Magazine article Geographical

Gavin Menzies. (in Conversation)

Magazine article Geographical

Gavin Menzies. (in Conversation)

Article excerpt

GAVIN MENZIES, A RETIRED ROYAL NAVY SUBMARINE COMMANDER, IS REWRITING HISTORY. IN HIS NEW BOOK, 1421, HE CLAIMS THAT CHINA CHARTED THE GLOBE LONG BEFORE EUROPEANS DISCOVERED THE NEW WORLD. CHRISTIAN AMODEO ASKS THE MAN WHO'S VISITED 120 COUNTRIES AND 900 MUSEUMS WHY THIS STORY IS ONLY NOW BEING TOLD

What attracted you to China?

I went there when I was just two weeks old. My father was in the Navy at a time when there were a lot of British naval bases in China. I lived there for two years, before the Second World War. Later, when I was in the Navy, we went to Hong Kong. When I retired I just really wanted to go back.

How did your research begin?

Fourteen years ago, when my wife and I went to China for our silver wedding anniversary, I became fascinated with the year 1421. We visited a section of the Great Wall, the Ming tombs and the Forbidden City, all of which were inaugurated in 1421. I later discovered this was all due to Emperor Zhu Di--who had sent his loyal eunuch admirals on a quest to voyage around the world--moving his capital to the north to defend the country.

How are you rewriting history?

I used charts to show how the Chinese would have been able to explore the world, reaching America 70 years before Columbus and circumnavigating the globe a century before Magellan. I also looked at maps that proved the Europeans had prior knowledge of places they had yet to reach.

What evidence is there that the Chinese explored the world before Europeans?

One of many examples is that the Amazon River was shown on European maps from 1440 onwards, a century before Europeans reached it. Items only found in Southeast Asia, such as jade, Chinese chickens, rice--which couldn't survive being taken across the Bering Strait--and DNA in people, are found around Cuiaba, Brazil. I was contacted by a walnut farmer in Sacramento who told me that there's a Chinese junk buried beside the Sacramento River on his property, 110 kilometres inland. Its wood is dated to 1410 and is unique to southwest China.

What makes you think European explorers used Chinese charts?

Magellan quelled a mutiny by proving his knowledge of their route; he had a map. This is all quoted in his log. It couldn't have been something he created as he went along because in his prior letters to the King of Spain, who had a copy of the map, he requests that the chart not be shown to anyone so that he can't be followed.

Tell me about your talk at the RGS-IBG. …

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