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One of the greatest secrets of history is the immense contribution of Chinese society to the Western world. Equally interesting, is the failure of some discovery in China to cross over to Western civilization, or even to survive into modern times. For example, a small pox vaccination was used in China in the 10th century, and then 800 years later in the West. However, the practice of modern diagnostic medicine was not widespread in China in more modern times. The mechanical clock was invented in China in the 8th century, and then independently in Europe in 1310. When the Chinese imperial court was shown a mechanical clock by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century, the scholars were awestruck.

There is an Immense contribution of Chinese Society to the Western World

Information in the form of invention and discovery is often shared (or incorporated) due to the nature of the perceived value to others. Technology exchange can begin any time new ideas are demonstrated, and of course no records exist for the vast number of interactions of civilizations over the centuries. Marco Polo's travels to China in the 13th century offered Western society a look at undiscovered (to them) goods and ideas. Ideas and inventions often were added to the "native" culture with little notice of the origination.

It seems that much of Western and Eastern knowledge of Chinese contributions have either been forgotten or overlooked. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1999, describes in the history of the magnetic compass, that the Chinese were using the magnetic compass around AD 1100, western Europeans by 1187, Arabs by 1220, and Scandinavians by 1300. But we know that Chinese ships reached the east coast of India prior to 1000 with help of the navigational compass.

Early in 2003, a fascinating speculative chronicle on Chinese discovery ( 1421: The Year China Discovered America) was released by the British author/historian/mariner Gavin Menzies, detailing evidence for Chinese exploration of the globe. The voyages of the massive fleet of the explorer Zheng He, sailing west from China in the fifteenth century is a fascinating story.

The author speculates and makes a strong case for Chinese exploration succeeding well beyond what is commonly taught World History (and unfortunately this important Asian history is often completely overlooked). Circumstances and artifacts in several locales serve to support Menzies' case, but much more scrutiny of facts in evidence will be required to validate some of his assertions. However the value in critically examining new ideas expands our understanding, and should not be interpreted as glorification of a specific culture, degrading another, or as gratuitous inclusion of some minority position.

As so much of Chinese history and culture have been buried by the centuries and purged by tyrants, arguments for history are developed by research and conjecture almost totally dependent on circumstantial evidence.

Link:  Western Civilization has learned many things
from the Chinese Civilization

Link:  Travel China

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