The Mega-Event of this past summer was of course the Beijing Olympics.
The Opening Ceremony offered a crash-course in Chinese history. One element in particular was especially intriguing, that being the featuring of Ming Dynasty navigator/explorer Zheng He. The Chinese have eagerly adopted the work of retired English naval officer turned historian, Gavin Menzies. Menzies’ thesis that Zheng He traveled to America and was involved in Chinese colonization of the New World is apparently now accepted more-or-less as fact in China. The emphasis of Zheng He at the Olympic games would appear to be confirmation.
“There's an impressive segment honoring China's rich history of navigation. Quick history lesson: Zheng He (pronounced "Jung Huh") was the "Chinese Columbus." The 15th-century explorer sailed around the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, spreading all the way to Africa (and, some insist, all the way to the Americas -- some 80 years before Columbus).”
(see photos 26, 27 & 34 of the slide show)
Zheng He is not given his due by Western commentators:
“… hundreds of women, dressed in blue silk to represent the sea, held up huge oars showing the seven voyages of the Chinese sailor Zheng He – said to be the original Sinbad the Sailor – who sailed the world 87 years before Christopher Columbus. At the centre of the tableau, a performer held an ancient compass, also invented by China.”
“Slide 7: Admiral Zheng He (Ming Dynasty) (1371-1433 AD) Almost a century before Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas and Vasco da Gama's in India. All the ships of Columbus and da Gama combined could have been stored on a single deck of a single vessel in the fleet that set sail under Zheng He. He led seven great western maritime expeditions, traversing the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean into the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and reaching as far west as the east coast of Africa.” http://www.slideshare.net/GreenBeingNancy/beijing-olympics-2008-opening-ceremony-presentation/
“The Zheng He Code”:
“Performers with sailing boats are pictured during the Opening Ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics” (representing the voyages of Zheng He first commissioned by Ming Emperor Yong Le):
Gorgeous photos, including different shots of the Zheng He pageantry:
Zheng He and the books of Gavin Menzies:
“1421” hailed in China:
Replica of Zheng He’s “treasure boat” showcased at the Olympic Games:
Gavin Menzies inspires the Olympic Opening Ceremony?
“1421” by Gavin Menzies first published in 2002 (in the UK), Zheng He selected as a motif for the Games as early as 2005.
Controversy over Zheng He storms:
Zheng He in Kenya:
Opening Ceremony as Chinese Public Relations (or the cynical guide to the Olympics):
A second opinion on the symbolic importance of Zheng He:
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