Riddle of a lost Chinese city on the Atlantic coast

From: http://www.asianpacificpost.com/news/article/332.html

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Feb 24, 2005

On May 16, a Canadian architect will tell the United Nations of a lost Chinese city on the Atlantic coast of North America, lending weight to the theory that the Chinese arrived in the New World some 70 years before Christopher Columbus.

Gavin Menzies
Gavin Menzies
A Canadian architect has discovered what is believed to be the lost naval base of China‘s foremost explorer on the Atlantic coast of North America, lending weight to the theory the Chinese arrived in the New World some 70 years before Christopher Columbus.

The revelation was made to a Malaysian newspaper by Gavin Menzies, a former British Navy submarine commander and author of the controversial best-selling book, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World.

Menzies‘s theory that the Chinese Muslim explorer, Admiral Zheng He or Cheng Ho discovered the New World first made international headlines in March 2002 and has sparked controversy and criticism both in the West and China.

Earlier this month, Menzies revealed that a site was found on the Atlantic coast of North America which may have been Zheng‘s naval base.

The discoverer of the site, whom Menzies described as a “distinguished Canadian architect“, will inform the Canadian Government and then UNESCO, and ask the latter to make it a World Heritage site, The Star said.

Public disclosure will then be made on May 16 at the Library of Congress.

“It‘s huge,“ Menzies said.

“It has massive walls, and has remained undiscovered for 600 years. And it‘s two-thirds the size of the Forbidden City…Walls, roads, the remains of foundations, graves, God-knows-what.

“It would cost a vast amount of money to excavate this site. It‘s in a very difficult position to reach. We definitely do need a lot of money to carry on the research,“ according to the daily.

“And so far, I‘ve received over C$1.23 mil from sales of my book and I‘ve ploughed all that back into research. But the scale of research required now is more than my finances can bear. So I‘m very, very interested in a foundation to raise money and carry on the research, particularly this site of Zheng He‘s.“

Does the discovery of the naval site in North America confirm Menzies‘ theory once and for all?

“Yes, but I don‘t need it,“ Menzies said

“This discovery absolutely confirms it but, in my view, my arguments have completely confirmed it already. I could have predicted exactly where this base is, by the way.”

Menzies theory and his book were featured in a recent Discovery Channel documentary that looked at the mystery of Zheng and his magnificent fleet of giant Ming treasure junks, which he commanded at the request of Emperor Zhu Di in the 15th century.

Collating historical accounts, archaeological finds and consultations with modern-day historians, archaeologists and scientists, the program studied and put to the test Menzies‘s theory.

Part of that involved the retracing of the routes that Menzies believes the Chinese took from Africa to Europe, to the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of North America.

The documentary provided re-enactments, location shooting, and computer-generated models of Zheng‘s fleet in order to bring to life the superpower that was 15th-century China.

It also presented the views of experts who are opposed to Menzies‘s theory, which stirred a hornet‘s nest among historians and academics.

Menzies‘s website (www.1421.tv) gets 1,000 visitors a day, and some of them share their own evidence and results of their own research.

In the last two years, through the website, Menzies and his team have managed to gather some 13,000 people from 120 countries to help them in their continuing research.

“One of the big mistakes that I made in my book, which I will correct in my next edition, is that I put everything down to Zheng He,“ Menzies explained.

“But I found out that his predecessor, Kublai Khan, had charted almost all of the world, including the Americas. Zheng He owed a huge amount to Kublai Khan.

“We subsequently found Chinese maps of the Americas which predates Kublai Khan. These maps will be released to the general public on May 16 which will show that the Chinese had been mapping the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North and South America for nearly 2,000 years.“

Menzies, 66, who spent more than 10 years travelling to more than 120 countries researching his theory, is very protective of his work and said it is not true that his work has been largely criticised, it added.

“There have been more than 8,000 reviews and mentions of my book and a vast majority accept the book‘s thrust,“ he said.

“And of the readers of my book and those who write in or e-mail, 99.6% agree with the general thrust of my book. The number of people who say that it‘s untrue is miniscule.“

His evidence, he said, can be broken down into three basic parts.

First is that the European explorers such as Magellan, Christopher Columbus, Vasco Da Gama and Captain Cook all had maps showing them the way to their respective destinations.

