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  #1  
Old 01-15-2003
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1421 book: Chinese voyages

Anyone care to discuss 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies? Interesting assumptions made by the author to "recreate" the voyages:
--the fleets would have tended to follow the major currents and winds
--Caribbean islands look larger on early maps because water level was 6 feet lower then; antartic ice covered more area; but still possible to circumnavigate Greenland and take a NE passage from North Atlantic back to China

Unfortunately, the book didn''t go into much detail about the designs of the Treasure Fleet, other than describing the largest ships as up to 500 feet long, flat bottomed, huge (35 ft tall!) transom rudders, and up to 7 freestanding masts, junk rigged, of course. Anyone know where to find details on any archeological finds of these ships?

Lots of debatable content and assumptions in the book, with some totally off the wall assertions about the Bimini "roads" and the Newport stone tower, but otherwise a great read. The website www.1421.tv has a lot of the material and a discussion board.
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Old 03-06-2003
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1421 book: Chinese voyages

I''ve been reading the book. Interesting assumptions, yes. What strikes me is how much hype there is in the intro (among other things, that the Chinese mastered "desalination" which made the voyages possible). Only later do you find that his "desalination" technique is simple condensation of boiled seawater. a) they''re hardly able to make enough in that way to sustain the fleet b) why would they even need to? carry a store of H20 and pickup what you need along the way. So, what''s the point of hyping desalination if it doesn''t really make any difference? Also (and the caveat is that I''m still reading), Menzies talks about the Chinese getting much of their info from local cultures, but he assumes *they* got all their geography from seafaring. It seems quite logical that the Chinese could have hit the east coast of Africa and gotten fairly accurate description of the outlines of the continent from land-based travelers (if you look at the maps that he shows, you won''t be terribly impressed by the accuracy in any case). Other than that, I''d say it''s an interesting premise and one worth considering by someone who''s a bit more detached than Menzies.
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Old 03-07-2003
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1421 book: Chinese voyages

I''d followed up Menzies book with Louise Levathes "When China Ruled the Seas" and found several earlier possible voyages to Mexico/Central America mentioned, one in 287 BC and one in 400 AD, which she characterized as the last contact with Central America until Columbus. Seems that Menzies tried to pack all possible China-New World contacts into the one period of Treasure Ships and ignored legends and theories of earlier periods of Chinese sea faring. The Levathes book also has a great many drawings of the different kinds of ships built by the Chinese throughout the ages, something I wish Menzies had included.

I would like to see a compilation of the most likely sea voyages by all peoples around the world in the pre-Columbus eras, an updated Hakluyt that includes the spread of the Polynesians, the early voyages of the Irish and Portugese and Vikings and so on.

There''s a lot of guesswork and flights of fancy and outright hype in many of these books, but perhaps advances in underwater archeology can help establish fact from fiction.
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Old 05-10-2003
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1421 book: Chinese voyages

To my fellow Americans regarding this voyage of Zheng He and Gavin Menzies new book "1421.

The questions have been rasised regarding
If the Chinese had discovered America would they have been as territorial as the Westerner.

My assumption and "guess" estimate were that - the culture of the Chinese at that time or even into the Qing Dynasty has been a policy to look inward. This in part is not "good" by the western standard. But from a Chinese perspective. We all have known how many herbal formulas, martial art knowldge and even "culinary" arts that are and still well concealed. That is just part of the culture to protect oneself , than the family , then the clan - Very Confucian indeed. As in the Chinese saying. "one sweeps the snow infront of our house, let alone the icycles of your neighbors " . I live in North America and I have often found that in our German/Scandinavia state of Wisconsin. One minds owns business - We have a restaurant owner here who had kept is "pancake" formula for over 50 years What about Coca Cola and Pepsi cola. Cola companies still count their own syrup bags upon deliver to the "bottling companies".

That Chinese mindset, many blame Confucian value, when it is over done becomes counter productive, the law and order of China often as I now express in my formulation of cross cultural studies of China and in that interpreation of the Chinese "law" and "order". When Confucian values is the law...there is the balance of the "Tao-Dao" and the future cultural fusion of Buddhism and Dao - the "Chan-Zen" , or "Zen-Chan"...I am starting to attache the Zen (Japanese) and Chan (Mandarin Chinese) and yet I grew up with the sound of the Cantonese as "sym" or the same phonetic sound in our Cantonese dialect of "cicada" . I like that much better, for "sym" also come closer being "syn" or being Kind.

