Gavin Menzies: The Man Who Argues the Chinese Discovered America

Historians in the News

Hafidah Samat, in New Straits Times ( Malaysia) (2-12-05):

AUTHOR Gavin Menzies is out to prove a point. A former submarine commander in Britain's Royal Navy, Menzies has declared that the Chinese - in the 1400s travelling on a fleet of ships led by the famed Admiral Zheng He - reached America 70 years before the great European explorer Columbus.

The Chinese, argued Menzies, had also charted various parts of the world, including Australia, more than 300 years before famed explorer Captain Cook. "They even charted the Magellan Straits 60 years before Magellan was born."

The amateur historian also touched on the little known voyages made by Chinese ships during that era, and the speculation goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert. This has inevitably set tongues wagging.

This and more fascinating revelations are what 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, the book Menzies wrote two years ago, has to offer.

The controversial book has also spawned a documentary of the same title, which examines and uncovers the mystery surrounding Zheng He's incredible and intrepid fleet.

The documentary employs re-enactment, extensive locations and innovative computer-generated images (CGI) models of the fleet, bringing to life a 15th-century China as an emerging super nation.

The two-hour special will be aired on Discovery Channel (Astro's Channel 50) tomorrow at 9am.

In a recent phone interview, Menzies was charming, with a tale to tell and he refused to be hurried.

"I stumbled upon this strange story entirely by accident. My wife and I went to China to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a lovely cold morning on the Great Wall. The adrenaline surges through your blood as you stand up there," he said on what inspired him to write 1421: The Year China Discovered the World.

"It was then that we learnt about Zheng He and the huge fleet that had brought rulers from around the world for the inauguration of the Forbidden City on New Year's Day in 1421."

His fruitful visit to China led him to write the book....

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Manuel Alonzo - 10/12/2010

What about the Native Americans? They were in the Americas before any European or Asian.