LINGUIST List 15.1043

Tue Mar 30 2004

Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <sarahlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Harold F. Schiffman, How China discovered America (or the World)
  2. Edward McDonald, Re: Disc: How China discovered America...?
  3. rblench, Re: 15.986, Disc: How China discovered America...?

Message 1: How China discovered America (or the World)

Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 08:45:21 -0500 (EST)
From: Harold F. Schiffman <haroldfsccat.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: How China discovered America (or the World)


I'm no expert on this, and have serious doubts, too, but I seem to
remember somebody once reporting the discovery of an early (Ming or
Qing) Chinese coin in California, in a site where it couldn't have
been "planted" or accidentally dropped at a later date. I don't know
any more about this, but it seemed to indicate at the time I read it
that maybe somebody was blown off course and shipwrecked in
California? The same way that some early English explorer
(Vancouver?) discovered a Japanese "slave" being held by the Macah
tribe in (what is now) Washington State--the guy was shipwrecked,
blown off course, drifted on the Japan current until found (and
enslaved) by the Macah.

 A google search on this topic reveals that some Chinese coins (all
found in areas where 19th century Chinese immigrants worked, and known
as "wen")

	" found in nineteenth century overseas Chinese sites are somewhat
	surprising in that the average date of issue precedes the date
	of site occupation by approximately two centuries."
	http://www.isis.csuhayward.edu/cesmith/yema/coinchron.html

So maybe it's all spurious...


- Hal Schiffman
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Message 2: Re: Disc: How China discovered America...?

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 13:41:31 +0800 (CST)
From: Edward McDonald <laomaa20023yahoo.com.cn>
Subject: Re: Disc: How China discovered America...?


In re the Chinese presence in America (and yes the author does argue
for it in Australia, the Phillipines and even Antarctica as well):

My impression of the book was that the author, a former submarine
captain, was very sound on the evidence of old maps, which is what he
bases the whole theory on, but his genetics was unreferenced and
therefore suspect, and his linguistics was speculative, to put it
mildly. He doesn't not specify what dialect of Chinese the mysterious
Peruvians are supposed to have spoken The shared vocabulary he cites
suffer from similar problems: of the two examples given in Robert
Orr's message: sampan is definitely Chinese, presumably from the
Cantonese saampan "three plank" (Mandarin sanban); but palso is not an
existing or even possible word in any Chinese dialect I am aware of:
balsa is in fact Spanish for "raft".

The author is definitely an enthusiast, and tells a great - and as far
as I can tell fairly plausible - story, but he would have done better
to stick to navigation and oceanography.

Of interest also from the book are the contacts he describes with
Chinese scholars who have independently come to similar conclusions
about the voyages of the Grand Eunuch Zheng He (in a footnote, also
known as "Sanbao" and apparently the origin of Sinbad the
Sailor). Again I don't see anything inherently implausible in this,
but in the Chinese context it plays right into strongly held
prejudices about China's "rightful" place in the world. And in regard
to the change of title for the American edition, popular Chinese
ideology tends to divide the world into "China" and '"the West", the
latter really code for the USA, so it'll be interesting to see how the
title comes out when the book is translated into Chinese!

reporting to you from "China's CNN" (I'm not joking)


-Ed McDonald


Edward McDonald 
Language Consultant	
China Central Television 9 
email: laomaa20023yahoo.com.cn
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Message 3: Re: 15.986, Disc: How China discovered America...?

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 09:28:57 +0100
From: rblench <r.blenchodi.org.uk>
Subject: Re: 15.986, Disc: How China discovered America...?


It is worth pointing out that Menzies' book is not primarily
linguistic but depends heavily on shaky cultural evidence and indeed
includes some of the discarded canards that first surfaced in Eric von
Daniken. It also, as someone else notes, makes much broader claims
about a series of secret voyages to various parts of the world, not
just the Americas. When it appeared in Britain, it was given very
positive reviews and much was made of Menzies' naval experience; but
actually this is the least important part. Each age gets the
theorising it deserves.


-Roger Blench

Email: r.blenchodi.org.uk
Web Page: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/roger_blench/RBOP.htm
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