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MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island

MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
MYSTERIES: The 500 Year Old Chinese City on Cape Breton Island
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Read the evidence and have your class come to a conclusion about whether or not the chinese had a settlement in Cape Breton 500 years ago.

The Story:

Back in 2002, architect, amateur historian and native Cape Bretoner Paul Chiasson went for a hike up Kelly’s Mountain on Cape Dauphin near Sydney on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. What he found has been the subject of dispute ever since with experts squaring off against experts in an attempt to prove or disprove Mr. Chiasson’s contention that Chinese explorers settled there in a “city” in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty.

Stumbling on some old stone ruins – a road, stone walls, and apparently cut stones – he began looking for answers to their origins. Later trips to the Mountain led to the discovery of more intriguing finds including mounds that appeared to be graves and stones with peculiar marking. Pouring over aerial photos and researching books and documents led him to the startling theory that the Chinese colonized Cape Breton.

His work led to the publishing of his controversial book “The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese settled when they discovered North America”. If the success of a book is based on the attention it draws, then this book has been a huge success drawing highly qualified detractors and supporters.

While history shows the Chinese were actively exploring the world by sea at that time, Dean Christianson, an archaeologist and curator with the Nova Scotia Museum, and his team of experts concluded there was nothing on site to support Chiasson’s theory. Others, notably Cedric Bell, have countered these arguments effectively.

“Whilst I have had only had a brief account of David Christianson’s visit to Cape Dauphin, he does not appear to have given an explanation as to just how a few of the interesting signs of occupation have occurred. How the huge stone walls flanking the plateau access road have arrived. nor why they are on a stone foundation, nor why they have a 6m ditch on their outside, nor why a survey .. on either side of the road, could not detect similar sized boulders. ie The boulders had not just been bulldozed out of the way of a boulder strewn environment to form a road. Nor does he explain how an aqueduct could mysteriously appear under the road. Nor who constructed the beautiful stone terraces of the Religious leader’s residence. Nor who constructed the earthwork defenses at the base of the plateau. Nor who constructed the harbours both on the plateau and at the base of the eastern face.” C. Bell

Whatever the answer, Paul Chiasson’s book continues to draw much interest and speculation. Certainly, there is an abundance of information to suggest the early presence of the Chinese in North, Central and South Americas and our Resource and Live Files on this topic includes many existing references as well as numerous actual articles supporting and denigrating Paul Chiasson and his theory of Chinese settlement in Cape Breton.


While historical research has never been able to definitively identify the origin of the quote ""History is written by the victors", it points with clarity to the fact that accepted history is not always the "real" history. In fact, it seems that some folks wish to change science and history to satisfy their own biases or intent.

But we must all now beware the fact that we have entered the era of "fake news" and "fake history". Created primarily by social media and the ease with which “fake” ideas, articles, and images can be created, this poses a dilemma for history and science teachers particularly.

How do we teach our students to examine the evidence that will lead to a true understanding of historic and scientific realities ... real or fake?

Fortunately, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has created a website that provides teaching guidelines in a variety of fields, including history and science. We recommend that teachers use these guideline.

Our resources have been designed to reduce the time required to research the subject at hand. They allow teachers to cover topics more rapidly than would otherwise be the case.

We recommend you use the PBS website and our resources and that you start here:


If you wish to participate in their Facebook page, that is located here:

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Teaching Duration
2 days
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Art MacKay




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