Secondly, when the explorers got to the Americas, they found Chinese people there.

And lastly, Zheng He‘s records of his travels still exist despite the belief that they had been destroyed by the Ming emperors as advised by xenophobic Confucian officials.

In fact, Menzies claimed that in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, one can get on a bus to a public library and read about it all.

Meanwhile a Chinese-government backed documentary crew is on the hunt in Warrnambool, Australia for the wreck of one of Zheng‘s ships.

The documentary focuses on the great historic exploratory sea voyages conducted across the globe under the command of Zheng He, 600 years ago.

In Warrnambool the documentary will explore the possibility that one of the ships in the four giant fleets under Admiral He‘s command may have been the mystery ship wrecked off the city‘s coastline.

“They think that instead of being Portuguese the mystery ship wrecked off the coast here might have been Chinese,“ chairman of the Mahogany Ship Committee of Warrnambool Pat Connelly said.

Connelly escorted the film crews as they captured footage at Levys Point beach where a piece of red olive-type timber, believed to be wreckage of the mystery ship, was found last October.

The crew‘s interpreter, Paul Qian,: “Recently in China a map from the Ming Dynasty, which was at the time of Zheng He, has been found and an outline of Australia is on the map and it is labelled as being inhabited with humans.“

Qian said the red olive wood found at Levys Point and its history remained a mystery for the time being.

“It needs radiocarbon dating but if it is over 700 years old it would have to be Chinese,“ he said. Connelly said the remains of a 600-year-old ship were found several months ago near Nanjing.

“The timber was dark red, similar to the olive wood found here last October,” Connelly said.

Who was first: Columbus or Zheng?

Some historians believe Zheng He (1371–1435) set sail in for America in July, 1405, half a century before Columbus‘ voyage to America. He was the admiral of a great fleet of big ships, each with nine masts and manned by 500 men. There were great treasure ships over 300-feet long and 150-feet wide, the biggest being 440-feet long and 186-across, capable of carrying 1,000 passengers In comparison, Columbus‘ three ships were less than 50-feet long.

According to some historians, Zheng He (1371–1435), arguably China‘s greatest navigator, set sail in for America in July, 1405, half a century before Columbus‘ voyage to America.

He was the admiral of a great fleet of big ships, with nine masts and manned by 500 men. There were great treasure ships over 300-feet long and 150-feet wide, the biggest being 440-feet long and 186-across, capable of carrying 1,000 passengers (Columbus‘ three ships were less than 50-feet long).

Most of the ships were built at the Dragon Bay shipyard near Nanjing, the remains of which can still be seen today.

Through his big ships, Zheng would travel to the West seven times. For 28 years, he traveled more than 50,000km and visited over 30 countries. But who was Zheng He?

Ma He, as he was originally known, was born in 1371 to a poor ethnic Hui (Chinese Muslims) family in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. The boy‘s grandfather and father once made an overland pilgrimage to Mecca. Their travels contributed much to young Ma‘s education. He grew up speaking Arabic and Chinese, leaming much about the world to the west and its geography and customs.

Recruited as a promising eunuch for the Imperial household at the age of ten, Ma was assigned two years later to the retinue of the then Duke Yan, who would later usurp the throne as the Emperor Yong Le.

Ma was thus awarded the supreme command of the Imperial Household Agency and, upon his conversion to Buddhism, was given the surname Zheng and the religious name Sanbao (or Three Jewels).

Emperor Yong Le tried to boost his damaged prestige as a usurper by a display of China‘s might abroad, sending spectacular fleets on great voyages and by bringing foreign ambassadors to his court. Command of the fleet was given to his favorite Zheng He, an impressive figure said to be over eight feet tall.

Unfortunately, Zheng magnificent accomplishment was later targeted by other courtiers as wasteful. Most of his records were destroyed and building of ships with more than 3 masts were considered crimes punishable by death. So, a large part of his excursion has no reports.

In Africa near Kenya today, there are tribes that are clearly Asian-looking. They also consider themselves as the descendants of Zheng He‘s crew.

At the opposite end of the Indian Ocean, Arab storytellers tell of the fantastic seven voyages of a Muslim sailor named Sinbad.

Or was it Sanbao? Historians wonder.