|Ming treasure voyages|
Several of Zheng He's ships as depicted on a woodblock print, early 17th century
|Literal meaning||[Voyages of] Zheng He down the Western Ocean|
The Ming treasure voyages were the seven maritime expeditions by Ming China's treasure fleet between 1405 and 1433. The Yongle Emperor initiated the construction of the treasure fleet in 1403. The grand project resulted in seven far-reaching ocean voyages to the coastal territories and islands in and around the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and beyond. Admiral Zheng He was commissioned to command the treasure fleet for the expeditions. Six of the voyages occurred during the Yongle reign (r. 1402–24), while the seventh voyage occurred under the Xuande reign (r. 1425–1435). The first three voyages reached up to Calicut on India's Malabar Coast, while the fourth voyage went as far as Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Afterwards, the fleet made voyages farther away to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
The Ming dynasty, officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the primary capital of Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng, numerous rump regimes loyal to the Ming throne – collectively called the Southern Ming – survived until 1662.
The Yongle Emperor — personal name Zhu Di — was the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1402 to 1424.
The West Philippine Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The sea carries tremendous strategic importance; one-third of the world's shipping passes through it, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year, it contains lucrative fisheries, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. Huge oil and gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.
The Chinese expeditionary fleet was heavily militarized and carried great amounts of treasures, which served to project Chinese power and wealth to the known world. They brought back many foreign ambassadors whose kings and rulers were willing to declare themselves tributaries of China. During the course of the voyages, they destroyed Chen Zuyi's pirate fleet at Palembang, captured the Sinhalese Kotte kingdom of King Alekeshvara, and defeated the forces of the Semudera pretender Sekandar in northern Sumatra. The Chinese maritime exploits brought many foreign countries into the nation's tributary system and sphere of influence through both military and political supremacy, thus incorporating the states into the greater Chinese world order under Ming suzerainty. Moreover, the Chinese structured and established control over an expansive maritime network in which the region became integrated and its countries became interconnected on an economic and political level.
The Battle of Palembang was a naval battle fought in 1407 between Ming China's treasure fleet commanded by Admiral Zheng He and the pirate fleet of Chen Zuyi at Palembang, Sumatra, in modern Indonesia. The battle resulted in the defeat of Chen Zuyi, who was captured and sent to China for execution.
The Ming–Kotte War was a military conflict between the expeditionary forces of the Chinese Ming empire and the Sinhalese Kotte kingdom, located in the southern territories of Ceylon. This conflict happened when Ming China's treasure fleet returned to Ceylon in 1410 or 1411. It resulted in the overthrow of King Alakeshvara in favor for Parakramabahu VI of the previous royal family.
Sumatra is a large island in western Indonesia that is part of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island that is located entirely in Indonesia and the sixth-largest island in the world at 473,481 km2.
The treasure voyages were commanded and overseen by the eunuch establishment whose political influence was heavily dependent on imperial favor. However, within Ming China's imperial state system, the civil officials were the primary political opponents of the eunuchs and the opposing faction against the expeditions. Around the end of the maritime voyages, the civil government gained the upper hand within the state bureaucracy, while the eunuchs gradually fell out of favor after the death of the Yongle Emperor.
Over the course of the maritime voyages of the early 15th century, Ming China became the pre-eminent naval power by projecting its sea-power further to the south and west. There is still much debate about issues such as the actual purpose of the voyages, the size of the ships, the magnitude of the fleet, the routes taken, the nautical charts employed, the countries visited, and the cargo carried.
The naval history of China dates back thousands of years, with archives existing since the late Spring and Autumn period about the ancient navy of China and the various ship types used in war. China was the leading maritime power in the years 1405–1433, when Chinese shipbuilders began to build massive oceangoing junks. In modern times, the current Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments continue to maintain standing navies with the People's Liberation Army Navy and the Republic of China Navy, respectively.
The Yongle Emperor inherited a powerful navy from his predecessor, the Hongwu Emperor.The Yongle Emperor further strengthened and expanded the Ming navy as an instrument for an expansive overseas policy. The Taizong Shilu contains 24 short entries for the imperial orders for shipbuilding, with figures pointing to at least 2868 ships, from 1403 to 1419. Over the course of 1403, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Huguang's provincial governments as well as Nanjing, Suzhou, and other cities' military garrisons were ordered to begin construction of ships.
The Hongwu Emperor, personal name Zhu Yuanzhang, was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1368 to 1398.
Fujian is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guangdong to the south, and the Taiwan Strait to the east. Its capital is Fuzhou, while its largest city by population is Xiamen, both located near the coast of the Taiwan Strait in the east of the province. The name Fujian came from the combination of Fuzhou and Jianzhou, a city in Fujian, during the Tang dynasty.
Jiangxi is a landlocked province in the People's Republic of China, located in the southeast of the country. Its capital and largest city is Nanchang. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze river in the north into hillier areas in the south and east, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to the northwest.
Under the reign of the Yongle Emperor, Ming China underwent a militaristic expansionism with ventures such as the treasure voyages.In 1403, the Yongle Emperor issued an imperial order to start the immense construction project of the treasure fleet. Zheng He was ordered to initiate the construction of the fleet. The treasure fleet was known by its original designation "Xiafan Guanjun" (下番官軍; lit. "foreign expeditionary armada") in Chinese sources. It would come to comprise many trading ships, warships, and support vessels. The Longjiang shipyard was the construction site for many of the fleet's ships, including all of the treasure ships. It was located on the Qinhuai River near Nanjing, where it flows into the Yangtze River. Many trees were cut along the Min River and upper reaches of the Yangtze to supply the necessary resources for the construction of the fleet. The Yongle Emperor placed great trust in Zheng He and appointed him to command the treasure fleet. The emperor even gave Zheng He blank scrolls with the imperial seal to issue imperial orders at sea.
Zheng He was a Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's early Ming dynasty. He was originally born as Ma He in a Muslim family, and later adopted the conferred surname Zheng from Emperor Yongle. Zheng commanded expeditionary treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. His larger ships allegedly carried hundreds of sailors on four tiers of decks and may have stretched 120 meters or more in length, but these claims have been disputed.
The Qinhuai River (秦淮河) is a tributary of the Yangtze with a total length of 110 km. It flows through central Nanjing and is called "Nanjing's mother river". It is the "life blood" of the city. The Qinhuai River is divided into inner and outer rivers.
Nanjing, alternatively romanized as Nanking and Nankin, is the capital of Jiangsu province of the People's Republic of China and the second largest city in the East China region, with an administrative area of 6,600 km2 (2,500 sq mi) and a total population of 8,270,500 as of 2016. The inner area of Nanjing enclosed by the city wall is Nanjing City (南京城), with an area of 55 km2 (21 sq mi), while the Nanjing Metropolitan Region includes surrounding cities and areas, covering over 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi), with a population of over 30 million.
In the third lunar month (30 March to 28 April) of 1405, a preliminary order was issued for Zheng He and others to take command of 27,000 troops to the Western Ocean.An imperial edict, dated to 11 July 1405, was issued containing the order for the expedition. It was addressed to Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, and others.
Wang Jinghong was a Ming dynasty Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral, who was deputy to Zheng He on his treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Africa, from 1405 to 1433. He led an eighth voyage to Sumatra but is said to have died in a shipwreck on the way. He was buried at Semarang in Java aged 78.
The Yongle Emperor held a banquet for the crew on the evening before the fleet's maiden voyage.Gifts were presented to the officers and the common crew according to their rank. Sacrifices and prayers were offered to Tianfei, the patron goddess of sailors, hoping to ensure a successful journey and a safe passage during the voyage. In the autumn of 1405, the treasure fleet had assembled at Nanjing and was ready to depart from the city. According to the Taizong shilu 11 July 1405 entry about the dispatch of the fleet, Admiral Zheng He and "others" departed for the first expedition "bearing imperial letters to the countries of the Western Ocean and with gifts to their kings of gold brocade, patterned silks, and colored silk gauze, according to their status." The treasure fleet made a stop at Liujiagang. There, the fleet was organized in squadrons, while the fleet's crew honored Tianfei with prayers and sacrifices. Afterwards, the fleet sailed down the Chinese coast, towards the mouth of the Min River, where they awaited the northeast monsoon at Taiping anchorage in the Changle district. More prayers and sacrifices were conducted for Tianfei by the crew during the wait for the northeast monsoon. Afterwards, the fleet departed via the Wuhumen (lit. "five tiger passage") in Fujian.
The treasure fleet sailed to Champa,Java, Malacca, Aru, Semudera, Lambri, Ceylon, Quilon, and Calicut. From Lambri, the treasure fleet sailed straight through the Indian Ocean rather than follow the Bay of Bengal coastline to Ceylon. Three days after the departure from Lambri, a ship split off and went to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The treasure fleet saw the mountains of Ceylon after another six days and arrived at Ceylon's western coast two days thereafter. They were met with a hostile attitude from Alagakkonara, so they left the place. Dreyer (2007) states that it is possible that Admiral Zheng He made port at Quilon—although there is no account confirming this—because the King of Quilon traveled with the fleet to China in 1407. Mills (1970) states that the fleet may have made a four-month stay at Calicut, probably from December to April 1407. Around Cape Comorin at the southern tip of the Indian Subcontinent, the treasure fleet changed direction and began its return journey to China. During the return, the fleet made port at Malacca again.
In 1407, while returning homewards, Admiral Zheng He and his associates engaged Chen Zuyi and his pirate fleet in battle at Palembang.Chen Zuyi was a pirate leader who had seized Palembang on Sumatra. He dominated the maritime route of the Malaccan Strait. The battle resulted in the defeat of Chen's pirate fleet by the Chinese treasure fleet. Chen Zuyi and his lieutenants were executed on 2 October 1407. The Ming court appointed Shi Jinqing as the Pacification Superintendent of Palembang, thereby establishing an ally at Palembang and securing access to this important port.
