Author: SL Lee
Date: 08-18-06 09:12
Geoff Wade of National Singapore University posted to MapHist Discussion group the following points to challenge the authenticity of the brass medallion uncovered in North Carolina. His original post can be found at http://www.maphist.nl/ under the archive of June 2006. Here is my response to his statements.
Wade: 1. The form is completely alien to any Chinese medal/tally of the Ming or any other dynasty.
Lee: I doubt if Dr. Wade has seen every medal/tally of Ming or any other dynasty. To make such blanket comments is beyond the normal attitude of an inquisitive mind of a scholar. If everything has been seen, said and done, there is no scientific discovery necessary. Proving something is absent is as difficult if not more difficult than proving its presence.
Wade: 2. Verification tallies contained reference to what the person was
appointed as, not a simple "appointed"
Lee: Zheng He was dispatched to announce the enthronement of Emperor Xuan De, as recorded in Ming history. He was not authorized to promote himself. Why should the medallion include Zheng He’s name or his title?
Wade: 3. The reign title (in this case Xuan-de) was never included in
verification tallies unless it was as a date (e.g. fourth year of the
Lee: No exact date and names of the fleet is labeled because the medallion could be used in any year in any repeated trip by any of Xuan De’s fleet. Why should the medallion limit its utility by having an exact date?
Wade: 4. The casting is completely amateurish, while verification tallies of
all sorts were created by the best craftsmen in China
Lee: The six words on the medallion were cast in an area of less than 1 sq cm, much smaller than those on coins. The medallion has been buried in direct contact of soil for hundreds of years. It might have been handled many times by the recipient. Considering the possible wear and tear, the craftsmanship is excellent.
Wade: 5. The metal is brass (rather than bronze) which suggests that it is fairly recent.
Lee: This is the most fatal comment inflicted by Geoff Wade on his own credibility. Claiming to be a Ming expert, yet Geoff Wade has no knowledge that Ming dynasty, specifically Xuan De era, is the time that China started to excel in brass technology exemplified by the famous XuanDe censers and coins. Zinc, called “倭鉛 woqian” in Chinese was recorded in a book written in 918AD. The extraction of zinc from the mineral 爐甘石 and making brass alloy is described in one chapter of “Tian Gong Kai Wu” 天工開物, the famous book on technology written by a Ming dynasty scholar 宋應星. This is a book available in any Chinese bookstore. If Geoff Wade cared to do some reading, he could have easily found this reference. Furthermore, there are quite a few research papers on minting of Chinese coins. The appearance of zinc in coins began in Song-Yuan period at very low contents (less than 1%), gradually increasing to 20% in Ming dynasty (JiaJing era). Zinc was already exported to Europe from China in 1605. [Joseph Needham]. In 1745 the Swedish ship Gotheborg sank at its home city Gotheborg. It was carrying a full load of porcelain and other goods from China. Among the goods were zinc ingots of 98.99% purity. This was one year before the German claim of discovering pure zinc. So, brass is not a recent invention at all.
It is irresponsible for a scholar to make any statement without doing some minimum research. Worse of all, Wade claims to be a Ming history expert, yet knows nothing of an important technology transition in this period.