Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Zheng He -- An Epic Navigator and His Unparalleled Voyages in the History of China

Sad Experiences Brought Zheng He Strong Personality 

Zheng He (1371 -- 1433) was born into an ordinary family and became a prisoner of war when he was 11 years old, and got castrated.


Then he joined the army of the Ming Dynasty, and had fought in many places in China.


His sad experiences didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, he became a smart and stronger person. 


Five years later, he met a prince named Zhu Di, who appreciated and trusted him a lot.


Zheng He then was nominated as the most important personal bodyguard and started to serve this prince.


When Zhu Di initiated a rebel war against his nephew Emperor Zhu Yunwen and snatched the throne, Zheng He contributed a lot, assisting his prince to be the next emperor of the Ming Dynasty. 


Secret Mission of Searching the Disapeared Emperor 

After Zhu Di won that war and became emperor, his nephew, the legit sovereign of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yunwen, burnt down the royal palace and disappeared.


Emperor Zhu Di then sent two teams trying to find his nephew, Zheng He was leader of the maritime team.


However, searching for the previous emperor was Zheng He’s secret goal; his official mission was disseminating Chinese culture and peace, in exchange for goods, etc.


Zheng He did a great job, as an adventurous commander of a powerful fleet.


He brought excellent goods, peace and friendship to other countries, with no conquering, wars, chaos, or invasions alongside. 

Zheng He's Unparalled Voyages and Grand Fleet

Zheng He started his first voyage in the year 1405.


His fleet had over 27,800 people, including sailors and soldiers.


The largest boat was about 140 meters long, 60 meters wide, about 3 floors high and with 12 big sails. Most of their ships were allocated with fire lances and cannons. 


As powerful and strong as this big fleet, Zheng He never pulled the trigger, even when hundreds of his soldiers were killed by a small country accidentally.


He always followed the principle of staying peace, except once when about 5000 pirates tried to rob him, and another time a small country just couldn't communicate calmly.


Zheng He defeated them easily, as a general who had experienced many big wars in the Ming Empire.  

Many exotic goods and emissaries came to Empire Ming along with Zheng He.


More countries started to pay tributes to Ming, as well as initiation of more international trades and cultural communication.


In the next decades, Zheng He led his fleet navigated for another 5 times, and opened up other different routes in the history of China.

Life In Seclusion and Zheng He's Last Voyage


However, his supportive Emperor Zhu Di passed away later, so Zheng’s voyage career had to stop.


He, then, lived as a nobody for a long time. 


A few years later, suddenly,, the new emperor Zhu Zhanji summoned Zheng He back to start his seventh voyage.


Zheng He was super happy, and started all the preparation works immediately, though he was already a 60-year-old man.


As a Muslim, this time Zheng He finally arrived at his sacred place Mecca.


Soon, however, he got ill, and passed away on his way back home, in his beloved ship.  


Zheng He's miserable experience in childhood and early youth gave him a strong heart, and his services in the army of Empire Ming brought him with excellent military skills.


As the chief commander of such a powerful fleet and a general with remarkable battle experiences, Zheng He was always a bringer of peace and friendship; no invasions, very little blood and no colonization could be attributed to him.


This made Zheng He not only an excellent navigator and adventurer, but also a great person with a big heart.  

The Corroded Fleet and Lost of Valuable Navigation Journals

Soon, Ming Dynasty stopped further navigation and large scale international trades for several reasons.


Many offcials criticized that those navigations were a waste of money, which should be spent on dealing with threats from nomads on the north border; indeed, at that time, Empire Ming barely had war threats from the sea-line.


Others believed that the following monarchs of the Ming Dynasty strictly obeyed Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s will that they shouldn’t try to initiate wars or invasions without a decent reason; managing the current realm well would be enough. 


Consequently, those amazing ships in Zheng He’s fleet were gradually corroded as time went by; his detailed and valuable navigation journals were preserved secretly in Ming's royal palace.


However, most of those precious documents were lost mysteriously; how did those journals were gone is still a secret in the history of China.