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Debunking Columbus and Da Vinci -- Gavin Menzies   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2008-7-31 06:53:43 |Display all floors
Gavin Menzies, like his fellow Englishman and Cambridge biochemist Joseph Needham before him, is an intellectually honest man whose uncompromising stand on what he believes to be the truth on China-related historical issues has brought real honor to his nation.

Yes Menzies, the submariner-turned-historian who recently authored a reveal-all book on how the Chinese had ignited the first spark of the European Renaissance when their ships and envoys reached Italy in 1434, carrying with them all the technological know-how that China had accumulated over the ages and imparting that treasure trove of knowledge to Italy, is obviously not merely a Columbus or Da Vinci debunker, but a truth-seeker.  

He is emphatically that rare breed of pioneers who wouldn't leave any stones unturned in his investigative work on the all-important missing link accounting for the abrupt onset of the Italian Renaissance leading to the meteoric ascendancy of Western Europe in the past five hundred years.

Hitherto we have been led to believe that it had all started with Leonardo Da Vinci's raw ingenuity, that he represented the ORIGINAL spirit of the Renaissance, that such a force had come out of nowhere to lift Europe out of stifling medieval backwardness.

Is that possible?  The question long resident in our minds is this: could one man's ORIGINAL imagination alone have fully accounted for the prairie fire that we call the Renaissance?  A more reasonable assumption would be that something far more shocking and abrupt in its arrival must have expanded the vistas and liberated the minds of the Italian people of that era.

Menzies has now provided credible evidence that the all-vital missing link accounting for the sudden, unheralded arrival of the Renaissance was China.

He has supported his arguments with stacks of evidence he had received subsequent to the publication of his original book "1421 -- the year the Chinese discovered America" (i.e. seventy years before Columbus).

Would it surprise anyone that he had met stonewalls of silence if not tremendous resistance in the West about this fundamental discovery?

After all, the Western media has unabashedly given little credit to the tremendous good that the Chinese government has done to the Tibetan minority.

If they can be guilty of purposeful omission by ignoring genuine statistical figures reflecting the betterment of Tibetan lives, why can’t they be guilty of same-purpose commission by failing to acknowledge historical facts unearthed by one of their own?

Menzies should make sure that his sources and his own personal safety are both well guarded from this point on.

What happened to Iris Chang after she wrote on the Nanjing Massacre shouldn't be repeated with Menzies -- a Westerner armed with factual information that promises to turn world history topsy-turvy, just like Chang's book on the Nanjing Massacre gave the non-Chinese-speaking audience a more understandable depiction of what had actually transpired in Nanjing during the winter of December, 1937.

The reading of Menzies' book makes a lot of sense.

Take Leonard Da Vinci for instance.

For years people had marveled at the "raw genius" of Leonardo Da Vinci, who for all intents and purposes single-handedly conjured up drawings of complicated machines that were totally unknown to Italy or the Western world of his time.  Now Menzies has proven that Da Vinci’s drawings weren’t original at all.  The man had merely re-drawn in 3-D format the technological marvels pioneered by the Chinese and available in Chinese books and treatises printed earlier or during Da Vinci’s time.

As East-West communications are further expanded in the future, more evidentiary findings will surely come out of English translations of ancient Chinese texts -- many of which had been lost in the Sino-Japanese war when the Chinese printing houses such as the Commercial Printing Enterprise in Shanghai were destroyed by incendiary bombs dropped by the Zeros.

As I traveled across America visiting all the university libraries across the nation from coast to coast and from border to border, I happened to notice that many unique, standalone ancient Chinese texts were “archived” in American universities in special-access facilities, including those on technological breakthroughs in ancient China.  I'm sure fruitful exchanges will ensue in this area of research in the coming years.

Note that Gavin Menzies has brushed off the criticism of his expected detractors, pointing to shelves of files in the rooms of his basement study filled with material supporting his theories -- much of it contributed by readers of his books and associated Web sites, and has also issued the following comments in defending the authenticity of his work:

"I say the claim that critics make that there is no evidence is absolute rubbish. There are stacks and stacks of evidence.

"It's not me that's the fantasist; it's the historians who persist in this complete rubbish which is currently taught as history (in the world's classrooms, including those in China today)."

Reuters' detractors are calling him the Columbus Debunker, now zeroing in on Da Vinci.  Right now the evidence is overwhelmingly in Menzies' favor that he is on the right path of discovery.  His close-minded detractors are precisely the ones who need to be debunked in the first place.

The original Reuters comment will now follow.

Wei Chao, M.D.

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Post time 2008-7-31 09:16:09 |Display all floors
Columbus debunker sets sights on Leonardo da Vinci
Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:58pm

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of machines are uncannily similar to Chinese originals and were undoubtedly derived from them, a British amateur historian says in a newly-published book.

Gavin Menzies sparked headlines across the globe in 2002 with the claim that Chinese sailors reached America 70 years before Christopher Columbus.

