Event Detail


Did the Chinese, like the Vikings, visit America pre-Columbus?

Christian Havrehed
Monday, 18 Mar 2024
Complimentary Free-Flow Fine Wines from 6:30 pm; Talk at 7:30 pm
Capital Group, 27/F, One International Finance Centre, Central

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, some European academics speculated that the Chinese had somehow visited America long before Columbus, either via the Bering Strait, or by island hopping across the North-Pacific Rim, or directly across the Pacific Ocean aided by the Kuroshio Current. 

When Danish historian Carl Christian Rafn claimed in 1837 that, according to the Icelandic Sagas, the Vikings had visited America around year 1000, focus shifted onto the Vikings.  Yet, eminent sinologists, such as Sir Joseph Needham, believed the Chinese had visited America before Columbus, but were unable to get traction on the subject.
Christian’s research focuses on the time period which spans from the beginning of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC to the end of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 AD, before Zheng He’s seven voyages during the Ming dynasty.  Zheng He’s voyages mark the pinnacle of China’s maritime ability, but getting to that level of sophistication would have taken centuries.  Little research has focused on China’s seafaring ability before the Ming, and even less on Chinese maritime voyages in a North-Easterly direction, because Zheng He’s voyages were in a South-Westerly direction.
It was only in 1960, 123 years after the Danes had proposed that the Vikings had visited America before Columbus, that the archaeological proof validating this hypothesis was discovered in Newfoundland.  Christian shows that the fact that no Chinese archaeological evidence has been found in America to date does not necessarily mean it does not exist.

On 25 May 2024, Asia’s first ocean rower, Chinese national Sun Haibin and Christian are embarking on a 2,234km row from China to retrace the route of China’s first maritime explorer, Xu Fu, who in 210BC was sent by the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to search for the Elixir of Immortality in the Eastern Seas.  The first leg of the row is an off-shore non-stop 800km crossing of the East China Sea to Nagasaki in Japan.  Here the pair are continuing on a 1,400km coastal row round the Southern tip of Kyushu island, into the Pacific Ocean, and up to Shingu in Wakayama Prefecture, where they expect to complete their row in July 2024. 
Christian Havrehed is from Denmark.  He read for a BA Joint Hons in Chinese Language & Western Management Studies at Durham University, UK.  Part of his degree was done at Renmin University in Beijing, China. After graduation Christian to worked in China and subsequently Hong Kong.  Since then he has studied and worked 20 years in China, having extensive first-hand experience of the incredible changes the Chinese people are going through. He speaks Chinese and is an external examiner in Chinese Studies at Copenhagen University and Aarhus University.

Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$200 for RGS Members and HK$250 for guests and others. Including complimentary free-flow drinks. 

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