Zheng He 郑和

A navigator who has sailed to the Western Ocean seven times

Overview

Chinese Name: 郑和

English Name: Zheng He

Other Names: Zheng Chenggong 郑成功

Born: 1371

Died: 1433

Achievements:

Zheng He’s voyages 郑和下西洋

Zheng He 郑和
Zheng He 郑和

Brief Biography of Zheng He

Zheng He, a eunuch, navigator, and diplomat of the Ming Dynasty 明朝.

Zheng He (1371-1433) was a native of Kunyang Prefecture 昆阳州, Yunnan Province 云南省 (now Kunyang Street 昆阳街道, Jinning District 晋宁区, Kunming City 昆明市, Yunnan Province 云南省). He was granted by Zhu Di 朱棣, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty the name of Zheng, and was also known as the “eunuch of Sanbao 三宝太监”.

When he was young, he served under Zhu Di. He was resourceful and knew how to fight. Later, he made meritorious contributions in the battle of Jingnan 靖难之役 and was promoted to the rank of eunuch. From 1405 (the third year of Yongle 永乐) to 1424 (the 22nd year of Yongle), he went to the Western Ocean six times as a eunuch. After 1425 (the first year of Hongxi 洪熙’s reign), he served as the guard eunuch in Nanjing 南京.

The statue of Zheng He 郑和塑像
The statue of Zheng He 郑和塑像

In 1430 (the fifth year of Xuande’s reign), he was ordered to go to the Western Ocean for the seventh time. He died in the Guli state 古里国 in 1433 (the eighth year of Xuande 宣德’s reign) on his way.

Zheng He’s voyage to the Western Ocean was an unprecedented feat in world navigation history in the early 15th century, and played a positive role in the economic and cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries; Zheng He himself also demonstrated his diplomatic ability, military strategy and spiritual quality in this historical event, and won the respect and commemoration of the world.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

Cut a brilliant figure

In 1384 (the 17th year of Hongwu 洪武’s reign), Fu Youde 傅友德 and Lan Yu 蓝玉 led a team in Nanjing 南京, and Zheng He accompanied the army to Nanjing and served in the imperial palace. In 1385 (the 18th year of Hongwu’s reign), Fu Youde and Lan Yu were assigned to guard Beiping Mansion (now Beijing 北京), and Zheng He went with the army again and was transferred to serve in the residence of King Yan 燕王.

Zheng He's voyages 郑和下西洋
Zheng He’s voyages 郑和下西洋

In 1399 (the first year of Jianwen 建文), Zhu Di, the king of Yan, launched the battle of Jingnan 靖难之役. The History of the Ming Dynasty · Biography of Zheng He 明史·郑和传 and other historical materials recorded that he made meritorious contributions in the battle of Jingnan, but did not specify the specific place of meritorious service.

In 1402 (the fourth year of Jianwen), the battle of Jingnan ended with Zhu Di’s victory. On December 18 (November 24) of that year, Zheng He, as a eunuch, was ordered to sacrifice Mrs. Feng 冯氏, Zhu Di’s wet nurse.

Bend himself to the task unto death

On June 29, 1430 (June 9, the fifth year of Xuande 宣德), Zheng He was ordered to make his seventh voyage to the Western Ocean.

On January 19, 1431 (the sixth day of December in the fifth year of Xuande), his fleet set sail from Longjiang Pass 龙江关 (now Xiaguan 下关, Nanjing) to Changle 长乐, Fujian 福建. During Hou Feng 侯风’s reign, Zheng He and others engraved the Monument to the Empress of Heavenly Concubine’s Reign 《天妃灵应之记碑》 and cast a bronze bell, leaving important historical materials for future generations to study voyages to the West.

Zhu Di 朱棣
Zhu Di 朱棣

Before departure, Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming Dynasty 明宣宗 ordered Zheng He to persuade Siam 暹罗 not to invade Malacca 满剌加 again during his mission. The number of people on this voyage was 27550.

It is recorded that in 1433 (the eighth year of Xuande), Zheng He died in Guli (now Kalikat, India) on the west coast of India during his return voyage. The fleet should return to Nanjing under the leadership of eunuch Wang Jinghong 王景弘 on July 22, 1433 (the sixth day of July in the eighth year of Xuande’s reign), according to the Records of the Former News 《前闻记》.

Develop trade

The Ming Dynasty still followed the tributary trade system of the Yuan Dynasty 元朝 and designated coastal ports to trade with surrounding countries. However, due to the rapid development of agriculture, industry, and commerce, the Ming Dynasty in the “Yongle Prosperity 永乐盛世” needed to carry out closer trade exchanges with overseas countries to promote economic exchanges. However, after the limited land Silk Road gradually fell silent, it became an inevitable choice to open up a sea passage.

The memorial hall of Zheng He 郑和纪念馆
The memorial hall of Zheng He 郑和纪念馆

Zheng He’s voyages to the West mainly focused on trade activities, taking “tributary trade” as the basic form, while promoting “official trade” and “private exchange”. He made seven voyages to the Western Ocean. He once set up commercial pavilions in two places in Southeast Asia, one in Sumatra, northern Sumatra, and the other in Malacca. His fleet brought business opportunities to Malacca, and also brought the prosperity of the place to the attention of the world.

Video: How did Zheng He Explore The World?

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