The fleet arrived back in Nanjing on 2 October 1407.After accompanying the treasure fleet during the return journey, the foreign envoys (from Calicut, Quilon, Semudera, Aru, Malacca, and other unspecified nations) visited the Ming court to pay homage and present tribute in their local products. The Yongle Emperor ordered the Ministry of Rites, whose duties included the protocol concerning foreign ambassadors, to prepare gifts for the foreign kings who had sent envoys to the court.
The imperial order for the second voyage was issued in October 1407.The edict was addressed to Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, and Hou Xian (侯顯). Lang Ying's Qixiuleigao (七修類稿) recorded that Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, and Hou Xian were dispatched in 1407. The Taizong Shilu recorded that Zheng He and others went as envoys to the countries of Calicut, Malacca, Semudera, Aru, Jiayile, Java, Siam, Champa, Cochin, Abobadan, Quilon, Lambri, and Ganbali.
On 30 October 1407, a grand director was dispatched with a squadron to Champa before Zheng He followed with the main body of the fleet.The fleet departed in the fifth year, late 1407 or possibly early 1408, of the Yongle reign. The fleet traveled from Nanjing to Liujiagang to Changle. They then sailed to Champa; Siam; Java; Malacca; Semudera, Aru, and Lambri on Sumatra; Jiayile, Abobadan, Ganbali, Quilon, Cochin, and Calicut in India. Dreyer (2007) states that it is possible that Siam and Java were visited by the main fleet or by detached squadrons before regrouping at Malacca. During this voyage, Zheng He and his fleet did not land on Ceylon. The fleet was tasked to carry out the formal investiture of Mana Vikraan (馬那必加剌滿) as the King of Calicut. A tablet was placed in Calicut to commemorate the relationship between China and India.
In this voyage, the Chinese would forcibly settle the enmity between Ming China and Java.Java was ruled by successive Majapahit kings who had acted defiantly towards Ming China since the Hongwu reign. Dreyer (2007) states that, during a civil war on Java between 1401 and 1406, the King of West Java killed 170 members of a Chinese embassy who had come ashore in his rival's territory at East Java. The entry dated to 23 October 1407 in the Ming Shilu states that the Western King of Java had sent an envoy to the Ming court to admit guilt for mistakenly killing 170 Ming troops who had gone ashore to trade. It further states that the Ming court responded by demanding 60,000 liang of gold for compensation and atonement, warning that they would dispatch an army to punish the Javanese ruler for his crime if he failed to comply, and stating that the situation in Annam (referring to Ming China's successful invasion of Vietnam) can serve as an example. The Chinese accepted the payment and apology, and restored diplomatic relations. They would use the voyages to keep surveillance over Java.
During the journey, the fleet visited the Pulau Sembilan in the Strait of Malacca in the seventh year of the Yongle reign (1409), according to Fei Xin.He stated that the troops were sent there to cut wood. Dreyer (2007) concluded that the stop was during the return journey of the second voyage as the treasure fleet did not leave the Chinese coast for the third voyage until early 1410. Fei Xin's written words were: "In the seventh year of Yongle, Zheng He and his associates sent government troops onto the island to cut incense. They obtained six logs, each eight or nine chi in diameter and six or seven zhang in length, whose aroma was pure and far-ranging. The pattern [of the wood] was black, with fine lines. The people of the island opened their eyes wide and stuck out their tongues in astonishment, and were told that 'We are the soldiers of the Heavenly Court, and our awe-inspiring power is like that of the gods.'" The treasure fleet arrived back in Nanjing in the summer of 1409.
The possible confusion of whether Zheng He undertook the second voyage stemmed from the fact that a Chinese envoy was dispatched before Zheng He had departed with the main body of the fleet.The imperial edict for the third voyage was issued during the period of the second voyage whilst the treasure fleet was still in the Indian Ocean, so either Zheng He was absent when the court issued the imperial order or he had not accompanied the fleet during the second voyage. On 21 January 1409, a grand ceremony was held in the honor of the goddess Tianfei, where she received a new title. Duyvendak thinks that Zheng He could not have been on the second voyage, because this ceremony was so important that it required Zheng He's attendance. Mills (1970), citing Duyvendak, also states that Zheng He did not accompany the fleet for this voyage. However, Fei Xin explicitly mentions Zheng He when describing the 1409 stop at Pulau Sembilan, which strongly suggests that Zheng He had been on the second voyage according to Dreyer (2007).
The imperial order for the third voyage was issued on the first month of the seventh year of the Yongle reign (16 January to 14 February 1409).It was addressed to Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, and Hou Xian.
Admiral Zheng He embarked for this voyage in 1409.The fleet departed from Liujiagang in the ninth month (9 October to 6 November 1409) and arrived at Changle in the following month (7 November to 6 December). They left Changle in the twelfth month (5 January to 3 February 1410) for the seas. They proceeded through the Wuhumen (at the entrance of the Min River in Fujian). The fleet made stops at Champa, Java, Malacca, Semudera, Ceylon, Quilon, Cochin, and Calicut. They traveled to Champa within 10 days. Wang Jinghong and Hou Xian made short stops at Siam, Malacca, Semudera, and Ceylon during detours. Arriving in Ceylon in 1410, the treasure fleet landed at Galle.
During the homeward journey in 1411, the treasure fleet would engage into a military confrontation with King Alakeshvara (Alagakkonara) of Ceylon.Alakeshvara posed a threat to the neighboring countries and local waters of Ceylon and southern India. On arrival at Ceylon, the Chinese were overbearing and contemptuous of the Sinhalese, whom they considered rude, disrespectful, and hostile. They also resented that the Sinhalese were committing attacks and piracy towards neighboring countries who had diplomatic relations with Ming China. Admiral Zheng He and a few of his troops traveled overland into Kotte, because Alakeshvara had lured them into his territory. Alakeshvara cut off Admiral Zheng He and his 2000 accompanying troops from the treasure fleet anchored at Colombo. He also planned to launch an attack on the fleet. In response, Admiral Zheng He and his troops invaded Kotte, capturing its capital. They took captive Alakeshvara, his family, and principal officials. The Sinhalese army hastily returned and surrounded the capital, but they were repeatedly defeated in battle against the invading Chinese troops. The opposing Sinhalese army was said to have over 50,000 troops. The king and his family were taken captive to Nanjing, China.
Admiral Zheng He returned to Nanjing on 6 July 1411.He presented the Sinhalese captives to the Yongle Emperor, who decided to free and return them to their country. The Chinese dethroned Alakeshvara in favor of their ally Parakramabahu VI as the king with the backing of Zheng He and his fleet. From then on, the treasure fleet would experience no hostilities during visits to Ceylon on subsequent treasure voyages.
On 18 December 1412, the Yongle Emperor issued the order for the fourth voyage.Admiral Zheng He and others were commanded to lead it.
The Yongle Emperor attended an archery contest for the Midsummer Festival of 1413 (5th day, 5th month, 11th year).All the Chinese officials and "barbarian" envoys were invited to attend this event. Duyvendak (1939) states that these envoys were so numerous that they most-likely comprised many of those whom Admiral Zheng He would escort back to their countries during the fourth voyage than just those from close neighbors. This expedition would lead the treasure fleet into Muslim countries, so it must have been important for the Chinese to seek out reliable interpreters. The interpreter Ma Huan joined the voyages for the first time. A 1523 inscription at a Muslim mosque in Xi'an recorded that, on the 4th month of the 11th year, Admiral Zheng He was there to seek reliable interpreters and found a man named Hasan.
Admiral Zheng He's fleet left Nanjing in 1413, probably in the autumn.They set sail from Fujian in the 12th month of the 11th year in the Yongle reign (23 December 1413 to 21 January 1414). Calicut was the westernmost destination during the previous voyages, but now the fleet sailed to lands further away. The Taizong Shilu recorded Malacca, Java, Champa, Semudera, Aru, Cochin, Calicut, Lambri, Pahang, Kelantan, Jiayile, Ormuz, Bila, Maldives, and Sunla for this voyage.
The fleet sailed to Champa,Kelatan, Pahang, Malacca, Palembang, Java, Lambri, Lide, Aru, Semudera, Ceylon, Jiayile (opposite Ceylon), Cochin; and Calicut. They proceeded to Liushan (Maldive and Laccadive Islands), Bila (Bitra Atoll), Sunla (Chetlat Atoll), and Hormuz. At Java, the fleet delivered gifts and favors from the Yongle Emperor. In return, a Javanese envoy arrived in China on 29 April 1415, presenting tribute in the form of "western horses" and local products while expressing gratitude.
In 1415, the fleet made a stop at northern Sumatra during the journey homeward from Hormuz.They engaged Sekandar at this point of the voyage. Sekandar had usurped the Semudera throne from Zain al-'Abidin, but the Chinese had formally recognized the latter as the King of Semudera. Even though Sekandar was an autonomous ruler, he was not recognized by the Chinese. Fei Xin described Sekandar as a false king who robbed, stole, and usurped the throne of Semudera, Ma Huan portrayed him as someone who attempted to overthrow the ruler, the Ming Shilu noted that Sekandar was the younger brother of the former king and plotted to kill the ruler. Admiral Zheng He had orders to launch a punitive attack against the usurper and restore Zain al-'Abidin as the rightful king. In retaliation, Sekandar led his forces to attack the Ming forces and was defeated. He reportedly attacked with "tens of thousands" of soldiers. The Ming forces pursued Sekandar's forces to Lambri where they caught Sekandar, his wife, and his child. King Zain al-'Abidin later dispatched a tribute mission to express his gratefulness. This conflict reaffirmed Chinese power over the foreign states and the maritime route by protecting the local political authority that sheltered the trade. Sekandar was presented to the Yongle Emperor at the palace gate and later executed. It is not known when this execution happened, but Ma Huan stated that Sekandar was publicly executed in the capital after the fleet returned.
