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Detail of General Zheng He statue in Sam Po Kong temple, Semarang, Indonesia.

The Chinese May Have Beaten the Famous Voyage of Columbus by 70 Years


There are a few controversial claims floating around that the Americas were reached by oversea cultures before Columbus made his well-known visit to the “New World” in 1492. For example, Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo has presented the argument that the ancient Greeks reached America long before Columbus. Another intriguing argument suggests the Chinese “discovered” the Americas 70 years prior to the famous voyage.

The suggestion that the Chinese predated Christopher Columbus in the Americas is a major argument of the amateur historian Gavin Menzies. In fact, it seems that Menzies has made his career by going against the mainstream view of the past. Three of his more debated books are ‘1421: The Year China Discovered the World’ – a book claiming a Chinese fleet led by Admiral Zheng He reached the Americas in 1421, its sequel ‘1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance’, and a text that mainstream thinkers regularly mock - ‘The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History's Greatest Mystery Revealed’.

A statue meant to depict Christopher Columbus.

A statue meant to depict Christopher Columbus. (Public Domain)

You may wonder about Menzies’ claims. In the text ‘Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas’, Menzies argues a Chinese map from 1418 provides evidence for his argument that the Chinese explored the Americas in 1421. Specifically, Menzies makes mention to a map charted by Admiral Zheng He which appears to show North American rivers and coasts and something of South America. DNA studies are also used as his evidence for indigenous Americans being related to the waves of Asian settlers he asserts reached the Americas.

The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas.

The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas. (Public Domain)

A Christie’s Auctions’ appraiser has allegedly confirmed the authenticity of the map. Historians are also said to have stated the map was written in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Menzies says that the map’s validity can also be used to explain the Chinese names of several towns and regions in Peru.

Menzies has been repeatedly criticized and mocked by the mainstream academic community. For example, University of London history professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has suggested that Menzies’ books are “the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in (the supermarket) and close encounters with alien hamsters.”

While it’s true Menzies may not be correct in his claims, it is extremely unfortunate that a person courageous enough to make his assertions has been so widely mocked for presenting an idea that dares to go against the mainstream.

Woodblock print representing Zheng He’s ships.

Woodblock print representing Zheng He’s ships. (Public Domain)

Top Image: Detail of General Zheng He statue in Sam Po Kong temple, Semarang, Indonesia. Source: CC BY SA 2.0

By April Holloway



riparianfrstlvr's picture

Colombus discovered that he was lost, he thought he was someplace else. he also didn't discover a darned thing, all of the locals knew all about North America and where they lived. the locals did give Colombus a real good education about where the hell he was and what was going on, where to find food and what the heck to eat.


April they mocked those who queried the Clovis paradigm and refused to dig below below the Clovis horizon because of course nothing was to be found. When people started reporting the human-like intelligence of crows I remember one particular professor insisting Aesop's fable about the crow dropping pebbles in a jar to raise the level of water was causing all the confusion because it was actually only about people and nothing in the least to do with crows.

The great cosmic joke of it all comes of course when the mockers and deniers suddenly say "Oh but we knew that all along!"

Personally I think 'shamans' all over the world've known and remained in touch with each other right across the world from the dawn of time but even 'ordinary' people must've been aware there were other unknown lands simply because season after season they'd see birds migrating to and from SOMEWHERE and on occasions'd've caught sight of mysterious lost birds they'd never seen before or indeed'd never see again thus begging the question where the hell they came from or indeed went to. Among the Chinese I suggest were people sufficiently curious enough to sail in the direction such birds were seen leaving for..

The purpose of most of the scientific community is to preserve the status quo against all challengers. The status quo profits from the way things are, maintains power because of the way things are, is respected because of their role in the discovery of the way things are to be believed. Of course any challenge to that would be met with condemnation and ridicule. No different from Darwin, Galileo, or others who threatened the powers that be and their control over the minds of the blind followers. This probability seems as valid that those who put forth evidence of discovery of the N. American continent by folks from folks in extreme northern Europe or even by the Templars centuries earlier (that fact that the Mi'kmaq tribe of the Nova Scotia region's flag is nearly identical to the Templar battle flag for instance). Sorry, Columbus just gets all the glory while likely deserving none of it.

aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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