ï»¿The Voyages of Cheng Ho
Decades beforeÂ Christopher ColumbusÂ sailed the ocean blue in search of a water route to Asia, the Chinese were exploring the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific with seven voyages of the "Treasure Fleet" that solidified Chinese control over much of Asia in the 15th century.
The Treasure Fleets were commanded by a powerful eunuch admiral named Cheng Ho. Cheng Ho was born around 1371 inÂ China'sÂ southwestern Yunan Province (just north of Laos) with the name Ma Ho. Ma Ho's father was a Muslim hajji (who had made a pilgrimage to Mecca) and the family name of Ma was used by Muslims in representation of the word Mohammed.
When Ma Ho was ten years old (around 1381), he ...view middle of the document...
They were approximately 400 feet (122 meters) long and 160 feet (50 meters) wide. The four were the flagships of the fleet of 62 ships assembled at Nanjing along the Yangtze (Chang) River. Included in the fleet were 339-foot (103-meter) long horse ships that carried nothing but horses, water ships that carried fresh water for the crew, troop transports, supply ships, and war ships for offensive and defensive needs. The ships were filled with thousands of tons of Chinese goods to trade with others during the voyage. In the fall of 1405 the fleet was ready to embark with 27,800 men.
The fleet utilized theÂ compass, invented in China in the 11th century, for navigation. Graduated sticks of incense were burned to measure time. One day was equal to 10 "watches" of 2.4 hours each. Chinese navigators determineÂ latitudethrough monitoring the North Star (Polaris) in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Cross in the Southern Hemisphere. The ships of the Treasure Fleet communicated with one another through the use of flags, lanterns, bells, carrier pigeons, gongs, and banners.
The destination of the first voyage of the Treasure Fleet was Calicut, known as a major trading center on the southwestern coast ofÂ India. India was initially "discovered" by Chinese overland explorer Hsuan-Tsang in the seventh century. The fleet stopped inÂ Vietnam, Java, and Malacca, and then headed west across the Indian Ocean toÂ Sri LankaÂ and Calicut and Cochin (cities on the southwest coast of India). They remained in India to barter and trade from late 1406 to the spring of 1407 when they utilized the monsoon shift to sail toward home. On the return voyage, the Treasure Fleet was forced to battle pirates near Sumatra for several months. Eventually Cheng Ho's men managed to capture the pirate leader and take him to the Chinese capital Nanjing, arriving in 1407.
Second Voyage (1407-1409)
A second voyage of the Treasure Fleet departed on a return trip to India in 1407 but Cheng Ho did not command this voyage. He remained in China to oversee the repair of a temple at the birthplace of a favorite goddess. The Chinese envoys on board helped to ensure the power of a king of Calicut. The fleet returned in 1409.
Third Voyage (1409-1411)
The fleet's third voyage (Cheng Ho's second) from 1409 to 1411 consisted of 48 ships and 30,000 men. It followed closely the route of the first voyage but the Treasure Fleet established entrepots (warehouses) and stockades along their route to facilitate trade and storage of goods. On the second voyage the King of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was aggressive; Cheng Ho defeated the king's forces and captured the king to take him to Nanjing.
Fourth Voyage (1413-1415)
In late 1412, Cheng Ho was ordered by Zhu Di to make a fourth expedition. It wasn't until late 1413 or early 1414 that Cheng Ho embarked on his expedition with 63 ships and 28,560 men. The goal of...