Essay on the 7 Voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He (1405 to 1433)
Number of words: 1082
From 1405 to 1433, the Chinese imperial Zheng He commanded the largest ships vessels on seven journeys of explorations and expeditions of lands around the Indian ocean. The voyages remain to be historic as they demonstrated Chinese excellence at navigation and shipbuilding. Though historic, the missions were astonishing due to the distance and the size of the fleet. On the first three missions, Zheng He sailed from China to Southeast Asia and India, especially southwest India, a major trading site. The fourth voyage was through the Persian Bay. For the last three expeditions, Zheng went all the way to the east coastline of Africa. During the journeys, massive treasure boats, over 400 feet long and 150 feet wide, with luxurious rooms, were seen sailing through the Indian ocean waters (Ming & Wan, 174). Such types of vessels had never been made in the world before. It was only until World War I that such flotilla would be seen once more. The mission of the early 15th century by Ming China remains a historic voyage that the world has never seen.
Zheng He was born in 1371 in Yunnan province, located in the slopes of the Himalayas mountains. During his childhood, Zheng He was called Ma He. His father was a junior official in the Mongol kingdom, even though he was not a Mongol. His descendants were Persian Muslims who even made the “Hajj.” During this period (1250 to 1350), the Mongols had control of the silk road trade routes to Asia. After the empire was disintegrated into smaller Khanates, each governed by different Khans, the trade routes were changed. The resulting fighting on Land encourages most traders to use the ocean routes. Before Zheng He’s birth, the Chinese had taken control of their Property under the Ming reign. When He was ten years old, the Ming soldiers attacked Yunnan, took it back from the Mongols, and killed Zheng He’s father (“navy”). He was captured and castrated then offered to be an employee in the household of the rulers. He spent most of his time with the prince campaigning on the Mongolian plains. In 1402, Zhu Di, the prince, took over and made He the director of the place servant (Fang & Jun, 14). His role in the battle made him famous, that he was selected to lead the expeditions.
To satisfy the growing population of the Chinese people, China had been expanding its powers out to the sea for over 300 years. By the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the country had already advanced when it came to naval technology. The technology used by the shipbuilders made China be a maritime power in the region. Chinese ships were famous for their developments in rigging and sailing. They were also constructed with double hulls divided into sections, thereby preventing vessels from sinking. By the 8th century, more advanced ships capable of carrying more than 500 men were constructed in China. Since the Yongle were determined to control exchanges in the Indian waters, Zheng He was given the mandate to supervise the building and commanding of the fleets (Ming & Wan, 168). Some vessels were among the largest marine ships that the nations had ever seen, and even historians were skeptical about the accounts that described the size of the ship.
The first voyage took place on July 11th, 1405. After an offering and prayer to the protective gods, Tainfei, the fleet sailed to the Indian ocean with Zheng as the commander. The first international port call for the treasure fleet was Vijaya, the capital of Champa (Vietnam). From there, the fleet sailed to Java Island (Indonesia). The flotilla made more stops at Andaman, Semudera, Malacca, and Nicobar. While in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the admiral general beat a swift retreat to the hostile local rulers. The fleet furthered their journey to Calcutta, which is located on the west coast of India. The spot was one of the world’s main trade yards where the Chinese traded gifts with local rulers (Fang & Jun, 12). The fleet confronted the pirates at Palembang, Indonesia, killing more than 5000 pirates and sinking ten of their boats as they were on their way back. Zheng He and his army received a monetary reward from the Yongle empire.
The second and third voyages started in 1407 when the great fleet sailed to Ceylon with stops in Java, Siam, and Champa. They returned in 1409 withhold of tribute before embarking back to their third voyage. The third voyage ended in Calicut, and they returned home in 1411. After two years of refreshing and planning, the fleet set out on an ambitious expedition. In 1413, Zheng He, together with his armada, sailed to the Arabian Peninsula and the north of Africa. Together with the fleet, he made port calls at Muscat, Aden, Malindi, Hormuz, and Mogadishu. The fleet returned home with many treasures and goods, which were very auspicious to the Chinese. The fleet followed the same track to east Africa and Arabia on the fifth and sixth missions, collecting tribute and asserting Chinese prestige to different nations. The fifth journey lasted between 1416 to 1419, while the sixth took place in 1421 and 1422. In 1424, the Yongle emperor died, and the Hongxi monarch took over. It did not take long that the emperor died, and the Xuande emperor took over (Fang & Jun, 12). Under his leadership, the fleet the seventh and the last voyage. The last voyage took place on June 29th, 1429, with Zheng, the commander. The journey lasted for three years as they visited at least 17 different ports. On the way back, Admiral Zheng died, and his body was buried at sea.
The expeditions of Zheng He remains to be a favorite matter in the world of history. Their journeys prove that the Chinese ships could have dominated the Indian ocean and even sailed to America. After the final voyage, the classy expeditions were stopped. The boats were left to rot in the harbor as artisans were forbidden from building large warships. The threats from the Mongols forced the emperor to focus on land defense and distrust the eunuch who supported the voyages. The greatest navy, which had advanced ships, had gone.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “navy”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 Sep. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/navy. Accessed 8 November 2021.
Fang, Jun. “The Beginnings of the Zheng He Voyages: Nanjing and the Indian Ocean World, 1405–1433.” The Chinese Historical Review 26.1 (2019): 1-19.
Ming, Wan. “Zheng He’s Seven Voyages into the Namoli Ocean–the Indian Ocean.” China and Asia 1.1 (2019): 92-125.