Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth?

I am browsing Chinese history.

Yucks! History !! You might say. Who needs to know the past? I am not trying to sound nostalgic and ancient but history interests me.

I do not know much about the Chinese history and I do not think I will make significant progress after reading some extracts. We are talking about 5000 years of civilization here and it will take me a whole life time to sink into the sea of facts and trivia.

My interest in Chinese history is incidental (hopefully not transient) and it does not go beyond satisfying my tepid curiosity. However, I do observe that there has been a growing interest in Chinese history by people around the world. I believe it has to do with the rise of the Chinese powers.

In 2002, Gavin Menzies wrote the book '1421: The Year China Discovered the World' and drew lots of controversies. He hypothesized that the Chinese sent out huge junks in the early 1400s to map the world. Along the way, they discovered the Americas some years before Christopher Columbus did in 1492.

Before the dusts could settle, he came up with yet another book this year. In '1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet', Menzies states that in 1434, the Chinese traveled to Europe and gave their knowledge of astronomy, cartography, agriculture, machines, weapons and other areas of knowledge to the Vatican.

The 2nd book again flares a storm of discussions as to whether the Greek and Roman origin was all along untrue. The much entrenched belief that Leonardo da Vinci being a famous polymath is also being thrown into a shadow of doubt.

I have not read any of the two books but I have no difficulties being absorbed into the controversies. When someone tells you the 'truth' was never the truth, it certainly will prick lots of nerves. Learning about the past is not easy and harder is any attempt to change the past.

I want the truth.

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