On 12 August 1415, Admiral Zheng He's fleet returned to Nanjing from his voyage.The Yongle Emperor was away since 16 March 1413 for his second Mongol campaign and hadn't returned when the fleet arrived. After the fleet's return, rulers of 18 countries sent envoys bearing tribute to the Ming court.
On 14 November 1416, the Yongle Emperor returned to Nanjing.On 19 November, a grand ceremony was held where the Yongle Emperor bestowed gifts to princes, civil officials, military officers, and the ambassadors of 18 countries. On 19 December, the eighteen ambassadors were received at the Ming court. On 28 December, they visited the Ming court to take their leave and were bestowed robes before their departure. That day, the Yongle Emperor ordered the undertaking of the fifth voyage, which had the avowed objective to return the 18 ambassadors and to reward their kings.
Admiral Zheng He and other unnamed people had received orders to escort the ambassadors back home.They carried imperial letters and many gifts for several kings. The King of Cochin received special treatment, because he had sent tribute since 1411 and later also sent ambassadors to request the patent of investiture and a seal. The Yongle Emperor granted him both requests, conferred to him a long inscription (allegedly composed by the emperor himself), and gave the title "State Protecting Mountain" to a hill in Cochin.
Admiral Zheng He may have left the Chinese coast in the autumn of 1417.He first made port at Quanzhou to load up the fleet's cargoholds with porcelain and other goods. Archaeological finds of contemporary Chinese porcelain have been excavated at the East African places visited by Zheng He's fleet. A Ming tablet at Quanzhou commemorates that Admiral Zheng He burned incense for divine protection for this voyage on 31 May 1417. The fleet visited Champa, Pahang, Java, Palembang, Malacca, Semudera, Lambri, Ceylon, Cochin, Calicut, Shaliwanni (possibly Cannanore), Liushan (Maladive and Laccadive Islands), Hormuz, Lasa, Aden, Mogadishu, Brava, Zhubu, and Malindi. For Arabia and East Africa, the most-likely route was Hormuz, Lasa, Aden, Mogadishu, Brava, Zhubu, and then Malindi. Duyvendak suggested that Zheng He may have made a show of military force at Mogadishu and Lasa due to the unwelcome reception by the locals.
On 8 August 1419, the fleet had returned to China.The Yongle Emperor was in Beijing at the time, but he ordered the Ministry of Rites to give monetary rewards to the fleet's personnel. The accompanied ambassadors were received at the Ming court in the eighth lunar month (21 August to 19 September) of 1419. Their tribute included lions, leopards, dromedary camels, ostriches, zebras, rhinoceroses, antelopes, giraffes, and other exotic animals, causing a great sensation among those at the Ming court.
The Taizong Shilu 3 March 1421 entry noted that the envoys of sixteen countries (Hormuz and other countries) were given gifts of paper and coin money, and ceremonial robes and linings before returning to their respective countries under escort of the treasure fleet.The imperial order for the sixth voyage was dated 3 March 1421. Admiral Zheng He was dispatched with imperial letters, silk brocade, silk floss, silk gauze, and other gifts for the rulers of these countries.
Gong Zhen's Xiyang Fanguo Zhi recorded a 10 November 1421 imperial edict instructing Zheng He, Kong He (孔和), Zhu Buhua (朱卜花), and Tang Guanbao (唐觀保) to arrange the provisions for Hong Bao and others for their dispatch to escort foreign envoys home.The envoys of the 16 different states were escorted to their homelands by the treasure fleet. It's likely that the first few destinations were Malacca and the three Sumatran states of Lambri, Aru, and Semudera. The fleet was divided in several detached squadrons at Semudera. All the squadrons proceeded to Ceylon, whereafter they separated for Jiayile, Cochin, Ganbali, or Calicut in southern India. The squadrons traveled from there to their respective destinations at Liushan (Maldive and Laccadive Islands), Hormuz at the Persian Gulf, the three Arabian states of Djofar, Lasa, and Aden, and the two African states of Mogadishu and Brava. The eunuch Zhou (probably Zhou Man) led the detached squadron to Aden. Ma Huan mentions Zhou Man and Li Xing in connection to the visit of Aden. Their squadron may have also visited Lasa and Djofar. According to the Mingshi, Admiral Zheng He personally visited Ganbali as an envoy in 1421. Of of the twelve visited nations west of Sumatra, this was the only one noted to have been visited by Admiral Zheng He himself. Even though Quilon was not visited, the squadron for Mogadishu probably separated near Quilon as a navigation point while the main fleet continued to Calicut. A large squadron proceeded further from Calicut to Hormuz. They may have traveled via the Laccadives.
On the return, several squadrons regrouped at Calicut and all the squadrons regrouped further at Semudera.Siam was likely visited during the return journey. The fleet returned on 3 September 1422. They brought with them envoys from Siam, Semudera, Aden, and other countries, who bore tribute in local products. The foreign envoys, who traveled to China with the fleet, proceeded overland or via the Grand Canal before reaching the imperial court at Beijing in 1423.
On 14 May 1421, the Yongle Emperor had ordered the temporary suspension of the voyages.At the expense of the treasure fleet's voyages, the imperial attention and funding was diverted for the third, fourth, and fifth Mongol campaigns. Between 1422 and 1431, the treasure fleet remained in Nanjing to serve in the city's garrison.
In 1424, Admiral Zheng He departed on a diplomatic mission to Palembang.Meanwhile, Zhu Gaozhi inherited the throne as the Hongxi Emperor on 7 September 1424 after the death of the Yongle Emperor on 12 August 1424. Zheng He's return from Palembang was after this death.
On 7 September 1424, the Hongxi Emperor terminated the undertaking of further treasure voyages.He was hostile to the undertaking of the voyages. Nevertheless, he kept the treasure fleet as a part of Nanjing's garrison. The fleet also retained its original designation "Xiafan Guanjun" (下番官軍; lit. "foreign expeditionary armada"). On 24 February 1425, he appointed Admiral Zheng He as the defender of Nanjing and ordered him to continue his command over the treasure fleet for the city's defense.
On 25 March 1428, the Xuande Emperor ordered Zheng He and others to takeover the supervision for the rebuilding and repair of the Great Bao'en Temple at Nanjing.He completed the construction of the temple in 1431. It's speculated that the funds for the construction of the Great Bao'en Temple was diverted from those for the treasure voyages.
Gong Zhen recorded that an imperial order was issued on 25 May 1430 for the arrangement of necessary provisions for the dispatch of Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, Li Xing, Zhu Liang, Yang Zhen, Hong Bao, and others on official business to the countries of the Western Ocean.It was addressed to Yang Qing (楊慶), Luo Zhi (羅智), Tang Guanbo (唐觀保), and Yuan Cheng (袁誠). On 29 June 1430, the Xuande Emperor issued his orders for the seventh voyage. It was addressed to Zheng He and others. The Xuanzong Shilu reported that Zheng He, Wang Jinghong, and others were sent to far-lying foreign lands to bring them into deference and submission. The emperor wished to reinvigorate the tributary relations that had been promoted during the Yongle reign. Before departing for the seventh voyage, Admiral Zheng He and his associates had the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions inscribed.
The Xia Xiyang provides valuable information, as described hereafter, about the dates and itinerary for this voyage.The fleet embarked from Longwan (lit. "dragon bay") in Nanjing on 19 January 1431. On 23 January, the fleet made a stop at Xushan, a currently-unknown island in the Yangtze, where the crew hunted animals. On 2 February 1431, the fleet sailed through the Fuzi Passage (present-day Baimaosha Channel) to the estuary Yangtze River before arriving at Liujiagang the following day (3 February). On 14 March 1431, the Liujiagang inscription was erected there. On 8 April 1431, the fleet arrived at Changle, where they remained until mid-December. The Changle inscription, dated to the 11th month of the 6th year of the Xuande reign, was erected during the end of their stay there. On 16 December, they traveled to the Fu Tou Shan, possibly near Fuzhou. The treasure fleet sailed through the Wuhumen on 12 January 1431. On 27 January 1432, the fleet made a call at the capital city Vijaya (near present-day Qui Nhon) of Champa before departing on 12 February. On 7 March 1432, the fleet arrived at Java, where they made port at Surabaya. The fleet remained in the region before departing on 13 July. On 24 July 1432, the fleet arrived at Palembang before departing on 27 July. From Palembang, the fleet sailed down the Musi River, through the Banka Strait, passing the Lingga and Riau archipelagos. The Lingga and Riau archipelagos had a considerable pirate population that posed a threat to passing ships, but these pirates posed no threat to the treasure fleet. On 3 August 1432, the treasure fleet arrived at Malacca. The fleet departed from Malacca on 2 September 1432. They traveled to Semudera and arrived there on 12 September. On 2 November 1432, the fleet departed from Semudera. On 28 November 1432, the fleet arrived at Beruwala on Ceylon. The fleet departed from Beruwala on 2 December. They arrived at Calicut on 10 December. The fleet departed from Calicut to Hormuz on 14 December 1432. They arrived at Hormuz on 17 January 1433. The treasure fleet remained in Hormuz for almost two months before traveling homeward on 9 March 1433.
