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Old 16-10-2009, 18:20   #16
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Originally Posted by Sailndive345 View Post
Is it possible that they are talking about a jib/main when they say fore/aft sail combination? If that is the case, it certainly stands to reason that one can claim better windward performance.

As far as the Chinese mariners, etc goes, what comes to my mind first is the "junk rig" - there used to be a strong following at one time - it is certainly an easy to manage, efficient rig of the earlier times.

Chinese history-wise, however, I thought they came out of their borders, looked around and decided that the rest of the world wasn't so interesting and ended up existing in almost strict isolation for many centuries. This changed only recently.

I hope my recollection of the history is accurate - after all, it is only as accurate as the books one reads

Fair winds!

Yes, that is my impression also, based upon what I have read.

On the other hand, there are Chinese populations living on the West Coast of the US, and living in Hawaii. And Chinese labor was used in railroad building in the US. So that disproves the idea that Chinese isolated themselves.

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Old 16-10-2009, 19:30   #17
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This will probably sound like a snotty response but blame it on the Italian red wine. I think that the respondents who speak of isolation are mistaking China for Japan, which did choose to isolate itself, partly in response to the threat from China. China on the other hand ruled about 1/4 of the whole planet from the Pacific to the back door of Europe for a far longer time than the British empire existed. As the "Middle Kingdom", the Chinese name for China meaning the center of the world, they did let the world come to them. And they probably did invent everything, but then they forgot about most of what they invented.

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Old 16-10-2009, 20:24   #18
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The European and American seal hunters decimated the seal populations of California around 1830. With the seals gone, the abalone population went crazy. The Chinese somehow found out about the abalone and set up regular ocean voyages in their junks to California to collect it. The trade lasted for about 10-20 years. The Chinese conducted regual ocean trade throughout the far east and to India for several thousand years before Western Contact.

The word Kamikaze (divine wind) comes from two typhoons that sank and/or dispersed a Chinese invasion fleet headed for Japan in the 1200s.

The chinese were great sailors and undoubtedly came up with a lot of sailing inventions that also devolved separately in the west.
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Old 16-10-2009, 21:46   #19
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Originally Posted by fastfilm View Post
China on the other hand ruled about 1/4 of the whole planet from the Pacific to the back door of Europe for a far longer time than the British empire existed.
The only time that this might have sort of been true would be during the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty - which lasted less than 100 years.
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Old 17-10-2009, 00:01   #20
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All the info needed can be found in these links:

Naval history of China - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zheng He - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Old 17-10-2009, 00:36   #21
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Originally Posted by SkiprJohn View Post
I don't agree that polynesians were ahead of other cultures in sailing.
The Ra Expedition (Thor Heyerdahl) proved the truth of that. However, The Polynesians were the first who made the long journeys deliberately. Their vessels and navigation were designed specifically for these long journeys at a time when everyone else was only interested in short coastal hops.

IIRC The vikings used magnetic compasses , and also used marks on their hull for length of shadow of themast from the sun at midday in order to record the lattitude of their destination (crude sextant)
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Old 17-10-2009, 23:09   #22
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Originally Posted by unbusted67 View Post
As for the quote ("In every way, whether for navigation, propulsion, or steering, Europeans were dependent upon Chinese ideas in order to be capable of the Great Voyages of Discovery.")

about the Europeans relying on the Chinese for sailing innovation I am pretty sure (without a trip to the encyclopedia) that that is an inflammatory statement aimed more at captivating the reader than informing him. There is a book "1421 The Year China Discovered The Real World" which makes similar claims. In my opinion these books are more aimed at getting China's roll in world history out of the dusty recesses of the historical hinterlands. Which isn't an altogether valueless pursuit but one that, judging by these two works, could use a little tempering.
I agree that the statement is a very bold one, and not one that I feel comfortable with!
Especially if I am going to be presenting the material to the other docents, who may use it in their own tours. I don't consider it inflammatory, because he does give dates for Chinese evidence that is consistent with his statement: Rudder first century AD, Leeboards 759 AD, Mariner's compass 1117 AD, multi-masted ships 260 AD. He also gives earliest dates for the Western innovations.

Actually, now that I read more carefully, he may not be claiming that the Europeans got the ideas from the Chinese, just that the Chinese had the idea first. And that when the Europeans started using them, great voyages were made.

I did read "1421: the Year China discovered America," but I consider that book too speculative for my purpose. But it was a fun read!

I have discovered that Temple's book is a popularization of Joseph Needham's "Science and Civilization in China." a twenty-five volume work, in the process of publication by Cambridge University Press. I am going to see if I can find a copy of Needham's work locally.

But discounting any possible Chinese contribution to Western sailing, the fact remains that the Chinese built the Grand Canal, which is over 1,000 miles long.

One of the factoids that I was told was that an important factor in the prosperity of Suzhou (Portland's sister city, famous for their gardens) was that rice went from a single to a twice annual crop. But what could be the use of doubling the rice crop, without a good means to ship it?

I think that there is certainly an interesting story to tell of how boats contribute to the art form of the classical Chinese garden! I am just not sure exactly what it is yet!
So, my own bias is not East against West, it is landsman against sailor!
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Old 18-10-2009, 00:30   #23
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FWIW I equally think the opening statement is perhaps over the top and not based on evidence.

Until you secure that evidence and get it into date order, maybe moderate your subject?

What you can speak on is the junk rig, which we all understand originated from China.

It is a fore and aft set up that does make for better upwind performance over the square sails used in the west up to the 18th century. Think also you need to recognise the lanteen rig (Arab) is also an upwind efficient rig and methinks the Phonesians (West Med) were sailing upwind to England from 8th century - so proof the Chinese has the junk rig before then might be worth checikng out.

Good luck. Keep us all posted on what you find.


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