China Invented Skiing

by Nathan Hamm on 1/23/2006 · 8 comments

“China invented skiing” is obviously the logical conclusion of this discovery.

Cliff paintings of hunters in rugged remote northwestern China appear to prove that Chinese were adept skiers in the Old Stone Age, Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

The paintings in Altay, in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, “have been verified as human hunting while skiing and, therefore, archaeologists prove the Altay region to be a place of skiing some 100 to 200 centuries ago”, the news agency said.

Wang Bo, a noted researcher with the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Museum, said he had seen a picture of four people chasing cattle and horses, three of them on a long rectangular board with poles in their hands.

One wonders if the Chinese scientific community will one day discover a long lost “original” copy of the Old Testament in China that begins, “In the beginning the Chinese created the heaven and the earth.” It makes about as much sense as the claim that a 10,000+ year old cave painting proves that a state that didn’t exist for another 8,000 years or an ethnic group that wasn’t a majority in that neck of the woods until very recently can claim to have invented skiing.

People’s Daily Online adds,

The way of skiing shown in the painting is likened to the locals’ skiing practice at present, said Shan Zhaoqian, a technical adviser of the Skiing Association of China, adding that Altay residents have inherited longstanding skiing activities from their ancestors.

Whoever those ancestors happen to be… They certainly aren’t the Han. And odds are they’re not Uighurs. Perhaps they’re the Finns or something.

In all fairness to Wang Bo, the researcher quoted in the story, the ludicrous claim that skiing is a Chinese invention seems more to be coming from Xinhua. Not that China’s not above trying to appropriate other neighbors’ heritage or anything though.

UPDATE: Since we’re on the subject, I might as well mention that there others in this neck of the woods who claim some dubious firsts (that one can be doubly dubious depending on how it’s presented).

And then there’s also the claim going around that China reached the Americas before Columbus now bolstered by a recently discovered map. Plenty of experts doubt the map’s authenticity and Time passes on the following,

The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post opined: “Chinese who are famous for their nationalism did not want to believe their ancestors found America first this time … This is a perfect example of how China has come to take research more seriously and has grown more realistic and objective.” And, it seems, more confident of its place in the world.

But they still claim skiing, and that humans evolved in China, so I’m having a hard time buying claims of blossoming Chinese confidence.

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Brian January 23, 2006 at 5:40 pm

Hey why not? Remembering my childhood the Chinese invented skateboarding. According to the skateboarding movie: Bones Brigade 3: The Search for Animal Chin, an old Chinese man named Won Ton Animal Chin invented the skateboard but then went underground because skateboarding got too commercial. Then again, they never did find him in the movie… so it just might not be true.

Is it sad to enjoy this kind of nostalgia?

jodi January 23, 2006 at 5:42 pm

and didn’t china discover america too? (or so some old fake map says…)

Curzon January 23, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Fools! Don’t you know that “ostriches were skiing millions of years before humans even existed!”:

Curzon January 23, 2006 at 6:13 pm

Dammit Nathan, you need Textile. Here’s the link.

Jonathan P January 24, 2006 at 10:21 am

People, the evidence is clear that Uzbeks did, in fact, discover America. Not only that, but Timur actually visited and toured the continent.

I mean, don’t you people know about how America got it’s name? When Columbus arrived in the Carribean, the natives, thinking it was their old buddy Amir Timur, started shouting, “Amir-aka!, Amir-aka!” (Of course, the natives should be excused for thinking “Amir” was their favorite Uzbek’s first name.)

Anyway, Columbus, being slow of mind, mistook this greeting as the name of the land he had “discovered.” Thus, we live in America today.

I love that story/joke. (Related to me in a village in the Jizzakh region.)

Nathan January 24, 2006 at 11:57 am

That’s awesome. I hadn’t heard that story before.

davesgonechina February 1, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Actually, Nathan, I thought the Xinhua article was better than the Reuters article.

Because Xinhua didn’t say the Chinese invented skiing. Reuters did, because it plugged into the “Chinese claim everything” narrative. Not that there isn’t truth to that, but this time the Xinhua article took pains to say “Altay residents” and not Chinese, which Reuters did. This time I think Reuters is more guilty of obfuscating history than Xinhua.

Nils Larsen February 4, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Actually, I just returned from my 2nd trip to the Chinese Altai documenting the traditional use of skis. There is a good chance that skiing did originate in the Altai region. This idea was first put forth by the famous (skiing) Swedish explorer Fridjold Nansen in 1890 and is based on a study of the root words for skis. Clearly it was not China then but the general statement (as in the article) that the greater Altai region is the birthplace of skiing is acurate.
Current use of skiing in the area is still very much as it has been for thousands of years. The skiers are a mix of the nomadic cultures in the area, Mongols, Tuvans, and Kazakhs.

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