III

China’s Legacy

22

TRAGEDY ON THE HIGH SEAS: ZHENG HE’S FLEET DESTROYED BY A TSUNAMI

In 2003, Cedric Bell, a marine engineer, visited his son and family on New Zealand’s South Island. Magnetic anomaly surveys he made during his stay threw up an astonishing possibility: a considerable number of junks had been wrecked on the island’s southeast coast. Survivors had apparently managed to get ashore and had built stone barracks as living quarters, had sown rice fields and set up fish farms for food and smelters to make iron. Cedric believed an entire Chinese fleet had been wrecked by a colossal storm.

Cedric Bell’s report was so far-reaching that at first I was incredulous—my initial reaction was to do nothing. However, a meeting with Mr. Bell convinced me that he was a disciplined practical engineer not given to exaggeration or flights of fancy. So we agreed to embark on a series of independent tests on one barracks block, one wreck, and one smelter; if anyone could disprove his results, we would not publicize his work.

The barracks block was the ruins Cedric had scanned under an Akaroa cricket grounds, where satellite photographs taken in midsummer had shown the grass above the buried walls to be parched; the walls were outlined when looked at from space.

We retained an independent company, GPR Geophysical Services of Auckland, to carry out a ground-penetrating radar survey there. These corroborated Cedric’s work, save that one of the walls seemed too straight to be true. We asked the local authorities for underground plans of buried service pipes beneath the cricket pitch. The dead straight wall was one of these, but the barracks’ other three outer and interior walls were not. Cedric Bell was vindicated on that one.

We chose the smelter at Le Bons Bay, near Akaroa, because it was on public land, easily visible and accessible, and near iron ore deposits. Moreover, it had a sophisticated design: two streams powered a water turbine, which in turn powered air compressors to raise the firing temperature of the ore. There was a storage house nearby. Accelerometer mass spectrography and carbon-dating tests were conducted by Rafter Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory and by Waikato University (both of international standing and previously unknown to me or Cedric Bell) on different old buildings. The dating certificates can be seen on our website. Cedric Bell’s conclusion that this smelter had been worked before Europeans arrived, by an unknown people (the Maoris did not smelt iron), was proved correct; smelting by sophisticated methods with high firing temperatures had been in use before the Maori.

Research by Dr. R. N. Holdaway corroborated this. Asian rat bones he had found in New Zealand were shown by carbon dating to be two thousand years old. As rats cannot swim more than a few yards, humans must have brought them.

The wreck selected for analysis was also in Le Bons Bay, not far from the smelter, covered by sand and underwater other than at low tide. Analysis carried out by GPR showed two foreign objects of the same size and the same position as Cedric Bell’s magnetic anomaly survey with the same shapes. (Results are on our website.)

Cedric Bell’s survey of a barracks, a smelter, and a wreck had by now been investigated by several methods by different reputable organizations whose results had in broad terms corroborated his work. Their findings disclosed that a sophisticated people who arrived by junks had lived and worked in New Zealand long before the Maoris, the Europeans, or, indeed, before the arrival of Zheng He’s fleets.

Our next research was into the Maori people. Who were they? Dr. Geoffrey Chambers and his team, notably Adele Whyte, had conducted DNA tests to find the answer. They concluded that the Maori mitochondrial DNA was Chinese from Taiwan, as the foreign minister of New Zealand, Dr. Winston Peters, agreed in his address at the meeting in Malaysia of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 25, 2006: “My point is very simple, that the indigenous people of New Zealand came from China…. DNA is irrefutable evidence.”

We now hope the New Zealand government will moderate its approach in representing New Zealand’s early history: in particular that sites currently off limits to the New Zealand people will be opened; and that human bones that predate the Maoris’ arrival now in possession of the New Zealand government will be DNA-tested. I have offered to pay for these tests, and a distinguished professor of genetics at Oxford University with a worldwide reputation has agreed to conduct them. All we now await is government agreement.

