Zheng-He's Grave? Reflections of a Newcomer to North Carolina History
The conclusions of Melvin Page’s search for the Chinese admiral in North Carolina are hardly difficult to predict. Of course, Zheng He’s grave is nowhere to be found in, of all places, Asheville, North Carolina. The amateur historian Gavin Menzies’ 1421: The Year China Discovered the World – a popular history book that centers on a claim that Zheng He landed on America’s shores a half century before Columbus – has been widely panned by professional historians as lacking basis in any sort of historical reality. Page, however, encountered a very specific and unexplained claim in a later book by Menzies (another year – 1434), about Zheng He’s final and eternal voyage from the professor’s newly adopted state. Intrigued by the claim, Page put aside his assumptions – as we encourage our students to do – and turned over every rock in search for Zheng He’s grave. While he never found the admiral in Asheville, he certainly gained new insights on his new state and on Zheng He. His tale about his adventures on the seas of historical research remind us that even the most dead-ended research questions encourage us to reconsider our assumptions and think anew about our work.