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1421: The Year China Discovered America

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1421: The Year China Discovered America Cover

ISBN13: 9780593050781
ISBN10: 0593050789
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The incredible true story of the discovery of America before Columbus was even born.Gavin Menzies's extraordinary findings rewrite history.

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.

Review:

"...the particular genius of Menzies has been to link most convincingly many bits and pieces of information that have been known by different experts (including the great sinologist Joseph Needham) for a long time but which no one before him has had the wit to put together." Geoffrey Moorhouse, The Guardian

Review:

"The amateur historian's lightly footnoted, heavily speculative re-creation of little-known voyages made by Chinese ships in the early 1400s goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert and will surely set tongues wagging." Publishers Weekly

Synopsis:

On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China. Its mission was "to proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas" and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony.

When it returned in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships 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 had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. Also concealed was how the Chinese colonized America before the Europeans and transplanted in America and other countries the principal economic crops that have fed and clothed the world.

Unveiling incontrovertible evidence of these astonishing voyages, 1421 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 landmark work of historical investigation.

About the Author

Gavin Menzies was born in 1937 and lived in China for two years before the Second World War. He joined the Royal Navy in 1953 and served in submarines from 1959 to 1970. As a junior officer he sailed the world in the wakes of Columbus, Dias, Cabral and Vasco da Gama. While in command of HMS Rorqual (1968–1970), he sailed the routes pioneered by Magellan and Captain Cook. Since leaving the Royal Navy, he has returned to China and the Far East many times, and in the course of researching 1421 he has visited 120 countries, more than 900 museums and libraries, and every major sea port of the late Middle Ages. Menzies is married, has two daughters and lives in North London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

EmilyMB, October 9, 2011 (view all comments by EmilyMB)
My main thought while reading this book for the first time was, "I want the adventure novel RIGHT NOW." Because the tale of the Chinese fleet splitting up to explore the whole world, including the Antarctic, would make a great novel or movie.

The scholarship is another story. Now, there are plenty of good pieces of evidence presented in this book (the Chinese definitely did make it to India and East Africa). I'm just not sure they're as definitive as the author presents, and think he took a few too many leaps from Point A to Point K without making sure all the dots in between connected. Quite a few of his pieces of evidence are essentially described as "possible Chinese junks/artifacts/etc., pending excavation." If we haven't looked at it properly yet, it's suggestive, but not nearly as strong a piece of evidence as we'd wish.

There are several instance where he doesn't give enough information about a particular bit of evidence he presents for readers to be able to evaluate it. I'll give some examples:

- The Vinland Map has been tested and debated over for decades in an attempt to authenticate it or prove it a forgery. Menzies mentions the debate, mentions that one point in contention was the presence of anatase in the ink (not usually found until the 1920s), and then says that someone found some anatase in another definitely authentic medieval map, so that argument can be dismissed. In fact, the anatase issue is much more complicated than that, let alone the other questions about the map he doesn't even mention. He doesn't give the reader enough of a summary of the issues to evaluate the arguments of either side, or even know that there are as many questions as actually exist. He makes it look disingenuously simple.

- He mentions that some other studies found that two villages in Peru and the Navajo elders about a century ago understood Chinese. He does not say which dialect of Chinese, which would be an important point - many are mutually unintelligible. He also does not attempt to explain how it is that language populations separated for five centuries and surrounded by other language groups would somehow remain mutually intelligible. (I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's a major issue that needs to be addressed.) He doesn't even say whether the original studies he's citing addressed these issues.

And so forth. It's certainly suggestive, and Menzies's thesis may turn out to be essentially correct, but I'd want a lot more examinations of the evidence before accepting most of it. However, the book is also a fun ride. For less speculative accounts of the voyages, you can check out books like When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 by Louise Levathes or Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 by Edward Dreyer.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780593050781
Subtitle:
1421: The Year China Discovered America
Author:
MENZIES, GAVIN
Publisher:
Bantam
Location:
London
Subject:
China
Subject:
Voyages around the world
Subject:
Discoveries in geography
Copyright:
Series Volume:
2002-15
Publication Date:
20021104
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
xix, 520 p., 32 p. of pla
Dimensions:
234 x 156 in.

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » China » Imperial to 1911
History and Social Science » World History » General
Metaphysics » Speculative History

1421: The Year China Discovered America
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details xix, 520 p., 32 p. of pla pages Bantam - English 9780593050781 Reviews:
"Review" by , "...the particular genius of Menzies has been to link most convincingly many bits and pieces of information that have been known by different experts (including the great sinologist Joseph Needham) for a long time but which no one before him has had the wit to put together."
"Review" by , "The amateur historian's lightly footnoted, heavily speculative re-creation of little-known voyages made by Chinese ships in the early 1400s goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert and will surely set tongues wagging."
"Synopsis" by , On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China. Its mission was "to proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas" and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony.

When it returned in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships 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 had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. Also concealed was how the Chinese colonized America before the Europeans and transplanted in America and other countries the principal economic crops that have fed and clothed the world.

Unveiling incontrovertible evidence of these astonishing voyages, 1421 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 landmark work of historical investigation.

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