[orthodox-synod] Re: a myth...Chinese ships
- At 09:24 AM 10/4/1999 EDT, Father Andrew wrote:
>I recently read about a famous Chinese admiral whose ships plied the trade
>routes as far west as Arabia, as far East as the West Coast of the USA. Now
>then, the question is: Where did I read that?!
>Some years ago, for a Chinese friend, I did some research on the Chinese
>imperial navy. The "five times the size of Columbus's ships" is a
>quote from that research.Chinese
>Maybe I should not read so much? Or, at least I shouldn't read such
>diverse things. It is difficult to remember where one found those things.
>However, I shall make an effort, just for you, to find out about the
>and our West Coast.I can provide no light on Joseph Smith and his tablets of gold, but on
Chinese explorers and ships, I may be able to offer some insight.
It sounds like what you remember is an account of the Chinese "Star Raft"
expeditions, which climaxed in the first half of the 15th century, never to
be resumed. I do not know whether they reached the North American coast,
however, they indisputably did reach the east coast of Africa -- modern
Kenya and Tanzania. There are some indications that they knew of the Cape
of Good Hope, although nothing really definate.
The final expeditions were led by a Chinese admiral Zheng He (or Cheng Ho).
They consisted of thousands of ships (all sizes) and tens of thousands of
sailors, soldiers, and officials. They were not so much voyages of
exploration and exploitation in the Iberian sense -- since the Chinese
viewed themselves as the center of the world, the only civilized race, and
the only nation producing goods of value. (Who does that sound like today
-- other than the present-day Chinese, that is?) Rather, they were voyages
of elightenment, where the savages were going to be privileged by the very
presence of representatives of the Celestial Kingdom, and receive truth and
enlightenment thereby. (That sounds familiar, even today, also.)
The Chinese had at that time (12th through 15th centuries) some of the
largest and finest oceangoing craft in the world. Their junks were,
indeed, up to five times larger than Columbus's craft (which were
cockleshells -- I have built models of them), but about on par with large
18th century European warships -- first and second rate ships-of-the-line.
(Not terribly surprising, as there are physical limitatations on how big
you can build a wood-only ship.) They were also more advanced than
contemporary 12th to 15th century European ships -- having features such as
centerboard rudders, magnetic compasses, watertight compartments, and
The expeditions were discussed in the first chapters of Philip Snow's _The
Star Raft_ (1988, George Weidenfield and Nicholson, Ltd., London, UK, ISBN
0 297 79081 1) and were fictionally presented in Paul King's nautical
swashbucklers _The Dreamers_ and _The Voyagers._ which were out in 2"-thick
mass-market paperbacks in the early 1990s.
They have also been extensively discussed in the Maritime History
Listserver. Those interested can investigate the backfiles of that
Do keyword searches on "Star Raft," "Cheng Ho," "Junks," and "Chinese
It really happened -- which is proof of two old aphorisms: (1) Truth is
stranger than fiction, and (2) The most convincing lie is the truth told
Mark & Janet Lardas + family
- My favorite example of a discussion with Mormons is this:
One evening, I encountered two Mormon "elders," about 20 years of age. The
one who was talking asked: "Have you heard of the Book of Mormon?"
I answered: "Not only have I heard of it, I have read it."
"What did you think?" he asked.
"I think it is a 19th century novel."
"Oh," said the youthful elder, "we think it is the Word of God."
"I'm sure you do," I answered, "and, if it is the Word of God, it is without
He noded his head, as he said: "Of course."
"Well, then," I answered, "could you please explain to me why the Book of
Mormon says Jesus was born in Jerusalem? Did God make a mistake?"
One would have thought that a fatal error. Not so. He had a ready response.
"We perceive that higher education has ruined your ability to believe," the
"Son," I said, "we are not discussing my education. We are discussing your
book, which you say is the Word of God and without error. I have just
pointed out an error. What does this teach us?"
It taught us nothing. There are none so blind as those who will NOT see.
I did not even point out to him that, if Joseph Smith translated those Golden
Tablets, he brought into the Book of Mormon (by some mysterious process) some
of the same translation mistakes to be found in the King James Version of the
- Zheng He was the admiral. I remember that spelling.
However, as I recall, the touching base with the American west coast was
earlier than Zheng He.
And, you are correct. After him, the empire simply stopped building ships,
and dismantled the navy.
Amazing. But, China was the centre of the world. Why bother with anything