Cedric Bell Returns to New Zealand

After tests on his earlier finds had been concluded, Cedric Bell returned to New Zealand in 2004 and found yet more startling evidence—including wrecked junks impaled upside down high on the cliffs of South Island. The outline of the wooden hull was clearly visible. So was the concrete hull lining, which was proved by analysis to be manmade from a mixture of burnt lime and volcanic ash. Marks were found in the cement where it had been bonded to the hull by rice glue. Some wrecks were charred; some were upside down and tilted as if a giant had hammered them into the cliffs; some rose nearly one hundred feet above the sea. The cliffs sometimes disgorged cannonballs, counterweights, and miscellaneous objects including the remains of a ship’s bell, a laminated knife, and a very old Buddhist brooch inscribed with the Chinese word for “mountain.”

The only feasible explanation for such widespread destruction was a tsunami. Great waves had smashed the junks into the cliffs, leaving them impaled when the seas subsided. We learned that Professor Ted Bryant of Wollongong University had published in a carefully documented book, Tsunami: The Underrated Hazard, his findings that New Zealand’s South Island had been devastated by fires and by a tsunami sometime between 1410 and 1490—dates that he obtained from den-drochronography of the trees. Professor Bryant’s book was published well before my own 1421. As New Zealand lies on a fault line, the tsunami and forest fires could have been caused by a seismic event, as many New Zealand experts, including Dr. J. R. Goff, have argued. However, an earthquake would not explain how the wrecks had been turned to charcoal before being impaled in the cliffs, for it would not cause massively hot fires in the ocean from whence the junks had come.

Professor Bryant’s book describes how the Aborigines in Australia and the Maoris in New Zealand both reported a comet being the cause of the “mystic fires.” Both Chinese and Mayan astronomers describe a large blue comet seen in Canis Minor for twenty-six consecutive days in June 1430, a date compatible with Professor Bryant’s den-drochronography. Then in November 2003 Dallas Abbott and her team at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, announced that they had found that the comet had impacted the sea between Campbell Island and the South Island, blasting a crater twelve kilometers across.

Let us now imagine a fleet of junks sailing north after leaving Campbell Island, homeward bound. Two days out from Auckland Island, the lookout would have reported a group of low-lying islands right ahead (the Snares Islands at 48°10' N, 166°40' E). The fleet would have to alter course to round the islands: one half turns east, the other west, and the two halves are some twenty miles apart centered on position 48°10' N, 166° 55' E.

Then comes the comet, twenty-six times brighter than the sun, its hundred decibels screaming, blowing out the eardrums of the sailors. Its colossal heat sets their skin on fire. Then the comet hits the ocean some sixty miles south of the combined fleet. Gigantic waves, more than six hundred feet high, toss the ships about like matchsticks. The masts and rigging are afire, fanned by four-hundred-mile-an-hour winds. Here is the extract that Dallas Abbott, Andrew Matzen, and Stephen F. Peckar of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and Edward A. Bryant, of the University of Wollongong, Australia, submitted to the meeting of the Geological Society of America in the fall of 2003:

Goff attributes coastal abandonment in New Zealand in 1500 A.D. to an earthquake-induced tsunami event. However, the largest historical earthquake produced maximum tsunami run-ups of forty to sixty metres [150 to 200 feet]. On Stewart Island, New Zealand, beach sand is present ~220 metres [720 feet] above sea level at Hellfire hut and ~150 metres [500 feet] above sea level at Mason Bay. In eastern Australia there are mega tsunami deposits with maximum run ups of 130 metres [425 feet] and a carbon 14 age of about 1503. Mega tsunami deposits occur on the eastern side of Lord Howe Island in the middle of the Tasman Sea, implying a source for the crater further east. We named this source crater Mahuika for the Maori God of Fire. Mahuika crater is approximately 20 kilometres [about 12 miles] wide and at least 153 metres [502 feet] deep. It is on the New Zealand continental shelf 48.3°S and 166°4'E. Several pieces of evidence point to Mahuika as the source crater for the 1500 A.D. event. The first is that the crater lies on a great circle path from Australia oriented at about a 45 degree angle to the general trend of the eastern Australia coast. Mega tsunami deposits near Wollongong and at Jervis Bay, Australian suggest a tsunami wave oriented at this angle to the coast. The second is the sub bottom depth of the impact deposits. We have found impact ejecta in all of the dredges near the crater. Because marine sediments are deposited at a rate of about 1 cm [.39 inch] per thousand years, this is expected if the impact deposit is only 500 years old. We are seeking c-14 dates to confirm this. The third is the distribution of tektites, which are found on the opposite side of the crater from the direction of impactor arrival. Although we found impact ejecta in many samples, only some samples contained tektites. All tektite-bearing samples are located SE of the crater, in the opposite direction from SE Australia, where the impact fireball was seen by the Aborigines.

