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1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance (P.S.) Paperback – June 9, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
A comment upon the above review asked for more specifics on my attitude toward Menzies, so...
I'll make a few more comments:
The issues with Menzies are twofold. First, there are many contemporary Chinese descriptions of these voyages which Menzies ignores, all of which describe the voyages (including the 1421 sixth voyage) as being confined to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Second, Menzies just invents out of his imagination events and descriptions and evidence that have no relevance to reality. Hence, his many scholarly detractors.
Zheng He himself in 1431, prior to his seventh and last voyage, left us two engraved inscriptions (at Liujiagang and Changle) that describe the first six voyages, and which describe the 1421 voyage as only delivering ambassadors back to their home countries (such as Hormuz) and returning to China with their tribute in local products. Nine years after the end of the 6th voyage, he knew of nothing extraordinary that took place on any of the 1421 voyages.Read more ›
This statement is false.
Allow us to examine several major items of knowledge originated in China and found later in the West. In no case was the knowledge transmitted in 1434.
This information is from Temple's The Genius of China, cited by mangy Menzies as a source but apparently unread by him.
The stirrup was invented in the third century CE and was introduced into the Byzantine Empire in 580. Not in 1434.
Porcelain was invented in China in the third century CE and was independently re-invented in England by Josiah Wedgewood in the eighteenth century. Not in 1434.
Printing was invented in China in the eighth century and was introduced into Europe before the middle of the fourteenth century, not in 1434. Gutenberg did begin to use movable type in 1458, but it did not appear in Italy first, but in Germany; there is no indication of its transmission from a visiting Chinese embassy, as printing had been practiced for more than one hundred years already in Europe.
The idea of the circulation of the blood was brought to the Near East by al-Nafis and the works of this Arab were translated by Servetus, Renaldus Columbus and others, not working from information transmitted in 1434.
The compass was found in Europe by 1180, mentioned first, I believe, by Neckham. Not in 1434.
The rudder was invented in China in the first century CE and found in Europe by 1180, not transmitted in 1434.
The crossbow was invented in China, and was known to the Greeks by 397 BCE, not 1434 CE.
Gunpowder was known in China by the 800s CE, and in the West by the late 1100s, not 1434.
Therefore to claim that vast amounts of knowledge was transmitted all at once in one imaginary voyage is clearly false. Menzies should learn history.
In many places the book seems simply sloppy. For example, in Chapter I Menzies says that the Forbidden City of Beijing built by Zhu Di still stands today. Only a few paragraphs later he says that the Forbidden City built by Zhu Di burned to the ground in 1421. I'm sure there's an explanation for this, but this sort of error doesn't incline me to trust Menzies' scholarship.
The book's constant instructions to check the author's website for more information are very annoying. If Menzies has evidence, why not present it?
Menzies believes that the Chinese explorers knew how to calculate longitude at sea from the stars. He also says they knew in 1384 that the sun was the center of the solar system and moves in an ellipse. This strikes me as very doubtful indeed, the more so as Menzies gives very little evidence for it. Of course it's theoretically possible that they might have calculated longitude at sea, but that's a long way from saying that this was a common practice. The calculations involved are formidable.
Menzies believes that the Chinese fleet passed from the Red Sea to the Nile through a canal. My understanding of this is that a shallow canal pre-dating the Suez canal may have existed at various times, starting in antiquity. The older canal may have been usable only at flood times; at any rate, it seems to have frequently silted up and been abandoned for centuries at a time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was blowing my mind... until I found out it isn't really true.
Or, rather, some of it's true, some of it isn't, which's arguably worse, because then you can't... Read more
Difficult after 1421 which I thought intriguing, but this is a drudge (I haven't finished it) and find it much more tenuous in its conclusions.Published 3 months ago by James G. Broadwell
Gavin Menzies makes radical claims about Chinese travels to the West in 1434, backing up earlier revelations made in his "1421. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Herbert L Calhoun
I have read several of the books by author Gavin Menzies, and found them all enjoyable. I love history, and I appreciate the fundamental fact that to truly understand it, one... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Newton Ooi
I think that the author, Gavin Menzies makes an excellent case that renaissance Italy was at least inspired by Chinese civilization and invention. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Charles Kos PhD
Excellent and well researched history account, precursor to the author's next volume, 1414, The Year China Discovered America. Both should be read together.Published 8 months ago by David L Bowman Sr
I love the history and documentation. I may have to bite my tongue in history class.Published 10 months ago by Ann Hendon
Must read to fully appreciate the untold history of our world today. Very well researched and east to read a credit to Gavin Menzies.Published 10 months ago by DutchieG