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Chinese Impact on Western Culture

Date: 06-14-08
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Gavin Menzies

Retired British Royal Navy submarine commander and author Gavin Menzies discussed his work chronicling the Chinese discovery of the Americas, and how their technology sparked change in Europe in the 15th century.

Menzies argues that the Chinese circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan was credited with the accomplishment and also discovered the Americas 70 years before Columbus was born. According to Menzies, Columbus even sailed from Europe with Chinese maps in his possession. "An enormous number of Chinese were in the Americas... before the first Europeans got there," he said.

Menzies provided some evidence in support of his theory. Chinese ships called 'junks' were found by Spanish explorers on the Oregon coast in the 1540s, he explained. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the first European to reach the Atlantic coast of Florida, also found Chinese junks when he arrived. Va¡zquez de Coronado discovered Chinese people already living in the Southwestern region of America when he arrived in the 16th century, Menzies continued. He also said the Chinese brought rice and Indian cotton to America, and took corn from America to China.

Menzies credits the Chinese with igniting the Renaissance - " a 'rebirth' between the 14th and 17th centuries of certain classical ideas and knowledge that had seemingly been lost to Europe. According to Menzies, a Chinese fleet arrived in Florence in the year 1434, bringing with them a massive injection of intellectual ideas, maps, new machines, astronomical treatises, and mathematical calculations. He also spoke about Leonardo da Vinci and Chinese inventions. Menzies said his assertions are supported by numerous historical records and ancient relics.

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