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Last edited: 19/06/2021
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Gavin Menzies
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1421: The Year China Discovered the World
paperback
656 pages
Intriguing tale of a chinese expedition around the world 70 years before Columbus "discovered" America.
Did the Chinese really discover America in 1421...? This is the controversial theory of Gavin Menzies, author of "1421: The Year China Discovered the World", who apparently devoted his free time after retirement wisely and spend a decade to gathering evidence to prove his theory.

The story starts with Admiral Zheng He setting sail with the largest fleet the world had ever seen on March 8, 1421, from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Ming Dynasty Emperor Yong Le'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 whole world in Confucian harmony.

Unfortunately upon their return, Emperor Yong Le has lost control and China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. More importantly, lost was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America 71 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Ferdinand Magellan. They had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Captain James Cook, and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years before the Europeans....

Even if the theory the book is based on is controversial Gavin makes a seemingly convincing case for believing his idea might be true. The story is told with real passion, and is clearly writting by someone who's dedicated the past decade determined to find the prove to justify his theory.

Although the story starts of well and conveys real passion towards the half way point the overload of information on minute details and the constant hammering home of just how great the chinese fleet was does get a little tiresome.. Some of the "proof" presented also seems a little far-fetched, and gives the impression of desperation more than conviction..

Fascinating subject, but just a tad too long and too detailed perhaps to make a recommended read...
7/10
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