Island Adventures

For the Discerning Travelers

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Admiral Of the Western Seas Cheng Ho (Zheng He)

The Admiral Of the Western Seas Cheng Ho (Zheng He)

The emperor of the Ming Dynasty had ordered Admiral Cheng Ho, ( Zheng He ) to sail to "the countries beyond the horizon," all the way to the end of the earth." His mission was to display the might of Chinese power and collect tribute from the "barbarians from beyond the seas."

The pillar contains the Chinese names for the countries Zheng He visited. Altogether, Cheng Ho visited thirty nations from Asia to Africa, traveling more than "one thousand li" about 35,000 miles.

In all, Zheng He made seven wondrous voyages of discovery between 1405 and 1433. His achievements show that China had the ships and navigational skills to explore the world. Mysteriously, China did not follow up on these voyages. The Chinese destroyed their ocean going ships and halted further expeditions. Thus, a century later, Europeans would "discover" China, instead of the Chinese "discovering" Europe.

However, after 1433 a new Ming emperor had come to the throne. His scholar-officials criticized Zheng's achievements, complaining about their great expense. China was now fighting another barbarian enemy on its western borders and needed to devote its resources to that struggle. When a court favorite wanted to continue Zheng He's voyages, he was turned down. To make sure, the court officials destroyed the logs that Zheng He had kept. We know about his voyages only from the pillar and some accounts that his crew members wrote.

Thus, China abandoned its overseas voyages. It was a fateful decision, for just at that time, Portugal was beginning to send its ships down the west coast of Africa. In the centuries that followed, European explorers would sail to all parts of the world. They would establish colonies in Africa, America, and finally in the nations of East Asia. China would suffer because it had turned its back on exploration. Zheng He had started the process that might have led the Middle Kingdom to greater glory Unfortunately the rulers of the Ming Dynasty refused to follow his lead.

Source Accredited to : Robert Leo : Malaysia :