January 13, 2003

Did the Chinese Discover America?

New book asserts a different version of history

by Adam Dunn

1421 NEW YORK (CNN) -- In his new book, "1421: The Year China Discovered America" (William Morrow), Gavin Menzies claims that a massive Chinese fleet of huge junks and support ships made a two-year circumnavigation of the globe, with extensive exploration of the Americas, nearly a century before Magellan and Columbus.

Needless to say, his assertion has raised an international flurry of debate.

The book has already garnered mixed reviews from the British media, as well as skeptical articles from The New York Times Magazine and

Menzies is unfazed by the reviews. Indeed, even he was surprised at the results of his research, . . .


Louise Levathes, "When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433," Oxford University Press, January 1997

[Between 1405 and 1433, a Chinese Muslim, Zheng He, commanded the largest naval fleet that the world would see for the next five centuries according to Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. In Thunder from the East, Kristof and WuDunn write:

Not until World War I did the West mount anything comparable. Chinese records show that Zheng He's fleet included twenty-eight thousand sailors on three hundred ships, the longest of which were four hundred feet long. By comparison, Columbus in 1492 had ninety sailors on three ships, the biggest of which was eighty-five feet long.--Enver Masud, The War on Islam, February 15, 2001, p. 189]

[On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Di's loyal eunuch admirals. Their mission was "to proceed all the way to the end of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas" and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. Their journey would last more than two years and circle the globe.

When they returned in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships, now considered frivolous, were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in China's long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. Also concealed were how the Chinese colonized America before the Europeans and transplanted to America, Australia, New Zealand and South America the principal economic crops that have fed and clothed the world.

Now, in a landmark historical journey, Gavin Menzies, who spent fifteen years tracing the astonishing voyages of the Chinese fleet, shares the remarkable account of his discoveries and the incontrovertible evidence to support them. His compelling narrative pulls together ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts of Chinese explorers and the later European navigators to prove that the Chinese had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years ahead of the Europeans. 1421 describes the artifacts and inscribed stones left behind by the emperor's fleet, the evidence of wrecked junks along its route -- discovered in locations ranging from the middle of the Mississippi River to tributaries of the Amazon -- and the ornate votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, in honor of Shao Lin, goddess of the sea.

1421: The Year China Discovered America is the story of a remarkable journey of discovery that rewrites our understanding of history. Our knowledge of world exploration as it has been commonly accepted for centuries must now be reconceived due to this classic work of historical detection.--Gavin Menzies, "1421: The Year China Discovered America," Harper Collins, 2003]

"The 1421 Heresy: An Investigation into The Ming Chinese Maritime Survey of the World," AuthorHouse (September 8, 2005)

"China map lays claim to Americas," BBC News, January 13, 2006

"Hero of the Ming Dynasty: The man who mapped the world," Independent, September 26, 2006

Martin Jacques, "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order," Penguin Press HC, The (November 12, 2009)

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