for National Geographic News
A recently unveiled map purporting to show that a Chinese explorer discovered America in 1418 has been met with skepticism from cartographers and historians alike.
The map depicts all of the continents, including Australia, North America, and Antarctica, in rough outline.
An inscription identifies the map as a copy made in 1763 of an original drawn in 1418.
Antiquities collector Liu Gang, who unveiled the map in Beijing last week, says it proves that Chinese seafarer Zheng He discovered America more than 70 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World.
But experts have dismissed the map as a fake.
They say the map resembles a French 17th-century world map with its depiction of California as an island.
That China is not shown in the center also suggests the Chinese did not make the map, one expert says.
Historians, meanwhile, dismiss the idea that Zheng He, an admiral in the Ming dynasty's imperial navy, sailed to America. (See National Geographic magazine feature: "China's Great Armada.")
"There's absolutely no evidence that Zheng He's voyages went anywhere past the east coast of Africa," said Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, a history professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Liu Gang, a Chinese lawyer, says he bought the map from a Shanghai dealer in 2001 for U.S. $500.
"This map embodies information I believe will help us understand Zheng He's seventh voyage," Liu reportedly told a news conference in Beijing last Monday.
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