Does Chinese Civilization Come From Ancient Egypt? | Foreign Policy: "On a cool Sunday evening in March, a geochemist named Sun Weidong gave a public lecture to an audience of laymen, students, and professors at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, the capital city of the landlocked province of Anhui in eastern China. But the professor didn’t just talk about geochemistry. He also cited several ancient Chinese classics, at one point quoting historian Sima Qian’s description of the topography of the Xia empire — traditionally regarded as China’s founding dynasty, dating from 2070 to 1600 B.C. “Northwards the stream is divided and becomes the nine rivers,” wrote Sima Qian in his first century historiography, the Records of the Grand Historian. “Reunited, it forms the opposing river and flows into the sea.” In other words, “the stream” in question wasn’t China’s famed Yellow River, which flows from west to east.
“There is only one major river in the world which flows northwards. Which one is it?” the professor asked. “The Nile,” someone replied. Sun then showed a map of the famed Egyptian river and its delta — with nine of its distributaries flowing into the Mediterranean. This author, a researcher at the same institute, watched as audience members broke into smiles and murmurs, intrigued that these ancient Chinese texts seemed to better agree with the geography of Egypt than that of China.
In the past year, Sun, a highly decorated scientist, has ignited a passionate online debate with claims that the founders of Chinese civilization were not in any sense Chinese but actually migrants from Egypt. He conceived of this connection in the 1990s while performing radiometric dating of ancient Chinese bronzes; to his surprise, their chemical composition more closely resembled those of ancient Egyptian bronzes than native Chinese ores. Both Sun’s ideas and the controversy surrounding them flow out of a much older tradition of nationalist archaeology in China, which for more than a century has sought to answer a basic scientific question that has always been heavily politicized: Where do the Chinese people come from?
Sun argues that China’s Bronze Age technology, widely thought by scholars to have first entered the northwest of the country through the prehistoric Silk Road, actually came by sea. According to him, its bearers were the Hyksos, the Western Asian people who ruled parts of northern Egypt as foreigners between the 17th and 16th centuries B.C., until their eventual expulsion. He notes that the Hyksos possessed at an earlier date almost all the same remarkable technology — bronze metallurgy, chariots, literacy, domesticated plants and animals — that archaeologists discovered at the ancient city of Yin, the capital of China’s second dynasty, the Shang, between 1300 and 1046 B.C. Since the Hyksos are known to have developed ships for war and trade that enabled them to sail the Red and Mediterranean seas, Sun speculates that a small population escaped their collapsing dynasty using seafaring technology that eventually brought them and their Bronze Age culture to the coast of China...
Anti-Qing intellectuals began to examine critically the roots of Chinese civilization and, for the first time, seized on the idea that they lay in the West. The work that most captured their imagination was that of the French philologist, Albert Terrien de Lacouperie, who in 1892 published the Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilization from 2300 B.C. to 200 A.D. Translated into Chinese in 1903, it compared the hexagrams of the Book of Changes with the cuneiform of Mesopotamia and proposed that Chinese civilization originated in Babylon. The Yellow Emperor was identified with a King Nakhunte, who supposedly led his people out of the Middle East and into the Central Plain of the Yellow River Valley around 2300 B.C...
Chinese archeology took a radical swing toward more extreme nationalism after the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China, when, in the words of the historian James Leibold, “China’s scientific community closed inward on itself.” Nationalism and authoritarianism required the interpretation of archaeological evidence as proof that Chinese civilization had arisen natively, without outside influences. As the Sichuan University archaeologist — and eventual dissident — Tong Enzheng wrote in his fascinating account of the politicization of scholarship between 1949 and 1979: “Mao Zedong implemented a comprehensive anti-Western policy after 1949,” which expanded “already extant anti-imperialism … ultimately becoming total anti-foreignism. Unavoidably, Chinese archaeology was affected.”
Sun’s current theory is an unintended result of the Chronology Project’s scientific rigor. At the project’s launch in 1996, he was a Ph.D. student in the radiation laboratory of the University of Science and Technology. Of the 200 or so items of bronze ware he was responsible for analyzing, some came from the city of Yin. He found that the radioactivity of these Yin-Shang bronzes had almost exactly the same characteristics as that of ancient Egyptian bronzes, suggesting that their ores all came from the same source: African mines. Perhaps anticipating serious controversy, Sun’s doctoral supervisor did not allow Sun to report his findings at the time. Sun was asked to hand over his data and switched to another project. Twenty years after the start of his research and now a professor in his own right, Sun is finally ready to say all he knows about the Yin-Shang and China’s Bronze Age culture."