The greatest admiral in china’s history
He’s story is an epic tale of lowly beginnings leading to legendary status, becoming a representative of the power and wealth of China following its liberation from the Mongol Dynasty.
Originally named Ma He, a Hui Muslim from Yunnan, he was taken captive as a child, castrated, and placed in the service of Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan. He was bestowed the name “Zheng” after helping the prince gain the throne in 1402.
From 1405–1433, Zheng He led seven naval voyages across the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and beyond. Their purpose was to increase the renown and influence of the Ming Empire by conducting diplomatic missions, securing and establishing trade rights, as well as exacting tribute.
The size of his fleet intimidated most into submission – 30,000 men aboard 250 vessels including 60 treasure ships (some of which were 120 metres long and 52 metres wide). Zheng He notably smashed the pirate fleet of Chen Zuyi off the coast of Sumatra, and waged a land war in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), bringing the defeated King of Kotte back in chains to the Emperor.
After his death in 1433, his achievements were minimalised and the voyages ceased, but history could not easily forget such a man: a leader, who pioneered massive voyages the likes of which the world had never seen; a visionary, who looked outwards and saw China’s influence as a global power; and a missionary, whose efforts are noted by scholars as being vital in the spread of Islam across Southeast Asia. ag
Zheng He led seven naval voyages across the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and beyond