Of the eight destinations recorded for the seventh voyage in the Xia Xiyang, Hormuz was the westernmost place.The Mingshi and other sources described the voyage with at least a total of 17 visited countries (including those already mentioned in the Xia Xiyang). The additional destinations recorded in the Mingshi are Coimbator (Ganbali), Bengal, Laccadive and Maldive island chains, Djofar, Lasa, Aden, Mecca, Mogadishu, and Brava. Gong Zhen even recorded a total of 20 visited countries. During the voyage, as Fei Xin mentioned, the fleet made a stop at the Andaman and Nicobar island chains. He wrote that, on 14 November 1432, the fleet arrived at Cuilanxu (probably the Great Nicobar Island) where they anchored for three days due to the unfavorable winds and waves. He further wrote that the native men and women came in log boats to trade coconuts. The neighboring Aru, Nagur, Lide, and Lambri were certainly visited by a few ships, according to Dreyer (2007), on the fleet's way to Semudera in northern Sumatra.
Admiral Zheng He is mentioned in the Mingshi in connection to the visits of Ganbali (possibly Coimatore),Lasa, Djorfar, Magadishu, and Brava. Dreyer (2007) states that the account is unclear on whether he did go to those places in person. The wording in the Mingshi could indicate that he did as the account stated that he proclaimed imperial instructions to the kings of these countries. Although, this may as well not be the case, because the fleet only made short stops at Calicut (4 days outward and 9 days homeward) that could not have provided enough time to travel overland to Ganbali, unless the location did not refer to Coimatore but elsewhere in southern India. The overland journey may have been undertaken by someone else than Zheng He himself. The Mingshi account about Lasa states that ambassadors from Lasa, Aden, and Brava traveled with Zheng He to China. This meant that the ships carrying them had possibly reassembled with the main fleet in Calicut according to Dreyer (2007), depending on whether Zheng He visited these countries in person or remained with the main portion of the fleet. Dreyer (2007) thinks that the detached squadrons had probably already assembled at Calicut for its homeward journey, because the main fleet didn't stay there for long.
Hong Bao commanded a squadron for the journey to Bengal.Ma Huan traveled with Hong Bao in this squadron. It is not known when they exactly detached from the treasure fleet for Bengal. They sailed from Semudera straight to Bengal. At Bengal, they traveled to Chittagong, then to Sonargaon, and finally to the capital Gaur. They then proceeded to sail from Bengal straight to Calicut. Admiral Zheng He's fleet had departed from Calicut for Hormuz by the time Hong Bao's squadron arrived in Calicut.
Once in Calicut, noticing that local ships were being prepared for Mecca, Hong Bao sent seven Chinese men to accompany a ship bound for Mecca.It is likely that one of the seven men was Ma Huan. Ma Huan wrote about Mecca in the chapter Tianfang ("Heavenly Cube"), a reference to the Qa'aba. After a year, the seven men returned with commodities and valuables that they had purchased, which included giraffes, lions, and ostriches.
Dreyer (2007) suggests that Hong Bao may also have been involved with several other destinations, such as Djofar, Lasa, Aden, Mogadishu, and Brava.P. Pelliot suggests that the squadrons detached from the fleet at Hormuz to travel to Aden, the East African ports and perhaps Lasa.
Dreyer (2007) states that the following countries may also have been visited by a few of the ships when the fleet passed by them: Siam; the northern Sumatran states of Aru, Nagur, Lide, and Lambri (when sailing to Semudera); Quilon and Cochin (when sailing to Calicut).Mills (1970) concluded that Zheng He's associates and not Admiral Zheng He himself had visited Siam, Aru, Nagur, Lide, Lambri, Nicobar Islands, Bengal, Quilon, Cochi, Coimbatore, Maldive Islands, Dhufar, Lasa, Aden, Mecca, Mogadishu, and Brava.
The Xia Xiyang also provided the dates and itinerary, as described hereafter, for the return route of the seventh voyage.The fleet at Hormuz departed on 9 March 1433 and arrived at Calicut on 31 March. On 9 April, the fleet departed from Calicut. They sailed straight through the open ocean. On 25 April, the fleet arrived at Semudera. On 1 May, the fleet departed from Semudera. On 9 May, the fleet arrived at Malacca. The fleet arrived at the Kunlun Ocean on 28 May 1433. On 13 June, the fleet arrived at Vijaya (present-day Qiu Nhon). The fleet departed from Vijaya on 17 June. The Xia Xiyang notes several geographical sightings from now until the fleet entered Taicang. The fleet arrived at Taicang on 7 July 1433. The Xia Xiyang notes that it had not recorded the journey from Taicang to the capital. On 22 July, they arrived in the capital Beijing. On 27 July, the Xuande Emperor bestowed ceremonial robes and paper money to the fleet's personnel.
Dreyer (2007) states that they did not make port at Ceylon or southern India, because they were sailing under favorable conditions and were running before the southwest monsoon.Ma Huan recorded that the various detached ships reassembled in Malacca to wait for favorable winds before continuing their return.
Admiral Zheng He came back with envoys from 11 countries, including one from Mecca.On 14 September 1433, as recorded in the Xuanzong Shilu, the following envoys came to court to present tribute: King Zain al-Abidin of Semudera sent his younger brother Halizhi Han and others, King Bilima of Calicut sent his ambassador Gebumanduluya and others, King Keyili of Cochin sent his ambassador Jiabubilima and others, King Parakramabahu VI of Ceylon sent his ambassador Mennidenai and others, King Ali of Djofar sent his ambassador Hajji Hussein and others, King Al-Malik az-Zahir Yahya b. Isma'il of Aden sent his ambassador Puba and others, King Devaraja of Coimbatore sent his ambassador Duansilijian and others, King Sa'if-ud-Din of Hormuz sent the foreigner Malazu, the King of "Old Kayal" (Jiayile) sent his ambassador Abd-ur-Rahman and others, and the King of Mecca sent the headman (toumu) Shaxian and others.
During the course of the voyages, Ming China had become the pre-eminent naval power of the early 15th century.The Yongle Emperor had extended imperial control over foreign lands during the span of the voyages. However, in 1433, the voyages ceased and Ming China turned away from the seas.
The trade was still flourishing long after the voyages had ceased.Chinese ships continued to control the Eastern Asian maritime trade. They also continued trading around India and East Africa. However, the imperial tributary system over the foreign regions and state monopoly over the foreign trade gradually broke down as time progressed, while private trade supplanted the centralized tributary trade. In addition, the foreign commerce shifted to the domain of local authorities, which further undermined the authority of the central government. The Ming treasure voyages had been a means to establish direct links between the Ming court and foreign tribute states, which effectively outflanked both private channels of trade and local civil officials who were sabotaging the prohibitions against overseas exchange.
The nobility and military were an important part of the ruling elite during the Hongwu and Yongle reigns.Over time, the political power gradually shifted away from both the nobility and military to the civil officials. As a consequence, the eunuch faction were unable to gather enough support to initiate projects opposed by the civil government. Civil officials remained wary of future attempts of the eunuchs to reinitiate the treasure voyages. Moreover, no later emperor would seriously consider undertaking new expeditions. The withdrawal of Ming China's treasure fleet left an enormous void in the dominance over the Indian Ocean.
It is not exactly known why the voyages completely ended in 1433.Duyvendak (1939) suggested that the cessation of the expeditions was partly due to the considerable expenses, but Ray (1987), Finlay (1992), and Dreyer (2007) noted that the costs for undertaking the voyages had not overburdened the Ming treasury. Ray (1987) adds that the Ming treasure voyages were a profitable enterprise, rejecting the notion that the voyages were terminated because they were wasteful, costly, or uneconomic.
Even though civil officials did have ill feelings towards eunuchs for their overbearing nature and interference in state affairs, much of the hostility that came to characterize the relationship between the officials and eunuchs manifested at a time, long after the termination of the voyages, when eunuchs wielded their power to enrich themselves through extortion and persecute their critics.As such, according to Lo (1958) and Ray (1987), the hostility between these factions can not explain the cessation of the voyages. Furthermore, Lo (1958) notes that Admiral Zheng He was on friendly terms with many high officials and was respected by them, while Ray (1987) mentions that eunuchs such as Zheng He and Hou Xian were held in high esteem by the court. The voyages were also favorably depicted in contemporary records.
Ray (1987) states that the cessation of the Ming treasure voyages primarily happened as traders and bureaucrats, for reasons of economic self-interest and through their connections in Beijing, gradually collapsed the framework supporting the state-controlled maritime enterprise and the strict regulation of the private commerce that was subjected to prohibitive policies.Similarly, Lo (1958) states that rich and influential individuals used their connections in Beijing to undermine efforts to restore the trade to official channels and possibly revive the voyages, because they tried to safeguard their interests and were antagonistic to the government's monopoly of foreign trade.
The voyages were diplomatic, militaristic, and commercial in nature.They were conducted to establish imperial control over the maritime trade, to bring the maritime trade into the tributary system, and to force foreign countries into compliance within the tributary system. The diplomatic aspect comprised the announcement of the Yongle Emperor's accession to the throne, the establishment of hegemony over the foreign countries, and providing safe passage to foreign envoys who came bearing tribute.
The Chinese didn't seek territorial control, as they were primarily motivated by the political and economic control across space entailing a domination over a vast network with its ports and shipping lanes.Finlay (2008) underscores the goal of controlling maritime commerce in which the Ming treasure voyages are regarded as an attempt to reconcile China's need for maritime commerce with the government's suppression of the private aspects, representing "a deployment of state power to bring into line the reality of seaborne commerce with an expansive conception of Chinese hegemony."