In more recent correspondence, the Lamont-Doherty team has narrowed the dating to 1430–1455. The impact fireball was seen over 1,000 miles away. The tsunami was more than 220 meters (700 feet) high when it reached Stewart Island farther north (beach sand had been carried to that height) and 130 meters (400 feet) when it reached Australia. The wind’s maximum velocity would have been 403 miles per hour (Lamont-Doherty calculations). Increased pressure caused by the comet’s kinetic energy would have created a Coriolis effect on wind direction. Waves radiating outward from the impact zone running up New Zealand’s south coast smashed the ships into the cliffs; many others were hurled ashore on either side of the Tasman Strait in southeast Australia.

Cedric Bell’s full report on the junks impaled on New Zealand cliffs is contained on our website www.1421.tv under the heading “Independent Reports” and includes a full schedule of wrecks with the latitude and longitude of each. The eighty wrecks he had discovered by 2004 are from three principal locations: at the Catlins on New Zealand’s southeast coast; farther north around Moeraki; and north again around the Banks Peninsula.

The wrecks on Australia’s south and east coast can be briefly summarized as follows. The one on the east side of King Island has brass pins similar to those in the Ruapuke wreck. After storms the wreck on the east coast of Tasmania in Storm Bay disgorges Hong Wu (Zhu Di’s father) coins. The first settlers to reach Kangaroo Island found feral Chinese pigs. Other feral pigs around Warrnambool have similar flea characteristics (Asian and European pigs have very different fleas). There are a further three unidentified wrecks between Warrnambool and Kangaroo Island. The stretch of coast named the Coorong includes a number of old “Chinaman’s” wells. According to the aboriginal people who live along this stretch of coast, foreign people settled among them after a shipwreck that occurred long before Europeans arrived.

The tsunami from the Mahuika impact position would have carried wrecked junks towards Australia. As they approached the coast to the north of the Bass Strait, the coriolis winds would have driven them through the Bass Straits dumping two on Flinders Island, one on the east coast of King Island near the Elephant River, another on the Warrnambool coast, and on Kangaroo Island. Wrecks here are compatible with known facts about the Mahuika comet and resultant tsunami, as are Cedric Bell’s discoveries in New Zealand’s South Island.

Evidence of the Tsunami: a Wrecked Chinese Fleet in Oregon and British Columbia

On January 31, 2007, Mr. Dave Cotner, an eighty-two-year-old American citizen, e-mailed me from his home in Las Vegas, describing his finding of what he believed were the remains of a very old Chinese junk buried about 130 deep in sand dunes inland some 1,600 yards from the ocean. Like Cedric Bell, Mr. Cotner had made his discovery using the magnetic anomaly system.

I met Mr. Cotner in Las Vegas the following February 20. Together we studied the plans of his findings. The next day, we flew to Coos Bay, Oregon, hired a car and explored the site.

The wreck is in William Tugman State Park, part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The location, at approximately 43°30' N, is where the Caribbean explorers Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Bartolome Ferrello had reported a wrecked Chinese junk in 1542. Dave Cotner’s MAS survey had shown the wreck of a seven-masted wooden ship broken in half lying on its side, listed about twenty degrees to port under twenty to forty feet of sand at about seventy-five feet above sea level. The anchor extends to the northwest of the wreck. When Mr. Cotner originally found the wreck in 1985, he dug an eight-foot hole, put in a pump, and extracted wood. He found the wreck to be a very odd shape, resembling a barge constructed of large (twenty-four inches square) timbers for a keel running its full length. The position of the anchor indicated that it was in use when disaster struck. The position of the anchor relative to the wreck showed that the junk must have been carried sideways to be dumped sixteen hundred yards inshore at an elevation of seventy-five feet by a wave at about that height.

We based our planning on the assumption that the tsunami responsible was a result of the Mahuika comet and therefore would have hit the Oregon coast on its passage from New Zealand on a bearing of about 040. The beach shallows gradually into the ocean over several hundred yards—an ideal condition for a tsunami run-up—there are no outlying islands to blunt the force of the impact.

