Travel Narratives from the Age of Discovery Essay

Columbus in America
Columbus’ discovery of America was accidental because he initially thought that it would take him a lesser distance and time to discover the way to Asia. His estimations were about twenty four hundred miles, while it was actually over 10,600 miles. This circumstance made him stick in America that let him discover the lands and the islands in the continent. In his letters describing his discoveries, he told about the nature and the status of the people living on this land. From his letters, we also get to know that he sent out his people to look out if there was a city or a king, which may have given a clue whether they had a government or not, and their feedback was negative. This showed that the people were not industrious and that their economic status was low. However, the description of the land showed that it was very fertile and many land segments were still ‘virgin’ because no one had explored them yet and the natives did not reside them either. Besides, according to Columbus’s letter, the trees were so tall that they reached the sky, the weather very pleasant, and the place had many inviting commodities that could be harvested (Mancall 210).

The natives of the American land, according to the letter, had a culture that allowed them to stay naked. However, from the European standards perspective, it was considered primitive. He further said that people lived together in small settlements located on the mainland. Also, the natives did not create settlements along the coastal lines as according to Columbus’s letters there were neither villages nor towns/cities at the coastal regions. He aslo narrated that his men found no king or any other form of government that ruled or organized people (Mancall 211).

In addition, the natives of America neither had religion nor worshiped any idol. Therefore, Columbus initiated the Christian religion after he won their trust by giving them gifts they treasured. The natives believed that the goodness and power came from heaven and that was their only belief and faith (Mancall 211). They also believed that Columbus, his ships, and men came from heaven. What is more, Columbus mentioned that they were not ignorant. Rather, they were kind in the way they treated him and his men. They also gave them precious gifts such as gold and food. However, in the Indies, they encountered man-eating people and Columbus considered this as the only monstrous thing they came across in the region (Mancall 212).

Cheng Ho in Wang she cheng (China)
In Chan city, a king ruled the people of the city during the travel of Mann Hu in the 13th and the 14th century (Mancall 116). The people of this country were Buddhists. The city also had a Great Wall with four main gates that were guarded by soldiers appointed by the king. In this culture, the King’s clothes were different from other peoples’ way of dressing with many details such as gold and colored threads. However, the king walked barefoot. Elephants and oxen were used as convoy to transport people and other commodities. The king mounted on an elephant that was pulled in front by two oxen, yellow in color (Mancall 117).

The people in Wang she cheng built houses that had a thatched roof and were low, that was a cultural and traditional requirement. No one would build a house with a height exceeding three ch’ih, and this made people go in and out of the houses with bent bodies and lowered heads. Furthermore, it was an offence to have a house that exceeded three ch’ih. The culture of these people also forbade them from wearing white clothes because only the king had a privilege to dress up in white. In addition, everyone walked barefoot, men with unkempt heads and women with a chignon hairstyle at the back of their heads (Mancall 117).

Their economic reliance revolved around agriculture and fishing. They grew vegetables, fruits, rice and other cereals for their subsistence and engaged in cash crop farming. Men also used to fish for their livelihood. Interestingly, the people had a habit of chewing areca nut and betel-leaf all the time. Traditionally, the man was expected to go to the girl’s house to consummate the marriage. Ten days later, the man’s family and friends would escort the couple to the girl’s paternal house where they would prepare wine, play music, and finalize the marriage. The people in this culture also had no pen or paper to write on, and they would use dried goatskin or smoked tree barks and white chalks to make records. In addition, the traditions of the Wang she cheng people required severe punishment for all mistakes done. For instance, small mistakes were punishable by back thrashing with a rattan stick, robbery by cutting of the nose, adultery by branding a scar on the face, and any heinous offence by death through being set on a sharp stick that pierced a person from the bottom and protrude through the mouth (Mancall 117).

According to Cheng Ho’s inscription on the stone he engraved in the country during his travel, people were generally happy and were united by similar customs (Mancall 121). Country’s population comprised of five classes of people including the Muslim people, the Mu-kua, Nan-k’un, the Ko-ling people, and the che-ti class of people. These classes had their own traditions. That is, the Muslims did not eat pig meat, and the other people in the country refrained from eating ox meat. Moreover, as equality was important, the king ordered that all the wealthy persons in the community and all the chiefs go to the temple every morning to smear fresh dung of yellow oxen over the surface of the ground and walls of the temple (Mancall 121).
The leadership hierarchy was continued through the son of the kings’ sister rather than the king’s son. This is because it was believed that only the offspring from the woman’s blood constituted the legal family (Mancall 125). If the king had no sister, the throne was given to another man in the community with some specific merit, and this ensured succession from one generation to another. This country is home to today’s Mecca (Mancall 126).

Vespucci in Brazil
Vespucci sailed to Brazil to discover the new world. While traveling, he documented some encounters he experienced during the journey. Although he was later fascinated by the travel, he initially complained about the unwelcoming weather that was rainy and stormy for the 45 days of the 65 days he was at sea. Upon reaching Brazil, Vespucci discovered that the communities were united by similar customs. The people were living uncovered and walked barefoot from the time they were born to death. The traditions of the Brazilians included piercing of their bodies for beauty, but, according to Vespucci, it made them look monstrous (Mancall 219).

These people lived freely since they were not ruled by any king and had no administration system. Men married as many women as they wanted. The sons cohabitated with their mothers, the sisters with their brothers, cousins with cousins, and any man with any woman they met. They had no laws regarding marriages, and therefore dissolved their marriages anytime they wanted. The people from Brazil lived for over a hundred years to one hundred and fifty and rarely fell ill. They had people that cured their illnesses using herbs and other medicinal roots (Mancall 120).

During his visit, Vespucci said that the Brazilians had no church or any religion that they associated with for faith or beliefs. He affirmed that they also did not worship any idols, and they mainly lived according to nature laws (Mancall 121). They did not engage in any form of trade because there were no merchants or traders among the people in this community. However, they were involved in lethal battles, and this was the elders that forced the youths into wars. When the captives were brought home, they were killed and their meat was served as a delicacy. They were also known to eat other human beings, and Vespucci even detailed that fathers were witnessed eating their children and wives (Mancall 120).

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