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Admiral Zheng He's legacy in East Africa


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#41 X-Files

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 1659 PM

I hate to drag this kinda-sorta back on topic, but...


Here ya go -

http://www.pbs.org/w.../explorers.html

However, in 1962, the rudderpost of a treasure ship was excavated in the ruins of one of the Ming boatyards in Nanjing. This timber was no less than 36 feet long. Reverse engineering using the proportions typical of a traditional junk indicated a hull length of around 500 feet.

Unfortunately, other archeological traces of this "golden age" of Chinese seafaring remain elusive. One of the most intensively studied wrecks, found at Quanzhou in 1973, dates from the earlier Song period; this substantial double-masted ship probably sank sometime in the 1270's. Its V-shaped hull is framed around a pine keel over 100 feet long and covered with a double layer of intricately fitted cedar planking, thus clearly indicating its oceangoing character. Inside, 13 compartments held the residue of an exotic cargo of spices, shells, and fragrant woods, much of it originating in east Africa

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#42 thekirk

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 1754 PM

Columbus had better marketing, not to mention landing in what would be considered as a tropical paradise (Columbus writing back home: "I have found the New World! It is nice and warm and lots of nubile women running around nekkid except for gold jewelry around their necks and hanging from their noses!")

Contrast that with the Vikings. (Viking in Vinland writing back home: "Eric the Red found the fuckin' cold New World. It's not exactly the paradise you think it is. It's fuckin' cold here and the natives aren't all that friendly.")


Another thing Columbus had going: Poor public sanitation, and a disease-infested population in Europe that had resistance to a set of diseases the North American natives had zero resistance to.

The Vikings were relatively hygienic, by comparison, and did not have the advantage of spreading things like smallpox, whooping cough, and other nasties that the Europeans of Columbus's era had survived routinely.

You can make a damn good case that the colonization efforts all across North and South America would have failed, even with the difference in technology, had the natives been exposed to the disease spectrum the Europeans had. If you read the histories, most of the natives encountering Europeans thought they were filthy, nasty people with poor hygiene habits--Apparently, the European custom of not bathing and dousing oneself with perfume was noticeable to even "primitive" tribesmen, who were fastidious to a fault. I've been told that one way archaeologists can differentiate between a native settlement and a European one of the early colonial era is that the natives put their midden piles a long ways away from the village, while the Europeans just lived in the middle of it.

It's disconcerting to realize that Tenochtitlan was two to three times the size of the largest European city of it's time, and that the Aztecs living there had better public sanitation and an arguably higher standard of living than the average city-dweller in Europe. Makes you wonder who would have conquered who, absent the disease factor.
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#43 TonyE

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 1833 PM

Contrast that with the Vikings. (Viking in Vinland writing back home: "Eric the Red found the fuckin' cold New World. It's not exactly the paradise you think it is. It's fuckin' cold here and the natives aren't all that friendly.")


Actually it was much less cold back then than now, Greenland held a fair population of norse inhabitants with livestock. The green in "Greenland" was not meant as an irony.

Vinland means "Pastureland/Meadowland" btw, by norse standards something very desirable for settlements. A small community like the very peripheral Iceland/Greenland norsies however had limited means of spreading the news though.
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#44 Mike Steele

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 1846 PM

Actually it was much less cold back then than now, Greenland held a fair population of norse inhabitants with livestock. The green in "Greenland" was not meant as an irony.

Vinland means "Pastureland/Meadowland" btw, by norse standards something very desirable for settlements. A small community like the very peripheral Iceland/Greenland norsies however had limited means of spreading the news though.


Oh so they had Global Warming™ back then too? Or did they call it something else? ^_^
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#45 X-Files

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 2000 PM

Oh so they had Global Warming™ back then too? Or did they call it something else? ^_^


Well, since Greenland is icy and barren now, that'd be Global Cooling™
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#46 Jim Martin

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 0039 AM

Actually it was much less cold back then than now, Greenland held a fair population of norse inhabitants with livestock. The green in "Greenland" was not meant as an irony.

Vinland means "Pastureland/Meadowland" btw, by norse standards something very desirable for settlements. A small community like the very peripheral Iceland/Greenland norsies however had limited means of spreading the news though.



Actually the archaeologists refer to Viking texts referring to a settlement south of L'Anse aux Meadows, but they have found no evidence, save for a single Norse silver penny found at a site in Maine. Oh yeah--the guy who did studies of stone weathering, and who disproved the Chinese stone anchors as being "ancient" said the Kensington Stone had to have been carved at least 200 years before its finding in the late 1800's in Minnesota. OTOH, University of Minnesota archaeologists could find no evidence supporting the text on the stone after an intensive search a few years ago. I've always read that the Kensington Stone's runes were faked. Curiouser and curiouser...

Edited by Jim Martin, 04 August 2010 - 0039 AM.

