Did China discover America?




Eric Wang, Reads a lot about history

The primary proponent of the “China discovered America” theory is Gavin Menzies, a British historian who has published several books on the subject, most notably 1421: The Year China Discovered the World. In it, he claims that the Chinese admiral Zheng He sailed from China to the Bahamas and back, but how factual are his claims?

This map is one that Menzies uses to support his claims. A Shanghai-based lawyer purchased the map in 2001. He claims that it is a 1760s copy of an original map created in 1418, three years before Menzies’ alleged date of Zheng’s discovery of America.[1]

There are several things wrong with using this map as proof. For one, the depiction of the Earth as two intersecting hemispheres is a feature that is only found in European maps. Additionally, the immense detail in which North and South America is depicted would not be able to be achieved in 30 years of voyages. It took the Europeans hundreds of years to get to this level of detail, and the amount of detail of inland features could only have been reproduced by inland explorers. 





The Himalayas are labeled as the largest mountain range in the world, but this was not found to be the case until the 19th century, and the Arctic is depicted on this map allegedly from 1418, but does not show up on any other Ming map until 1593. The depiction of California as an island is common on 17th century European maps. Not to mention how this map was allegedly created 3 years before Menzies claimed that Zheng He discovered America.[3]

There is a general historical consensus that the map is actually a copy of a European map originally made in the 17th century,[4][5] but what about Menzies’ claims themselves, and the limited evidence he gives to support those claims?

Menzies mostly follows the primary historical narrative, which is that the Yongle Emperor sent Zheng He in command of a fleet of 107 ships in 1421. They then sailed all the way to India and Africa, collecting exotic animals and goods before returning to China. Menzies, however, makes the additional claim that the Chinese continued their expedition across the Atlantic, and eventually reached the Americas after splitting up into four separate fleets.




译文来源:三泰虎  http://www.santaihu.com/48421.html   译者:Joyceliu

He claims that one fleet circumnavigated the globe via the tip of South America and then sailed around the coast of Australia, and that another fleet circled around Antarctica. Additionally, he claims that 75% of the ships and their passengers (up to 500 per ship) set up Chinese colonies in the Americas and Australia.[6]

This begs the question: is there any physical evidence for these colonies? Well, no. No remains of a Chinese settlement have been found in the Americas or Australia, and there is little reason to believe that the Chinese could have such overseas colonial ambitions, yet not aim to conquer lands closer to home, e.g. Japan. His genetic “evidence” for these claims comes from a company that was later proven to be a scam. Menzies also claims that several structures around the world were constructed by Chinese colonists, but there is no evidence linking these constructions to the Chinese at all.[7] If you would like to do more reading on the topic, here is a helpful link: The myth of Menzies' "1421 " exposed



In summary, there are no other reputable historians that propose alternate theories about China discovering America. Menzies was the first to propose this and have any sort of success, and his theories have mostly been debunked as pseudohistory, and he relies on very little solid evidence to back up his seemingly absurd claims.

In the end, none of this matters. The Vikings beat them both, and even then, the hunter-gatherers who ventured across the Bering Strait were the true “discoverers” of America.




Ty Lee, Student

Let’s look at arguments from two viewpoints.

1.China discovered America first

2.China did not discover America first




Viewpoint 1

Menzies (A historian) claims that the map above is from 1418, and that Admiral Zheng discovered the Americas.

The map has a layout of various rivers and towns in the Americas. I’m not sure about the rivers but the towns look to be accurately placed.




Viewpoint 2

This is a more well supported viewpoint, endorsed by many historians. The key arguments they present to disprove the map are:

1.The map is in a style that belongs exclusively to Europe

2.California is represented as an Island, as is the case on most European maps from the 17th century.

3.The Himalayas are marked as the tallest mountains (They were not discovered yet).

4.It is too accurate to belong to the time







What I think

There’s really no point in arguing who discovered the Americas.

