Saturday, June 28, 2008

It twas a great year in 1434

Gavin Menzies' book 1434 takes a look at how advanced Chinese society was in terms of exploration and technological inventions. Menzies explores the various items of how the Chinese devised living including how to navigate a boat by the stars from no matter where the boat was in the world to where and when the Chinese could have been during this time pariod.

The best part of the book is that the author tells the story while not drowning the reader in historical or academic jargon. However, if jargon is used, Menzies quickly provides a definition. For example Menzies uses the word "eunichs" and then quickley defines it as "brave sailors who were intensely loyal to the empreror, permantently insecure, and ready to sacrifice all." (Menzies 3). By doing this the author is able to quickly add a word to the reader's vocabulary and be able to use the word simply later in the book without having to redefine the word again. This keeps the story moving while also painting a clear picture of what is going on in this type of time period.

Each chapter of 1434 takes a look at a different aspect of Chinese society during this time period. Some of the more interesting chapters include chapter 4 on how the Chinese calculated longitude and latitude and chapter 10 on how the Chinese influenced Magellan and Columbus' world maps. Each chapter has something new and interesting about Chinese society. Whats even better, if the reader is uninterested in a particular subject, they can simply skip to the next chapter without worrying about missing an item. But this is hardly a concern considering how interesting and well written each chapter is.

Menzies' book is a well written from beginning to end. This is mainly because the author draws upon scholarship from others who have deeply researched some aspects while Menzies maintains the overall narration of the global look of Chinese society in the book. Overall the book is worth a read for anyone interested in Asian history during this time period.


  1. Hi,

    I'm a freelance journalist from Malaysia, who also does book reviews.

    I'm reading Menzies' "1434", but with a very special reason - To find out the parts that aren't true.

    And in this book, there are MANY!

    BTW, are you familiar with Menzies' previous book - "1421"? Try looking at to find out how `reliable' "1434" is.

    Start with the transcript from Australia's ABC

  2. I was looking at the date and time posted, and thinking "There's something wrong here".

    Then I realised it - Our distance!

    The time difference between your and mine is exactly 12 hours; which of course makes it very easy to convert here (Malaysia) and there. It's also interesting to also note that while we over here are going to bed, you are having lunch!


    -Ahmad Anon(ymous), Kelantan, Malaysia

    P/S: Don't bother wasting your time to even go to my "Besgrade" blog. It's in the Malay language, and about nothing in particular. Had justed wanted "to create a blog since everyone has one" :-)


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