14 November 2020
It might be another chilly fall day for many of us, but for Dr. Sheng-Wei Wang, it is anything but ordinary. In her latest publication “Chinese explored Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica long before the Europeans”, she makes an in-depth analysis of the Chinese world map, referred to as the Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography, published in 1602 by the Italian Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci, and his Chinese collaborators. She extracts important geographical information from the expansive and contiguous land mass at the southern edge of this map to conclude that the Ming Treasure Fleets sailed to Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica long before the Europeans, and that Ricci’s depiction of this land mass is actually a combination of the knowledge gained from Zheng He’s sixth voyage and the Europeans’ concept of Terra Australis Incognita. Her exciting findings are well corroborated by T. C. Bell’s extensive archeological surveys in New Zealand and the Chinese Treasure Ship wrecks he located there.
It is found in this paper that a Chinese-based world map ‒ Complete Geographical Map of All the Kingdoms of the World ‒ published by Matteo Ricci in 1602 in China includes many geographical facts about Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. Ricci’s published map has a Chinese name ‒ Kunyu Wanguo Quantu《坤舆万国全图》abbreviated as KWQ in this paper ‒ and the important and detailed geographical information is contained inside the huge and contiguous land mass ‒ Mo Wa La Ni Jia 墨瓦蠟泥加 ‒ at the southern edge of the map. Yet, the contour of that land looks surprisingly similar to its counter parts on the three major European world maps of the sixteenth century, there called Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown South Land), a hypothetical continent. People wonder: why does KWQ ‒ shown to be based on a fifteenth century Chinese source map ‒ contain this sixteenth century European map feature which was never present in the pre-1602 Chinese maps? In this paper, I analyse these four maps in great depth, while supporting my findings with those of the modern archaeological surveys made in New Zealand by British surveyor T. C. Bell. My conclusions are: 1) Chinese explored Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica long before the Europeans; 2) European cartographers in the sixteenth century took the Chinese information and drew the contour of a contiguous and extended Australia (but not New Zealand) and possibly Antarctica as part of their Terra Australis Incognita; 3) the detailed geographical information contained in Mo Wa La Ni Jia 墨瓦蠟泥加 on KWQ was discovered by Zheng He’s mariners during their sixth voyage to the Western Ocean in the 1420s; but most of that information is absent from the sixteenth century European maps; 4) a meteorite hypothesised to have crashed into the sea near New Zealand in the fifteenth century should be around the mid-1430s; this is supported by T. C. Bell’s discoveries that many carbonised Chinese ship wrecks were in their harbours and these likely include ships of Zheng He’s Seventh Fleet; and 5) Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica are joined together as parts of the contiguous and expansive land area of Mo Wa La Ni Jia 墨瓦蠟泥加 on KWQ, implying that a compromise was made by Ricci and his Chinese collaborators between truthfully presenting the Chinese source map and retaining the European representation of Terra Australis Incognita, to avoid offending either community.
Keywords: Antarctica, Australia, Kunyu Wanguo Quantu, Matteo Ricci, meteorite, New Zealand, Zheng He(郑和)
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