Míng China Discovered America!

This is the claim made by pseudo-historian Gavin Menzies. While I do believe some of the theories he put forward in his first book, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, I think that he's simply kept presenting more and more over-the-top theories in each of his following books.

Irrespective of their historical accuracy, though, his books are great fun to read, if only for the great ideas they provide for an ocean-going role-playing campaign using The Celestial Empire.

This article is about Gavin Menzies, his books, and his theories. As I said, I think it can be a fun source of inspiration, especially if you want to incorporate Fúsāng (扶桑) as a Chinese version of the continent of America in your TCE campaign.


  1. When '1421' was first published in the UK, many years ago now, the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Today' (the UK hard news morning/breakfast programme "of record") interviewed a major sinologist (who's name has slipped my mind, but he was either from Oxford or the London School of Oriental and African Studies). The interviewer asked the sinologist what he "thought of the book?".

    The sinologist started laughing uncontrollably. He couldn't stop, almost to the point that he was having breathing difficulties. After a few uncomfortable minutes the interview had to be terminated as he simply couldn't carry on.

    I felt that after reading it, it was a carefully worded (and largely fair) review.

    1. Well, Menzies is laughable when he tries to connect any unexplained episode in the history of the Americas to the Chinese, or when he tries to find Chinese etymologies where there aren't any. Yet some of the early European maps copied from Chinese originals are disturbing. I also think that the Chinese may have reached Australia, although this is not very surprising, given the short distance between Indonesia and Australia. But the bulk of Menzies' work is more akin to science-fiction than to science.