This morning I came across a Dutch story related to the Olympics that seemed to be a joke at first. But because I found it on several other international and even Dutch news sites as well, it may actually be true.
What happened is that the mayor of the city of Haarlem in Holland, Mr. Schneiders, was watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony on TV and saw that one of the themes was the invention of printing by the Chinese. That made him upset, because in his opinion printing was invented by a certain Mr. Costers who hailed from the city of Haarlem as well. So what does the man do? He decides to write a letter to the mayor of Beijing saying among others “It is a generally known fact that printing was discovered in Haarlem by our townsman Laurens Janszoon Coster. This happened about 1400 AC.”
A generally known fact? This vague kind of rhetoric you normally find in the Chinese press, but it seems some Dutch now also use it. But is it really so well known? I think I learned in school that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press (and yes, I learned this in a Dutch school). And that happened a few hundred years after the Chinese seem to have invented it, so they may have very well been first. To me it’s not a big issue who invented it, but the fact that a Dutch politician is so stupid as to write a letter about it makes me a bit sad – sad for him. Is he so ignorant that he thinks he will be taken seriously?
To make things worse, in a related Dutch report I read that he also attached a picture of a statue of Mr. Costers and that he offered Beijing a replica – but only if they would put it on Tiananmen Square… Seriously, is this guy nuts? Or is he just trying to get his 15 minutes of fame by doing some China bashing?
I don’t think mayor is nuts. Being Chinese, we were taught Gutenberg invented “modern” printing. Although I don’t know what “modern” means.