On 12 November 2014, a public lecture on the ancient Chinese text of Shanhaijing ("the Classic of Mountains and Seas") was successfully held by the Centre for China Studies at La Trobe University's city campus.
Shanhaijing is a classical Chinese text documented in the Western Han Dynasty (202 B.C. – 8 A.D.) which contains both geographical and mythical scriptures, and has become part of the ancient heritage of China and Han Chinese culture. This lecture aims to explore ancient Chinese wisdom through the text of Shanhaijing, and also consider the 'natural' and historically contextual economic rise of contemporary China.
US author and Shanhaijing expert, Ms Charlotte Harris Rees, explored the question of whether Shanhaijing describes an ancient Chinese expedition to America. Ms Harris Rees undertook a personal exploration of the Rocky Mountains in North America, comparing descriptions contained in Shanhaijing with physical evidence in the McKean Complex site. She claims Shanhaijing's account is at least 93% geographically accurate.
Reader at the London School of Economics, Professor Kent Deng, explored China's economic development since the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. His presentation claimed that China's current rapid development is neither unnatural nor unprecedented when viewed through an historically contextual lens.
Finally, author and Shanhaijing researcher Mr Steven Lu, explored the question of whether the Shanhaijing 'Classic of Mountains and Seas' contains the first recorded world map. He argued that ancient people between 2000 to 6000 years ago already had extensive knowledge of the earth, and created a map through the application of scientific knowledge.
The lectures engaged an audience of some sixty participants, stimulated much discussion, and highlighted a key, ancient Chinese text that has historically informed Chinese culture. It did not only enhanced the understanding of Chinese traditional culture amongst the general public, but also advanced La Trobe's academic reputation in Asian studies.