We don’t have a definition of ‘discovering’. Did the Siberians who crossed the Bering Straits discover America? Did the Vikings of Vinlandsaga discover America?

It’s a confusing debate, but if we talk about discovery in terms of a cultural expedition, then the evidence points overwhelmingly towards Columbus and Co.

Thanks to Derek Frost (フブキ), for helping me out with the some information







He Ren, I come from Beijing, love to learn about culture

Although Christopher Columbus is the first person reported to discover the America, Ancient Chinese might have done that before. The truth is unknown to us because of the lack or loss of documentation.

Ancient boats are seriously affected by wind and current. No effective navigation. No stable food supply. It could take several decades to travel from Asia to America along the coast, and another several decades to come back, not mentioning the possibility of accidents.



Ancient China had great enthusiasm to discover the rest of the world. A goverment official called Zheng He spent decades leading hundreds of ships travel around Pacific (Treasure voyages - Wikipedia). While Zheng He is the most well-known voyager in Chinese history, many others also travelled to Japan, India and Africa, according to the documentation.

However, no one was recorded to have travel to America. There might be someone.



1.Someone who successfully arrived in America and decided not to take the risk of traveling back or to write something about it.

2.Someone who visited America and came back and thought America was yet another big island, deciding not to report it.

3.Someone who visited America and realized it was a new place worth of documentation but others didn’t believe him and the documentation became toilet paper.

We just don’t know.






William Hennigan, lived in China

No. Menzies stands debunked. There is no Chinese map or mention in the Zhong He travels or within the Ming archives.

“Discover” means getting back with the news. The Vikings were the first to get back, but they gave up and never really committed them selves to North America. Columbus was the first create a discovery to do that. So, he deserves the credit.

The Siberians came early and late, but apparently never went back. The Siberians are not Chinese/Han/HuaXia. It also defies logic that there were no other people in North America when they arrived.

It is also my opinion that the people of South American are not Siberians but people from South East Asia,, but they never were able to get back.






Benjamin Marr, always keen to learn

So far we have not got anything to prove that wild idea. LOL.

Hypothetically, some ancient Chinese managed to reach American continent by land or sea, nevertheless I wouldn't regard that as Discovering the new continent, because -



1.American indian must have arrived much earlier.

2.Those Chinese didn't leave any evidence in America, or passed any info back to China. (At least we have not yet found such evidence or info)

3.Those Chinese didn't make any change to te new continent.

And i highly doubt in ancient China what would drive people to migrate so far away or to explore so far away. We Chinese are not very curious in geography for all the time.

People usually moved to Korea and Japan to flee from persecution or war. And Hainan island used to be regarded as the edge of the entire world.







Linus Skov, I read about history frequently

No. I cannot find any evidence for this position.

Australia wasn’t “discovered” by anyone until the Dutch ship Duyfken under captain Willem Janszoon reached it in 1606. That’s the first recorded contact, but there is evidence to suggest that fishermen from the Malay Archipelago/Maritime Southeast Asia.

America wasn’t in contact with the outside world until Leif Eriksson, a Norse sailor and explorer, reached it approximately at the turn of the 1st millennium. A couple of centuries later, Columbus reached Central America.





Clarence Sherrick, works at Psychic Eye, Las Vegas

There are indication that the Chinese may have explored the western coast of North America. However, no definable proof has been forthcoming. There are also cultural indications that the Japanese may have had trading connections with South America long before any Chinese, Vikings or Christopher Columbus contact. There are even aspects of potential Polynesian connections as well

The truth be told, it was peoples out of Siberia or even possibly North Asian boating expeditions that actually were the very first people to discover the lands now named after an Italian.

Amerigo Vespucci was the first human being in recorded history to realize that there were actually two separate continents between Europe and Asia.

Which is why they are now both named after him.






David Salvia, AS/AA Physics & History, Santa Barbara City College (2014)

The Chumash people of California discovered America about 13,000 years ago. There is evidence of earlier discovery, but the Chumash still live there.

