GeoCarta Has Moved

Jan 23, 2006

National Geographic: Chinese Map Likely A Fake

National Geographic has weighed in on the disputed Chinese map in an article headlined, "'Chinese Columbus' Map Likely Fake, Experts Say". The map in question has been claimed by some to be a 1763 copy of a map originally drawn in 1418 that purports to depict the voyages of Chinese explorer discover Zheng He. Since the map displays all of the continents, including Australia, North America, and Antarctica, supporters have offered the map as proof that He circumnavigated the globe and "discovered" America.

In calling into question the authenticity of the map, National Geographic echoes other historians that the map does not fit the style of the period. However, the article offers two new arguments against its authenticity:

China Is Not Centered
Many experts say that the fact that China is not centered in the map suggests that Chinese did not make the map. , one expert says. John Hébert, the chief of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is quoted as saying, "I don't know of any entity at any time, Chinese or otherwise, that did not usually center their cartographic pieces with them[selves] in the middle."

Copy Of A French Map?
The map shows what is now the State of California as an island. Hébert described such a depiction to the National Geographic as being very common among French cartographers of the 17th century, saying, "That is too much, taken out of what I've seen by French mapping for that [17th] century … [It] almost begs as if we're looking at a 17th-century French world map that had been converted."

A piece of the map is currently being dated by radiocarbon at a lab in New Zealand. However, even if the lab determines that he paper is from the 17th century, that will not authenticate it, since it could be a forgery on old paper.