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The Chinese & The New World

24 Jul

We are going to quote from an article that reminds of Gavin Menzies work on the Chinese and his thesis that that nation discovered so much of the new world. This article comes from the Bible & Spade Magazine, vol. 11 1998. The title of the article is: Tale of Two Cultures: Ancient Chinese Dynasty Linked to New World’s Earliest Civilization

We will let you read the excerpts for yourself and not make comment and you can make comparisons to Mr. Menzies work if you so wish.  While we accept the fact that the Chinese may have traveled the world, we do not necessarily agree that they influenced much of the New World.

That idea remains to be seen.

Abroad for the first time in his life, Han Ping Chen, a scholar of ancient Chinese, landed at Dulles International Airport near Washington DC the night of September 18, 1996. Next morning, he paced in front of the National Gallery of Art, waiting for the museum to open so he could visit an Olmec exhibit—works from Mesoamerica’s spectacular “mother culture” that emerged suddenly with no apparent antecedents, 3, 200 years ago. After a glance at a 10 ton basalt sculpture of a head, Chen faced the object that prompted his trip: an Olmec sculpture found in La Venta, 10 mi south of the southernmost cove of the Gulf of Mexico.

What the Chinese scholar saw was 15 male figures made of serpentine or jade, each about 6 in tall. Facing them were a taller sandstone figure and six upright, polished, jade blades called celts. The celts bore incised markings, some of them faded. Proceeding from right to left, Chen scrutinized the markings silently, grimacing when he was unable to make out more than a few squiggles on the second and third celts. But the lower half of the fourth blade made him jump. “I can read this easily,” he shouted. “Clearly, these are Chinese characters.”…

For diffusionists, Olmec art offers a tempting arena for speculation. Carbon-dating places the Olmec era between 1000 and 1200 BC, coinciding with the Shang dynasty’s fall in China. American archaeologists unearthed the group sculpture in 1955. Looking at the sculpture displayed in the National Gallery, as well as other Olmec pieces, some Mexican and American scholars have been struck by the resemblances to Chinese artifacts. In fact, archaeologists initially labeled the first Olmec figures found at the turn of the century as Chinese. Migrations from Asia over the land bridge 10,000-15, 000 years ago could account for the Chinese features, such as slanted eyes, but not for the stylized mouths and postures peculiar to sophisticated Chinese art that emerged in recent millennia.

Yet, until Chen made his pilgrimage to the museum, no Shang specialist had ever studied the Olmec. The scholar emerged from the exhibit with a theory. After the Shang army was routed and the emperor killed, he suggested, some loyalists might have sailed down the Yellow River and taken to the ocean. There, perhaps, they drifted with a current which skirts Japan’s coast, heads for California and peters out near Ecuador. Betty Meggers, a senior Smithsonian archaeologist who has linked Ecuadorian pottery to 5,000 year old shipwrecked Japanese pottery, says such an idea is “plausible” because ancient Asian mariners were far more proficient than given credit for…

But Chen’s identification of the celt markings sharpens the controversy over origins even further. For example, Mesoamericanist Michael Coe at Yale University labels Chen’s search for Chinese characters as insulting to the indigenous people of Mexico. There are only about a dozen experts worldwide in the Shang script, which is largely unrecognizable to readers of modern Chinese. When Prof. Mike Xu, a professor of Chinese history at the University of Central Oklahoma, traveled to Beijing to ask Chen to examine his index of 146 markings from pre-Columbian objects, Chen refused, saying he had no interest in anything outside China. He relented only after a colleague familiar with Xu’s work insisted that Chen, as China’s leading authority, take a look. He did and found that all but three of Xu’s markings could have come from China…

Xu was at Chen’s side in the National Gallery when the Shang scholar read the text on the Olmec celt in Chinese and translated: “The ruler and his chieftains establish the foundation for a kingdom.” Chen located each of the characters on the celt in three well-worn Chinese dictionaries he had with him. Two adjacent characters are usually read as “master and subjects,” but Chen decided that in this context they might mean “ruler and his chieftains.” The character on the line below he recognized as the symbol for “kingdom” or “country” — two peaks for hills, a curving line underneath for river. The next character, Chen said, suggests a bird but means “waterfall” completing the description. The bottom character he read as “foundation” or “establish,” implying the act of founding something important. If Chen is right, the celts not only offer the earliest writing in the New World, but mark the birth of a Chinese settlement more than 3, 000 years ago.

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in academics, archaeology, education, history

 

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