The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered America
Joan W. Gartland
In contrast to its epic title, this is a personal account of the author's own research into a stone road he found on his native Cape Breton Island, Canada. Chiasson, an architect, was driven by intellectual curiosity, his family's Acadian ancestry, and his awareness that he was living with HIV and might not have the time or energy to complete the project. Writing in a modest style, he describes his research into early sources (500 years of maps and written records), his visits to the stone road and ruins on the mountaintop of Cape Dauphin, and aerial photography, all leading him to the conclusion that the ruins are those of a Chinese settlement established during the Ming dynasty in the early 15th century, well ahead of John Cabot's European discovery of the island in 1497. He posits that the Chinese may have been in search of coal or gold. Realizing the magnitude of his hypothesis, he reviews his evidence again and again, comparing similarities in culture between Cape Breton's indigenous Mi'kmaq and the Chinese, highlighting the architectural features of the ruins, and identifying Cape Breton Island with the fabled Island of Seven Cities, supposedly inhabited and predating Columbus and Cabot. Finally, he met with Gavin Menzies (1421: The Year China Discovered America ), who visited the site and concurred with Chiasson that it was a pre-European Chinese settlement. It remains for archaeologists and experts in Chinese history and culture to validate Chiasson's findings, but the book stands as a fascinating piece of historical detective work. Essential for readers of1421 , whatever their beliefs, and for lay readers in general. - Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
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