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    Zheng He steered by the stars?
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2002 Nov 24, 12:28 +1100

    That the Chinese were very innovative in all sorts of technical areas
    seems clear.
    
    However a new book '1421, The Year China Discovered the World', by Gavin
    Menzies, published in Australia by Random House, postulates that the
    Chinese admiral Zheng He and his fleet of massive 9 masted junks
    explored much of what we assume was left to European navigators to
    'discover' some centuries later.
    
    Its fascinating stuff. The contention is that not only did his vice
    admirals Hong Bao and Zhou Man in different ships circumnavigate
    Australia (hitherto first credited to the Englishman Flinders in the
    early 19th century) but that settlements were established complete with
    observation towers and mines were exploited for a variety of minerals.
    I should add that this theory is being contested, not least by Chinese
    historians who thought they already knew all about Zheng He.
    
    The part that intrigues me is the idea that these sailors 'steered by
    the stars'.
    
    The history of European navigation is fairly well known and documented.
    But does anyboby know about what instuments and techniques Chinese junk
    sailors may have had at their disposal? I know they had the compass, and
    may have been introduced it to the west, but star measuring instruments?
    
    Polynesians had a compass that was the night sky itself, knew the
    diffferent stars as they rose and set and could set course according to
    them. I suppose any people that studied the stars for long enough could
    have independantly devised ways of using star positions.
    
    Does anyone know any more?
    
    
    

       
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