1421: The Year China Discovered the World (Paperback)
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On 8 March 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China. The ships, some nearly five hundred feet long, 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 world in Confucian harmony. Their journey would last for over two years and take them around the globe but by the time they returned home, China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world it had so recently embraced. And so the great ships were left to rot and the records of their journey were destroyed. And with them, the knowledge that the Chinese had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan, reached America seventy years before Columbus, and Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook...The result of fifteen years research, 1421 is Gavin Menzies' enthralling account of the voyage of the Chinese fleet, the remarkable discoveries he made and the persuasive evidence to support them: ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts of Chinese explorers and the later European navigators as well as the traces the fleet left behind - from sunken junks to the votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, giving thanks to Shao Lin, goddess of the sea. Already hailed as a classic, this is the story of an extraordinary journey of discovery that not only radically alters our understanding of world exploration but also rewrites history itself.
Bantam Books (Transworld Publishers a division of the Random House Group)
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
Columbus, da Gama and Captain Cook may have taken the credit for a world of discoveries, but it seems the Chinese beat them all to it by a considerable margin. At least, that is the theory of former submarine commander Gavin Menzies who has spent 15 years researching an idea that on the surface may sound far-fetched. Unlike most revisionists, however, Menzies has a mass of evidence to support his ideas, including ancient maps, large standing stones and other material treasures left along the various routes - not least a number of sunken junks. According to the book - set to become a TV documentary - a massive Chinese fleet set sail in 1421 on the orders of Emperor Zhu Di. The emperor ordered his eunuch admirals, led by Zheng He, to discover new lands and unite the whole world under the umbrella of Confucian harmony - which, reading between the lines, means they were to find some cheap markets with which China could trade. The admirals' journeys lasted more than two years, during which they discovered, mapped and explored America (70 years before Columbus), Australia (350 years before Cook), and even Antarctica. So how did knowledge of these adventures become lost? Menzies has the answer to that, too. He says that when the admirals returned home they found China in a state of turmoil - in effect, going through a civil war. All evidence of the old emperor's achievements was destroyed, the nation spurned overseas contacts and so began centuries of isolation. Menzies makes his case well, presenting an enormous amount of evidence that is difficult to contradict. He also shows how the theory addresses many previously unanswered questions about ancient maps that some have said must have come from Atlantis, others from space aliens. It seems they were more likely the work of a crowd of enterprising eunuchs. This is a stunning book, eye-opening in its revelations and lavishly illustrated throughout. A bestseller in the making. (Kirkus UK)
About the author
Gavin Menzies (Royal Navy Submarine Commanding Officer, retired) was born in 1937 in China, where he spent the first two years of his life. 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 wake of Columbus, Dias, Cabral and Vasco da Gama. When 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, over 900 museums and libraries and every major sea port of the late Middle Ages. Gavin Menzies is married with two daughters and lives in North London.
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