Episode #26 – Did The Chinese Beat Columbus to the New World? (Part I)

One of the most controversial historical theories to emerge in the last 15 years is the so-called “1421 thesis”. The theory was originally formulated by the former British submarine commander Gavin Menzies. He contends that during the Ming Dynasty the Admiral Zheng He led an impressive fleet of Chinese junks on an unprecedented journey of discovery. According to Menzies this journey took them to the New World nearly 80 years before Columbus. But is there any proof to support this incredible claim? Tune in and find out how dragon thrones, giraffes masquerading as unicorns, and the Chinese Luke Skywalker all play a role in the story.

Image result for fra mauro map

The Fra Mauro Map

(Note: The map is oriented so South is at the top and North is at the bottom. It looks upside down when compared to modern maps)

Works Cited

Dreyer, Edward L. Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.

Finlay, Robert. “How Not to (Re)Write World History: Gavin Menzies and the Chinese Discovery of America.” Journal of World History 15.2 (2004): 229-42. Print.

Ma, Huan, Chengjun Feng, and J. V. G. Mills. Ying-yai Sheng-lan. ‘The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores’ Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the UP, 1970. Print.

Menzies, Gavin. 1421: The Year China Discovered America. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2003. Print.

“The Myth of Menzies’ “1421 ” Exposed.” The Myth of Menzies’ “1421 ” Exposed. Web. 

Penn Museum. “Great Voyages: Zheng He.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Oct. 2013. Web.