On 21 July 2004 on PBS, there was a two hour program about Zheng He. Zheng He was a Muslim eunuch in the service of the Ming Emperor of China. Zheng He commissioned, built and commanded a Chinese Imperial fleet that sailed through the Strait of Malacca, and into the Indian Ocean to Calicut, possibly East Africa, and other countries.
They also reviewed Gavin Menzies proposal that Zheng He sailed all the way to America, and even established colonies there, as told in his book, 1421: the Year China Discovered the World, and on his 1421.tv web site.
The basic idea that China had a seafaring fleet that roamed far and wide, and explored lands that have never visited by the Chinese before is very plausible, and there are lots of evidence for it.
It is sad though that Menzies had to delve into the realms of pseudo-science, and held on to outrageous claims that lack evidence, such as:
- that the Chinese settled North America, based on the flimsy evidence that Verrazano said the natives represented Asians. Of course to a person living in a monoculture five centuries ago, it is easy to confuse Native Americans with Asians. The features are similar after all.
- that the Bimini underwater walkway is man made, and formed of the ship ballast, and having man made cement pieces, despite the expert opinion that this is a natural geological formation.
- that the Newport Tower was used to measure longitude, despite the fact that this notion was not invented up to two centuries later.
When faced with these facts, Menzies was likable and civil. However, he held on to the belief that he will be proven right eventually. He quoted as evidence that his web site gets thousands of visits, and thousands of emails by enthusiasts!
It is sad that well meaning and energetic people get caught into their own pseudoscience preconceptions, and start discarding the evidence against them.
Links and Resources
- Friends of Admiral Zheng He, based in Singapore, maintain that he reached East Africa and the Red Sea, but do not venture to speculate beyond that.