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Sunday, September 19, 2010

1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance

Gavin Menzies' main thesis is that the Chinese appear to have started the European Renaissance.

Menzis has received a lot of scorn for this position, specially from scholars.

Still, I have read the book and it suprised me in a positive way. In "1434", Gavin Menzies builds upon a previous book, "1421", wherein he submits that the Chinese have discovered America before Columbus.
In 1434 he defends the theory that a Chinese fleet has reached Venice in 1434 and brought about a massive transfer of knowledge from then advanced China to backwater Europe. For what reason would the Chinese do that, one would ask.

The reason was, according to Menzies, that imperial China maintained a tribute system where other countries had to pay tribute to the Chinese emperor now and then, and it seems that the Europeans were too backward to be able to find China by sea.

After receiving maps and technical knowledge, they could. Furthermore, Menzies has found evidence that not long after the transfer had taken place the Pacific was hit by a meteor that virtually destroyed the Chinese fleet. From that point on Europe began to rise from the Middle Ages to take over the world.

It is an astounding theory, but Menzies presents a lot of evidence. One is the so called "Toscanelli letter', a letter written bij 15th Century Venetian Paolo Toscanelli to Columbus in which Toscanelli states that there are lands to the west of Europe, a fact that he found out about from conversations with Chinese men in 1434. Menzies also shows several maps that predate Columbus and that show the continent of America.

Other pieces of evidence are several Chinese drawings that show high similarity with the paintings of Leonarde da Vinci, only that the Chinese ones predate Da Vinci several decades. According to Menzies, a Chinese fleet brought them to Venice as part of a large encyclopedia, the Yongle Dadian.

Those interested in history should better take this theory seriously.

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