HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

1421: The Year China Discovered America

by Gavin Menzies

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,896883,654 (3.26)63
"On 8 February 1421 the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, 500 foot long junks made from the finest teak and mahogany, were led by 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 over two years and circle the entire globe. When they returned Zhu Di had fallen from power and China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world it had so recently embraced. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America 70 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. They has also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia 350 years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude 300 years before the Europeans. Gavin Menzies has spent 15 years tracing the astonishing voyages of the Chinese fleet. In this historical detective story, he shares the account of his discoveries and the incontrovertible evidence to support them. His narrative brings together ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts by Chinese explorers and the later European navigators. It brings to light the artefacts and inscribed standing stones left behind by the Emperor's fleet, the evidence of sunken junks along its route and the ornate votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, in thanks to Shao Lin, goddess of the sea." -- BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 63 mentions

English (82)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
The teaching of history is, as von Clausewitz said of war, the extension of politics by other means. Different nations teach their own history from their own viewpoint. Even if that history extends beyond their own borders, the story usually reflects the role of each country in the development of the world. So works of trans-national history are comparatively unusual, and even more rarely do they look beyond narrow national viewpoints.

So a book that claims that Chinese treasure fleets explored the world's oceans, circumnavigated the globe 100 years before Magellan and made landfall in the Americas some 75 years before Columbus is bound to ruffle some feathers. Menzies' '1421' does just that. His thesis is that the extravagance of the early Ming emperors, which culminated in the building of the Forbidden City, the completion of the Great Wall, and the commissioning of a massive trading fleet, numbering hundreds of ships, caused a subsequent emperor to retrench the nation's activity, to purge the archives of all records and to retreat into isolationism, leaving Portuguese explorers tantalising clues and charts showing distant lands which they then went out and "discovered".

Given that China had trade links all over South-East Asia, the coast of India and down the east coast of Africa, this seems plausible. The big problem is the lack of firm evidence. Given that (in Menzies' account) all the main Chinese records were destroyed, this leaves him to pick up scraps from a range of other sources, piecing a story together from fragments. But this is always going to lead to confirmation bias; any evidence will be assessed for how it fits into the grand narrative, rather than looking at the evidence in isolation. Menzies lists a large number of academic institutions that helped him in his researches; what they thought of the outcome is another matter.

The style of the writing does not help. Menzies initially started writing a world travelogue, of which the central idea behind "1421" was just one part. This came to the attention of an enterprising publisher who saw the possibilities in a book based on the account of the treasure fleets. Menzies re-wrote that segment of the book with the aid of a ghost writer; but he admitted that he himself was no writer. He uses some of the usual tropes of the pseudo-science writer - "this proves that the Chinese must have...", "the only possible conclusion is that..." and so on. Even if his evidence were sound, the book presents subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) suggestions that it is not, simply because of the style. Interestingly, he twice cites Erich von Däniken, though not as any sort of reliable source, but rather as the only other person to think such-and-such a piece of evidence is significant, "and that can't be true!".

Of course, if his thesis is true, then all we will have are fragments which need to be pieced together. But this runs the risk of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. China has an extensive history; it was the world's first superpower. But if this claim was viable, would it not be the Chinese who would be making it?

Menzies died in 2020. He published further books making more fantastical claims about the role of China in medieval European history; and set up a website asking members of the public to add to the body of his evidence. This has been replaced by a very slick site for a "1421 Foundation" which has picked up this particular ball and is running with it. This is a shame, because it all now smacks of commercialisation and sensation; certainly, any serious historian or archaeologist coming to the field of medieval Chinese naval history might well be put off by all the trappings. And that would be a shame; in a world where narrow national interests are being exploited for political gain, any trans-national or global perspective is helpful in trying to give a sense of balance. But without better evidence, this book and its successors are not helping. ( )
  RobertDay | Sep 15, 2021 |
claims Chinese fleets explored and mapped most of world in 1421 then records destroyed by change of regime, Doubtful
  ritaer | Aug 26, 2021 |
nonfiction (history with science) ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
A beautifully written and fascinating tale of the Chinese expeditions to all the oceans of the globe during the early 15th century. The author says that the Chinese not only sent out huge armadas all over the world, but on the sixth expedition during 1421-3, which is the one dealt with here, they split up into four armadas that criss-crossed all three oceans, and touched Antarctica, circumnavigated Greenland, mapped the Siberian coast, and so on. They also naturally left numerous shipwrecks all along the sea coasts of all continents, and also groups of stranded seamen and concubines who added their genes, languages, and cultural accomplishments to local populations. All these achievements are said to predate the travels of the European explorers like Magellan, Diaz, Columbus, and others. Ironically, the Chinese had spent so much on these maritime adventures and on their massive construction projects at home (their palaces and the Great Wall), that the successor emperors sharply cut back on their maritime activities, destroyed all the maps and documents, and retired their admirals and their dockyards, and entered on two centuries of isolation and xenophobia. Thus the author's theory rests more on circumstantial evidence and conjecture than on material facts. Naturally these ideas have attracted their share of criticism and scepticism, although there is obviously some ground to question the Western narrative of European priority in discovery and exploration. For South Asians, especially tantalising is the connection with the great ports of South India like Calicut, which was reportedly a mustering point for many of these armadas. All in all, an absorbing tale of fascinating episode of the world's history. ( )
  Dilip-Kumar | May 28, 2021 |
Grand Eunuch Zheng He at the command of the Emperor Zhu Di (Ming Dynasty) launched in 1421 AD a massive fleet of Chinese Junks, made of wood and approximately 480 feet long and 180 feet wide. They were accompanied by an armada of smaller ships for logistical, commercial and defensive support. Its purpose was to explore the world beyond the Middle-Kingdom, establish trade and chart unknown seas and lands. They used the stars as one of their navigational aids and were excellent cartographers. The extant of their voyages and their discoveries is the jist of this book. Gavin Menzies, a retired British submarine commander, spent 15 years searching the cartography, historical records, artifacts, inscribed stele and sailing to many of the locations searching for evidence. This was no small task. Much of the written evidence e.g journals and the like were destroyed by the palace Mandarins after the Emperor fell in an ill fated battle in 1423 China became closed and no further voyages took place. Menzies was not an professional historian but a practical seaman who put together his evidence in a clear manner. The appendices in the book are well worth reading. To imagine the Chinese fleet accomplished this without the modern technology we take for granted is mind-boggling. The fleet divided among various commander sailed up and down the coasts of America, Central America. NewZealand, Australia and as far North as the Atlantic.
  mcdenis | Jun 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
This book is dedicated to my beloved wife Marcella, who has travelled with me on the journeys related in this book and through life.
First words
On 2 February 1421, China dwarfed every nation on earth.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
"On 8 February 1421 the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, 500 foot long junks made from the finest teak and mahogany, were led by 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 over two years and circle the entire globe. When they returned Zhu Di had fallen from power and China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world it had so recently embraced. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America 70 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. They has also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia 350 years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude 300 years before the Europeans. Gavin Menzies has spent 15 years tracing the astonishing voyages of the Chinese fleet. In this historical detective story, he shares the account of his discoveries and the incontrovertible evidence to support them. His narrative brings together ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts by Chinese explorers and the later European navigators. It brings to light the artefacts and inscribed standing stones left behind by the Emperor's fleet, the evidence of sunken junks along its route and the ornate votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, in thanks to Shao Lin, goddess of the sea." -- BOOK JACKET.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.26)
0.5 11
1 34
1.5 3
2 55
2.5 13
3 137
3.5 21
4 136
4.5 8
5 64

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 163,312,189 books! | Top bar: Always visible