Journal cover Journal topic
Proceedings of the ICA
Journal topic
Articles | Volume 1
16 May 2018
 | 16 May 2018

Chinese Mapped America Before 1430

Siu-Leung Lee

Keywords: Kunyu Wanguo Quantu, Matteo Ricci, Zheng He, Age of Exploration

Abstract. Qualitative and quantitative comparison of Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (the 1602 Chinese world map) and contemporaneous world maps by Mercator (1569), Ortelius (1570) , Mercator’s Arctic map (1595), and Plancius (1594) in particular, reveals that the Chinese map is not an adapted copy from European maps. The Chinese world map includes geography of a pre-Renaissance Europe and American geography unknown to Europeans until more than 200 years after Ricci’s death. Approximately 50 % of the place names, including those of America, have no equivalents on European maps. Chinese names descriptive of the geographic feature of California peninsula, Mount Ranier, the fjords of Alaska, Mount Denali, tidal bore near Anchorage are all accurate by latitudes. Chile and Peru are correct by relative longitude. Contrarily, the maps by Plancius and Mercator are erroneous and ambiguous on the geography of North and South America. The geography and text of the Chinese world map are consistent with a completion date of 1430, some sixty years before Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. Martino Martini’s Novus Atlas Sinensis (1655) is not a survey of his own but translated from Chinese sources, revealing that Ming China was capable of determining longitude/latitude on land and ocean, as well as spherical projection. In conclusion, information about American geography was transferred from China to Europe, not the reverse. The Chinese world map Kunyu Wanguo Quantu is the result of Chinese circumnavigation and survey, pioneering the Age of Exploration, overturning 600 years of misinterpreted history.

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