We decided to start the magnetic anomaly soundings just seaward of the wreck, then move down the sand dunes on a track of 220 degrees toward the ocean. Whenever Mr. Cotner found something we would stop and read out the satellite position and I would take a photograph. (The satellite readings at that stage meant nothing—they were eight-and ten-figure numbers.) On return to shelter we plotted out the magnetic anomalies and realized we had evidence that the junk had broken up on its passage as it was carried by a huge wave from its anchorage onto the sand dunes, littering evidence along its track as it disintegrated.

The shoreline slopes so gently toward the ocean that waves are accentuated—although it was only blowing force five during our visit, the waves were quite ugly. A junk stranded ashore would have been smashed to bits in no time. Ferrello could not possibly have recognized it as a junk 110 years later and must have seen it well inshore; subsequent sandstorms would have covered it in a shroud. We commissioned further testing to obtain a three-dimensional picture of the wreck (as we did at Sacramento) and will approach the authorities with these images requesting permission to excavate them. They corroborate Dave Cotner’s MAS survey.

Evidence of the Tsunami in Western Canada: Wrecked Chinese Junks Between 43°N and Vancouver Island

Among numerous reports, here is one made long ago of a wreck on Clatsop Beach north of where the Cotner junk was found. It is a Chinook legend, “First Ship seen by the Clatsop,” narrated by Franz Boas which starts with an old woman walking along the beach in search of her lost son. She saw something she thought was a whale. But when she came nearer, she saw two spruce trees standing upright on it. “Behold, it is a monster,” she thought.

When she reached the thing she saw that its outer side was all covered in copper. Ropes were tied to these spruce trees, and it was full of iron. Then a bear came out of it. He stood on the thing that lay there. “He looked just like a bear,” said the old woman, reporting her find to onlookers, “but his face was that of a human being”1

A man climbed up from the beach and went down into the ship. When he looked about in the interior he saw it was full of boxes. He found brass buttons in strings [coins with holes in the middle]—half a fathom long. The Clatsop people gathered the iron, the copper and the brass.”

This story is corroborated by the oral history of the Seneca Indians, who say Chinese landed on what is now the Washington-Oregon coast before the Europeans got there. Apparently a small craft landed during summer months and met the local Indian people. A fleet returned during the winter months expecting a similar welcome, but they were wiped out by the Crow people, who had come down from the plains to escape a harsh winter.2

Queen Charlotte and Vancouver Islands appear in the Waldseemüeller (1507) and Zatta maps (1776)3 drawn before western Europeans reached British Columbia, that is, before Vancouver or Cook. Zatta calls Vancouver Island “Colonia dei Chinesi” and gives as authority the Russian explorers who found Chinese there when they arrived in 1728 (Bering) and 1741 (Chirikov). Russian hydrographers in Vladivostok have found Chirikov’s drawings of these Chinese people.

Hugo Grotius (1624) reporting Galvão: “The people of China…sailed ordinarily the coast, which seems to reach unto 70 degrees towards the north,” that is, as far north as the Bering Strait.

When Major Powers of the U.S. Army arrived to take over administration from the Franciscans in the Klamath Valley, Oregon, he found a Chinese colony (40° N). All along the coast from 40° to 50° N there is extensive evidence of wrecked Chinese ships of Zhu Di (1403–1424) and the Xuan De emperor (1426–1435). Both emperors had built massive fleets. Professor Long Fei and Dr. Sally Church of Cambridge University, who examined the Shi-lu, Official Shipbuilding Records for 1403–1419, report: 2,726 Junks were built in these sixteen years of which a minimum of 343 and a maximum of 2,020 would have been available to Zheng He. 4

Evidence of the Tsunami Along the North American West Coast

At Susanville, California, a beautiful Xuan De (1426–1435) brass plate was found buried in woodland.

The University of Oregon Anthropological Paper Number 23 (1981) reports the discovery by Herbert K. Beals and Harvey Steele of Chinese porcelain from the Netarts Sand Spit (45°29' N), 150 miles north of the Cotner Junk: “Between 1956 and 1958 the archaeological site designated 35-TI-I was excavated under the direction of L. S. Crossman of the University of Oregon. In 1958 excavations in House 13 of their site, under the supervision of Thomas M. Newman led to the recovery of 127 fragments of Chinese porcelain.”

