (pdf article by Geoff Wade, in: e-Perimetron, 2:4 (Autumn, 2007), pp. 270-7). [Added 29 June 2008.]
Posting by Dr. Geoff Wade on the Maphist list - 24 March 2006
I remain convinced that this “1763/1418” map is a 21st-century fake. It was certainly produced by someone educated in simplified characters (meaning under the PRC in the last 50 years) and the purpose of the map is to support the Menzies thesis (and so it was produced within the last four years). I have incorporated, along with my own thoughts, some comments and observations from Jin Guo-ping, Zhou Zhen-he, Gong Ying-yan, and Hou Yang-fang in the following critique.
A. There are a number of issues about this map which need to be noted:
1. It is a dual-hemisphere map, a cartographic tradition exclusively European. California is represented as an island, copied straight from European maps of the 17th century. China is placed at the centre of the map as it was in early Jesuit maps of the world produced in China. It is based on a rough copy of a Jesuit map of the world.
2. It copies some parts of the text from early Jesuit maps.
3. Creating such a map is conditional upon recognition that world is a sphere. No indigenous Ming maps show that there was a belief that the world was a sphere.
4. For a sphere to be represented on a flat plane, there needs to be knowledge of and methods for projection. Chinese cartographers did not have this knowledge.
5. The amount of non-coastal detail (including riverine systems extending thousands of miles from the coast) indicate that these maps could not have been produced by maritime voyagers. The information in the maps was obviously amassed over time by cultures who had travelled widely. It fits perfectly within the history of European cartography, but is a complete anomaly in Chinese cartography.
6. The map is supposedly drawn in 1763 for submission to the Court by someone called Mo Yi-tong, partially based on a "map of the barbarians from all under Heaven who offer tribute to the Court" drawn in the 16th year of the Yong-le reign (1418), with those inscriptions circled in red. Such mode of attribution is not a part of Chinese cartographic tradition and neither is circling particular names in red to indicate that they are from an earlier map. No one has identified this unknown person who supposedly suvbmitted this map to the court.
7. The representation of China is poor. Why should Chinese cartographers have represented the lands with which they were so familiar so poorly?
8. Some of the persons who are supposed to have authenticated the map -- Professor Robert Cribbs, Dr. Gunnar Thompson, Charlotte Harris Rees, Lam Yee Din, Robin Lind, Gerald Andrew Bottomley and Anatole Andro -- have not even seen the map. None of these persons is an expert in any relevant field.
1. The map is named the 'Overall Map of the Geography of All Under Heaven' (tian-xia quan-yu zong-tu) which makes no sense as a map name. It is grammatically incorrect to use 'quan yu' (complete geography) and 'zong tu' (overall map) in the one title.
2. The term 'quan-yu' (complete geography) is never used in Chinese classical writing.
3. The eunuch Zheng He is referred to as Ma San-bao. No one would have dared to use his original name given that the emperor had assigned him the surname Zheng.
4. The term “shi-gong-tu” is used instead of “zhi-gong-tu” to indicate a map of tributaries. This shows the faker did not understand the institutions of imperial China. Liu Gang’s explanation that this meant that the tributaries had been “recognised” is neither logical nor feasible. There is no example of that term in imperial Chinese works.
5.. There are various simplified characters ( particularly yu), used in the map, which while in use during the 18th century , would not have been used on a map intended for submission to the Court. This also suggests creation of map by modern person who was unfamiliar with the classical distinctions between these characters.
6. The map uses the term "all under Heaven" for this world map. During the Qing, this term referred to the Qing empire, not the world.
7. The Himalayas are marked as the highest mountains in the world. This fact was only discovered in the 19th century.
C. The annotations in red are supposedly from 1418.
1. The style of the language used in the annotations is not congruent with usual Ming language, cartographic or otherwise. It is a modern attempt at sounding “classical”.
2. In eastern Europe, there is an annotation in a red border which notes: "The people here all worship God (shang-di) and their religion is called 'Jing'." The term “shang-di” in reference to the Christian God was created only in the late 16th century, and the recognition in China of Nestorianism (“Jing”) as a branch of Christianity occurred only in the early 17th century.
3. The name of Korea is given as Gao-li. By 1418, it had long been changed to Chao-xian.
4. The name of Vietnam is given as Annam. By 1418, this had long become the Chinese province of Jiao-zhi.
5. The provincial names Hu-bei and Hu-nan are given. In 1418, these had not been created. The areas were part of Hu-guang.
6. There are a number of annotations “Great Qing Ocean” in red in the seas off China. These are supposedly to date from 1418, 230 years before the Qing dynasty had been established.
7. Taiwan is named as “Ryukyu”. During the Ming, the country of Ryukyu was a tributary of the Ming and the Ming certainly knew where it was. There is no evidence that Taiwan was referred to as Ryukyu during the Ming.
8. The map refers to the southern and northern capital areas (zhi-li), but these were only created in 1421, 3 years after the map was supposedly drawn.
In short, the map is simply a litany of errors, many simplistic. There is absolutely no possibility that this is anything but a 21st century map, produced in order to try to profit from Menzies’ 1421 hypothesis.
Of course the dating of the paper reveals that the piece of paper tested could be from the 18th century. This means nothing, as there is no evidence that it came from the map which Mr Liu Gang has been showing the world.