About 1980 it was discovered that the Maya initially settled on the west coast of the Americas over 4000 years ago, in fishing villages along the Yucatan Peninsula. Among the discoveries was some pottery that closely resembled that of a contemporary Chinese culture.




Tim Sabin, Retired (2013-present)

In a way, yes. A very long time ago, the sea level was low enough that what is now the Bering Straight was then the Bering Land Bridge. Many people living in Asia (I assume that included some from China) migrated across the land bridge to North America. Some stayed in the north and became today's Eskimos. Others migrated southward and became the Native Americans, Mayans, and Aztecs.



Matt Groening, Web Developer (2018-present)

I think the Vikings discovered America first. Can’t be there have been people there before.

Soon you run into this problem , because you would deny one people the rights you give to other people for really no reason ?

Is having firearms or ships who can cross the ocean a criteria ?

Maybe you have heard about the Kon-Tiki expedition ?

I think this is a good answer to your question.







Glen Ross, AD Ancient History & Ancient Egypt, The College and University Experience (2004)

I have heard something about it before, that the Chinese discovered Mexico before the Spanish but I don’t know if it’s true or no



Ronald Weinger

If it is true that Native Americans are descended  from Asians who came across the Bering Strait then it is possible that the Chinese, or a people related to the Chinese “discovered” America.



Raymond Beck, works at U.S. Army

Yes. Unless you count Native American Indians as the first. They always get left out.



Timothy Mauch, former Submarine sonar Chief Petty Officer at United States Navy (1976-1991)

I will only say that the word “discovered” doesn’t necessarily mean the first person to discern something or that it didn’t exist before-hand, but is more like the first person to tell others about it.



Tan Choon Wei, lives in Penang, Malaysia

I do have a copy of Gavin Menzie’s 1421. I read it, and I do not agree with some of the points of the book. What I could speculate now, is that the only facts we now truly know is that the Chinese did sail through South East Asia, passing Malacca to India, and went to Africa for the furthest extend. About crossing the Atlantic, I don’t quite believe there might be a possibility for the Chinese, but I do still think there “is a slight possibility” for the Chinese to discover — accidentally, like how Colombus accidentally find America but was originally intended to go to India. The map that the author claims that is made from 1418, mostly be a fake, cause to be honest, compared with the Mao Kun maps (truly made by Zheng He’s fleet), there is still some slight diferrences, example the accuracy of the cartographing.


When Zheng He left China, the Ming Dynasty was prosper. However, when he returned, the Ming Dynasty was plagued by co ption, and was a nearly ruined country. He was shocked, as when he was expecting to have a lot of people greeting him when he returned like when he left, he would not expect to have saw barely some people greeting him, and his country, once prosperous, now mostly ruined.



Al Carroll, works at Northern Virginia Community College

Same reason Columbus did not. You can't discover a place that already has over 100 million people in it.

There are some highly disputed accounts of Chinese monks coming to the Americas in the 27th century BCE, in The Book of Mountain and Seas. There are also later accounts of monks again around the 5th century BCE.




Craig Travis

The Chinese are not an imperialistic people. Their history with sl very is much different than ours. Their philosophers, their religions all have a different bent to them. They like nice things, but going without is not a problem.

They tried to keep Europe away from them, It was just their way at the time.

It's a different world today





Rito Plos

Henrietta Mertz’s book —Pale Ink describes Two ancient records of Chinese exploration in America.

Chinese ancient book(Shan Hai Jing) written in 4000 years ago described the geography and customs of America. So Chinese discovered America long long time ago before Columbus. However, Chinese are peaceful people, who never wanted to rob and destroy other countries.




Anthony Alvarez

Well, I thought that Native Americans came from Asia over the Berring Straights. Could some of them  have been Chinese?

I'm not real informed on the topic of migration but it does seem that at least the Siberians and Mongolians (or whatever these peoples were called back then) were the first to "discover" America Or more properly "The Americas".

i don't know, maybe Bill O'Riley or McDonalds was here first.




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