Now he says a Chinese fleet brought encyclopedias of technology undiscovered by the West to Italy in 1434, laying the foundation for the engineering marvels such as flying machines later drawn by Italian polymath Leonardo.

"Everything known to the Chinese by the year 1430 was brought to Venice," said Menzies, a retired Royal Navy submarine commander, in an interview at his north London home.

From Venice, a Chinese ambassador went to Florence and presented the material to Pope Eugenius IV, Menzies says.

"I argue in the book that this was the spark that really ignited the renaissance and that Leonardo and (Italian astronomer) Galileo built on what was brought to them by the Chinese.

"Leonardo basically redrew everything in three dimensions, which made a vast improvement."

If accepted, the claim would force an "agonizing reappraisal of the Eurocentric view of history", Menzies says in his book "1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed To Italy and Ignited The Renaissance".

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Post time 2008-7-31 09:20:15 |Display all floors

The urbane 70-year-old sold more than a million copies of his first book, "1421", which argued Chinese sailors mapped the world in the early 1400s shortly before abandoning global seafaring.

His theories are dismissed as nonsense by many academics -- Menzies says Chinese fleets reached Australia and New Zealand as well as America before European explorers -- but have gained an international following among readers.

"This whole fantasy about Europe discovering the world is just nonsense," said Menzies.

In his latest book -- published in the United States in June and this month in Britain -- Menzies says four ships from the same Chinese expeditions reached Venice, bringing with them world maps, astronomical charts and encyclopedias far in advance of anything available in Europe at the time.

Menzies says Leonardo's designs for machines can be traced back to this transfer of Chinese knowledge.

Leonardo, born in 1452, is perhaps best known for his enigmatic "Mona Lisa" portrait of a woman in Paris's Louvre Museum, but he also left journals filled with intricate engineering and anatomical illustrations.

Menzies says designs for gears, waterwheels and other devices contained in Chinese encyclopedias reached Leonardo after being copied and modified by his Italian antecedents Taccola and Francesco di Giorgio.

To support his argument, Menzies publishes drawings of siege weapons, mills and pumps from a 1313 Chinese agricultural treatise, the Nung Shu, and from other pre-1430 Chinese books, next to apparently similar illustrations by Leonardo, Di Giorgio and Taccola.

(my comment: this last sentence is important, showing that it wasn't Leonardo alone who started to provide similar drawings at around the same time -- which would have been the case had he been the ONLY one who came out with the original ideas associated with the drawings of the machines and technologies).

"By comparing Leonardo's drawings with the Nung Shu we have verified that each element of a machine superbly illustrated by Leonardo had previously been illustrated by the Chinese in a much simpler manual," Menzies writes.

"It's very suggestive, very interesting, but the hard work remains to be done," said Martin Kemp, Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University and author of books on Leonardo.

"He (Menzies) says something is a copy just because they look similar. He says two things are almost identical when they are not," Kemp said.

"It's not strong on historical method," he added. But Kemp said he would look out for any signs that Leonardo had access to Chinese material, directly or indirectly, when studying his manuscripts in future.

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Post time 2008-7-31 09:23:18 |Display all floors

Where is the rubbish?


"I will keep my eye open, without thinking it is going to turn Leonardo studies or any studies of 15th century technology upside down."

Kemp said the source of the claimed Chinese influence was a separate issue.

"There is a whole series of questions a historian would ask about mediaeval technology, about Islamic technology, about transmission across trade routes, the Silk Route in particular.

"It's a terrifically complicated area and having a Chinese person in Florence in 1434 ends up giving that person a hell of a lot of work to do."

Menzies bases his claim that a Chinese ambassador went to Florence on a copy of a letter dated 1474 by Italian mathematician Toscanelli found among Columbus's papers.

Menzies publishes a translation from the letter reading: "In the days of Pope Eugenius there came a Chinese ambassador to him," although this is not explicit in the original Latin text.

"It's drivel", said Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a British expert on maritime exploration who is a professor of history at Tufts University in the United States and at Queen Mary College, University of London.

"No reputable scholar would think that there is any reason to suppose that the person referred to by Toscanelli was Chinese," he told Reuters.

Geoff Wade, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore's Asia Research Institute, said Menzies' book and theories should be reclassified as historical fiction.

"Certainly Chinese ideas came to Europe and European ideas went to Iran and onwards," Wade said in a telephone interview.

"But the premise of the book that there was a Chinese fleet in 1434 which went to Italy is completely without any substance.

"There is absolutely no Chinese evidence for it."

Menzies brushes off the criticism, pointing to shelves of files in the rooms of his basement study filled with material he says supports his theories, much contributed by readers of his books and associated Web sites.  

"I say the claim that critics make that there is no evidence is absolute rubbish. There is stacks and stacks of evidence.

"It's not me that's the fantasist, it's the historians who persist in this complete rubbish which is currently taught as history."

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