Zheng He

Zheng He;  eunuch, admiral, explorer – was one of the most remarkable figures of the Ming Dynasty. Sometimes when I look at ancient history I can’t shake the question “what if”. What if Zheng He had been allowed to continue his voyages, what if Zheng He had found the Americas?

Zheng He wasn’t even Chinese; born a Muslim Mongol in a remote province of central Asia; Ma He was captured by the Chinese in 1382. His name changed to Zheng He when he was castrated at the age of ten and sent as a eunuch to the court of Zhu Di. For the next 20 years Zheng served Zhu Di, eventually becoming his strategist in battles with the Mongols. In 1402 Zhu Di became Emperor – the greatest age in Chinese history unfolded. Zhu Di built the Forbidden City,widened the “grand canal” to accommodate well over a thousand ships a day, and constructed China’s “treasure fleet”. Under the direction of Zheng He the first voyage sailed in 1405. Almost a century before Columbus stumbled upon America, Zheng He and his treasure fleet had sailed to Arabia, Africa, and India.


Fate has a way of shaping history – in 1424 Zhu Di died. China that followed didn’t see the world as  Zhu Di and Zheng He did; by 1433 the treasure fleet had been destroyed – every last ship burned, along with a law that forbade construction of ships with more than one mast.


I can’t help but ponder what might have been if Zheng He had been left to his own devices. It makes me ask – what might historians say about us a thousand years from now. Fate has a way of shaping history.

16 thoughts on “Zheng He

    • Thanks 🙂 I didn’t put it in the post because it’s controversial, but a Canadian archaeologist swears a Ming Dynasty village is located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.The Mic Mac Aboriginals have symbols eerily similar to Chinese characters as well as similarities in dress.

      • Wow, that is amazing… I would not be surprised at all as native Americans are descendants of Asia. Maybe that can be your next post 🙂

        A little controversy is always nice!

    • One last fascinating fact – all of Christopher Columbus’s ships plus those of Vasco Da Gama could have fit on the deck of a single Chinese treasure ship. The treasure fleet was made up of hundreds of these ships. Rather like shock and awe, or perhaps how we would view the “Borg” or an alien mother ship if it hovered over New York city. They didn’t plunder, the purpose was to explore, map, and flaunt the might of Ming China. Imagine witnessing the sight of Zheng He’s fleet as it sailed along the coast of Africa. So cool 🙂

      • It really is an amazing culture. A bit intimidating when I look at what could have been possible for China. While I knew about Zheng He, did not know his fleet was so large (both in size & number)… China, India, Persia ~ they were extremely cultured back when Europeans were tribal and living in caves. I could talk on this topic for quite a while so… Enjoy the weekend.

        PS. Love the Borg reference…

  1. Pingback: China’s Admiral Cheng Ho | China Daily Mail

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