Europeans: With Prejudice Against Our Own Ancestors

I currently publish primarily at the Gates of Vienna, the Brussels Journal, Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs, and will continue to do so. But every now and then, I will publish at some other website that I like. This time, it's on EuropeNews, a very good news website which deserves even more traffic than it currently has.

Europeans: With Prejudice Against Our Own Ancestors (excerpt)

People of European origins are constantly accused of harboring prejudice against people of other cultures. But the more I read of European history, the more I believe that some of the worst prejudice actually targets our own ancestors, particularly during the Middle Ages. Virtually any young Westerner you ask will reply that the Muslims, the Chinese…(fill in the blanks) were vastly more sophisticated than the backward Europeans in medieval times. This is true in some cases, but not in others.

China was always significantly better at applied technology than she was in the theoretical sciences. And no, science and technology didn't merge until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and then only in Europe. According to Toby E. Huff in his excellent book The Rise of Early Modern Science, if we consider the main fields of scientific inquiry to be astronomy, physics, optics and mathematics, then the Chinese lagged behind not only Europeans, but also Muslims from the eleventh century onwards, if not before. Even Joseph Needham in his monumental Science and Civilisation in China concluded that "the Chinese had very little systematic thought in this domain." While one can find "Chinese physical thought," one "can hardly speak of a developed science of physics."

Many Westerners to this day are convinced that medieval Europeans thought the earth was flat. They never did, at least not the educated ones. All the civilizations that were exposed to the learning of the ancient Greeks – Europe, the Middle East and to some extent India – were aware of the fact that the earth is round. Did none of the major civilizations of Eurasia believe that the earth was flat? Yes, the Chinese did. The general consensus among Chinese scholars well into the seventeenth century AD, more than two thousand years after the Greeks had demonstrated that the earth is spherical, was that the earth is flat. The error wasn't corrected until the Chinese were confronted with European astronomy.

Disjecta membra

@ kappert


You wrote: "The link of warlord-politician is obvious all over history to the present day".


Q: If this observable fact is obvious to you and obvious to me, could you please explain where our differences lie?

@ kappert

kappert: "I mentioned the edition of an (Chinese) encyclopedia, not the (China's) war against the Mongols".


Yes, you did, and I thanked you for that. I also asked you to explain to me how on earth ( flat or spherical) a Chinese warlord turned emperor would have been able to publish  that encyclopedia, despatch Chinese mariners on voyages of discovery and daring do and transmit valuable scientific data to India, Persia and Arabia if he and his fellow countrymen had previously been defeated by an army of marauding Mongols.


I'm still patiently waiting for your answer.


The link of warlord-politician is obvious allover history to the present day. Thus, you may argue that von Braun's 'Vergeltungswaffe' was essential to bring Americans to the moon, or that 'Metal Storm' will bring world-peace. Don't be sad, but we just do not agree on these things.


 kappert: "I doubt that civilisation is based on warfare".


Again, a falshood. It isn't that you doubt that it is, you KNOW it IS, you just wish that it wasn't. There is a difference.


btw:In a previous post you wrote, "ONLY the Bible talks about the 'four corners' of the Earth". WRONG. Take another look at that wikipedia link I gave you and you'll find this:


"Zeng Shen (505 BC - 436 BC) replying to a question of Shanchu Li admitt(ed) that t was hard to conceptualize the ORTHODOX CHINESE VIEW of the FOUR CORNERS OF EARTH and how they could properly be covered". [ my emphasis added].



There are many BJ commentators 'experts' in warfare, please talk to them. Even today we have North, South, East and West and difficulties to draw them on maps, even so, I does not mean a flat disc earth. I mentioned the edition of an encyclopedia, not the war against Mongols.

@ kappert

You say that you are "reluctant to talk about the military achievements of the lords of war" but we both know that isn't true  because you have previously cited some of the many achievements of Zhu Di (Chengzu) whose achievements were only possible after he had vanquished the Mongols at the borders of his empire.


Try again?

@ kappert

Thank you.


Perhaps you would be kind enough to put as much thought, time and effort into answering the second part of my question as you have the first.


You cite even more noble Chinese achievements while stubbornly continuing to ignore the dragon in the room.




Without these wars you might well be describing to me how the Mongolian aggressors viewed the world (flat, spherical or otherwise) but certainly NOT the views and undoubted achievements of the Han Chinese.  

I await your next response.


I am reluctant to talk about the military 'achievements' of the lords of war. I really do not appreciate Alexanders, Caesars, Genghis Khans, Napoleons, Pattons, Mountbattons and Chang kai-Sheks, and I doubt that civilisation is based on warfare.

@ kappert

Thank you, kappert, for your serious and thought provoking response.(More of the same in the future please).


Let's take a look at a few of the points you raise.


i  re: Emperor Chengzu's encyclopedia of 1403 and 'The Great Encyclopedia of Yongle' (1408).


Kindly provide further evidence to support your claim that these publications showed "the Earth as a globe, with planets "



ii re: "There is no source in China proclaiming that the earth is flat".





scroll down to: China and the Far East.


Tell me, is the brief tidbit of information on this subject "British wishful thinking" too?



Finally, I'd like to return to our old friend (and an old subject) Chengzu. Take a look at this short bio:


and pay particular attention to the following quotes:


"launched FIVE wars againt Mongolia...which eased Mongolia's threat to the border areas of the Ming Dynasty".




"brought ethnic minorities in the northeast under control (in order to maintain) stability in the border areas".


NB: In 1399, he STARTED a civil war at Jing Nan in the name of "cleansing the central government", which lasted for 4 years, ending in 1402.




No war, no victories.


No victories, no internal stability.


No internal stability, no dynasty.


No dynasty, no China.


