Zheng He’s Gigantic Merchant Ships

From 1405 to about 1433, Ming China, sent out enormous armadas of ships into the Indian Ocean commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He. Other than his largest ships in the world at that time, he still had to have his penis cut off. The flagship and other largest treasure junks dwarfed European ships of that century; even Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the “Santa Maria,” was between 1/4 and 1/5 the size of Zheng He’s.

Vasco De Gamavcould fit all three of his ship[s from Portugal to India in these Chinese Commerce vessels.

These fleets embarked on seven epic voyages under Zheng He’s guidance and drastically changed the face of  Pacific Ocean trade and power. All of the measurements in the remaining Ming Chinese records of the Treasure Fleet are in a unit called “zhang,” which is made up of ten “chi or “Chinese feet.” Although the exact length of a zhang and chi has varied over time, the Ming chi was probably about 12.2 inches (31.1 centimeters) according to Edward Dreyer. For ease of comparison, the measurements below are given in English feet. One English foot is equivalent to 30.48 centimeters.

Incredibly, the largest ships in the fleet (called “baoshan,” or “treasure ships”) were likely between 440 and 538 feet long by 210 feet wide. The 4-decked baoshan had an estimated displacement of 20-30,000 tons, roughly 1/3 to 1/2 the displacement of modern American aircraft carriers. Each had nine masts on its deck, rigged with square sails that could be adjusted in series to maximize efficiency in different wind conditions.

 

These ships were 450 feet long and displaces 600,000,000 tons of water.

 

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