Zheng He (1371 - 1433) was a great Chinese explorer and fleet commander. He went on seven major expeditions to explore the world and to establish Chinese trade in new areas.
Zheng He was born in the Yunnan Province in 1371. His father and grandfather were Muslim leaders of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. When the Ming Dynasty took over, Chinese soldiers captured Zheng He and took him as a slave to a prince. He served the prince well and became one of the prince's closest advisors. He also went by the name of San Bao (which means Three Jewels) while serving the prince.
Later the prince became the Emperor of China as the Yongle Emperor. He wanted to show the rest of the world the glory and power of the Chinese Empire. He also wanted to establish trade and relations with other peoples of the world. He sent Zheng He to explore the world.
Zheng He commanded over 200 total ships and nearly 28,000 men. Some of the ships were over 400 feet long and 170 feet wide. They had ships to carry treasure, ships to carry horses and troops, and even special ships to carry fresh water. The ships were called "junks." The civilizations that Zheng He visited were amazed at the power and strength of the Chinese Empire when this fleet arrived.
Zheng He traveled all the way to Calicut, India, visiting many towns and ports along the way. They traded and made diplomatic relations at the places they visited. They also battled pirates and even captured a famous pirate leader and brought him back to China with them.
Zheng He sailed on additional missions, going all the way to the African coast and establishing trade relations with over 25 countries. He brought back a giraffe, camels, and diplomats from various countries to meet with the Chinese Emperor. Some scholars believe that Zheng He's ships rounded Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. They may also have visited Australia. It is believed that he died during the seventh mission.
Source: Zheng He
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