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Imagine A Fleet Of Mighty Ships From China In 1405

 

By James Donahue


It was about 660 years ago that Christopher Columbus made his historic journey across the Atlantic in three tiny caravels measuring no more than 60 feet in length.

 

While we have long had archaeological evidence that the Vikings set foot on American soil before Columbus got there, the American history books still give Columbus credit for "discovering" the new world.

 

That the early European explorers came face to face with American natives in the Southwest that looked and even talked a lot like the Chinese was probably overlooked because few, if any Europeans knew about China. Nor did they ever expect such a far-away country to be nearly as "civilized" or "advanced" in culture to build great ships and explore the oceans of the world.

 

Now that the bamboo curtain has opened and stories about China are being told around the world, mostly via the wonders of modern communication and the Internet, the story of the great Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty is being revealed.

 

It seems that Admiral Zheng had a mighty fleet of great ships, measuring up to 600 feet in length, at his command. And this early explorer sailed the oceans from Asia to Africa, then on to Australia and the west coast of both North and South America.

 

Zheng was said to have made seven voyages between 1405 and 1433. That he did this, in vessels of such size, indicates that China had the ships and the navigational skills to explore and command the world. Yet for strange reasons known only to the Chinese emperor of that day, the Chinese destroyed their great ships after Zheng, and stopped any further expeditions.

 

The emperor of China in Zheng's day did not do anything in a small way. He had a great shipyard built at the new capital of Najing, now called Nanking. Even then, during the late 14th Century, the Chinese had an old seafaring tradition. They invented the compass, fore-and-aft sails, the stern post rudder, and even built vessels with paddlewheels and watertight compartments below deck.

 

When Admiral Zheng set sail on his first voyage in 1405, he commanded a fleet of 62 large ships, some of them 600 feet long. Hundreds of smaller vessels also were part of the fleet. It was an armada that would have challenged the great British naval fleets that ruled the seas some 300 years later.

 

Voyages took the fleet to Vietnam, India, Africa, southeast to Fiji, and Australia. British naval historian Garvin Menzies believes Zheng's fleet of at least three junks reached the west coast of the Americas in 1421. He said the record indicates that Zheng turned back at Sumatra, but his admirals continued on until they reached the Caribbean, South America, and finally the west coast of North America.

 

"The Chinese set up settlements all along the west coast of North America, from Vancouver Island to Mexico and inter-married happily with the local Indians," Menzies wrote. "When the first Spanish colonialists arrived in the 16th century they found many Chinese, as well as wrecked junks. But the diseases the European colonists brought with them wiped out 90 percent of the Indians, and destroyed the Chinese influence."

 

That may not be an accurate statement.

 

A few years ago my wife and I lived with a Navajo medicine man and his wife on the Navajo reservation, near the Four Corners in Northwest Arizona. While in the area, I also worked as a writer for a small newspaper amid the White Mountain Apaches and was present when a small group of Mongolian visitors arrived for a visit.

 

It seems that this group of Mongolian visitors became fascinated by America's Four Corners (the point where the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico all join). They were interested because it had peculiar similarities to a place called Four Corners that linked four providences of Mongolia on the exact opposite side of the world.

 

This was only the beginning of the list of synchronicities. The Mongolian visitors bore such a close resemblance to the Navajo and Apache people it was obvious they all were descendants of a common ancestry at some distant point in history.

 

Not only that, but their life styles were amazingly similar. Even though living separated for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, at opposite ends of the planet, both tribes raised sheep, wove rugs with similar colorful patterns, lived in wooden octagon buildings with peaked roofs, and spoke a similar language. Many of the words they used sounded alike. Their ancient native customs, passed down for centuries, also were similar.

 

Members of the Mongolian visiting party, and representatives of both the Navajo and Apache tribes who participated in this historic meeting, were so amazed at this information, they were convinced that they were in some way related to one another.

 

Whether they arrived in 1421, or many years earlier, I am convinced that the Chinese and/or the Mongolians were among the first people from the old world to discover and settle America. Rather than conquer, the Chinese settlers peacefully blended in with the natives.