Most law makers bows to the King, bows to the elder family member - but deep in them, they also exercise the "yellow" and "green" , or Huang Lu, the symbolism of Dao.

Thus, in what Chinese have created the use of gunpowder in the use of firework for festivities. And had yet converted the gunpowerders into the cannons made by the West later.

This has to link in part to the "thinking" process as well as to most of us - is in part of the Chinese "wisdom". I have try to take claims that there are two way of thinking, " rationalizing " and "Reasons". While reason and wisdom seems to have its own association. "Rationalizing" often seem to be reactionary or reacting, or counter from some we can call "phenomenon". While I defend the more "whole" or more comphrensive in the reasoning process versus the reactionary thinking process of "rationalizing". I am also making the attemp to give "reasoning" a higher form of thinking and in that , also its association to "Wisdom" .

While rational thinking is more of an reaction to an event or phenomenon, rational thinking where I am also making this association toward the word "intelligent" or intelligence. Men are basically the highest form of intelligent living specie and we are intelligent most of time, in our problem solving skills on a regualr and daily basis - based upon our reaction to a given situation.

In that intelligence is a common fact, of course, there the the many levels of intelligence with all the complexity and all the subject matters world and in ou universe.

But when we compare the Western intellilgence and in the past 500 years, the West in their expansionistic power, in the use of gun powder, war, colonization and global " logistics" that means, moving vessels, people, troops, commanding regional subjects - Have we not seen how the English had commanded the Gurkkas and in the use of Asian forces to fight or to guard borders in Hong Kong and these Gurkkas are all loyal to ther British commands ? And the sihks? In British uniforms? and in those Scotish plaids ? War, military, mobilizaing of forces, use of weapons, ballistics.. have made the West strong, powerful and followed by now the Economics..the trade, the currency control and wrold bank. yes, we have give credit to the development of global intelligence of the West and their expansion. But could there be a form of reaction from their "black death" in the Middle Ages ? Could there be the lack of land where landlords and feudalism had caused the rise of the cit-states, the free slaves, the rise of the industrial revolution and the individual rights ? these just the chain of reaction in the Western world. But prior to that, in what the Arabs and their caravans via the silk route whom had brought the West the niceties of the Orient ? The numerals, the silk, the spicies had all altered the flavor, the sound, the science in Europe, along with that, the enhancement of Europe by revival of the classics - again, the Greeks, in the importation of Renaissance ?

The West were always curious of the goods from Asia, the production sources...and when silk were taxed in Constantinople in excess of 1000 %. Could all these taxation and payments to the warlords had the Europeans motivated for their navigation ? This is my pretext for the voyages of the Europeans .. Could there be the Italians travellers , journeys made by Polo had them inspired ? Were not the riches of the king Ferdinand and Isabel from Spain had easier access from the seas of Medtarranean (Portugal and Spain were practical a kingdom of their own) and the possible booties , or fortune promised to the voyagers and their captains could have been far more attractive then they could have gotten in Venice? Italy and all the warring dukes, kings and all ?


I do not mean to be drifting away from the subject matter of intelligence and wisdom. In that, the wisdom of the Chinese, I am still hypothesizing, had often the Chinese sensed in what damages that can be done by human intelligence. Have we not heard of in Chinese in that saying as " Intelligence will be wronged by intelligence" Can ths mindset was where the king of Ming had all the data of Zheng He destroyed when the kingdom had chosen to seal themselves ? Is this not part of the Chinese psyche where we create goods for "good" purpose? Is that naive to think the Chinese instead to use the manpower that had made the "Great wall" to battle and to conquer the West instead to "conceal" themselves in this land of the "Center" ? Or in part , they lack the horses as the Mongols had in Gobi or beyond ? Was that part of the bad logistics ?

Thus, in my hypothesis, many Chinese had indirectly stopped many of the possible scientific advances - for the Chinese new discoveries were aiming to make the human life enjoyable - and they have stopped from that point.. or the intellectuals realized that beyond the practical use of gunpowder can be "damaging" and that may go against the "grains" of Confucian ethics ? Even in Zhong Zi saying and in Daoist sayings " don''t be excessive in joy, nor in grief". Are these cultures had impeded the advancement of their science ? Or Chinese had been far more pragmatic to try to not to use "intelligence" for war, conquest and grab land ? Unlike the Westerners ..until modern day China- Sea farers to all corners of the world meant to come home.. Home is that land of the center of the "Chinese" To go far, but not to conquer, but to make a living, earning and come home to ones ancestor hall and pay respect ( often with looted, or ill gains , but that is oked, this is also part of the twisted Chinese value - I am saying that with all bias ) .


