By Jin Ding, Chaojian Shi and Adam Weintrit
Paper given at the 7th International Navigational Symposium (2007)
Abstract: Zheng He, a famous Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral of Ming Dynasty, sailed from China to many places throughout South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Red Sea and distant Africa in seven epical voyages from 1405 to 1433, some 80 years before Colubus’s voyages to America on Santa Maria. This magnificent feat in the history of navigation was later considered as a sheer waste of energy and money, and a “failure policy”. The scale of Zheng He’s navigation far exceeds that of Columbus’s “Great Discovery” which followed, but the former had less effect on the progress of the world history. In this paper, we recall Zheng He’s great adventure, as an important waypoint on the passage of navigation history. An introduction to the historical condition of that age and Zheng He’s family background is presented. The fleets, the passages, as well the experiences are illustrated. The shipbuilding technology and science of navigation of China in the ancient period are also demonstrated. And finally we discuss the historical significance, spirit and impact of Zheng He’s sailing. The great voyages are the magnificent landmarks not only in China’s political and diplomatic history but also in navigational annals of the world.