The voyages had a significant and lasting effect on the organization of a maritime network, utilizing and creating nodes and conduits in its wake, thereby restructuring international relationships and exchanges.It was especially impactful as no other polity had exerted naval dominance over all sectors of the Indian Ocean prior to the these voyages. The Ming promoted alternative nodes as a strategy to establish control over the network. For instance, due to Chinese involvement, ports such as Malacca (in Southeast Asia), Cochin (on the Malabar Coast), and Malindi (on the Swahili Coast) had grown as key alternatives to other important and established ports. Through the voyages, Ming China intervened with the local affairs of foreign states and asserted itself in foreign lands. The Chinese had installed or supported friendly local regimes, captured or executed rivals of local authorities, and threatened hostile local rulers into compliance. The appearance of the Ming treasure fleet generated and intensified competition among contending polities and rivals, each seeking an alliance with the Ming.
The voyages had a lasting impact that led to the Western Ocean's regional integration and the increase in international circulation of people, ideas, and goods.It also provided a platform for cosmopolitan discourses, which took place in locations such as the ships of the Ming treasure fleet, the Ming capitals of Nanjing as well as Beijing, and the banquet receptions organized by the Ming court for foreign representatives. Diverse groups of people from across the maritime countries congregated, interacted, and traveled together as the Ming treasure fleet sailed from and to Ming China.
The Chinese had the intention to civilize the so-called barbarian peoples by bringing them into formal submission within Ming China's greater world order.Foreign rulers were forced to acknowledge the inherent moral and cultural superiority of China, an obligation that could be achieved by paying homage and presenting tribute before the Ming court. During the course of the voyages, the Yongle Emperor reasserted the political and cultural hegemony of Ming China over all others. The cultural aspect of the voyages appears in the Liujiagang inscription, which noted that "those among the foreigners who were resisting the transforming influence (genghua) of Chinese culture and were disrespectful, we captured alive, and brigands who indulged in violence and plunder, we ex-terminated. Consequently the sea-route was purified and tranquillised and the natives were enabled quietly to pursue their avocations."
The treasure fleet was, as Mills (1970) characterized, "an instrument of aggression and political dominance."It brought forth the manifestation of China's power and wealth to awe foreign lands under Chinese hegemony. This was actualized by showing the Ming flag and establishing a military presence along the maritime trade routes. Diplomatic relationships came to be based on a mutually beneficial maritime commerce as well as a visible presence of a Chinese militaristic naval force in foreign waters. The Ming Chinese naval superiority was namely a crucial factor in this interaction, as it was inadvisable to risk punitive action from the Chinese fleet. In addition, it's also reasoned that the worthwhile and profitable nature of the Ming treasure voyages for foreign countries was a persuading factor to comply.
There is a theory, considered very unlikely, suggesting that the voyages was initiated to search for the dethroned Jianwen Emperor.This search is mentioned as a reason for the voyages in the later Mingshi. As the Yongle Emperor had usurped the throne, it actually may have been that he sought to legitimize his reign by forcing the foreign countries to recognize their tributary status within Ming China's greater world order. To this end, according to Wang (1998), the announced intention of the Yongle Emperor to find the deposed Jianwen Emperor may have served no more than a public justification for the voyages in face of the prohibitive policies for military actions overseas from the Hongwu reign. Another theory, also considered very unlikely, explained that the voyages were triggered in response to another power across Asia, namely the Timurid state of Tamerlane, an enemy of Ming China. However, upon Tamerlane's death in 1405, Ming China was left unchallenged by the Timurid, because its new ruler Shahrukh (r. 1405–1447) normalized diplomatic relations with China and was preoccupied with holding his state together. The Jianwen and Tamerlane factors are both absent from contemporary historical sources, so they lack the support and conformation to be accepted.
Zheng He served as the Grand Director in the Directorate of Palace Servants, a eunuch-dominated department, before his appointment to command the expeditions.Construction projects were usually the domain of eunuchs, who were often assigned to supervise them. The treasure fleet's construction was not different in that eunuchs were assigned to supervise it, while the military were assigned to carry it out. Civil officials criticized the state expenses brought by the fleet's construction, but the emperor was set to continue his grand plans.
In the Ming court, the civil officials were the faction who were against the voyages.In contrast, the eunuch establishment stood at the head of the fleet and the expeditions. The civil officials condemned the expeditions as extravagant and wasteful, but the Yongle Emperor was unconcerned about the costs of the voyages and was determined to undertake it. Traditionally, the civil officials were political opponents of the eunuch faction, but also to the military who crewed the fleet. This political and institutional disadvantage within the state system contributed to the inherent opposition of the civil officials against the voyages. On cultural grounds, the hostility came forth out of the trade and acquisition of strange foreign goods which conflicted with their Confucian ideologies. The undertaking of these expeditions only remained possible as long as the eunuchs maintained imperial favor.
The Hongwu Emperor was wary of the political and social consequences that maritime commerce could bring,so he sought to restrain it by outlawing private maritime trade. This policy continued well into the Yongle Emperor's reign. In addition, the Yongle Emperor aimed at consolidating imperial control over maritime commerce, stopping the coastal criminality and disorder, providing employment for mariners and entrepreneurs, exporting Chinese products to foreign markets, importing desired goods for Chinese consumers, extending the tributary system, and displaying imperial majesty to the seas. The voyages functioned as trade commissions in the government's attempts to regulate maritime commerce by establishing an imperial monopoly over it and incorporating it into the tributary system. There was seemingly an idea about a foreign policy comprising an extended foreign trade supported by a heavy military naval presence and a cultivation of shared interests with local allies.
The emperor's interest in the voyages was the highest during the period spanning the first three voyages, but he became more occupied with his offensive military campaigns against the Mongols after establishing the capital at Beijing.By the fourth voyage, the emperor showed interest to expand the scope of trade and diplomatic activity to West Asia. The Chinese therefore sought and employed interpreters of Persian or Arabic, such as Ma Huan and Guo Chongli, to accompany the fleet.
After the transfer of the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, the south and the seas were given less and less attention from emperors and officials alike.The Hongxi Emperor wished to revert his predecessor's relocation of the capital, but he died on 29 May 1425 and thus this never took place. He was succeeded by the Xuande Emperor who remained in Beijing. In contrast to the Hongxi Emperor who relied on civil officials during his reign, the Xuande Emperor relied on eunuchs during his reign. Dreyer (2007) states that the prospects for the voyages would have been better if the capital was relocated back to Nanjing, because the court would have been near the Longjiang shipyards where most of the ships were built and the places where the voyages commenced.
Minister of Finance Xia Yuanji (夏原吉) was a vocal opponent to the treasure voyages.The Hongxi Emperor was also fiercely against the treasure voyages throughout his reign. After the advice of Xia Yuanji, the emperor ordered the cessation of the treasure voyages on 7 September 1424, the day of his accession to the throne. When the Xuande Emperor ordered the seventh voyage, he went against the general court opinion.
After 1433, the civil officials succeeded in halting subsequent maritime expeditions.The ships were left to rot and their lumber was sold for fuel in Nanjing. The mariners were reassigned to load grain on barges of the Grand Canal and to build the emperor's mausoleum. After the voyages, subsequent Ming emperors would reject the Yongle Emperor's policy of bringing maritime trade into the structure of the tributary system.
The fleet comprised an array of various ships, each likely fulfilling specialized functions.Each treasure ship was crewed by about 500 men according to Mills (1970) or at least 600 men according to Finlay (1992). The high-ranking officers—Admiral Zheng He and his associates—were from the eunuch establishment. The majority of the crew came from the Ming military. The crew was mostly recruited from Fujian.
There were seven Grand Directors (taijian)—who served as the ambassadors and commanders of the fleet—followed by 10 Junior Directors (shaojian).Admiral Zheng He was one of the Grand Directors. Including these personnel who were all eunuchs, there was a total of 70 eunuchs in command of the treasure fleet. This was followed by 2 brigadiers (du zhihuishi), 93 captains (zhihuishi), 104 lieutenants (qianhu), and 103 sub-lieutenants (bohu). There were 180 medical personnel, a bureau director from the Ministry of Finance, two secretaries, two protocol officers from the Court of State Ceremonial, an astrological officer, and four astrologers. The personnel also had guard judges (wei zhenfu) and battalion judges (suo zhenfu). The remaining personnel included petty officers (qixiao or quanxiao), brave corps (yongshi), power corps (lishi), military soldiers (referred as guanjun, "official soldiers", or qijun, "flag soldiers"), supernumeraries (yuding), boatsman (minshao), buyers (maiban), and clerks (shushou).
Zhu Yunming's Xia Xiyang records the following personnel: officers and petty officers (guanxiao), soldiers (qijun), mess leaders (huozhang), helmsman (tuogong), anchormen (bandingshou), interpreters (tongshi), business managers (banshi), accountants (susuanshi), doctors (yishi), anchor mechanics (tiemiao), caulkers (munian), sailmakers (dacai), sailors (shuishou), and boatmen (minshaoren).
The Liujiagang inscriptions records Zheng He (鄭和) and Wang Jinghong (王景弘) as the principal envoys.It also records Zhu Liang (朱良), Zhou Man (周滿), Hong Bao (洪保), Yang Zhen (楊真), and Zhang Da (張達) as deputy envoys. The Changle inscription repeats this, but adds Li Xing (李興) and Wu Zhong (吳忠) as deputy envoys. All the recorded envoys are noted to have carried the rank of Grand Director in both inscriptions, except Zhang Da who was noted with the rank of Senior Assistant Director in the Liujiagang inscription and the rank of Grand Director in the Changle inscription. Additionally, the Changle inscription mentions Zhu Zhen (朱真) and Wang Heng (王衡) as the brigadiers. These people and unnamed "others" are mentioned on the respective inscriptions as those who have composed it. The Changle inscription also mentions that the Daoist priest Yang Yichu (楊一初) begged to erect the respective stele. The two inscriptions state that Admiral Zheng He and his associates had commanded several tens of thousands of government soldiers and over one hundred oceangoing ships for each voyage.
