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1421: The Year China Discovered America? Previous Broadcasts

Episode #101W

KQED Life: Wed, May 7, 2014 -- 7:00 PM

The first hour introduces the controversial theory of British author Gavin Menzies, who has devoted nine years to proving that Zheng He and his Ming fleet of more than 100 ships reached America before Columbus. This episode investigates what is known about the fleet and its historic voyages, and the impact they had on the civilizations around the rim of the Indian Ocean. The program retraces the armada's journey to far-flung outposts throughout China, Southeast Asia, Arabia, India and Africa. Dramatic reconstructions using computer graphics bring to life the Ming fleet's scale and the unique design of the spectacular 400-foot treasure ships within the armada - a nautical achievement never surpassed by any other wooden fleet. The program the questions: Could the armada truly have sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope and reach the Americas? And will Menzies' investigations rewrite history and change the way people view the world?

The second hour puts Menzies' controversial theory to the test, visiting locations to search for clues and drawing together contemporary historical accounts, archaeology and a wealth of evidence from consultations with scholars to investigate Menzies' claims. Historians, archaeologists and scientists cast major doubts on the claims that the Chinese rounded the Cape of Good Hope, that they entered the Atlantic Ocean, that they visited or settled in America or indeed produced a Master Chart of the World. Menzies claims he can't be proved wrong. However, the discovery that led to his investigation has unearthed mysteries surrounding both the discovery of America and the true nature of the Ming voyages.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Life: Thu, May 8, 2014 -- 1:00 AM
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