The report then breaks down the finds into two groups: possible Cheng Hua; Yung Lo (Zhu Di) and Hsuan Te (Xuan De.) The authors conclude: “It is of course possible that early Ming porcelain could have been brought over on Chinese junks or trading journeys in post-Columbian times. This however does appear logically to be doubtful. We can’t imagine porcelain for seafaring voyages to be antique especially as antiquity was so highly valued.”

The curator of the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, inland from the Netarts Sand Spit, where the ceramics were found, informed me of a large pulley made of calophyllum, an Asian wood found in the sea and given to the Horner Museum at Corvallis.5 It has been dated 1410.

Ozette, a few days’ sailing north of the Cotner Junk, is a Makah village buried by a mudslide in the 1770s. The Department of Anthropology of Washington State University has published three volumes of Ozette Archaeological Project Research Reports6comparing hundreds of reports of people who have contributed since initial excavations were begun in 1966. According to one report, “a section of the hillside above Ozette village gave way…and the liquefied clay roared downhill, displacing or crushing everything in its path. This part of the village was densely packed with longhouses.”

Excavations of these longhouses and their middens has been carried out methodically and carefully, separating out the different eras. Of relevance to this report is the use of iron tools and the evidence of trade with Japan between 1400 and 1450 (Makah people did not smelt iron).

In an article in Contributions to Human History,7 Royal British Columbia Museum’s curator Grant Keddie examines claims that native Indian cultures of the north Pacific coast of North America were influenced by prehistoric contact (i.e., pre-European) with advanced cultures of China. He concludes:

The native use of large numbers of Chinese coins on the northwest coast as a result of the fur trade is well documented in the journals of early explorers and traders. The manufacturing dates of Chinese coins traded to North American Indians and introduced later by Chinese immigrants were most often a pre-contact (before European) date…. It is clear that the temporal and spatial context of late prehistoric trade between Old and New worlds is in need of further study.

Since 1990 when the above report was published a mass of new evidence of pre-Columbus Chinese voyages to the Americas has been found: wrecks at Long Beach, Vancouver Island, said to be carrying rice; a Chinese vase dredged by the trawler Beaufort Seaoff Ucluelet and another off Tofino (west Vancouver Island); a wreck said to be of a Chinese junk north of Sequim in the Juan de Fuca Strait; a Chinese talisman and lamp (pre-Columbus), bronze figurines of the god Garuda, and ancient Chinese bronzes on Vancouver Island; old Chinese coins at Chinlac; Chinese bronzes hauled up from the Strait of Juan de Fuca; inexplicable stone structures and stone cairns.

Number of Wrecked Junks

Taking all of the above findings into account, it seems that at least thirty junks were wrecked along the coast between 41 and 49° N. If that is so, there should be evidence that a substantial number of survivors got ashore—as was the case following a similar catastrophe in New Zealand (Cedric Bell report).

Chinese Settlements on the Columbia River

Some of the evidence of wrecked junks is near the five-mile-wide entrance to the Columbia River. One hundred fifty miles upriver where the river hooks to the east, just north of Portland, lies Lake Vancouver. There in the narrow valley of Lake River hundreds of ceramic artefacts have been found, fired by “the Washington Potters,” a group who appeared from nowhere “around 1400” and disappeared equally suddenly three hundred years later.8 The U.S. Institute of Archaeological Studies concluded their pottery was Asian in form. A further 120 miles up the Columbia River in an area west of The Dalles is Hog Canyon, where pigs with short legs—said to be Chinese—ran wild until recently.

In lakes beside the Columbia River local people grew a potato-like vegetable called the wapato, which is native to China. The Nez Percé Indians, reached from the Columbia River, are well known for their very distinctive spotted horses called Appaloosa, shown in paintings of the Chinese Yuan dynasty.

