Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Junk Sunk


A shame to see that the replica 16th Century Chinese junk, the Princess Taiping, has sunk off Taiwan, one day short of completing its epic voyage to America and back. The Ming dynasty-style Princess Taiping was trying to prove that China's admiral, Zheng He, could have reached North America 600 years ago a la the claims in Gavin Menzies's much talked about 1421. While the claims in 1421 may or may not be accurate (and most people I talk to think it not likely except the Chinese government who love the idea) the Princess Taiping would have been an interesting experiment.
Indeed it still is as it did survive several storms during its 10-month voyage and was only sunk after being broken in two after it was rammed by a freighter just off Taiwan's coast. Given that there weren’t any large metal freighters around during the Ming Dynasty we can assume Zheng He didn’t worry about them too much or collide with too many. Of course the Princess Taiping has slightly better maps, technology etc.

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