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The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered North America [Paperback]

Paul Chiasson
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 13 2007
The gripping, marvel-filled account of how a native son took a casual walk up a mountain on Cape Breton Island and made an archeological discovery of world-shaking proportions.

In the summer of 2002, at home for his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, Paul Chiasson decided to climb a mountain he had never explored on the island where eight generations of his Acadian family had lived. Cape Breton is one of the oldest points of exploration and settlement in the Americas, with a history dating back to the first days of European discovery, and it is littered with the remnants of old settlements. But the road that Chiasson found that day was unique. Well-made and consistently wide, and at one time clearly bordered with stone walls, the road had been a major undertaking. In the two years of detective work that followed, Chiasson systematically surveyed the history of Europeans in North America, and came to a stunning conclusion: the ruins he stumbled upon did not belong to the Portuguese, the French or the English – in fact, they pre-dated John Cabot’s “discovery” of the island in 1497.

Using aerial and site photographs, maps and drawings, and his own expertise as an architect, Chiasson carries the reader along as he pieces together the clues to one of the world’s great mysteries. While tantalizing mentions can be found in early navigators’ journals and maps, The Island of Seven Cities reveals for the first time the existence of a large Chinese colony that thrived on Canadian shores well before the European Age of Discovery.

Chiasson addresses how the colony was abandoned and forgotten, in the New World and in China, except in the storytelling and culture of the Mi’kmaq, whose written language, clothing, technical knowledge, religious beliefs and legends, he argues, expose deep cultural roots in China. The Island of Seven Cities unveils the first tangible proof that the Chinese were in the New World before Columbus.

Evidence that Cape Breton is the site of a Chinese settlement:

-Stone roads with dimensions and building properties that match Chinese roads
-A ruined city and surrounding farmlands designed in the manner of the Chinese
-Language and clothing of the indigenous Mi’kmaq match Chinese dress
-Mi’kmaq legends tell of a wise man from across the seas who imparted Confucian advice
-In 1490, before he left for the Americas, Christopher Columbus mapped an island that looked like Cape Breton based on the travels of others

Frequently Bought Together

The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered North America + 1421: The Year China Discovered The World + 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance
Price For All Three: CDN$ 49.28

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Product Description


“If it is true, the find would rank among the greatest archeological discoveries of all time, [and] turn much of modern history upside down.”
National Post

“The book stands as a fascinating piece of historical detective work. Essential for readers of 1421, whatever their beliefs, and for lay readers in general.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Riveting, beautifully written, powerful and compelling.”
—Gavin Menzies, author of 1421: The Year China Discovered America

“Each of Chiasson’s discoveries is absurdly exciting.”
Calgary Herald

About the Author

Paul Chiasson is a Yale-educated architect whose expertise is the history and theory of religious architecture. He was born on Cape Breton Island and is a direct descendent of the Acadians who were among the first European settlers in the New World. He has taught at Yale, at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and at the University of Toronto. Chiasson’s discovery of the remains of an ancient Chinese settlement on Cape Breton Island is a direct result of his ancestral interest in the island’s history and of his unique ability to understand the unusual architectural forms that the ruins represented – remains that had been previously misunderstood or overlooked.

From the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete rubbish July 10 2014
This is just another amateur speculating without evidence from professional archaeologists. Stick to designing buildings, not history.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but implausible June 27 2006
An interesting but implausible tale to say the least. The author writes about the existence of stone "platforms" on Cape Breton Island (CBI) that he stumbled across a few years back. Curious, he tries to track down the builders of said platforms with the usual suspects being the French and the English. Going through the existing historical record reveals nothing about who the builders could be.

He then makes the jump to the idea that it must have been Chinese explorers/settlers who did the work during the heyday of Ming China's voyages of discovery. (I suspect that those voyages were more about tribute gathering and trade than about discovery.) Anyone familiar with Menzies' book 1421 will know his theory of how the Chinese sent expeditions circling around the globe yet mysteriously somehow missing Europe(!).

I'm extremely skeptical about Chiasson's theory that it was the Chinese who built the platforms for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is very little reason that I could see as to why anyone would want to build a settlement on Cape Breton Island unless there was something very valuable there. As Chiasson says, there is coal and there is gold. Unfortunately for the theory, China has lots of coal so it would not be economically viable to transport it all the way back to China from CBI and the gold deposits were not enough to sustain later European ventures. Again, China has closer sources of gold at hand and, even if they were to send out fleets of gold miners, there are closer sources along the way to CBI such as South Africa, West Africa, and Central America.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Is Out There July 3 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like most theories that contradict received wisdom, Mr. Chiasson's book is getting a lot of criticism, and quite a bit of praise.

First of all, this is a story about a mystery. It's fun to read. It is wide ranging and provides some interesting looks into map making, history, cultures, and research.

It's worth noting that some of the criticism was written before the book was published. Now that's prejudging, or prejudice to phrase it another way.

Whether you agree with the author's conclusions, this book exposes something that is apparently on top of a mountain in Cape Breton, and doesn't seem to be covered in recorded history, like Anse aux meadows four decades ago.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a thrilling study May 31 2006
Well, Mr Chiasson seems to have stirred something up, judging from the preceding cautionary letter posing as a review. However, being neither an academic nor a specialist in cartography or Chinese history, I was very impressed by his research, reasoning and writing. In fact, I found the book riveting from start to finish and I urge you to try it. The curious reader will find much to consider, even though the subject matter will no doubt be thoroughly debated elsewhere by the specialists.
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