This sure needs a thorough read – China – The Rising Dragon
Why was China Erased from Western Memory?
Joseph Needham was an English medical doctor and biologist, teaching in England in the 1930s. By an accident of fate he acquired some Chinese students, and was intrigued to hear their claims of so many medical and scientific discoveries having originated in China, rather than in the West.
Needham became fully fluent in Chinese, and eventually moved to China in 1942 to investigate these claims and to research the entire history of Chinese invention. That work led to an astonishing voyage of historical discovery.
Needham originally planned to write a book cataloguing Chinese inventions, but his first volume barely scratched the surface of his subject. He slowly gathered many of his students into this enterprise, and they eventually wrote a collection of 26 books, to catalog the history of Chinese discovery.
Myth and Misrepresentation
It leaves one speechless to learn the vast extent of things invented by the Chinese many hundreds of years, and often several millennia, before they appeared in the West.
All the myths about China and the Chinese being good at ‘memorizing and passing exams’, but being unable to think independently or to be imaginative and creative, are just that – myths. Those stories were never true, not then and not now.
This isn’t a simple matter of gunpowder and fireworks, but encompasses the entire range of human knowledge from endocrinology to mathematics, from agriculture to astronomy.
How could such facts have been hidden from the entire Western world for so long? And why were they withheld? Needham made his discoveries in the 1940s, but our Western education has never made reference to them, never acknowledged them.
We Westerners were taught that virtually all inventions and discoveries arose in Europe but, thanks to Joseph Needham, we have clear documentation proving they existed in China often 1,000 or more years before the Europeans copied them.
In all of the above, Needham has published not only old Chinese texts, but photos of old drawings that clearly depict all of these items, from texts that can be accurately dated. These are not wild claims or suppositions; the evidence is both conclusive and striking, and is there for anyone to examine.
Where has the world been, for so many years? How could all of this have remained hidden? How and why – did the West so thoroughly erase China from the world’s current historical memory?
China’s Former World Position
Eurocentric historians have distorted and ignored China’s dominant role in the world economy until about 1800. There exists an enormous amount of empirical data proving China’s economic and technological superiority over Western civilization for the better part of several millennia.
Given that China was the world’s supreme technological power up to about 1800, it is especially important to emphasize that this is what made the West’s emergence possible. It was only by borrowing, copying, and assimilating Chinese innovations and China’s much more advanced technology that the West was able to make the transition to modern capitalist and imperialist economies.
Until then, China was the leading trading nation, with long distance trade reaching most of Southern Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Even as late as the early 19th century China’s merchants employed 130,000 private transport ships, several times that of Britain, and China had held this pre-eminent position for millennia.
China’s innovations in the production of paper, book printing, firearms and tools led to a manufacturing superpower whose goods were transported throughout the world by the most advanced navigational system.
Moreover, banking, a stable paper money economy, excellent manufacturing and high agricultural yields resulted in China’s per capita income surpassing that of Great Britain until the late 1700s.
China’s Opening to, and Withdrawal from, the World
From this study of Chinese inventions and discoveries, a theory is developing about the reasons China closed itself off from the world some hundreds of years ago.
It’s almost impossible to overstate that a first thought of anyone reviewing all this research would be that the world must have seemed very primitive to China 500 years ago. Here are two noteworthy examples:
China’s agriculture and comparative food production was orders of magnitude ahead of the West, and of other countries as well, for more than 1,000 years. Compared to China, the rest of the world must have seemed truly “third world” at the time.
Europe and other nations had difficulty just feeding themselves, while China could produce surplus food in abundance, in spite of having a much greater population.
China had invented the seed drill, sowing in rows, a scientifically-efficient plow that is still in use around the world today, animal harnesses and collars, the winnowing fan, the spinning wheel, and so much more.
China’s advances in agriculture were eagerly copied by the Europeans and were the enabling cause of Europe’s agricultural revolution that first permitted it to begin feeding itself adequately.
Sailing and Navigation
More than 1,000 years ago, China’s sailing ships were far larger than any in the rest of the world. The Chinese invented and deployed multiple masts, luff sails that permitted sailing into the wind.
They invented the rudder, enabling ships to be steered. Chinese ships had watertight compartments, enabling them to complete journeys even when damaged.
The Chinese invented the compass, and had such extensive astronomical knowledge that they could navigate the world by the stars, while Western ships were small, uncontrollable and fragile, and were useless for travelling any distance.
As Needham so strongly pointed out, China was so far ahead of the Western world in sailing and navigation that comparisons are just embarrassing.
China Closes its Doors
When the Chinese conducted their voyages of exploration around the world, with Zhang He and others, they must have been disappointed in what they found.
The rest of the world had no paper or printing, no mathematics, no science, little medicine of note, almost no metallurgy to speak of, a most primitive agriculture, and no manufactures of any worthy kind, no porcelain, no spinning wheels or weaving looms to make clothing. No nothing.
From reviewing the history of Chinese invention, one easily develops an increasingly strong feeling the Chinese looked at the world and found nothing they wanted, nothing to interest them, in all those societies that were centuries, and in some cases millennia, behind China in almost every way.
One can easily theorize that this is one of the reasons China closed itself off from the world at that time. In all of China’s travels and exploration, it would have been easy to conclude that other parts of the world were so backward there was nothing to be gained from prolonged contact.
One can imagine they returned home and closed the door, perhaps planning to return in another 500 years to see if things had progressed. With the addition of detail, this is most likely how events transpired.