China mapped world before Columbus

Chinese mapped the world before Columbus – The Impossible Black Tulip “Kun Yu Wan Guo Quan Tu”, a 1430 Chinese World Map 

Siu-Leung Lee, PhD (2013.10.01)

In 1602,  the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci presented a world map to Ming Emperor Wanli (萬曆). A zoomable copy of the map is available on the Internet at:

1602map

1602map-colorIt has always been thought to be translated and compiled from maps by Ortelius and Mercator, who are considered to be the two most important figures in modern cartography.  However, on close examination of the 1602 world map and the original maps of Ortelius and Mercator, it is clear that most of the information is not from European sources of Ricci’s time. Instead, the map is drawn around 1430 CE from Chinese information. This finding indicates that Ming Chinese already knew about the world 60 years before Christopher Columbus’ first voyage in 1492, and 90 years before Magellan’s circumnavigation in 1520. The geography of the 1602 world map reflects a world of 1430 in the eyes of Chinese, except for a few names added by Matteo Ricci.

This finding overturns the following historical dogma:

  • Ming Chinese mariners only reached East Africa
  • Columbus discovered America in 1492
  • Matteo Ricci brought world geography to China

The detailed research is published in my book:

《坤輿萬國全圖解密-明代測繪世界》(聯經出版社,2012)

1602Map book cover

1602 Chinese world map book cover

This book addresses the following questions:

An English version of the book is being prepared.

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