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 orders were “to proceed all the way to the end of the earth”.
The voyage would last for two years and by the time the fleet returned, 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 destroyed. And with them, the knowladge 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 this remarkeable journey, of his discoveries and the persuasive evidence to support them: ancient maps, precise navigational knowladge, astronomy, surviving accounts of Chinese explorers and later European navigators as well as the traces the fleet left behind.
Revised and updated with new material – including evidence of an entire Chinese fleet wrecked on New Zealand’s South Island – for this paperback edition, 1421 is a brilliant, epoch-making work of historical detection that radically alters our understanding of world exploration and rewrites history itself.
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