I am responding to these historians, academicians, scholars n the West, not to debate their continuing "ignorance" of China in ther own "expansionistic" mindsets and in part as a Chinese who had lived in the West for over 40 years- almost on a daily basis, we observed, watched and evaluated in those diminuitive differences in how we define accomplishment and glory in the West in these past 500 years. Almost at that same period the Chinese had started their own decline by late Ming, than the invasion of the Qings – China was not defeated and was invaded by foreign forces, China was humiliated -----their own land, defeated both internally inside China. China was defeated by their self imposed arrogance along with ignorance.

Traditionally, most of the invading forces into China were from the Northwest as the cold wind from the desert and China had been most alert to that fact, where in history past, Kings had married or reward the Northwest Huns and other nomadic groups their daughters as the “bargaining chips” for peace.

This oversight by the “northern” rulers of the Ming and the distrust of the naval forces of their own from the Southeast – later repeated by the Manchurian Qing dynasty had suffered under the British - Never had China thought of the eventual naval encounter by the British and by their imposition of a maritime law, had not only colonized Chinese land with the illegal treaty which had led to lease of the territories of Kowlon and the possession of Hong Kong.

Subsequently, a low level eunuch like Zheng He- a formidable sea admiral, his expeditions, discoveries were all "dispell" by the stroke of an emperor upon his return as Ming had started to fade away from the land beyond China.

This is how Zheng He’s story and accomplishment had been buried by the ignorance of the Ming court and later repeated by the Manchurian Qing dynasty again – the same fear of the Southen Barbarians, the ignorance of the sea power and the naval forces and the eventual Opium war.

If only Zheng He could have continued his naval voyages with all the discoveries to be shared by the empire what then would have become the Chinese and with their new contacts ? The naval power of Ming could have continued and maybe flourished and new ideas may have enriched China as did in the arrival of the Italian missionaries into the Chinese court and how that have influenced in the color use in China. But that is the mindset of the Chinese then, Can we blame Confucius ? by not exerting the power of knowledge instead to utilized the knowledge of Zheng He ‘s navigation skills and exploration agility, Ming had let the naval influence decline and almost in the same fashion parelel with the invention of gun poweder.

Many Europeans and Westerners glorify their "first" expeditions and explorations and later their military and kings and queens also “exploited” those new discoveries even to destroy other cultures as in the Spanish conquest into the Americas.

Ironically, these self centered explorers had their audiences with their audacities and venturesome spirit as we have witnessed those westerners take claim of climbin Everest in the Himalayas- no credit ever given to the natives, to the Nepalses assistants...only the name of the explorers well , maybe I am being a bit of a revisionist and biased in what I am now cherishing the audacity of Gavin Menzies book but in actuality, I am here to make the new “confirmation” to test and to re-authenticate Menzies hypothesis by way of added cultural anthropological evidence along the substantiation Menzies had found in the research of the DNA traints in all over the Americas today.

Be that of the European ethnicentrism or “hero” worship of the audacious explorers and adventurers. We all remember the most brutal pirate of the Carribeans – Cook, was knighted by the Queen of England by his loot of the booties from Spain ? But then what difference could that have been as the former US Defense Secretary knelt before the queen to have receieved his “knighthood” for his contribution, the US aerial recognaissance in the war of the Malvinas ( for historical reasons, I am siding with the Argentinians in the dispute of those islands what Brits called Falklands ).

As we speak , the Eurpeans and the Americans are repeatedly medalling and honoring one and another as Blair will be receiving medals from the US and Blair and Bush both have been named for the Nobel Prize for being “successful” invaders and intruders into Iraq. Funny how history does repeat itself.

I am not here to show you our cultural “chauvnism” but I salute Gavin Menzies imagination, audacities or even if there is the element of being a “machievellian” prince for he is got the right time, the right moment and the right subject matter to rally all of Geographic societies to “rethink” of the discoveries in America.

One more time, my salute to Gavin Menzies – for his imagination, research and we will join him to retest of his “hypothesis” even with the DNA evidence in when the Chinese had come to the Americas. Maybe beyond Gavin Menzies, many had suggested in Shang dynasty- Chinese had already reached into the Americas. But unlike the West, maybe those were refugees they do not have the financial interests for the Columbus, Diaz, Magalhes, Gabral, Da Gama. They were just seeking shelters in distant land to survive.

Victors do write histories…and may Gavin Menzies be the victor of our time !!!!!!!
(Unedited and to be posted also in Asiawind.com )
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