June 17, 2008

The reason for the trip:

…Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming government sponsored a series of seven naval expeditions. Emperor Yongle designed them to establish a Chinese presence, impose imperial control over trade, and impress foreign peoples in the Indian Ocean basin. 

The principal traveler in the voyages is Admiral Cheng Ho. Below depicts a picture of him, by an unidentified artist.

Zheng He.jpg



June 17, 2008

Zheng He led seven expeditions to what the Chinese called “the Western Ocean”). He brought back to China many trophies and envoys from more than thirty kingdoms — including King Alagonakkara of Ceylon, who came to China to apologize to the Emperor. The seven voyages are as listed.



Regions along the way

1st Voyage


Champa, Java, Palembang, Malacca, Aru, Sumatra, Lambri, Ceylon, Kollam, Cochin, Calicut

2nd Voyage


Champa, Java, Siam, Cochin, Ceylon

3rd Voyage


Champa, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Quilon, Cochin, Calicut, Siam, Lambri, Kaya, Coimbatore, Puttanpur

4th Voyage


Champa, Java, Palembang, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Cochin, Calicut, Kayal, Pahang, Kelantan, Aru, Lambri, Hormuz, Maldives, Mogadishu, Brawa, Malindi, Aden, Muscat, Dhufar

5th Voyage


Champa, Pahang, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, Lambri, Ceylon, Sharwayn, Cochin, Calicut, Hormuz, Maldives, Mogadishu, Brawa, Malindi, Aden

6th Voyage


Hormuz, East Africa, countries of the Arabian Peninsula

7th Voyage


Champa, Java, Palembang, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Calicut, Hormuz… (17 politics in total)

The records of Zheng’s last two voyages, which are believed to be his farthest, were unfortunately destroyed by the Ming emperor. Therefore it is never certain where Zheng has sailed in these two expeditions. The traditional view is that he went as far as to Iran. The latest view, advanced by Gavin Menzies, suggested Zheng’s fleet has travelled every part of the world. However, virtually every authority in the field denounces Menzies’ claims as baseless.

This picture shows the route taken by Cheng Ho in his voyages.


There are speculations that some of Zheng’s ships may have traveled beyond the Cape of Good Hope. In particular, the Venetian monk and cartographer Fra Mauro describes in his 1459 Fra Mauro map the travels of a huge “junk from India” 2,000 miles into the Atlantic Ocean in 1420. What Fra Mauro meant by ‘India’ is not known and some scholars believe he meant an Arab ship. Interestingly, Professor Su Ming-Yang thinks “the ship is European, as it is fitted with a crow’s nest, or lookout post, at the masthead, and has sails fitted to the yards, unlike the batten sails of Chinese ships.”

Compared to Columbus’ ship St. Maria, Cheng Ho’s treasure ship is much bigger. In the drawing below, the two flagships are superimposed to give a clear idea of the relative size of these two ships.


The First Voyage (1407-1409)

June 17, 2008

Today is a special day. According to my navigators, they say that we will soon be reaching Nanjing, China. This voyage has taken us 2 years, but we will be returning home soon. I remember the day that we had set off, with my “treasure fleet” containing 62 ships and 27,800 men. We have ventured far and wide, our first stop was at Calicut, known as a major trading center on the southwestern coast of India, which was also founded by a chinese explorer named Hsuan-Tsang in the seventh century.

We stopped in Vietnam, Java, and Malacca, and then headed west across the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka and Calicut and Cochin (cities on the southwest coast of India). We remained in India to barter and trade from late 1406 to the spring of 1407 when, using the monsoon shift, made our way back home. On the way home, my fleet was forced to battle savages, known as pirates near Sumatra for several months. Just when we thought all hope was lost, my men managed to capture the pirate leader and we are going to take him to the Chinese capital Nanjing. It is not early, and i think it is time for me to turn in…

The Second Voyage (1407-1409)

June 17, 2008

Today, everybody is at the pier, watching as my Treasure Fleet departs once again for her second voyage. I however, will not be going with them this time as I will remain here in China to oversee the repair of a temple at the birthplace of a favourite goddess. When they return, I will be sure to follow them. Until then…

The Third Voyage (1409-1411)

June 17, 2008

At last, we are headed home once again. We will be returning to Nanjing, to deliver King Alagonakkara to the Emperor. Together with my 48 ships and 30,000 men, we closely followed the route of the First Voyage but established entrepots and stockades along our route to facilitate trade and storage of goods. On the second voyage the King of Ceylon  was aggressive; After a long battle lasting a few days, we finally defeated the king’s forces and captured the king to take him to Nanjing. Is that cheering I hear? We must be near China. I will stop here, and join my fellow comrades outside in their celebration.

