I love to read about Chinese history and specifically about Chinese junks (also referred to as "chuan", there are many different styles, sizes, uses and origins). One of my favorite books in my library is 1421 The Year China Discovered America, by author Gavin Menzies. Looking through the book recently, I was reminded of an incident that happened early in the construction of the Mei Wen Ti that I thought would make an interesting blog post.
I was visiting the construction site one day when I saw a small group of kindergarten-age children gathered around the bow of the boat with their teacher.
I asked my translator what the teacher was telling the children, he said, “She telling them China used many thousands of boats similar to this one for coastal trade and fishing a thousand years ago.”
Her statement was very true, and in the book 1421 The Year China Discovered America, Menzies writes about the importance of junks throughout Chinese history. The book is a remarkable story about how the largest fleet of junks the world had ever seen set sail from China to circumnavigate and explore the world. Where they went and what they discovered is still being studied, but I think few would argue that in the fourteenth and fifteenth century the largest and most reliable ships were Chinese junks.
So if you want to learn about China during this period and read about their many voyages read 1421 The Year China Discovered America and decide for yourself whether the Chinese discovered America. If the Portuguese traders could sail a tiny ship to China why couldn’t large junks have made it to America?