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The Global Life of Zheng He. Oskar Yang. The foreign servant of the prince The Treasure Fleet and the admiral The voyages: from rise to downfall The size of its ships, the number of its crew, and the distance of its voyages were incomparable for a long time in the whole world.

Zheng He Voyage (Ming Treasure Fleet)

Commander of the fleet was Zheng He, a eunuch officer of Ming China. From to , he led seven major voyages into the Indian Ocean, connecting China with countries in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, bringing together the region as close as never before. In the centuries that followed, the adventure of admiral Zheng and his fleet slowly became a tale and legend.

7 Zheng He and the Italian Renaissance

Emphases are put on how he became the admiral and what he did in the voyages with the aim to shed light on the transnational connections existed at that time. The article is divided into three parts. Part two deciphers how the fleet was technically constructed, and why it was Zheng that became the admiral. It is commonly believed that he was born in , but dissension exists because there is no historical record of the exact date of his birth. It is also argued that he could be born in See Xie, Fang. The most important source about his family is the epitaph of his father, engraved by Zheng in when he had come to power.

See also Xiang, Da. He conquered Yunnan province for the Yuan regime and thus became the governor. It was not until that Yunnan was finally conquered by the Chinese Ming army. The new emperor, Zhu Yunwen, grandson of Zhu Yuanzhang, intended to wipe out his powerful uncles. Seeing several other princes dying one after another, Zhu Di declared war against his nephew. It is said that he brought an army of more than men to China. His younger brother returned home with most of the army and succeeded his throne, while a smaller troop of about men stayed with him in China serving the Chinese emperor.

Ibid, pp. See also Levathes, When China ruled the seas, p.


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Apart from Japan that constantly robbed Chinese shores25, there were many more problems to be solved. According to a decree issued in , the emperor threatened with force to demand Chinese rebels, criminals and exiles hidden on islands in the South Asian seas to submit themselves to the throne. Beijing, This mission was also a political one. Such expressions reveal an attempt of the Chinese emperor to construct a world order dominated by China, with other countries subordinated to the Chinese throne.

This exchange of goods was not a real trade, however, but rather an etiquette that the Chinese believed to be appropriate, as we will see below, it had nothing to do with profiting. Nevertheless, economic objective of the fleet is also evident, far less important though. Tianfei is the goddess of the seas worshiped by Chinese seamen. There are various ways of referring to a Chinese emperor. Once the political motive disappeared, there would be no more a reason to continue sailing.

Story of Zheng He

Right after his seizure of throne, Zhu Di issued an order to start building sea-going ships in Fujian Province that lied on the southeast coast of China. It was capable of building the largest ship of the fleet—the Treasure Ship. The Treasure Fleet consisted of about two hundred ships, varying in each of the seven voyages, with a maximum of ships employed in the first voyage in Other Treasure Ships were also carriers of goods but were a bit smaller, some meters long and 50 meters wide.

However, the size of the dry-docks discovered in the remains of the shipyards does not deny the possibility. Warships were small but quick and fast, designed to be able to act whenever needed regardless of the tide. First of all, the voyages were organized in accordance with the rhythm of seasonal winds.

The ships always set out from the Chinese coast in winter when the north wind was blowing, and came back in summer with the south wind. Every ship had an astronomical officer. Before Emperor Yong Le appointed Zheng He as the admiral of the Treasure Fleet, he consulted a physiognomic expert, who highly praised Zheng for the strength and energy explicit in his appearance.

Ming treasure voyages - Wikipedia

Ibid, p. One chi equals 0. So 9 chi is around 2. Despite the obvious exaggeration, the description of his appearance could be partly true considering his outstanding performance in battles. There is no evidence showing that Zheng had experience in sailing. So he was appointed as admiral predominantly on consideration of his courage and capability of commanding. Although not explicitly expressed in historical records, there could be other reasons as well. As is shown above, Zheng had a foreign background.

This was explicit in his religious practices. Born in a Muslim family, Zheng inherited a faith in Allah, which was evident in many sources.

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For example, Zheng requested for the re-building of a burnt mosque in Nanjing in Interestingly, he had other religious practices as well. A stele engraved by Zheng discovered in Sri Lanka records his prayer and donation to Buddha on behalf of the fleet. Zheng brought back rare and exotic plants for the Temple of Tianfei in Nanjing and spent money to renovate it. From his father and grandfather exaggeration. The worship for Tianfei does not mean that Zheng was a Taoist practitioner. But this can be evidence that he was influenced by different cultures.

Grown up in China, he must have been deeply influenced by Chinese culture which stresses the superiority of secular imperial power and the peaceful co-existence of religions.


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    You have to overcome seasickness and bad weather, for example. Sometimes we forecast high winds and waves that we are going to encounter, but in order to let our cadets learn how to adapt to these future challenges, we did not change our route to avoid them," Zu said. Besides Chinese cadets onboard, there are also midshipmen from other countries involved in parts of the expedition. They practice navigation, and carry out activities like making astronomical and geographical observations together. It took some time to get used to the new environment, but everyone soon got along well as a big family, he said.

    The vessel has paid friendly visits to ports in the countries it has visited, some of which were also visited by Zheng He and his fleet centuries ago. The voyage this time, 10 years after the first global voyage organized by the PLA navy, will play an "active role" in further promoting exchanges between the PLA navy and the navies of relevant countries, according to Geng Yansheng, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry.