On this occasion, however, Menaker wanted to share his interest in the idea that, contrary to what many of us have been taught through conventional knowledge of history, the Chinese discovered the New World and other remote regions, before the Europeans. Menaker’s trip followed a similar route to those Menzies contends the Chinese took, and he visited many of the countries Menzies claims were visited by the Chinese. Repeatedly, Menaker saw with his own eyes Chinese artifacts in locations all around the globe that would support Menzies’ belief.
The following is some of the history Menaker described, as gleaned from Menzies’ book:
A 15th century emperor, who controlled part of China launched a construction program from 1402 – 1421, in which he built a canal that led from the interior out to the coast, re-built the Great Wall, established a new capital–Beijing, and established the Royal Palace–the Forbidden City. The emperor believed China should control the world and he built two fleets of ships to fulfill that purpose. On March 3, 1421, Head Admiral Zheng He took one fleet of more than 1600 ships through the new canal out to the South China Sea to begin an expedition that would take them all around the world. Soon after, a second fleet also departed China on another expedition that would take a different route around the world.
Traveling at an average speed of just 5 knots, there is evidence to suggest that the Chinese went on to visit many countries, leaving vegetation, Ming China, animals, vegetables, and other proof of their presence behind. In many cases, the crew themselves probably stayed in these destinations (if they did not perish at sea). Only 10 percent of the ships and crew returned eventually to China. In many of Menaker’s stops, he visited museums where Chinese exhibits dating back to that period were displayed, including Malaka, Singapore. Many times, Menaker saw tablets carved with Chinese characters in diverse locations, from Sri Lanka, to Massachusetts. Gavin Menzies’ book struck a chord with Tom Menaker when he read it, having repeatedly seen the evidence for himself.
According to Menzies, the Chinese fleet sailed down across the Indian Ocean, around South Africa, and across the Atlantic, to “Antilia” (what we now call Antilles), and Puerto Rico. Chinese history records include a volcano that erupted in Guadalupe that geologists confirm did occur. In the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island there is a Chinese stone tablet that dates to Christmas 1422, and a stone tower near Newport, RI, used by the Chinese as an observation tower for astronomy! Using celestial navigation since the 13th century, the Chinese were able to plot their courses, and determine latitude and longitude, for instance, mapping the west coast of Africa to within 15-20 miles accuracy. Menzies believes that the first Chinese fleet sailed north as far as 80 degrees north, inside the west coast of Greenland, crossed the Northern Passage, across north of Scandinavia and Asia, down alongside East Asia, and back to China. This was possible then as the weather in that part of the world was warm enough in the early 15th century.
The second expedition also circumnavigated the world, visiting various other parts of the globe, including the east and west coasts of Africa, across the Atlantic to South America, through the (later known as) Straits of Magellan, up the west coast of South America, across the Pacific and on to New Zealand, Tasmania and other parts of Australia.
Menzies cites many instances to undergird his claims, including: the Chinese brought back cotton, maize, and tobacco to China; their maps, with Beijing at the center of the earth, were amazingly accurate; they had a name for North America; they knew the approximate size of the earth, describing its width as 3,300 miles; and sunken ships have been found in distant seas containing cargoes of Chinese seeds and plants. With the study of DNA, much more concrete evidence may soon be found to confirm the ideas put forth in Menzies’ book.
The emperor who set this all in motion died in 1425. A fire destroyed the Forbidden City, and the people were angry that he had spent so much of their money. He was succeeded by his son who promised there would be no more expeditions away from China. Indeed, until just the last part of the twentieth century, China remained closed from the rest of the world, an entity unto itself.
1421, The Year China Discovered America
Author: Gavin Menzies
Country: United Kingdom
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication date 2002-11-04
Media type Print (Hardback)