For the first voyage, the fleet had a personnel of 27,800or 27,870 men. The treasure fleet comprised a total of 317 ships for this voyage. It included either 62 or 63 treasure ships. The Mingshi states that the fleet had 62 treasure ships and a crew of 27,800 for the first voyage. Tan Qian's (談遷) Guoque (國確) records 63 treasure ships and a crew of 27,870 for the first voyage. The Zuiweilu records a personnel of 37,000, but this is probably an error. Yan Congjian's (嚴從簡) Shuyu Shilu records an imperial order for the construction of 250 ships specifically for the voyages to the Western Ocean. This actually refers to two separate imperial orders—as recorded in the Taizong Shilu—both to the Nanjing's capital guards for 200 ships (海運船 haiyunchuan; lit. "seagoing transport ships") on 4 September 1403 and for 50 ships (海船 haichuan; lit. "seagoing ships") on 1 March 1404. However, the Taizong Shilu did not record the purpose for which these 250 ships were constructed. It also records a 2 March 1404 imperial order for Fujian to construct five ships (haichuan) to be used in the voyages to the Western Ocean. These 255 ships plus the 62 treasure ships adds up to the total of 317 ships.
For the second voyage, it is thought that the treasure fleet comprised 249 ships.On 5 October 1407, as the Taizong Shilu records, Wang Hao was ordered to supervise the conversion of 249 ships in preparation for embassies to the countries at the Western Ocean. This was close to the date when the second voyage was ordered, thus the fleet likely comprised these 249 ships for the second voyage. The number of treasure ships or personnel is not known.
For the third voyage, Fei Xin's Xingcha Shenglan recorded that the fleet had 48 haibo (海舶; lit. "ocean traders") and a crew of over 27,000.Dreyer (2007) states that Fei Xin was probably referring to the treasure ships with haibo. Yan Congjian's Shuyu Zhouzilu and Lu Rong's Shuyuan Zaji used the term "treasure ship" instead when they mentioned the 48 ships for this voyage. Coincidently, the Taizong Shilu recorded the 14 February 1408 imperial order for the construction of 48 treasure ships to the Ministry of Works at Nanjing. These were possibly the 48 treasure ships for the third voyage. Dreyer (2007) states that the treasure fleet likely had an undisclosed array of support ships besides the 48 treasure ships.
Ma Huan's Yingya Shenglan recorded 63 treasure ships for the fourth voyage.These were probably accompanied by support ships. The fleet was crewed by 28,560 or 27,670 men. Fei Xin recorded a personnel of 27,670 for this voyage, but another source recorded 28,560.
There's no record for the number of ships or personnel for the fifth voyage.
On 2 October 1419, an order was issued for the construction of 41 treasure ships from an undisclosed shipbuilder.It is possible that Admiral Zheng He made use of these ships for the sixth voyage. Most scholars have concluded that these were likely used for the sixth voyage, but many other treasure ships had already been constructed or were in construction by that time. There's no specific figure for the ships or personnel of the sixth voyage. The treasure fleet probably made use of several dozen of the treasure ships which was accompanied by half a dozen support vessels each.
For the seventh voyage, the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions speak of over a hundred large ships (巨舶 jubo; lit. "great trading vessels").This probably included most of the remaining treasure ships according to Dreyer (2007). The treasure ships were likely accompanied by support ships. The treasure fleet had 27,550 men as personnel for the voyage.
Before the voyages, there was turmoil around the seas near the Chinese coast and distant maritime regions, characterized by piracy, banditry, slave trade, or other illicit activities.The treasure fleet had a large number of warships to protect their precious cargo and to secure the maritime routes. They established a substantial Chinese military presence around the South China Sea and trading cities in southern India. Especially the early stages of the voyages were characterized by highly militaristic objectives, as the Chinese stabilized the sea passages from hostile entities as well strengthened their own position and maintained their status in the region. Even though Admiral Zheng He sailed through the oceans with a military force larger and stronger than any local power, there is no written evidence in historical sources that there was any attempt that they forcibly tried to control the maritime trade—rather than through exploration and promotion of trade—in the regions of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, Dreyer (2007) adds that it must have been a "terrifying apparition" when the large Chinese fleet came within visible reach before the coastline of a foreign country, bringing any state into submission by the sole sight of it alone. From the fourth voyage onwards, the treasure fleet ventured further than their usual end-destination of Calicut to lands beyond, where there would be less direct hostilities.
The fleet engaged and defeated Chen Zuyi's pirate fleet in Palembang, Alakeshvara's forces in Ceylon, and Sekandar's forces in Semudera, bringing security and stability of the maritime routes via Chinese control.These battles served as a reminder of the tremendous power of Ming China to the countries along the maritime routes. Chen Zuyi (of Palembang), Alakeshvara (of Ceylon), and Sekandar (of Semudera) were viewed as hostile threats in their regions.
On the Malabar coast, Calicut and Cochin were in an intense rivalry, so the Ming decided to intervene by granting special status to Cochin and its ruler Keyili (可亦里).For the fifth voyage, Zheng He was instructed to confer a seal upon Keyili of Cochin and enfeoff a mountain in his kingdom as the Zhenguo Zhi Shan (鎮國之山, Mountain Which Protects the Country). He delivered a stone tablet, inscribed with a proclamation composed by the Yongle Emperor, to Cochin. As long as Cochin remained under the protection of Ming China, the Zamorin of Calicut was unable to invade Cochin and a military conflict was averted. The cessation of the Ming treasure voyages consequently had a negative outcome for Cochin, because the Zamorin of Calicut would eventually launch an invasion against Cochin.
In Malacca, the Chinese actively sought to develop a commercial hub and a base of operation for the voyages into the Indian Ocean.Malacca had been a relatively insignificant region, not even qualifying as a polity prior to the voyages according to both Ma Huan and Fei Xin, and was a vassal region of Siam. In 1405, the Ming court dispatched Zheng He with a stone tablet enfeoffing the Western Mountain of Malacca as well as an imperial order elevating the status of the port to a country. The Chinese also established a government depot (官廠) as a fortified cantonment for their soldiers. Ma Huan reported that Siam did not dare to invade Malacca thereafter. The rulers of Malacca, such as King Paramesvara (白里迷蘇剌) in 1411, would pay tribute to the Chinese emperor in person. In 1431, when a Malaccan representative complained that Siam was obstructing tribute missions to the Ming court, the Xuande Emperor dispatched Zheng He carrying a threatening message for the Siamese king saying "You, king should respect my orders, develop good relations with your neighbours, examine and instruct your subordinates and not act recklessly or aggressively."
The treasure ships had an enormous cargo of various products.Admiral Zheng returned to China with many kinds of tribute goods, such as silver, spices, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, ebony, camphor, tin, deer hides, coral, kingfisher feathers, tortoise shells, gums and resin, rhinoceros horn, sapanwood and safflower (for dyes and drugs), Indian cotton cloth, and ambergris (for perfume). They even brought back exotic animals, such as ostriches, elephants, and giraffes. The imports from the voyages provided large quantities of economic goods that fueled China's own industries. For instance, there was so much cobalt oxide from Persia that the porcelain industry at Jingdezhen had a plentiful supply for decades after the voyages. The fleet also returned with such a large amount of black pepper that the once-costly luxury became a common commodity in Chinese society. There were sometimes so many Chinese goods unloaded into an Indian port that it could take months to price everything. The treasure voyages resulted in a flourishing Ming economy, while boosting the lucrative maritime commerce significantly. The voyages also induced a sudden supply shock in the Eurasian market, where the Chinese maritime exploits in Asia led to disruptions of European imports with sudden price spikes in the early 15th century.
The commodities that the ships carried included three major categories: gifts to be bestowed on rulers, items for exchange of goods or payment of goods with fixed prices at low rates (e.g. gold, silver, copper coins, and paper money), and items in which China had the monopoly (e.g. musks, ceramics, and silks).However, the Ming trade enterprise also saw significant changes and developments in which the Chinese themselves began trading and supplying the commodities that were non-Chinese in origin and earlier entirely in the hands of the Indians, Arabs, and other foreigners. This highlighted the commercial character of the voyages, in which the Chinese further expanded upon the already large profits from their trade.
The impact of the Ming expeditions on commerce was on multiple levels: it established imperial control over local private commercial networks, expanded tributary relations and thereby brought commerce under state supervision, established court-supervised transactions at foreign ports and thereby generate substantial revenue for both parties, and increased production and circulation of commodities across the region.
Imperial proclamations were issued to foreign kings, meaning that they could either submit and be bestowed with rewards or refuse and be pacified under the threat of an overwhelming military force.Foreign kings had to reaffirm their recognition of the Chinese emperor's superior status by presenting tribute. Many countries were enrolled as tributaries. The treasure fleet conducted the transport of the many foreign envoys to China and back, but some envoys traveled independently. Those rulers who submitted received political protection and material rewards.
During the onset of their voyages, the treasure fleet would embark from the Longjiang shipyard, north-west of Nanjing.They would then sail down the Yangtze River to Liujiagang. Once there, Admiral Zheng He would organize his fleet and make sacrifices to Tianfei. Over the course of the following four to eight weeks, the fleet would gradually proceed to Taiping anchorage in Changle, Fujian. There, the fleet would wait for the favorable northeast monsoon of winter before leaving the Fujian coast. They would reach the sea through the Wuhumen. For the voyages, the fleet always visited the port Qui Nhon (in Champa) first.