Evidence along the Columbia River and across British Columbia suggests an old Chinese colony. Squamish Indians have accounts of Chinese traders before Europeans arrived, as do the Haida of Queen Charlotte Island, who describe people sailing from the west toward the sunrise. Nootka folklore has “visitors from afar” who came before the Europeans. The indigenous people of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound believe the Chinese logged off large tracts of forest hundreds of years ago. Totem poles on Vancouver Island and on the Washington coast are identical to those of China’s Wuhan Province. Potlach ceremonies in both places are the same. More than thirty words spoken by the Haida people have the same meaning in Chinese—tsil (hot); chin (wood); etsu (grandmother). Olympic State Park has its Ho River and Vancouver Island its China Beach and China Hill. Local people there offer up white dogs as sacrifice “to bring heaven’s blessings” as they do in China.

DNA Evidence

Mariana Fernandez-Cobo and colleagues9 examined the ubiquitous DNA virus polyomavirus JC of Salish people who once lived on the Pacific coast. They describe in layperson’s language how they analyzed the urine of these peoples and found that the benign kidney disorder of “Japan” (i.e., Mongolia and Japan) strains MY[ZA] and Tokyo-1 are identical to Salish MT-1 [ZA] and MT-3 [ZA]. In short, the Salish who now live in Montana and the Mongolian/Japanese people tested have the same ancestors.

The Cotner Junk is a vital piece of evidence in many ways. First, it appears to corroborate the extensive evidence of the tsunami that Cedric Bell has found in the wrecked junks in New Zealand. Secondly, it should provide evidence about Zheng He’s junks—knowledge that can be passed to builders of a replica for the Beijing Olympic Games. Third, it serves as a focal point in gathering evidence of the voyages of Zheng He to America. Publication of the details of the Cotner Junk will undoubtedly result in a tidal wave of new evidence.

Evidence of Wrecked Chinese Fleets in South America

We have received a great many e-mails relating to pre-Columbian presence of Chinese people and of wrecked junks in South America, especially in Peru. Details may be seen on our website by searching for Peru and Chile. Because I believe that at least one fleet was wrecked by the Mahuika tsunami, we have spent some time narrowing the search. Zheng He’s fleets would have traded with the civilizations then existing in South America.

Where those civilizations had their principal ports was determined by the unique geography of South America. The Andes Mountains straddle the equator; as they march south they widen and the coastal plain that starts a hundred miles wide in Ecuador gets narrower and narrower until in Chile it is only twenty miles wide. Where the massif broadens in the south, a grassland plateau some 11,500 feet high emerges between the peaks. Running westward from the high Altiplano down to the sea are innumerable small rivers like legs of a centipede. To the east of the Andes stretches a wide, hot, low plain, which soaks up moist winds from the Atlantic. As the wet winds spread westward they deluge the Brazilian forest with rain before dumping the remainder on the Andes, which, due to their height, falls as snow. In spring between September and April, the winds freshen. For a brief period, snow even reaches the high slopes of the western Andes. When the snow melts in summer, water cascades down the “centipede” rivers into the Pacific. Thus starting at the equator and traveling eastward one encounters an astonishing diversity of climates. First comes the bone-dry strip of coast; then the western slopes of the Andes punctuated every thirty miles or so by rivers full of water some three months of the year; then the high, cold grassy plateau, the Altiplano with plenty of rain for a quarter of the year; and finally the hot, low, wet Amazon jungle.

The bone-dry desert coast exists because of the cold Humboldt Current flowing northward from the Antarctic and a high-pressure system far out in the Pacific, a combination that prevents rainfall. Consequently there is no word for “rain” in either the Quechua or Aymara languages. Instead, in winter the coast is covered by a fine mist, which is burnt off as the sun heats up the land. The Chinese name for this mist is Peru.

As the Humboldt Current rises to the surface, it brings millions of tons of plankton from its depths. Small fish feed on the plankton, attracting larger fish, which in turn attract sea lions. The water yields 1,680 kilograms of fish per hectare, almost a thousand times the world average. The most vivid way of seeing this extraordinary richness is by ship (or submarine) from out in the Pacific; the Humboldt Current is delineated by acrobatic displays of huge flocks of seabirds diving into the water to gorge themselves. Millions of these birds nest ashore, producing an endless supply of guano fertilizer.

