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The Seven Voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He


Admiral Zheng He, China’s ultimate sea captain, was born and bred in the countryside in a household of glorious Muslims around 1371. When his predecessor was killed, he was taken as a prisoner, beginning the incredible journey of switching identities upon which he would embark. In the 1400s, Zheng He guided the seven expeditions that established China as Asia’s most significant maritime power, expanding Chinese respectability and goods. Thus, tremendous technological advances in shipbuilding and sailing arts occurred in China, reaching new levels by the early part of the Ming dynasty. This paper will examine Chinese Admiral Zheng’s is seven missions and the successes of the expeditions, and the vital aspects of those travels.

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Seven Voyages

Zheng’s first three voyages occurred in 1405, 1408, and 1409 CE, where the construction of trade routes accompanied the establishment. There was an attribution to the local ruler in every location Zheng He visited, to whom he offered China’s relations of kindness and peaceful purpose (Cartwright). Zheng set out for the west seas for the first time in 1405, when he was named commanding officer of the newly formed operations sequences, and where he commanded 27,800 men and 62 vessels (Cartwright). The first trip brought the fleet to destinations like Java, Siam, Champa, Kozhikode on India’s Malabar Coast, and Ceylon before returning to China in 1407. On his second expedition, from 1408 to 1409, he returned to Calicut, stopping at Chochin, where he met deception from lagonakkara, the king of Ceylon (Cartwright). After Zheng He vanquished the monarch’s troops, the ruler was driven back to Nanjing. On October 14, 1409, he embarked on his third journey, sailing beyond India’s shipping ports to Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. On his way back in 1411, he went through Samudra, situated on the north end of Sumatra.

In 1413 Zheng left China and started on his fourth voyage, stopping at Asian ports before sailing to Hormuz through India. The fleet broke up and sailed south to the Arabian coast, where he toured Aden and Dhofar. As a result of these travels, the Chinese missionaries moved to Mecca before going on to Egypt (Cartwright). The trip also included stops in Kenya and Somalia and a near encounter with the Mozambique Channel. On his way back to China in 1415, Zheng was joined by envoys from more than 30 Southeast Asian and southern regions who paid tribute to the Chinese emperor (Cartwright). He returned to the eastern coast of Africa and the Persian Gulf on his fifth journey, which lasted from 1417 to 1419.

The sixth voyage was initiated in 1421 to transport foreign delegations from China to their countries. Zheng toured Southeast Asia, Arabia, India, and Africa throughout that period. So when the emperor of Yongle died in 1424, the leader of Hongxi suspended seagoing expeditions abroad as part of the transition policy change (Cartwright). Zheng He was named as Nanjing’s battalion commander at this moment and given the responsibility of disbanding his battalion. On his seventh and final journey, he left China during the winter of 1431. On this voyage, he reached Southeast Asian countries, the Persian Gulf, the eastern coastal areas of Africa, coastal regions of India, and the Red Sea expanses. In 1433, he passed on in Calicut, and the fleet returned to China the same year.

Chinese Expedition Achievement and the Key Factors

Emperor Zhu Di’s administration funded Zheng’s excursions to assert and maintain China’s strength and dominance. Zhu Di intended to demonstrate the Ming Reign as a powerful government to the rest of the world. He sought recognition to establish influence over surrounding Chinese regions and maintain the illusion of being a formidable jurisdiction to vast areas. Each voyage consisted of 50 to 300 ships, with approximately 28000 troop members (Cartwright). Any fleet usually stayed at sea for around two years. Zheng’s most detailed tours took him to the Eastern Coast of Africa, near the Cape of Good Hope. His adventures were prior to other explores like Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and the famous Christopher Columbus. Moreover, these three individuals’ fleets were smaller in size, with 90-265 team members (Cartwright). Zheng He’s ships overshadowed the length and breadth of European boats at the time. The fleet also included unique vessels, including warships, equestrian vessels, water tankers, and support ships.

Reasons for Stopping the Voyages

China had been acquainted with the states and ports surrounding the Indian Ocean, implying that perhaps the Ming admiral’s treasure vessels had not been engaged in the exploring mission. Zheng He’s grandfather and father had used honorific hajji, indicating that they had accomplished their pilgrimage to Mecca upon the Arabian Peninsula (Cartwright). As a result, he was not going on a trip to unknown locations. Likewise, the Ming commander did not set sail to pursue commerce since the whole world needed Chinese porcelain and silks. Their customers came to them, so there was no need to go out and find them.

One of the causes for stopping these excursions was the demise of Zheng He’s mentor, Yongle Emperor. Since the monarch’s son was a more Confucianist and cautious thinker, he ordered the trips to come to a halt. Aside from the political motivation, the new emperor was motivated by money. Furthermore, the treasure vessels were expensive to construct, and the country spent a considerable amount of funds on them (Cartwright). Therefore, since these were not trading voyages, the government only earned a small part of the expenses. Finally, during the reigns of the Xuande and Hongxi, Ming China faced increasing threats to its western state boundaries. For instance, the Mongols and Central Asians heightened invasions in west China. Thus, this compelled the Ming rulers to weigh their capital and commitment to maintaining the nation within its borders.

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In summary, Zheng’s seven travels’ objective was political, military operations, and commercial activities, which lasted from 1405 to 1433. Nevertheless, most people believe that their main goal was to spread the prominence of Ming dynasty China. One of the outcomes of the adventures was the Chinese conquest of the Middle Eastern and European regions. These expeditions were distinctive since Zheng’s ships were vast in fleet size, traveling distance, and vessel dimensions. To illustrate Chinese dominance, the Zheng and his seamen also delivered gifts everywhere they traveled, including silver and silk. As a result, other countries paid homage to the Ming Court. These explorations were eventually halted due to political encouragement, as the new ruler had a financial motive. Furthermore, the treasure fleet expeditions cost Ming China tremendous sums of money; since they were not commercial trips, the state reaped little profit from the entire activity. Therefore, Ming China ceased sending out the glorious treasure ships for all of the above reasons.

Work Cited

Cartwright, Mark. “The Seven Voyages of Zheng He”. World History Encyclopedia, 2019, Web.

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