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#47 Argus

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 0635 AM

I think the point Stuart was reaching for with the Chinese in Africa and the John Company, is that the British turned up in India looking to do business and got drawn into local politics and administration because they largely had too to keep on doing business, then turned a necessity into a nice little earner. The flag followed trade, as often as not because trade found it couldn't do business under the prevailing conditions it found in place, got sick of being extorted and abused by local despots, under cut and out bribed by competing trading interests etc etc. As much as business likes a a lazee fair 'buy the island for a handful of beads' licence to rape and pillage, they also like a bit of security for their investments (and persons). I mean if there is a colonial template, it goes trading post, trading post trashed, new trading post, trashed again, gunboat (or equivalent), another new trading post, getting trashed yet again, war, conquest, trading post under the fluttering flag of Empire.

If the Chinese in some African pest hole find the local conditions start getting in the way of their profits and the level of investment is too large to ignore, then a little regime change, a rebel army funded, a small coupe... well it wouldn't be the first time if they've not done it already. But then that's the crude way, much better and far less fuss internationally if the locals start hiring competent Chinese administrators as 'Consultants' to get things working properly, its a model they've had experience of that model at first hand, the Chinese Customs service was more or less outsourced to the British for the least third of the 19th cent, it was win win for everyone, an efficient repetitively honest agency was good for business and for Peking's revenue (if a horrid loss of face). But either way its off down the slippery slope of Empire - and that's not always a bad thing

http://www.econ.ucla... of empires.pdf

shane
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#48 Mike Steele

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 0826 AM

Actually the archaeologists refer to Viking texts referring to a settlement south of L'Anse aux Meadows, but they have found no evidence, save for a single Norse silver penny found at a site in Maine. Oh yeah--the guy who did studies of stone weathering, and who disproved the Chinese stone anchors as being "ancient" said the Kensington Stone had to have been carved at least 200 years before its finding in the late 1800's in Minnesota. OTOH, University of Minnesota archaeologists could find no evidence supporting the text on the stone after an intensive search a few years ago. I've always read that the Kensington Stone's runes were faked. Curiouser and curiouser...


Obviously you don't have relatives in Minn. ^_^
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#49 RETAC21

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 0923 AM

BTW, there's a lot of industrial unrest in China at the moment, with many strikes for better pay & conditions. Odd thing is that they're actually being reported in the official media, the riot police aren't breaking heads, & none of the organisers are getting midnight knocks on the door. Times have changed, eh?


Quick off topic on this last. From a guy I met the other day, who works out of Shangai and travels widely in the industrial PRC, the Govt. is only supporting high value added businesses and letting everything else fall flat, causing said industrial unrest. No more cheapo copies from China and more high tech/high value stuff.
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#50 swerve

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 1852 PM

Actually it was much less cold back then than now, Greenland held a fair population of norse inhabitants with livestock. The green in "Greenland" was not meant as an irony.

It was much less cold back then than a few hundred years later, but not compared to now. One of those internet myths. Greenland supported maybe 3-4000 Norse at its peak, & the settlements were always pretty close to the edge. There are 15-20 times as many people there nowadays, mostly in the same places, & they grow some crops which the Norse 1000 years ago gave up trying to grow.

The green area was, as now, a tiny proportion of the island, in exactly the same places as now, & it was green only compared to Iceland, which after 200 years of Norse settlement had lost a large part of its vegetation, the plant cover being much thinner & the soil far more fragile than those Norse farmers were used to. Greenland was also pretty marginal for the Norse.
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#51 swerve

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 1917 PM

Another thing Columbus had going: Poor public sanitation, and a disease-infested population in Europe that had resistance to a set of diseases the North American natives had zero resistance to.

The Vikings were relatively hygienic, by comparison,

Oh no they weren't! Archaeological excavations of abandoned Viking longhouses, & mediaeval Norse accounts, suggest that even by the standards of late 15th century Europe they were a filthy lot. For example, floors covered with a thick layer of debris. Basically, dirt & rubbish was dropped on the floor & trodden in, including food waste, faeces, & small dead animals. In winter up north, e.g. Greenland, the cows would be brought indoors all winter. They'd be in a separate space, but one opening into the main room, so the whole place would have the smell of fresh cow dung to add to the other reeks. There are contemporary accounts of people sleeping with the cows for warmth in particularly cold weather.

It's disconcerting to realize that Tenochtitlan was two to three times the size of the largest European city of it's time, and that the Aztecs living there had better public sanitation and an arguably higher standard of living than the average city-dweller in Europe. Makes you wonder who would have conquered who, absent the disease factor.

Size of Tenochtitlan, & even more its population, is hotly disputed, & size of a city is not necessarily a measure of wealth per head. It seems to have been to a large degree an agricultural (lots of gardens intensively worked for food) & ceremonial centre, with less trade & industry than European cities.

