Zheng He

by Daniel Russ on June 2, 2010

Zheng He

Zheng He, born Ma He in 1371, was the Muslim heir to Sayyid Ajjal Shams al Din Omar. At 11, he was at the battle to qwuell the uprising of a Mongol rebel named Basawalarmi and was captured and made eunuch, and sent to the Mongol court.

Eventually he grew to prominence in the court and became an advisor to the Mongol court. Zheng He became famed for building fleets of extraordinary expeditionary ships and exploring the world, some think as far as the Cape of Good Hope. His ships were immense affairs sometimes more than 200 feet long.

He is thought to have done more to turn China into a massive trading power than anyone, but more importantly, he built ships that dwarfed European counterparts. These ships were three decks high, loaded with weaponry from artillery to chemical weapons, and they waged warfare on the Yangtse River that were bigger engagements than many blue water battles.

In his own words:

We have traversed more than 100,000 li (50,000 kilometers or 30,000 miles) of immense water spaces and have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising in the sky, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course [as rapidly] as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare…

Zheng He's Ship Compared To Columbus's Ship


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