So the people living along the Pacific coast of southern Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile had an endless bounty of fish, shellfish, birds, and sea lions for food. Their river valleys were full of water for a quarter of the year, and they had plenty of fertilizer. So it is not surprising that this stretch of coast has produced rich human civilizations since the dawn of time. The land had as much to offer as the Nile, the rivers of Mesopotamia, the Ganges, or the rivers of China. South American civilizations are hence as old as any on the planet: Peru’s Caral Supe are about 5,000 years old; Chinese civilization is 3,900 years old; India, 4,600; Egypt, 5,300; and Mesopotamia, 5,700.

The greatest civilizations of the Pacific coast of South America, starting with the sites of Caral and Chavín, were based between the Lambayeque River in northern Peru and the Ica River in southern Peru. South of the Ica the coast narrows considerably, and north of the Lambayeque the Humboldt Current and its fish supplies peter out. Since Peru was home to the richest civilization of them all, this area would have attracted Zheng He.

This part of Peru is awash with evidence of Chinese visitors over the past two thousand years. There are still one hundred villages in the Ancash region of Peru that retain their Chinese names to this day. Inca people have East Asian admixture in their blood to such an extent that their DNA profile could almost be called Chinese. (Professor Gabriel Novick and colleagues—see www.1421.tv, then ‘Evidence’, then ‘Part VII—The Genetic legacy of Zheng He’s fleets’)10

The clearest possible evidence can be seen in Lima’s Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera, which has 45,000 exhibits from graves of the Cupisnique period (1000 B.C.) through the Moches (A.D. 400–800) and more recent Nasca, Chimu, and Chanca periods. I asked the most helpful curator, Mr. Claudio Huarache, if there were portraits of Chinese merchants found on pottery from the graves. He immediately showed me beautiful paintings of Chinese from Moche, Chanca, and Nasca graves—spanning the past two thousand years and covering the whole coast of Peru north to south. A picture of a Chinese merchant is shown on our website.

Peru appears on Chinese world maps long before the 1418 map (Hendon Harris map collection) and before Zheng He’s nautical chart (which also shows Peru—see Liu Gang’s ‘Map speaks without words’ on www.1421.tv). Diego Ribero’s master chart of the world of 152911shows the coast of Peru in great detail, with an inscription that describes Peru as “province and cities of Chinese silk.” Ribero’s map was published before Pizarro (the first European) got to Peru. The Waldseemüller map, also published before Pizarro reached Peru, shows the Andes along the whole length of the South American coast.

So it seems safe to assume that Zheng He knew of Peru before he set sail. He would have visited ports where his fleets could trade. We know from the records of the first Spanish chronicles that in the 1420s the principal trading areas would have been Chan Chan in the north of Peru, then, coming south, Chancay (north of Lima), then Pachacamac in the southern suburbs of modern Lima, then Paracas some 150 miles south of Lima. Chancay suddenly started to mass-produce pottery in the 1420s, some of which they called “china.” My first thought was that Chancay was the port Zheng He visited (in medieval Castilian the name means “City of Chinese silk”), but unfortunately the place has been so badly looted it is impossible to be sure. So we need other clues.

The 1418 map has this description alongside Peru: “The local people practise Paracas religion.” It also shows a river on the Peruvian coast. When Liu Gang published the map I researched Jesuit and Franciscan records to find when this religion was first mentioned in European annals. To my surprise there were no mentions at all. To find out more we drove south to the Paracas Peninsula, which today is a national reserve protected by the Peruvian government. Here is the Julio Tello site museum, which provided the answer to the riddle. The Paracas people buried their dead in very rich funerary bundles made of a fabric the local cotton and vicuña wool dyed with beautiful natural colors. The fabric was first seen on the Lima market in the late nineteenth century and examined by Max Uhle, a German archeologist, who named it as Early Inca culture.

Photographic Insert 3

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A typical scene at the papal court—Pinturicchio depicts the court of Pope Pius II.

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Florence and her most famous son, Leonardo da Vinci.

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RENAISSANCE MEN AND THEIR OUTPUT BEFORE AND AFTER 1434

Timeline showing key dates in the Italian Renaissance.

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Ephemeris table from the Pepysian Library, Cambridge University.

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Needham’s postcard is self-explanatory.

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Regiomontanus’ ephemeris tables.

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Chinese astronomy was clearly more advanced than European efforts until after the 1434 Chinese visit to Florence.

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Where do future discoveries lead us? To America and beyond…

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