Cheng Ho

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     For 28 years, from 1405 to 1433, Cheng Ho (Cheng He, Zheng He) a Moslem eunuch, guided the Treasure Fleet of the Chinese Emperors Zhu Di and Zhu Zhanji. There were 317 ships in the fleet.
     The Treasure Fleet made seven expeditions from Nanjing to Cochin and Calicut on the west coast of India, through the Strait of Hormuz, into the Red Sea as far as Jidda, down the east coast of Africa into the Mozambique Channel. It also visited the Maldive Islands, Java and Sumatra, as well as Borneo and the Philippines.

When China Ruled the Seas:

The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne 1405-1433.

Louise Levathes, 1994

     The map below shows the routes traveled by the Treasure Fleet, while the ship represents the large ships of the Fleet, some of them as much as eight times larger than the Santa Maria.

SCN 2977  SCN 2978

     I originally attributed the map on the stamp below to Cheng Ho's twenty-one foot long sailing map from the fifteenth century, known as the Wu bei zhi chart. However, Walter Klinefelter's attribution is correct. It is "an example of mapmaking after the Chinese method. It is in manuscript form dating from the year 1819, and is owned by the University of Hong Kong.

SCN 430

     We have traversed more than one hundred thousand li of immense waterspaces and have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising sky high, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away, hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course [as rapidly as] a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare....

Tablet erected by Cheng Ho, 1432

     The souvenir sheet from Madagascar shows Zheng He standing in front of a map of the Indian Ocean. In the margins are pictures of his fleet. These ships are up to ten times larger than European ships of the time.


SCN C201


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