The navigator—Zheng He

Zheng He lived from 1371 to 1435. His former family name was Ma, he belonged to the Hui nationality, was named as He and his childhood name was Sanbao (or bao). He came from Hedai village (now belongs to Jinning county), Baoshan country, Kunyang prefecture, Yunnan province. His family believed in Islam for generations, his grandfather and father ever went to Mecca in Arab to go on pilgrimage in succession. So he had been acquainted with the situation in outer sea since childhood. At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, he was pillaged to Nanjing, and then he entered the imperial palace and became a eunuch. Because he was intelligent and industrious, and rendered marvelous services for many times, he was deeply appreciated by Ming Chengzu Zhu Di, was conferred the surname of “Zheng”, and renamed as Zheng He and promoted as the eunuch of inner palace. During his life, he made many contributions, and the greatest achievement was his seven-time long voyages to the Western world. 

In the 3rd year of Yongle, under the order of Ming Chengzu Zhu Di, Zheng He and his assistant, Wang Jinghong, led a huge ship team composed of 62 treasured ships and more than 27,000 people, started from Liujia port, Suzhou, and went on a long voyage to the Western world vastly and mightily, and returned back after over 2 years. He passed Viet Nam, Java, Sumatra and Sri Lanka, and reached the western bank of the Indian Ocean. After that, he went on the long voyage for 6 times, and reached the eastern bank of Africa and the seaport of the Red Sea to the farthest, passed more than 30 countries, and the voyage was as long as over 160,000 sea miles (about 300,000 kilometers). He was the first one that realized the direct voyage from China to the Indian Ocean, the bank of the Red Sea, the southern part of the equator and the sea area on the eastern bank of Africa. 

When arriving in each place, Zheng He exchanged porcelains, silk, cooper and iron wares, gold and silver with the local products, strengthened contact with all the nations, and thus played a positive role and had far-reaching influence to develop the long voyage and transportation, expand China’s opening to the outside world, promote the economic and cultural communication of China with all countries in Asia, and push forward the exploration of southeastern Asia by overseas Chinese. 

The long voyage of Zheng He showed the dauntless heroism of Chinese people. He was the first, and also the greatest navigator in Chinese history. His splendid achievements were not only the glory of the Huis people, but also the pride of the whole Chinese nation.