Did da Vinci copy Chinese drawings?

Reuters/NY Times:

Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of machines are uncannily similar to Chinese originals and were undoubtedly derived from them, a British amateur historian says in a newly-published book.

Gavin Menzies sparked headlines across the globe in 2002 with the claim that Chinese sailors reached America 70 years before Christopher Columbus.

Now he says a Chinese fleet brought encyclopedias of technology undiscovered by the West to Italy in 1434, laying the foundation for the engineering marvels such as flying machines later drawn by Italian polymath Leonardo.

"Everything known to the Chinese by the year 1430 was brought to Venice," said Menzies, a retired Royal Navy submarine commander, in an interview at his north London home.

From Venice, a Chinese ambassador went to Florence and presented the material to Pope Eugenius IV, Menzies says.

"I argue in the book that this was the spark that really ignited the renaissance and that Leonardo and (Italian astronomer) Galileo built on what was brought to them by the Chinese.

"Leonardo basically redrew everything in three dimensions, which made a vast improvement."

If accepted, the claim would force an "agonizing reappraisal of the Eurocentric view of history," Menzies says in his book "1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed To Italy and Ignited The Renaissance."


While some debunk the claim, it is not unique. Jack Weatherford in his Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World says that many of the renaissance painting of biblical scenes were actually based on Chinese and Mongol clothing. Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai Khan instigated world trade after he completed the conquest of China.

The traders are known to have taken their ships to the middle east where they did good business with the fabric trade. Mosul and Damascus became famous for a particular type of fabric they sold. Damask silk was shipped throug Damacus en route to Europe. Muslin was shipped through Mosul. Satin came from the Mongol port of Zatun.

The book is very interesting. The contribution of the mongols to the modern world may have been overlooked. The book is light on the details of the Mongol way of making war, although it does touch on their light cavalry approach, but it also notes how adaptive they wre taking gun powder from the Chinese and using it in primitive canons to break fortresses under seige. Among other innovations, they were the first to introduce paper currency for trade. They were much more responsible with it than Mugabe.


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