Christopher Columbus believed that he had reached East Asia after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and landing near a Bahamian island. Columbus' voyage was sponsored by Ferdinand II and Isabella of Spain, in order to find a new route to China, India and Asia.
Columbus had a strong conviction that the eastern shore of Asia was closer to Europe than it actually was. He had spent years reading the writings of Marco Polo, which were filled with tales of gold, spice and riches that would fuel his quest for a trade route to Asia and China.
After receiving funds from the Spanish monarchy and a decree stating that he had permission to claim lands for Spain and to rule in its stead, Columbus and his crew landed in the Bahamas in 1492.
Upon arrival, he went ashore to an island that he renamed "San Salvador." On the island, he encountered the Arawak people, a peaceful tribe that wore little clothing and appeared to have gold jewelry. Thinking he had discovered the Indies, he named the people he found there "Indians."
To confuse things further, the Arawak people were generous and welcoming, bringing Columbus anything he asked for, including gold that they brought by the boat load.
Columbus returned to Spain confident he had found Asia, and he returned with an impressive group of Spanish colonists to help exploit the riches of the new found Indies. It is said that he died without realizing that he had discovered the New World.