New Zealand plants introduced by Chinese?
kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jul 21 23:21:54 CDT 2004
I watched with interest a program on PBS tonight about the ideas of Gavin Menzies (that a Chinese fleet circumnavigated the world in 1421 and discovered America in the process). That the Chinese reached South Africa seems undisputed, but that they crossed the Atlantic is very much disputed (most notably by Chinese scholars). I must admit I am likewise somewhat skeptical about the crossing of the Atlantic in 1421.
So how does this involve taxonomy, you might ask? Some of the evidence for the Chinese circumnavigation seems to revolve around plants in New Zealand that are thought by some to have been brought there by the Chinese (especially those which occur in tropical America). Using this as evidence of a Chinese circumnavigation in 1421 seems rather simplistic, for two reasons: (1) introduction by later Europeans cannot be ruled out; and (2) a Chinese circumnavigation of the Pacific Ocean (NOT of the world) would fit just as well.
I am not disputing that Chinese fleets made extensive oceanic explorations in the early 15th Century----only that they may have been confined to the Indian and Pacific Oceans (and that the Atlantic excursions are perhaps a product of Menzies' imagination). But having learned of Menzies' ideas only a few hours ago, I certainly have not formed a solid opinion (just my initial reactions as related above). Anyway, here is a sampling of the part of the evidence that relates to the New Zealand flora (and which seems rather flimsy as an argument for a Chinese circumnavigation of the world in 1421):
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