During the first three voyages from 1405 to 1411, the fleet followed the same basic maritime route: from Fujian to the first call in Champa, across the South China Sea to Java and Sumatra, up the Strait of Malacca to northern Sumatra for assembly of the fleet, across the Indian Ocean to Ceylon, then along the Malabar Coast to Calicut.For the time being, the fleet sailed up to and no further than Calicut. During the fourth voyage, the route was extended to Hormuz. During the fifth, sixth, and seventh voyage, the fleet proceeded further to other destinations at the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. For the sixth voyage, the treasure fleet sailed up to Calicut, where several detached squadrons proceeded to further destinations at the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. For the seventh voyage, the treasure fleet followed the route up to Hormuz, while detached squadrons traveled to the other far-lying destinations at the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
The treasure fleet sailed the equatorial and subtropical waters of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, where they were dependent on the circumstances of the annual cycle of monsoon winds.The return journey was set during the late summer and early autumn, because favorable monsoon winds would be present during this period.
During all the voyages, the fleet departed from Sumatra to sail westward across the Indian Ocean. ft in elevation and 45 miles away from the coast). Two or three days after sighting this geographical feature, the treasure fleet would adjust their course to sail south of Dondra Head at Ceylon. The fleet would have been at sea for a considerable long time by then since departing from Sumatra, thus they would make a call at a port in Ceylon, usually at Beruwala and sometimes at Galle. Although they have made port at both locations, it was clear that the fleet's preference was Beruwala over Galle. Ma Huan characterized Beruwala as "the wharf of the country of Ceylon."The journey from northern Sumatra to Ceylon involved sailing for about two to four weeks without laying sight on land. The first part of Ceylon that would be visible after departing from Sumatra was Namanakuli (or Parrot's Beak Mountain), the eastern-most mountain (6680
Northern Sumatra was an important region for the fleet's anchorage and assembly before they proceeded through the Indian Ocean to Ceylon and southern India.Mainly its location rather than its wealth or products were important to the fleet. Ma Huan stated that Semudera was the main route to the Western Ocean, characterizing it as the most important port of assembly for the Western Ocean.
Ming China had cordial relations with Calicut, which was valuable as they tried to extend the tributary system to the states around the Indian Ocean.Ma Huan described Calicut as the "great country of the Western Ocean". He was very positive about the Calicut authorities' regulation of trade and attention to weights and measurements. Fei Xin described Calicut as the "great harbor" of the Western Ocean countries.
Fei Xin wrote that the people of Mogadishu were bigoted and insincere (wangyin, both words can also mean "stupid").It was further mentioned that they often drilled their soldiers and practiced archery. In contrast, Fei Xin characterized the people of Brava as pure and honest.
Admiral Zheng He followed for the most part established trade routes during his voyages rather than unknown territory.During the voyages, the crew acquired and collected a large amount of navigational data. The astrological officer and his four astrologers specifically recorded the astronomical data. The general mass of navigational data were processed into different kinds of charts by a cartographic office. The office included an astrological officer, four astrologers, and their clerks. This provided the expeditionary commanders with the necessary navigational charts for their voyages. Many copies of the expeditionary charts were housed in the Ministry of War. Additional navigational data were probably also supplied by local maritime pilots, Arab records, Indian records, and earlier Chinese records.
The Mao Kun map is associated with the route of the voyages.The map is collected in the Wubei Zhi , compiled by Mao Yuanyi. It depicts various geographic locations, from Nanjing to Hormuz as well as the East African coast, with routes illustrated by dotted lines. The directions are expressed by compass points and distances, with references to navigational techniques (such as depth sounding to avoid shallow waters) and astronomy (particularly along the north–south route of Africa where the latitude is determined by the height of constellations relative to the horizon). The distances are expressed by time according to a watch system (two hour periods). The Mao Kun map is appended by four stellar diagrams used for determining the position of the ship in relation to the stars and constellations on specific sections of the maritime route.
The faith of the treasure fleet's crew centered around Tianfei, the "Heavenly Princess" who was the goddess of sailors and seafarers.The Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions suggest that Zheng He's life was mostly defined by the treasure voyages and that his devotion to Tianfei was the dominant faith that he adhered to. The two inscriptions honored and commemorated the goddess Tianfei. Admiral Zheng He and his associates had established these inscriptions at the temples of Tianfei at Liujiagang on 14 March 1431 and Changle between 5 December 1431 and 3 January 1432. These inscriptions make reference to the crew witnessing St. Elmo's fire during dangerous storms and interpreting it as a sign of divine protection by Tianfei. The Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions are considered the epitaphs of the treasure voyages.
In Galle at Ceylon, Admiral Zheng He set up a trilingual inscription dated 15 February 1409.The inscription is in three languages, in which the Chinese section praised the Buddha, the Tamil section praised the local god Tenavarai Nayanar who was an incarnation of Vishnu, and the Persian section praised Allah. Each section contains a similar lists of offerings, including items such as 1000 pieces of gold, 5000 pieces of silver, 100 rolls of silk, 2500 catties of perfumed oil, and a variety of bronze ornaments. Thus, as shown by this inscription, the Chinese paid their respect to the three religions that were dominant in Ceylon.
On 20 September 1414, Bengali envoys presented a tribute giraffe in the name of King Saif Al-Din Hamzah Shah of Bengal (r. 1410–1412) to the Yongle Emperor of Ming China.The giraffe was presented as the qilin, but this association was met with a dismissive attitude from the Yongle Emperor who rejected the laudatory memorials of his officials.
There are several extant contemporary accounts, including Ma Huan's Yingya Shenglan [瀛涯勝覽],Fei Xin's Xingcha Shenglan [星槎勝覽], and Gong Zhen's Xiyang Fanguo Zhi [西洋番國志]. Ma Huan served as an interpreter on the fourth, sixth, and seventh voyage. Guo Chongli was Ma Huan's collaborator on the Yingya Shenglan and participated in three of the expeditions. Fei Xin served as a soldier on the third, fifth, and seventh expedition. Gong Zhen served as Zheng He's private secretary on the seventh voyage. These three sources provide insightful observations to the political, economic, social, cultural, and religious conditions of the lands visited throughout the voyages. In addition, the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions are valuable records by Admiral Zheng He and his associates themselves.
The Ming Shilu also provides a lot of the information relating to the treasure voyages,particularly the exchange of ambassadors. The work is divided into individual sections about the reigns of Ming emperors. Zheng He lived through the reigns of five Ming emperors, but he directly served three emperors in his life. He is mentioned in the Taizong Shilu of the Yongle reign, the Renzong Shilu of the Hongxi reign, and the Xuanzong Shilu of the Xuande reign.
The Taizong Shilu had combined the second and third voyages into one expedition.This record was followed by the Mingshi . This caused Zheng He's Palembang journey of 1424–25 to be wrongly construed as the sixth voyage to make up for the seven voyages. However, the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions made a clear distinction between the second and third voyage as they correctly date the second voyage from 1407 to 1409 and the third voyage from 1409 to 1411.
A number of later works have been preserved. The accounts in the Mingshi (1739) and Huang Xingzeng's Xiyang Chaogong Dianlu [西洋朝貢典錄] (1520) rely on Ma Huan's original Yingya Shenglan.Zheng Xiao's Wuxuebian [吾學編] (ca. 1522) relies on Zhang Sheng's "rifacimento" of Ma Huan's Yingya Shenglan. Zhu Yunming's Qianwen Ji [A Record of Things Once Heard] (ca. 1526) contains his Xia Xiyang [下西洋; Down the Western Ocean], which provides a detailed itinerary of the seventh voyage. There are also Lu Rong's Shuyuan Zaji [菽園雜記; Bean Garden Miscellany] (1475), Yan Gongjian's Shuyu Zhouzilu [殊域周咨錄; Record of Despatches Concerning the Different Countries] (1520), Gu Qiyuan's Kezuo Zhuiyu [客座贅語; Boring Talks for My Guests] (ca. 1628). Mao Yuanyi's Wubei Zhi [武備志] (1628) preserved the Mao Kun map [茅坤圖], which is largely based on material from the treasure voyages.
Luo Maodeng's Sanbao Taijian Xia Xiyang Ji Tongsu Yanyi [三寶太監下西洋記通俗演義] (1597) is a fiction novel about the exploits of Admiral Zheng He and his fleet.In the preface, Luo states that Chinese maritime power was essential to maintaining the world order. In Luo's work, Admiral Zheng He sailed the oceans in search for a sacred imperial seal to restore harmony in the Middle Kingdom. He never finds this seal in the story, giving the suggestion that the world order cannot be restored by any other means than military force as noted in Finlay (1992). Luo Maodeng's novel contains a description of different classes of ships with their sizes: the 36 nine-masted treasure ships (baochuan) were 44.4 by 18 zhang, the 700 eight-masted horse ships (machuan) were 37 by 15 zhang, the 240 seven-masted grain ships or supply ships (liangchuan) were 28 by 12 zhang, the 300 six-masted billet ships or troop transports (zuochuan) were 24 by 9.4 zhang, and the 180 five-masted combat ships or warships proper (zhanchuan) were 18 by 6.8 zhang. Dreyer (2007) argues that this work holds little to no evidential value as a historical source, but also notes that Duyvendak thinks that it may be based on some truth.
The Kezuo Zhuiyu and the Shuyu Zhouzilu describes the following circumstances of what happened to the official archives about the expeditions.The Chenghua Emperor issued an order to retrieve the documents concerning the expeditions to the Western Ocean from the Ministry of War archives, but the official Liu Daxia (劉大夏) had hidden and burned the documents. Liu Daxia dismissed the accounts as "deceitful exaggerations of bizarre things far removed from the testimony of people's ears and eyes."
The Shuyu Zhouzilu then adds the following to the story.The Minister of War Xiang Zhong (項忠; in office 1474–1477) had sent a clerk to retrieve the documents, but the clerk could not find them after several days of searching. Liu Daxia eventually confessed and justified his actions to Xiang Zhong by stating that "the expeditions of Sanbao to the Western Ocean wasted tens of myriads of money and grain, and moreover the people who met their deaths [on these expeditions] may be counted by the myriads. Although he returned with wonderful things, what benefit was it to the state? This was merely an action of bad government of which ministers should severely disapprove. Even if the old archives were still preserved they should be destroyed in order to suppress [a repetition of these things] at the root." Xiang Zhong was recorded to have been impressed by this explanation.
