Zheng He

The great­est ad­mi­ral in china’s his­tory

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment -

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

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