Given what we know of Aztec material culture, it is inconceivable that they could have equalled the wealth of Europe at the time. They did by hand what Europeans used animal drawn ploughs & carts, watermills, windmills, etc. for. They had stone & some slightly hardened copper tools: Europe had steel. Their tools were all from the distant past, by European standards. European looms, for example, were millennia ahead, not just centuries. Their productivity per hour worked must, because of their lower technology & smaller capital base, have been much worse, & the evidence we have suggests that they had fewer possessions, & a more restricted diet, than Europeans.

Edited by swerve, 08 September 2010 - 0647 AM.

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#52 Leo Niehorster

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 1408 PM

Just found this graphic:
http://niehorster.or...a_in_africa.jpg
which shows economic chinese involvement in Africa.

The chart at the bottom right is especially interesting in this regard.

Leo
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#53 Murph

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 0930 AM

If Zheng He had gotten more support from the Emperor, what could he have done?
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#54 Rick

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 1822 PM

If Zheng He had gotten more support from the Emperor, what could he have done?

What would E. Africa have that the Chinese of that period would want?


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#55 Murph

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 2045 PM

Ivory.  Land, perhaps other things.

 

If Zheng He had gotten more support from the Emperor, what could he have done?

What would E. Africa have that the Chinese of that period would want?

 


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#56 JasonJ

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 2207 PM

Supposing the Ming dynasty was able to make a permanent settlement in East Africa and kept in it connection via sea with the mainland, later in the 1600s, the Ming would still fall from war with the northern Manchus (would become the Qing dynasty). The Ming remnants retreated to Formosa, kicked out the Europeans, and resided there until Qing forces invaded Formosa and wiped out the rest of the Ming. So it is kind of interesting that if such a Ming settlement existed in East Africa, the Ming might have retreated as far as to East Africa and surely the Qing wouldn't be able to pursue the Ming that far, thus potentially resulting in a two China situation in which one is on the mainland and the other being way out in Africa. Either that or the Ming in Africa would declare themselves no long a China. Surprisingly similar to today's situation with Taiwan. Thought provoking. Nice thread BTW.

Edited by JasonJ, 26 December 2017 - 2209 PM.

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#57 Miner

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 2259 PM

How were these giant Junks actually built?

 

My understanding is wooden ships were limited to ~200 ft length due to shear both lengthways and torsional causing:

- leakage between planks and then in bigger waves

- failure of the structure

 

The introduction of diagonal iron bracing from 1830 removed that limitation allowing bigger ships with less pumping labour.

 

As Europeans were familiar with junks well before that surely any form of shear resistance would have been noted and copied - even if initially only on western type ships built in Asia (eg Phillipines,East Indies and India)


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#58 DougRichards

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 0615 AM

 

Another thing Columbus had going: Poor public sanitation, and a disease-infested population in Europe that had resistance to a set of diseases the North American natives had zero resistance to.

The Vikings were relatively hygienic, by comparison,

Oh no they weren't! Archaeological excavations of abandoned Viking longhouses, & mediaeval Norse accounts, suggest that even by the standards of late 15th century Europe they were a filthy lot. For example, floors covered with a thick layer of debris. Basically, dirt & rubbish was dropped on the floor & trodden in, including food waste, faeces, & small dead animals. In winter up north, e.g. Greenland, the cows would be brought indoors all winter. They'd be in a separate space, but one opening into the main room, so the whole place would have the smell of fresh cow dung to add to the other reeks. There are contemporary accounts of people sleeping with the cows for warmth in particularly cold weather.

It's disconcerting to realize that Tenochtitlan was two to three times the size of the largest European city of it's time, and that the Aztecs living there had better public sanitation and an arguably higher standard of living than the average city-dweller in Europe. Makes you wonder who would have conquered who, absent the disease factor.

Size of Tenochtitlan, & even more its population, is hotly disputed, & size of a city is not necessarily a measure of wealth per head. It seems to have been to a large degree an agricultural (lots of gardens intensively worked for food) & ceremonial centre, with less trade & industry than European cities.

Given what we know of Aztec material culture, it is inconceivable that they could have equalled the wealth of Europe at the time. They did by hand what Europeans used animal drawn ploughs & carts, watermills, windmills, etc. for. They had stone & some slightly hardened copper tools: Europe had steel. Their tools were all from the distant past, by European standards. European looms, for example, were millennia ahead, not just centuries. Their productivity per hour worked must, because of their lower technology & smaller capital base, have been much worse, & the evidence we have suggests that they had fewer possessions, & a more restricted diet, than Europeans.

 

 

 

 

Take your time to read Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel

 

https://en.wikipedia...erms,_and_Steel

 

or just consider the vids

 


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#59 Murph

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 1326 PM

Just saw a documentary on when China ruled the waves.  Very good.  Could Zheng He have settled Chinese colonies across the Indian Ocean?  Would India have become the Jewel in the Emperor of China's crown?


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