The Mingshi, the Xuanzong Shilu, and the Mingshi Jishi Benmo [明史紀事本末] attributes the reason for the suppression and destruction of the archived records to preventing that the powerful eunuch Wang Zhi (汪直) could consult it for his invasion of Vietnam.Dreyer (2007) notes that Liu Daxia couldn't have had access to the records in his capacity at the time, thus raising doubt about his actual involvement. Duyvendak (1939) stated that the Ministry of War officials weren't influential enough to stop the retrieval of the documents and therefore speculates that Liu Daxia may have destroyed them with the approval of the Minister of War.
In 1499, shortly before Vasco da Gama's return from India to Portugal, Girolamo Sernigi reported on the Portuguese accounts from da Gama's expedition that "certain vessels of white Christians" had made port at Calicut on the Malabar coast generations before their arrival.He speculated that these unknown mariners could have been the Germans or the Russians, but concluded that "on the arrival of the captain [da Gama] we may learn who these people are." After his arrival at Calicut, Vasco da Gama began hearing tales of pale bearded men who sailed with their giant ships along the local coastal waters of Calicut generations before. The Portuguese had in actuality encountered Malabar traditions that preserved the memory of Zheng He's voyages, but they were not aware that these tales were about Zheng He's fleets. They would eventually discover that these unknown mariners were, in fact, the Chinese. Da Gama's men were apparently even mistaken for the Chinese at first on arrival at the East African coast, because the Chinese had been the last-seen pale-skinned strangers arriving with large wooden ships in the memories of the East African people.
In Calicut, da Gama had received permission to build a factory at Chinacota, where a Chinese storehouse first stood eighty years before.In the late 16th century, Juan González de Mendoza wrote that "it is plainly seene, that [the Chinese] did come with shipping into the Indies, having conquered al that is from China, unto the farthest part thereof. . . . So that at this day there is great memory of them . . . in the kingdom of Calicut, where be so many trees and fruits . . . were brought thither by the Chinos when that they were lords and governours of that countrie."
In November 1997 during a Harvard University speech, President Jiang Zemin praised Admiral Zheng He for spreading Chinese culture abroad.Many present-day Chinese people perceive these historical events, namely the voyages, were conducted in accordance with Confucian ideals. Since 2005, commemorating the Ming treasure voyages, China has annually celebrated its National Maritime Day on 11 July. That year also marked the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's maiden voyage.
Although the present-day popular narrative may emphasize the peaceful nature of the voyages, especially in terms of the absence of territorial conquest and colonial subjugation, it overlooks the heavy militarization of the Ming treasure fleet to exercise power projection and thereby promote its interests.In present-day Chinese political discourse, with rising developments in China's maritime capabilities and ambitions, the Ming treasure voyages is evoked to underscore a peaceful emergence of modern China. It's suggested that, by drawing parallels between contemporary China and the historical narrative as provided by these voyages, this political process has several functions for the Chinese nation: it stimulates national pride and shapes national identity, it reaffirms a maritime identity, it legitimizes the development of maritime power, it provides an image of a harmonious and peaceful development, it highlights interconnectedness with the broader world, and it provides contrast to the violent nature of western colonialism. As such, the Ming treasure voyages play an important narrative role in China's desire to change its strategic paradigm to that of a maritime power.
Rowan Gavin Paton Menzies is a British author and retired submarine lieutenant-commander who has written books promoting claims that the Chinese sailed to America before Columbus. Historians have rejected Menzies' theories and assertions and have categorised his work as pseudohistory.
The Jianwen Emperor was the second Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1398 to 1402. His personal name was Zhu Yunwen (朱允炆). The era name of his reign, Jianwen, means "establishing civility" and represented a sharp change in tone from Hongwu, the era name of the reign of his grandfather and predecessor, the Hongwu Emperor. His reign did not last long: an attempt to restrain his uncles led to the Jingnan rebellion. The Jianwen Emperor was eventually overthrown by one of his uncles, Zhu Di, who was then enthroned as the Yongle Emperor. Although the Yongle Emperor presented a charred body as Zhu Yunwen's, rumours circulated for decades that the Jianwen Emperor had disguised himself as a Buddhist monk and escaped from the palace when it was set on fire by Zhu Di's forces. Some people speculated that one of the reasons behind why the Yongle Emperor sponsored the admiral Zheng He on his treasure voyages in the early 15th century, was for Zheng He to search for the Jianwen Emperor, who was believed to have survived and fled to Southeast Asia. Some historians believe that the Jianwen Emperor had indeed survived and escaped from Nanjing, but the official histories of the Ming dynasty were modified later during the Qing dynasty to please the Manchu rulers.
China National Maritime Day, officially referred to as Maritime Day of China, also known as China Maritime Day, Maritime Day in China, Chinese: 中国航海日; pinyin: hanghairi, is celebrated July 11, 2005, commemorating marked Zheng He's first voyage. The date marks the 600th anniversary of the ocean voyages of Zheng He, the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) navigator, who went on seven voyages to show China's might to the rest of the world, under the command of Yongle Emperor. These voyages sought to prove to the Chinese people that the usurper Yongle was worthy of the throne and the gods accepted him with the Mandate of Heaven. The celebration's creation honors China's commitment to the International Maritime Organization, of which it is a member.
Ma Huan, courtesy name Zongdao, pen name Mountain-woodcutter (會稽山樵), was a Chinese voyager and translator who accompanied Admiral Zheng He on three of his seven expeditions to the Western Oceans. Ma was a Muslim and was born in Zhejiang's Kuaiji Commandery, an area within the modern borders of Shaoxing. He knew several Classical Chinese and Buddhist texts. He learned Arabic to be able to translate.
A Chinese treasure ship was a type of large wooden ship in the fleet of admiral Zheng He, who led seven voyages during the early 15th-century Ming dynasty.
The Ming Shilu contains the imperial annals of the Ming emperors (1368–1644). It is the single largest historical source for the dynasty. According to modern historians, it "plays an extremely important role in the historical reconstruction of Ming society and politics." After the fall of the Ming Dynasty, the Ming Shilu was used as a primary source for the compilation of the Mingshi.
Fei Xin was a member of the military personnel of the fleet of the Ming dynasty admiral Zheng He, known as the author of a book about the countries visited by Chinese ships.
The Xingcha Shenglan was a historical work written by Fei Xin. Fei Xin had served as a soldier in the third, fifth, and seventh Ming treasure voyages under the command of Admiral Zheng He. The book contains descriptions of foreign places that the Chinese mariners had seen. The literary term "star raft" refers to an ambassador's flagship.
Hong Bao was a Chinese eunuch sent on overseas diplomatic missions during the reigns of the Yongle Emperor and Xuande Emperor in the Ming dynasty. He is best known as the commander of one of the detached squadrons of Zheng He's fleet during the Seventh Voyage of this fleet to the Indian Ocean (1431–1433).
Namunukula is the name of a mountain range in Sri Lanka's province of Uva. Its main peak is 2,035 metres (6,676.5 ft) high. The name means "Nine Peaks". It also the name of a town near it which is sometimes called Namunukula Town.
Chen Zuyi was a 15th-century Chinese pirate from Guangdong, and was one of the most feared pirates to infest the seas of Southeast Asia. He ruled the city of Palembang, and raided the Strait of Malacca to plunder shipping and prey on both native and foreign merchants for several years. His fleet was defeated by the Ming dynasty Admiral Zheng He at the Battle of Palembang (1407). Chen was captured and sent to Chinese capital Nanjing for execution.
The Yingya Shenglan, written by Ma Huan, is a book about the countries visited by him over the course of the Ming treasure voyages led by Zheng He.
The Ming treasure voyages had a diplomatic as well as a commercial aspect.
Xia Yuanji was a Ming dynasty government minister. He was born in Xiangyin County, Hunan Province, which was then part of Huguang Province. His ancestral home was Dexing, Jiangxi. Xia read the Classic of Poetry and became a Xiucai at the age of 23, joining the Guozijian. Early in his career, he saw service under the Hongwu Emperor and Jianwen Emperor. After the Yongle Emperor came to the throne, he was sent to inspect Suzhou Creek. Xia opposed both Zheng He's overseas voyages and the Yongle Emperor's campaigns against the Mongols.
Maritime Silk Road or Maritime Silk Route refer to the maritime section of historic Silk Road that connects China, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Arabian peninsula, Somalia and all the way to Egypt and finally Europe. It flourished between 2nd-century BCE and 15th-century CE. Despite its association with China in recent centuries, the Maritime Silk Road was primarily established and operated by Austronesian sailors in Southeast Asia, by Greco-Roman merchants in eastern Africa & India/Ceylon/Indochina and by Persian and Arab traders in the Arabian Sea.
This is a timeline of the Ming dynasty treasure voyages from 1405 to 1433.
This entry is about sailors during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). China has a long history of navigation and sailing, and in the early Ming, Chinese navigational power was even stronger than the European powers. The founder of the Ming dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor, known as Zhu Yuanzhang or Taizu, strictly prohibited sailing abroad, but one of his later successors, the Yongle Emperor, preferred to use large fleets to build a tributary system and to show the Ming empire’s national power. After his death, however, emperors were disinclined for supporting such explorations to the world overseas. The revival of maritime trade happened in mid 16th century when the Portuguese were allowed to trade in the port city of Macao and the Longqing Emperor opened Quanzhou as a port for legal international trade.