The New Century Club will hold a book breakfast at 9:15 a.m. Thursday in the dining room at St. Andrew’s Court.
Dr. John W. Butzow, a retired Dean of the College of Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, will discuss Gavin Menzies’ book “1421, The Year China Discovered America” and other related books dealing with the fabled Chinese Admiral Zheng He and his seven voyages to India, Arabia, Africa and possibly America.
Menzies is a retired British Naval Commander and submarine captain who sailed the world’s oceans extensively during the period just before the invention of global positioning systems.
He exploits his extensive firsthand knowledge of wind and ocean currents in investigating the early exploration of many lands.
Menzies’ theory about the pre-Columbian voyages of Zhen He argues that the Chinese were the first world power to build an effective Navy and they explored much of the world including the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Swahili Coast of Africa as well as much of North and South America.
Menzies believes that the naval architecture and sailing technology possessed by the 15th century Chinese admiral would have equaled or surpassed that of Europeans sailing as late as the early 1900s.
Zheng He’s career coincided with the reign of the greatest Ming Dynasty emperor, Zhu Di, who ruled from 1402 to 1424. Zheng He’s voyages were organized to support a tributary system whereby the Chinese emperor made client sovereigns out of many of the kings, princes and sultans of the ancient east. Zheng He’s voyages featured a much larger fleet of ships and supporting sailors and soldiers than his European contemporaries. Each of the seven voyages included several hundred ships, some of which were the largest wooden ships ever made. The largest, the “Treasure Ships,” were nearly as large as a football field and could house thousands of people and animals.
Today, 600 years after Zheng He’s fabled voyages, there is renewed interest in his deeds among the Chinese. A newly built memorial park in Nanjing and even a replica ship mark this renewed interest in the early naval history of China.
Book breakfasts are held on the first Thursday of each month. Tickets for the review will be available at the door for $5 each. All proceeds support the Indiana Free Library. Additional donations are always welcomed.