Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The 1421 theory of the Chinese discovery of the Americas originates from former British Royal Navy submarine commander Gavin Menzies. In his book 1421: The Year China Discovered The World Menzies suggests that fleets by the Chinese captains Zhou Wen (周聞), Zhou Man (周滿), Yang Qing (楊慶) and Hong Bao (洪保), in the fleet of Emperor Zhu Di's (朱棣) Admiral Zheng He (鄭和), travelled to many parts of the world during the Ming Dynasty era from 1421 to 1423, before the Europeans 'discovered' these places.
According to Menzies, the discoveries include Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Antarctica, and the northern coast of Greenland. The knowledge of these discoveries has been lost, Menzies argues, because the mandarins (administrators) of the Emperor's court took a strict line on new adventures after lightning (which was considered a sign of divine anger) burnt down the newly constructed Forbidden City. A year later, his successor (son), the Hongxi Emperor, then forbade making new voyages, and his advisors destroyed all accounts of Zheng He's voyages.
The 1421 theory is partially influenced by Charles Hapgood's theory.
Menzies bases his theory on Chinese shipwrecks, old maps, surviving Chinese literature from the time, and accounts written by navigators like Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan. Menzies also believes that unanswered structures like the Newport Tower and the Bimini Road were constructed by Zheng He's men.
Several maps were used by Menzies:
- The Kangnido map (混一疆理歷代國都之圖 or 疆理圖) (1402), which tends to indicate an extensive Eastern geographical knowledge of the Old World, even before the time of Zheng He's expeditions.
- The Pizzigano map (1424)
- The Fra Mauro map (1459), which describes an Eastern expedition into the Atlantic: "About the year of Our Lord 1420 a ship, what is called an Indian junk (lit. "Zoncho de India"), on a crossing of the Sea of India towards the Isle of Men and Women, was diverted beyond the Cape of Diab (Cape of Good Hope), through the Green Isles, out into the Sea of Darkness (Atlantic Ocean) on a way west and southwest. Nothing but air and water was seen for 40 days and by their reckoning they ran 2,000 miles and fortune deserted them. When the stress of the weather had subsided they made the return to the said Cape of Diab in 70 days and drawing near to the shore to supply their wants the sailors saw the egg of a bird called roc." (Fra Mauro map, 10, A13).
- The Cantino map (1502)
- The Waldeseemüller map (1507)
- The Piri Reis map (1513)
- The Jean Rotz map (1542)
- The Wu Pei Chi (Wu Bei Zhi; 武備志) map (redrawn after Zheng He's maps in 1628)
- The Vinland map
Among his specific evidence are DNA studies showing "recent" DNA flow from China, maps which apparently show foreign lands before the Europeans discovered them, and a drawing of an armadillo in a book published in China in 1430, along with veritable mountains of circumstantial evidence.
His book is considered by many experts to not be founded in fact. One Chinese expert pronounced the theory "pure fiction". However, some academicists, like Dr. Sir John Elliot (Oxford University) do believe the theory.
Menzies modifies his theory from time to time based on newly discovered evidence. His new findings are usually bigger, bolder, and much less traditional than his previous ones. For example, he now claims some of Zheng He's ships travelled as far as Spain. He also now alleges that the Chinese records of the voyages were never, in fact, destroyed, and are waiting to be found.
- Menzies, Gavin. 1421, The Year China Discovered America. New York: Morrow/Avon, 2003. (ISBN 0060537639)
- Menzies, Gavin. 1421, The Year China Discovered the World. London:Bantam Press, 2002. (ISBN 0593051580)
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