Poor Christopher, Columbus. First it was the Vikings, not to mention the resurgent American Indians, who challenged his claim to have discovered the New World.

Now the Chinese, of all people, have launched a major attack on Queen Isabella's brave admiral for having the gall to try to sack the land that would one day be their very own People's Republic.

In a lengthy historical paper entitled "Columbus the Colonialist Pirate," Peking adds insult to the injury done by other by suggesting coyly that "some people even say that the Chinese had been to America more than 1,000 years ago."

The 8,000 word article in the official periodical Historical Research, written by an unherald author named Yen Chung-ping, in effect blames the hero of American School children for "the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal populations, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies (and) the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of Negroes."

The article has been dutifully translated from the Chinese by the U.S. governments's translation service here and distributed to subscribers in plenty of time for today's 485th anniversary of what the Chinese call "the so-call 'discovery'" of America.

"Christopher Columbus was always reluctant to reveal his own background," wrote the Chinese historian, opening his peice on a note of dark suspicion. "Whenever he had to speak of his background, he always became evasive. Now it is commonly believed that he was born of the home of a small maker of textiles and woolen products in Genoa. It may be seen that Columbus belonged to a petty bourgeois family that was trying to climb upward."

There is nothing to suggest this is just another backhanded Peking swipe at the United States for failing to extend full diplomatic relations. In fact, the author graciously acknowledges his debt to American historian Samuel Eliot Morison in several footnotes.

Instead, the Chinese betray their inability to resist the temptation to twist sacred Western legends around their Marxist spindles. Here and there within the rhetoric glows a special Chinese wonderment at the story of these crazy Europeans who set out to plunder China, and then went home and insisted they had done just that when they never got within 11,000 miles of the Yellow River.

Columbus, the articles notes, was entranced by tales of the "Great Khan," the ruler of China when Marco Polo had visited and a man said to "express a high degree of goodwill toward the Christians."

The Chinese do not have fond memories of the Great Khan, who was infact a Mongol invader from the north. They sneer at the scheme of Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to have Columbus forge an alliance with Khan against the Moslems occupying southern Spain.

"They did not know the Great Khan who ruled China had been overthrown by Chu Yuan-Chang more than 100 years before" Columbus sailed, the article said, invoking the name of the Chinese commoner who established the Ming dynasty and is still treated as something of a hero by modern-day Chinese.

"The biggest desire of Columbus was to invade China. In his first voyage to America the (natives) already told him that Cuba was an island, but he persisted in the belief that Cuba was not an island, but part of the Indian continent, I.E., China," the article said.

"Columbus was a money seeker who believed gold 'could send one's soul to heaven.' He sailed westward to America and so was called the first man to discover' America. But as a matter of fact northern Europeans had been in America as early as the 10th Century. Some people even say that the Chinese had been to America more than 1,000 years ago," it said.

The writer makes no attempt to support that claim, other than to suggest that the people Columbus found in America had many Chinese virtues.

"They received visitors with cordiallity and were earnest and friendly. They had simple moral customs, respected their elders, and permitted absolutely no promiscuity," he wrote.

The Chinese come down firmly on the side of the American Indians who, although the article does not say so, can probably trace their ancestors to the same ancient Mongol stock.

"The American Indians . . . had no need to discover America," the article concludes. "The time of Columbus is now nearly 500 years away . . . but the heaps of bones of American Indians will forever point an accusing finger at heinous crimes of colonialism."