No China, no chinese achievements.



Your comments, please. 




With due respect for Joseph Needham, modern archaeology revealed a more complex picture of ancient China. The Celestial Globe by Geng Shou-chang (50BC) served as partition point and was the basic source for studies up to the mentioned encyclopaedias (1408). The publication of Ling Xian (120 AD) described lunar and solar eclipses. There is no doubt that he referred to spheres as only possible explanation for these phenomenons. But there is more: the Dunhuang star-map (710 AD), the Crab Nebula supernova (1054), the accurate measurement of the distance between the pole star and true north by Shen Kuo (1031-1095), ... all revelations transmitted to Indian, Persian and Arabian astronomers (Persian Globe 1267), proving that the earth's shape must be curved. Many of these things were lost in time, and Chinese civil society was for sure not one based on scientific progress. For reasons of convenience, in map drawing continued the ptolomaic-aristotelian view, which causes so much confusion about 'flat' and 'round' earth. But you will not find any Chinese document stating the Earth as a flat disc.
As to the Chinese wars against mongols: horrible!

@ kappert

"About the Chinese, I have another view"



Do you accept the veracity of the following statement(s)?




i  "The general consensus among Chinese scholars well into the seventeenth century AD, more than two thousand years after the Greeks had demonstrated that the earth is spherical, was that the earth is flat...".


ii "The error wasn't corrected until the Chinese were confronted with European astronomy".


And, please, no prevarication.


In 1403, emperor Chengzu emitted an encyclopedia with the Earth as a globe, with planets, etc.; the Great Encyclopedia of Yongle (1408) with 22877 volumes, states the same. The famous voyages of Zheng He were carefully plotted. What is missing are the coordinates Europeans were used to. There is no source in China proclaiming that the earth is flat. I think the cited statement of fjordman is British wishful thinking, as in the 17th century they began to dominate the Chinese, and anyone who is dominated has to be more stupid, isn't it. So this part of fjordman is rubbish!

@ kappert

Surprisingly, your comments appear to broadly support the Fjordman thesis. Am I correct in reaching that conclusion?


With regards to the Middle Ages I agree with fjordman. About the Chinese, I have another view. The 50.000km of Earth appearing 2000 A.C. is not by chance. The problem is to show three dimensions - therefore maps were drawn in two dimensions. China, as the Middle Empire, did not need three dimensions. It is also very true, that knowledge was lost over the centuries - in every culture.

on flatness and chinese

Pythagoras affirmed the Earth as a globe in the year 506 a.C. Marco Polo, around 1260, did not fear to fall off the Earth! There was no scholar at the end of the Ancient Era and the Middle Ages believing the Earth as a disc – with the exception of Kosmas Indikopleustes, Laktantius and Severianus de Gabala. But their visions were not taught in the Middle Ages. Only centuries later, their manuscripts were studied and provided us with the myth of the Middle Ages believing in a disc. In the 221 volumes of the "Patrologia Latina" (200-1216) is no hint at all to believe the disc-version. Only the Bible talks of 'four corners' of the Earth. Laktantius, though, was worried about the antipodes, where 'it should rain from the bottom to the top', while Augustinus around the year 400 proclaimed the Earth as "moles globosa" in the middle of the universe. The Earth as 'sphere' or 'egg' was taught by Basilius around the year 360. Pope Sylvester II ordered to make a globe, discussing the diameter. And the astronomer and mathematician Johannes de Sacrobosco, introduced his text 'Sphaera mundi' to European universities during the 13th century. A Portuguese jew, Salvador Fernandes Zarco, born in Cuba, Portugal, discovered the Antilles by chance and had little knowledge of geography - he is better known as Christopher Columbus. The Modern Era, with Nikolaus Kopernikus at the head, discredited the old teachings, writing lies in his main treatise. The idea of the stupidity of the Middle Ages was welcome by the Renaissance, documented in the "Acta Sanctorum" of the 17th century, maintaining itself up to our days and our schoolbooks, and fairy-tale books like Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" of 1794/95 or Washington Irving's "The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus" of 1828.
And the Chinese mythology, 2nd millenium B.C., has this nice story: Pangu, the Creator of the universe. In the beginning it was chaos, then an egg developed. The egg became bigger while Pangu, the first living being, was sleeping. When he woke up, already a giant, he accidentally broke the egg. The clear parts, light and pure, rose to the sky, the thick parts, impure and heavy, fall down to earth. To reunify heaven and earth, Pangu secured the heaven with his head, and earth with his feet. He grew three meters every day during 18.000 years. When he reached 50.000km, Pangu was exhausted and never woke up again.

Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken (1992): Fines Terrae. Die Enden der Erde und der vierte Kontinent auf mittelalterlichen Weltkarten, Hannover (MGH-Schriften 36)
Manuel Luciano da Silva (2006): Cristóvão Colon era Português. Lisboa.
Reinhard Krüger (1999): Zur Archäologie des globalen Raumbewusstseins. Berlin.
Rudolf Simek (1992): Erde und Kosmos im Mittelalter. München.
Rudolf Simek (1993): Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Brewer. Cambridge.


It has indeed been a common error that in the middle ages people believed that the earth was flat. It was Jeffrey Russell who discovered that that wasn’t the fact at all. Jeffrey said it were secularists that spread this to discredit the Christian believe of the middle ages. Now Fjordman recuperates the same thought to emphasis the self-hate of Europeans. Both are remarkable, given the fact that the believe started with The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus written in 1828. At that moment nor secularism or so called “European self-hate” existed.

Flat Earth Brewing

There's an advertisement currently being shown on British television (Stella Artois) that continues to perpetuate the myth that," 1366 ... people believed the earth was flat and the sun set into the sea". Check out their website for further details.