The Japan Times
December 19, 2002

China-Western ties may have 5,000-year history

BEIJING (AFP-Jiji) A growing number of Chinese historians and archaeologists are convinced ties with the West have a history of 5,000 years, rather than 2,000 years as was previously thought, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.

The new theories have been based on the recent discovery in China of artifacts dating back as early as 3000 B.C. that are not unlike similar objects that have been long linked to ancient Egypt, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"The earliest date for East-West exchanges might surpass our imagination," said Wang Hui, an archaeologist who is a specialist in the history of the ancient Silk Road.

What has excited archaeologists the most is the discovery of a number of mace heads.

Those objects are small figures in the shape of balls, peaches and pentagrams that were commonly used to decorate staves carried by persons of rank.

Some of these objects are 5,000 years old and are not unlike similar objects used for the same purpose in Pharaonic Egypt.

If an East-West link this ancient can be established, it will confound current conventional wisdom, according to Xinhua.

It is commonly believed that regular exchanges between China and the West only began two millennia ago, at the height of the Roman Empire, when the Silk Road was established.

Chinese scholars believe that earlier exchanges were probably carried out via nomadic tribes roaming the vast expanses of Central Asia, Xinhua said.

While some Chinese historians are seeking to add millennia to their country's ties with Europe, others are focusing on the alleged forgotten history of China's early explorations across the Pacific.

Some local scholars have claimed that available evidence can show that ancient Chinese sailors were in regular contact with indigenous American peoples centuries before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World.