1421 : The Year China Discovered the World, Paperback

1421 : The Year China Discovered the World Paperback

3 out of 5 (5 ratings)


On 8 March 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China.

The ships, some nearly five hundred feet long, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Di'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 world in Confucian harmony.

Their journey would last for over two years and take them around the globe but by the time they returned home, China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world it had so recently embraced. And so the great ships were left to rot and the records of their journey were destroyed. And with them, the knowledge that the Chinese had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan, reached America seventy years before Columbus, and Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook...The result of fifteen years research, 1421 is Gavin Menzies' enthralling account of the voyage of the Chinese fleet, the remarkable discoveries he made and the persuasive evidence to support them: ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts of Chinese explorers and the later European navigators as well as the traces the fleet left behind - from sunken junks to the votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, giving thanks to Shao Lin, goddess of the sea. Already hailed as a classic, this is the story of an extraordinary journey of discovery that not only radically alters our understanding of world exploration but also rewrites history itself.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 656 pages, illustrations, maps
  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780553815221



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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

A great what if and has links to a poul Anderson short story published as a collection and titled Guardians of Time. The story is " the only game in town" . He is a time policeman protecting the time-lines but in this story he comes to realise that he is to corrupt rather then protect the time lines by preventing a chinese contact and immigration in order to protect the future of the guardians.

Review by

The book aims to revolutionise history. It was an interesting argument, but further reading did not seem to back up the facts so I felt a bit cheated.

Review by

A speculative series of claims that the great Admiral Zheng He's fleet explored far more of the world than it probably did. Much of the "evidence" is flimsy at best. The Levathes book on Zheng He's voyages is far better and more reliable.About the only reason to wade through this massive construction is for the amusement of contemplating what might have happened if Zheng had chosen to round the Cape and sail north, potentially arriving in European waters where Henry the Navigator was trying out his new 75-foot boats at Ceuta, Joan of Arc was rabble rousing and preparing to influence the 100 Years War, the British were fighting the French with picks and staves at Agincourt, and Hieronymus Bosch was worrying about moral failings.

Review by

I can well believe that the Chinese had mines in Australia and colonies in the West coast of the Americas, but I think the author may be getting carried away in suggesting that they sailed to Antarctica and made it through the North-East passage (which I notice he just mentioned without going into the detail that he did for the rest of the voyages), and that this all happened in such a short timescale. Surely a lot of the wrecks and the introduction of foreign crops and chickens could have happened in the hundreds of years that China had already been trading overseas?As for his suggestion that they carried mylodons (giant ground sloths) from South America and took them back to China, dropping a breeding pair off in New Zealand on the way, that is far-fetched in the extreme! Although the occasional cryptozoologist still goes hunting for them in remote parts of South America, received opinion is that they have been extinct for 5,000 - 10,000 years, so they weren't around in the fifteenth century.However this was still a very interesting book, especially the way that the knowledge of astro-navigation, ocean currents and cartography that the author had gained in his career as a submarine captain helped him in his investigations. His explanation of the way East-West distances were warped in early maps due to currents and the inability to calculate longitude was fascinating. And I enjoyed his comment in the postscript that a terrible review in the New York Times led to his book going from 2,834th on the New York Times bestseller list to 3rd within a week!

Review by

This book has some merit, in that we can reliably say that the Ming explorations of the 1420's covered the Indian ocean and may have gone so far as Australia. His further gathering of evidence is quite controversial, and some of them such as a sailing ship passage of the North-east passage taking only one year, when the WWII German attempt in a steam ship took the better part of two years, seemed far-fetched. (was that a pun?) some of the rest, could lead to the conclusion that he has conflated a lot of other Chinese voyages, some accidental, into his one grand scheme. And that's where I,m standing on this idea of his. But it's readable prose, and entertaining to a degree.

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