Zheng He commanded China’s navy, advised the emperor, traded with distant lands, and explored much of the Indian Ocean. But before he was Zheng He, Explorer Extraordinaire, he was just Ma He.
|Quick Fix Facts||Zheng He|
|Birth Name||Ma He|
|Born||September 23 1371 CE|
|Died||April 1443 (71 years)|
|Birthplace||Yunnan Province China|
Ma He was born into a dangerous time. He spent his early childhood in Yunnan, China, which was controlled by the Mongols. Yunnan province was recaptured by China in 1381 or 1382 CE by the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. At 11 years old, Ma He was taken prisoner and his name was changed to Zheng He. He was sent to serve the emperor’s son, Zhu Di and soon became one of the prince’s most trusted friends. Eventually, Zhu Di became emperor himself, and Zheng He commanded the navy!
|Quick Fix Facts||The 7 Voyages of Zheng He|
|Time Covered||1405-1433 CE|
|Crew||up to 27,000|
Zheng He was a great explorer, making 7 voyages across the Indian Ocean. Each voyage took about 2 years, and he visited many places including: Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India, the Persian Gulf, Arabia, Bengal, Thailand, the Philippines, the Maldives, Borneo, and the Somali coast in Africa!
|Quick Fix Facts||Treasure Ships|
|Length||possibly 447 ft (136.25 m)|
|Width||183 ft (55.78 m)|
|Masts||6-9 each 195 ft (59.44 m) tall|
The largest ships in Zheng He’s fleet were the monstrous Treasure Ships. They were bigger than a football field! These massive ships carried porcelain, silk, and lacquerware from China to trade for ivory, spices, precious stones, exotic lumber, and in one case, a giraffe! Chinese court officials thought it was a Qilin, a mythical “dragon horse”.
|Quick Fix Words|
|Lacquerware||Things like dishes, bowls, and boxes coated with lacquer for protection|
Zheng He’s epic voyages of the early 15th century continue to astound and spark the spirit of exploration today!
Who, what, or where will we discover next?