Admiral Zheng He and the Ming Treasure Fleet 1371-1435 Each ship was 400’ long and 160’ wide!
The economic motive for these huge ventures may have been important, and many of the ships had large private cabins for merchants. But the chief aim was probably political, to enroll further states as tributaries and mark the reemergence of the Chinese Empire following nearly a century of barbarian rule. The political character of Zheng He's voyages indicates the primacy of the political elites. Despite their formidable and unprecedented strength, Zheng He's voyages were not intended to extend Chinese sovereignty overseas. Motives — Ming / Zheng He
More importantly, they served to transmit Chinese culture to South and Southeast Asia and the east coast of Africa. At the time, many of the countries of these regions were still relatively undeveloped, and therefore quite attracted to China's advanced civilization. Motives — Ming / Zheng He Zheng He's western voyages were not just an opportunity to carry out overseas trade.
Motives for European Exploration 1.Crusades by-pass intermediaries to get to Asia 2.Renaissance curiosity about other lands and peoples 3.Reformation refugees & missionaries 4.Monarchs seeking new sources of revenue 5.Technological advances 6.Fame and fortune
Chinese Columbus: Fact or Fiction? The Year China Discovered America (2002), aspires to rewrite world history on a grand scale. Gavin Menzies maintains that four Chinese fleets, comprising twenty-five to thirty ships and at least 7,000 persons each, visited every part of the world except Europe between 1421 and 1423. According to Menzies, proof of the passage of the Ming fleets to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and Polynesia is overwhelming and indisputable. The following flash shows his viewpoint: Voyages of the Treasure Fleet
Impact of European Expansion 1.Native populations ravaged by disease. 2.Influx of gold, and especially silver, into Europe created an inflationary economic climate. [“Price Revolution”] 3.New products introduced across the continents [“Columbian Exchange”]. 4.Deepened colonial rivalries.
Anti-commercialism –Agrarian economy – focused on land tax rather than trade taxes –Institutional elite class came into being through fostering agriculture merchants kept subordinate at first; later in conflict, more conservative elements –Ideological Culturalism / Ethnocentrism ancient distaste for commerce left to eunuchs who were a despised class which made it more distasteful to Confucians –Strategic Needed to focus on northern barbarians Japanese pirates and more centralized Tokugawa Shogun system with bakufu interrupting tribute and new products from European markets and silver flow
Chinese Culturalism Deep resentment for the alien Mongols and all things foreign –Lack of interest for anything outside Chinese tradition –Narrow Ethnocentrism = “Culturalism” the Middle Kingdom Similar to nationalism, but no nation-state arose in the Chinese culture. Empire and culture began to be thought of together – thus Chinese leadership uninterested in things foreign. Change within tradition –No ideology of progress like in the West –Falls behind Western economic and technology
Result #2: European Voyages Kept Escalating Why?
no overarching political authority in Europe to end the voyages rivalry between states encouraged more exploration much of European elite interested in overseas expansion China had everything it needed; Europeans wanted the greater riches of the East China’s food production could expand internally; European system expanded by acquiring new lands