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ZHENG HE: Peaceful ambassador or imperial aggressor?

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Presentation on theme: "ZHENG HE: Peaceful ambassador or imperial aggressor?"— Presentation transcript:

1 ZHENG HE: Peaceful ambassador or imperial aggressor?

2 600 years ago, in the early 1400s, at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the Chinese emperor sent Admiral Zheng He on a series of expeditions to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

3 On seven trips spread over almost 30 years, Zheng He and his huge fleets of ships visited 30 kingdoms between China and the east coast of Africa.

4 Zheng He’s 7th expedition, from 1431 to 1433

5 Why did the emperor send fleets out on these long ocean voyages? Different historians have given different answers to that question.

6 Why 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.

7 Why 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.

8 Why 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.

9 Who 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!

10 What we know from historical documents Zheng He was born about 1370 in Yunnan, a province in south- western China.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.

11 What we know from historical documents When Zheng He was 11 years old, soldiers sent by the emperor killed his father during a civil war.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.

12 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). What we know from historical documents

13 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. What we know from historical documents

14 Zheng He was the top commander on all seven expeditions between 1405 and Zheng He probably died during the final expedition, but there is no official record. What we know from historical documents

15 Why 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)

16 For a time line of Zheng He’s seven voyages, see Document A. For a map of the seventh voyage, see Document B.

17 Zheng He’s fleet Models at the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum in Melaka

18 This 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).

19 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 ( ). Based 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.

20 The size of Zheng He’s fleets The number of ships ranged from about 100 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.various kinds of ships The crew was as large as 28,000 people on some voyages.

21 Why did the Chinese stop sending the fleets after 1433? Many historians agree that the expeditions stopped mainly because they were too expensive.

22 The 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.

23 When 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.

24 As 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?

25 Historian 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.”

26 Historian 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.”

27 What 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.


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