Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Report

1421: The Year China Discovered America
By: Gavin Menzies

            This book has, simply put, changed my idea of history.  It has changed my perception on one of the main and most major supposed ‘facts’ that has been taught to me, along with every other student at least in the United States.  The school board leaders and anyone who has anything to do with the history classes of our nation needs to read this book so that it may be realized that Christopher Columbus, our country’s ‘discoverer,’ in fact was not the first person from a different country to sail and happen upon what is now The United States of America.  Another ‘fact’ that this book has disproved is that Ferdinand Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe in 1521.  While this book hasn’t, to most people, disproven the fact that Columbus discovered the Americas and that Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the world because of the scarce amount of evidence, I believe this as true.  This book has taught me that the Chinese in fact, discovered America and circumnavigated the globe far before those European explorers had done.  The Chinese were the first to do these phenomenal feats along with others in 1421—almost a century before Magellan and seventy years before Columbus took the glory for their tasks.  

            While this book seems to be very confusing, it is chock-full of facts—very important facts at that.  The Chinese not only discovered America and circumnavigated the globe, but they also were the first to discover Antarctica, Australia, and were the first to circumnavigate Greenland.  Because only a portion of the information is backed by hard evidence, this book is based a lot on artifacts found in different places around the world from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (the dynasty they were in during the exploration) which sort of stretches the theory and makes some disbelieve it.  Menzies covers a large realm of topics in this book all pertaining to the 1400’s such as the Emperor and his eunuchs, the Forbidden City, and of course, the 5 captains sent on the exploration and each of their individual travels, discoveries, and maps.  One of the most interesting and mind-blowing facts I learned while reading this was how the Chinese created all of their own maps and charts when they went on their ‘map-less’ journey into the unknown AND they even discovered a way to determine longitude 300 years before the invention of the chronometer.   The main Admiral of the vast fleet also collected animals along the way to return them to the Emperors Zoo.  They even thought of the giraffe that they captured and returned as the Chinese mythical qilin.  The emperor hired one of his favorite artists and poem writer to write a poem about it:

“In the corner of the western seas, in the stagnant waters of a great morass,
Truly was produced a qilin (ch'i-lin), whose shape was as high as fifteen feet.
With the body of a deer and the tail of an ox, and a fleshy, boneless horn,
With luminous spots like a red cloud or purple mist.
Its hoofs do not tread on living beings and in its wanderings it carefully selects its ground.
It walks in stately fashion and in its every motion it observes a rhythm,
Its harmonious voice sounds like a bell or a musical tube.
Gentle is this animal, that has in antiquity been seen but once,
The manifestation of its divine spirit rises up to heaven's abode.”

While there are a lot of disputes between different citizens of the world who have read this book and have been exposed to this idea of change, I believe it.

             This book is a very interesting book that changed my view on all of history.  The Chinese people have accomplished a lot in their history, but obviously did not have taken the glory of all of it.  They cannot do so mainly because of the works of a later emperor who erased all of China’s greatest triumphs.  Ever since, it has just been a giant scavenger hunt to try finding all of the surviving evidence that this really happened and Gavin Menzies, a renowned author and Navy submarine veteran, has, in my opinion, accomplished that.  If it is eventually, if ever, 100% proved that the Chinese did in fact accomplish all of these achievements, I’m afraid it will not do much with our history books other that add another chapter. 

Full Adventures of the Captains and Admiral

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why I Chose this Topic

While reading 1421: The Year China Discovered America, I often was faced with the challenge of knowing who did what.  The book constantly mentions names such as Zhu Di, Zheng He, Yang Qing, and Hong Bao.  I was having troubles even knowing that Zhu Di was the emperor at the time!  All of the names sounded the same to me.  So I chose this topic to try to figure out the travels of each individual mentioned greatly in my book.  Upon doing that, I discovered that one of them (Zheng He) died while he was out at sea.  As you can probably tell, I learned a lot in doing this research.  Some of the most interesting things I learned had to do with the artifacts that were found that showed proof that the Chinese were there before Columbus.  One of those includes a large stone pillar-type formation from Rhode Island that was mentioned in the records of Yang Qing when he sailed there and that tower is still standing there.  Another interesting fact is that the whole idea that the Chinese discovered America 70 years before Christopher Columbus and circumnavigated the globe almost a century before Magellan is merely an idea to most.  I however, after reading this book and learning about all of the artifacts found and the maps and charts charted by the Chinese, believe it as being true.  This book has changed the way i now think.  After reading it, it makes me want to go to all of the history and American history teachers and tell them that they have been teaching the wrong things all along, but, I probably will unfortunately never do that.

-Trevor Seymour

Captain Zhou Wen

Captain Zhou Wen also went along with Hong Bao and Zhou Man to the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa.  From then, they all split up and Zhou Wen went north-west and Hong Bao and Zhou Man went west.  He eventually landed on the Caribbean Islands.  While he was there, he explored and charted that area.  After he left there, he ventured off up the east coast of the United States.  Zhou Wen and his fleets set their eyes on landing in what is now Rhode Island.  He sure enough landed there, but that's not the interesting part.  While he was there,he noted a mysterious stone tower that he did not create.  That is proof that he was in Rhode Island because that stone tower is still there.  When he left Rhode Island, he continued to sail north where he rounded Greenland and discovered the North Pole.  He sailed around the Arctic Sea and eventually returned home from the north.
Newport Tower

-Trevor S.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Admiral Zheng He/Yang Qing

Admiral Zheng He commended the other captains to go along with him on his many journeys.  He was the one that Emperor Zhu Di initially sent on the journey.  Yang Qing and Zheng He stayed in the Indian Oceanic region while the others continued to explore.  Zheng He decided to return to China While Yang Qing remained to help Chinese astronomers discover a way to determine longitude--a problem they had for a very long time.  This attempt resulted in a success and they officially discovered it 300 years before John Harrison invented the Chronometer.  Yang Qing also successfully returned home to China and was Zheng He ended up dieing on his seventh journey around the vast oceans and seas.  His captains continued on to discover most of the world.

-Trevor S.


  •   "Evidence of Chinese Oceanic Voyages in 1421." History - China Culture. Cultural China, 2010. Web.         08 Dec. 2011. <>.
  • Hei Nuk, Toby H. "The Five W's." Zheng He., 08 Mar. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.                       <>.
  • Menzies, Gavin. 1421: the Year China Discovered America. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004. Print.
    • University of Minnesota. "Primary Source: Zheng He Inscription." News & Events : Department of          History : University of Minnesota. Regents of The University of Minnesota History Department,       23 Dec. 1998. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <                        /source.htm>.
    • Rozario, Paul. Zheng He and the Treasure Fleet 1405-1433. Singapore: SNP Publishing, 2005
      • "Zheng He - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Youtube, 1 June 2007. Web. 08 Dec. 2011.               <>.

      Admiral Zhou Man

      Zhou Man was also a part of the crew of the four famous Admirals that were on a mission to explore the world.  Zhou man went along with Hong Bao until they reached the Straight of Magellan almost a century before Ferdinand Magellan.  They than split up and Zhou Man went up the coast of the Pacific South America stopping at Peru.  Once he reached there, he sailed across the ocean blue and landed in what is now Newcastle Australia.  He then again sailed south to New Zealand just to turn back around and head towards Australia because he had lost a few ships on the way.  After that, he cast-off to the northern region of Australia.  He embarked on a journey back home, but after a mere 100 days at sea, he turned east and followed the current to eventually land on the North American Pacific coast.  He explored the coast and eventually ventured back to his mainland of China.

      -Trevor S.