The Fourth Voyage (1413-1415)

June 17, 2008

It is early in the morning. The sky is still dark, and all is quiet. Today is the day, that we will return home. This voyage has been with a very important goal, and we will be honoured when we get home.  With my 63 ships and 28,560 men, we were supposed to reach the Persian Gulf at Hormuz, known to be a city of amazing wealth and goods, including pearls and precious stones much coveted by the Emperor. We have brought back with us a plentiful bounty of trade goods from the Persian Gulf.  We have also sent detachments of this expedition sailing south along the eastern coast of Africa almost as far south as Mozambique. Their purpose is to bring back diplomats from other countries or encourage ambassadors to go to the capital Nanjing on their own. It is time to wake the navigators up, as I yearn to return home as fast as possible, so I must stop here.

The Fifth Voyage (1417-1419)

June 17, 2008

This voyage was ordered to return the ambassadors who had arrived from other countries. My fleet departed in 1417 and visited the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa, returning envoys along the way. Once we have returned all the ambassadors home, we will return to China.

The Sixth Voyage (1421-22)

June 17, 2008

This voyage was once again launched in search of treasure as we ventured to Southeast Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, and Africa. We planned to do some trading and bartering in Africa, which was full of riches. Somehow, though, I got separated from some of my fleet. Trusting the lost fleet to find their way, the rest of my remaining fleet are going back to China with me.

The Seventh Voyage (1431-1433)

June 17, 2008

It has been 10 years since my last voyage as after we returned in 1422, the Emperor passed away in the year 1424. His son took over as emperor and  canceled the voyages of the Treasure Fleets and ordered ship builders and sailors to stop their work and return home. I was then appointed military commander of Nanjing.

The leadership of Zhu Gaozhi did not last long – he died in 1426 at the age of 26. His son and Zhu Di’s grandson Zhu Zhanji took Zhu Gaozhi’s place. Zhu Zhanji was much more like his grandfather than his father was and in 1430 he resumed the Treasure Fleet voyages by ordering me to resume my  duties as admiral and make a seventh voyage in an attempt to restore peaceful relations with the kingdoms of Malacca and Siam. It took a year to get ready for the voyage which departed as a large expedition with 100 ships and 27,500 men. Now, we are on our way back home after the relations with the envoys of malacca and Siam were a success. I, however, art 60 years of age, fear that this might be my last voyage as I have not been feeling very well. I might not even get to see my beloved homeland for one last time. I am getting weaker by day and thus, will be taking a rest and hopefull, recover long and well enough to see China one last time before i die. May the merciful deities grant me this last dying wish…

Adventures and Hazards

June 17, 2008

The adventures that they encountered such as trading and bartering goods in different countries and going to the Persian Gulf at Hormuz, which was known to be a city of amazing wealth and goods, including pearls and precious stones much coveted by the Chinese emperor. The Fleet also went to Africa to trade, which at the time was a very rich country.

The hazards they encountered were such as the pirate attack on their first voyage. Fortunately, they came out unscathed. Also, battling the King of Ceylon and bringing him back to China.

The goal of these voyages was to establish a Chinese presence, impose imperial control over trade, and impress foreign peoples in the Indian Ocean basin. Ultimately, after bartering and trading, and building entrepots and stockades along their route to facilitate trade and storage of goods, they had a considerable amount of control over the trade system in Southeast Asia. Also, they imposed onto the different countries, a Chinese presence as Admiral Cheng Ho, captured the King of Ceylon, made peaceful relations with Malacca and Siam and also brought back diplomats from other countries or encouraged ambassadors to go to the capital Nanjing on their own. Even though Cheng Ho passed away on the return home from his last voyage, he managed to complete the goals which had been set.