Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Island of Seven Cities - Book Review

The Island of Seven Cities
By Paul Chiasson
St Martins Griffin PB 2007
Random House HC 2006

This book is written by a Canadian Architect (actually he is a French-Canadian of Acadian origin) with a keen interest in history. Like most people of Acadian origin, his family comes from Cape Breton Island MAP, just off the northern end of Nova Scotia.

In 2002 Paul was taking a walk around Cape Dauphin (see Cape Breton Map - on the east coast north of Sydney) and after climbing a hill, he discovered some stone walls and a road. This led him to beleive that this used to be an old town. The question became - Who built it and when?

Paul spent the next 3 years investigating the old records and documents that cover the history of Cape Breton Island. He eventually had to rule out the Portugese, the French, the English and Spanish. The answer that he came up with - the Chinese - may surprise you. But it also makes a lot of sense with all the evidence he provides. If it is ever accepted as true, this discovery will totally flip Canadian "official" history upside down.

While Paul was writing this book, he was reading a book called 1421 The Year the Chinese discovered the World by Gavin Menzies. In this book, Menzies posited a theory that the Chinese built large boats and sailed all the oceans, before they isolated themselves. The exporation was encouraged during the Ming Dynasty.

I enjoyed this book very much. It has a lot of history, and a lot of research, but it is NOT written in an academic or scholarly style. It is easy to read and understand.

Paul presented his research at a Symposium on Chinese Naval Expeditions at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in 2005. It was received very well.

When Paul tried to inform the Nova Scotia Government and the provincial Museum about his discovery, the Nova Scotia Museum wrote back telling Paul that they were not interested because (and I quote) "There were hundreds of archaeological sites on Nova Scotia and many such claims were received each year. Sincerely etc..." Paul was stunned. If you remember your stories of treasure hunts, The Oak Island Treasure Pit is also in Nova Scotia.

I have already found several refutations (if thats the right word - to refute) of Paul's research.

The CBC reported this story in 2006 just after Paul's Book was published.
No Chinese ruins in Cape Breton (say) archeologists

The archeologists say Chiasson's wall is really a fire break from the mid-20th century. "The first part was constructed in the mid-20th century", Christianson said, "but the major portion of the road was built as late as 1989."

There are also historians out there who say that the Chinese NEVER sailed around the world, because there is no evidence, and there are no written records in Chinese archives.
The Island of Seven Cities - is not true.

It becomes obvious that Chiasson has never seen the remains of a medieval Chinese city, and a single piece of archaeological evidence is sufficient to disprove his theory: with fleets of huge junks harboured in St. Ann’s Bay and thousands of people living for years in a nearby hilltop city, the sand beaches and rocky pastures of the area should be littered with millions of shards of Asiatic crockery, yet not a single one has been reported during centuries of farming, and none were noticed in the author’s many examinations of the site.”

Its up to the reader really to decide who to beleive. Do you beleive on the evidence that Chinese did settl and live on Cape Breton Island for a while, leaving only when the Europeans started sailing west. Or do you think its all a hoax and that the stone walls are really 20th century fire breaks.

I read this book for the Canadian Challenge.


John Mutford said...

It reminds me of one the many conspiracies presented in Paul Glennon's Dodecahedron; that North America had been known about, by those not already living there, long before the Europeans claimed to have discovered. It's interesting to ponder, even if the truth is still up for grabs.

Karin said...

Very interesting indeed!!!