5Why did the emperor send fleets out on these long ocean voyages? Different historians have given different answers to that question.
6Why did the emperor send fleets out on these long ocean voyages? 1. To establish tributary relations with foreign kingdoms. China considered itself stronger than all the foreign kingdoms. China demonstrated its strength by inviting rulers of other kingdoms to China, by giving them presents, and by receiving their presents in return.
7Why did the emperor send fleets out on these long ocean voyages? 2. To gain the respect of the Chinese people. The emperor became emperor by defeating the previous emperor, his nephew, in a war. To show that he deserved to be emperor, he did lots of spectacular things, like building the Imperial City in Beijing and bringing foreign rulers to China.
8Why did the emperor send fleets out on these long ocean voyages? 3. To develop trade with other kingdoms. In addition to tribute, which is a form of trade, Zheng He’s voyages promoted trade among private merchants throughout Southeast Asia and South Asia by making the trade routes safe from pirates.
9Who was Zheng He? (Pronounce it “Jung Huh”) As with many famous people, we know more legend than history. People have been making up stories about Zheng He for 600 years!
10What we know from historical documents Zheng He was born about 1370 in Yunnan, a province in south- western China.His family was Muslim. His father and grandfather had made pilgrimages to Mecca.
11What we know from historical documents When Zheng He was 11 years old, soldiers sent by the emperor killed his father during a civil war.By the time he was 20, Zheng He was working for prince Zhu Di in Beijing.
12What we know from historical documents Zhu Di was the son of the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. When the emperor died, Zhu Di defeated his nephew in war and made himself the new emperor (1402).
13What we know from historical documents Zheng He helped Zhu Di become emperor, and the new emperor made Zheng He commander of the fleets sent to explore the southern and western oceans.
14What we know from historical documents Zheng He was the top commander on all seven expeditions between 1405 andZheng He probably died during the final expedition, but there is no official record.
15Why was Zheng He a eunuch? When Zheng He’s father was killed, Zheng He was captured. Along with all the other young boy prisoners, he was castrated, “the barbarian and cruel custom of that period.”(Historian Su Ming-Yang)
16For a time line of Zheng He’s seven voyages, see Document A. For a map of the seventh voyage, see Document B.
17Zheng He’s fleetModels at the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum in Melaka
18This video gives an idea of what Zheng He’s fleet might have looked like. (Does the Chinese fleet seem friendly or scary?)Video created for a Zheng He exhibit at the National Library of Singapore (2005).
19Based on these models, do you think Zheng He’s ship is about 2½ times as long as Columbus’s ship? Recent research suggests that Zheng He’s ship was about 220 feet long. Columbus’s ship was about 85 feet long.The small model in front is one of the three ships Columbus sailed from Spain to the Americas (1492). The large model in the back is Zheng He’s flagship ( ).
20The size of Zheng He’s fleets The number of ships ranged from about to as many as 300.There were various kinds of ships, from the flagship that was probably 220 feet long (football field = 300 feet) to small supply ships.The crew was as large as 28,000 people on some voyages.
21Why did the Chinese stop sending the fleets after 1433? Many historians agree that the expeditions stopped mainly because they were too expensive.
22The emperor who first sent Zheng He out was also spending lots of money Building a new capital in Beijing.Conducting military campaigns against the nomads in the north.Rebuilding the Great Wall.Rebuilding the Grand Canal.Waging war against Vietnam for 20 years.
23When the emperor died in 1424, the new emperor decided it was time to reduce spending. After all, the expeditions had accomplished their original goals of establishing tributary relationships, establishing the prestige of the emperor, and developing trade.
24As people recently observed the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s voyages, a debate among historians emerged: Was Zheng He a peaceful ambassador or an imperial aggressor?
25Historian Geoff Wade says: “Zheng He’s expeditions were intended to achieve the recognition of Ming dominance over all the states and kingdoms in the regions visited. To achieve this they used force, or the threat of force.”
26Historian Tan Ta Sen says: “Zheng He acted as a peacekeeper and guardian of native states to maintain law and order and the safety of trade routes. Throughout his seven voyages Zheng He did not occupy or colonize an inch of foreign land.”
27What do you think? To help you decide, we are going to conduct an investigation just like historians do. We’re going to study some documents from Zheng He’s time to see what really happened.