In college, me and one of my friends had a joke, much to the dismay of our racially mixed group. And the joke went “China invented it first!” Neither of us have particularly strong ties to the current communist republic of the people, his family is in Taiwan and my family has been in the US for a while, but there’s still a kind of pride we felt for Chinese history and culture and a need to defend the country against haters.
International trade and exploration overseas? The Chinese invented that!
Maybe. I’m not a big believer of Gavin Menzies, who says that the Chinese explored America 70 years before Columbus set foot there, but Zheng He was a real person. Zheng He commanded the Chinese fleet that sailed through southern Asia and Eastern Africa, giving away presents to show how powerful China was. This wasn’t imperial expansion the way that Europe “discovered new territories”. This was showing off.
Now, there’s more archeological evidence for Zheng He’s presence in China, courtesy of the Kenyan town of Mambrui. Watch the video here. A lot of the time, history sounds like this: “A long time ago, there were many peoples living in their own lands. Then Europe created countries, started exploring, and a global globe was born.” But that’s not how history went at all. European conquest as changed everyone’s lives, to be sure, but they weren’t the first to sail around China/India/Africa. That was the Chinese. And they weren’t the first to cross the Atlantic. That was the Norse men. And they weren’t the first to discover America. That was the Native Americans. Or at least, that’s as much as we know so far.