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Zheng He was one of the greatest Chinese admirals, explorers and diplomats in history. He was known for his seven epic voyages made between 1405 and 1433 in the early Ming Dynasty.
See the fact file below for more information on Zheng He or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Zheng He worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Zheng He, originally named Ma He, was born in 1371 into a Muslim family in Yunnan Province. His father and grandfather were both devoted Muslim leaders during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. They had traveled to Mecca and other distant lands, which influenced young Ma He’s interests in other countries.
- When he was ten years old, his father was killed by the Ming armed forces, while he was captured and made a eunuch for the Prince of Yan’s household in Nanjing. The Prince of Yan was the fourth son of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang.
- Under the Prince of Yan, Ma He gained a proper education, learning the philosophy of Mencius and Confucius as well as military tactics. By 1390, he became a close confidant of the prince and they fought battles in China side by side.
- In 1402, Ma He became the key strategist in claiming the throne for Zhu Di when Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang died. Despite being the eldest surviving son of the emperor, Zhu Di was initially denied the throne after the son of the crown prince, Zhu Di’s nephew, ascended the position.
- After Ma He’s successful campaign in Nanjing and Zhenglunba, the Yongle Emperor conferred him the surname “Zheng”, which made him the highest-ranking eunuch in Chinese history.
Zheng He’s Voyage
- In the autumn of 1405, Zheng He made his first voyage when he became the admiral of a huge fleet. Over 27,000 men left Nanjing for Calicut, located on the west coast of India.
- Between 1405 and 1432, Zheng He led seven treasure fleet expeditions to Indonesia, Malaysia, Siam, India, Yemen, Kenya, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. His expeditions established Chinese authority in the region. From his voyages, Zheng He brought back building materials, fuel, Arabian glass artisans and African giraffes and zebras. In return, he introduced China’s gold, silver, porcelain, and silk to many regions.
- Moreover, he defeated some of the most infamous pirates like Chen Zuyi, who plagued Chinese and Southeast Asian waters. He defeated Zuyi’s fleet, comprising of 5000 men, in the Strait of Malacca and brought him to China where he was publicly executed.
- After the death of the Yongle Emperor in 1424, his son Hongxi took over the throne and discontinued the expensive voyages. The new emperor chose to spend on their wars against the Mongols and feed the hungry population in the provinces.
- Xuande Emperor took over the throne after the death of his predecessor in 1426. By 1432, Zheng He’s fleet sailed out again on his seventh voyage. The 61-year-old admiral crossed the Indian Ocean, going to Malindi, off the coast of Kenya.
Death and Legacy
- It is believed that Zheng He died during his seventh and last voyage in 1433. His body was buried at the sea but, according to legend, his crew returned to Nanjing with parts of his hair and shoes for a burial on land.
- Zheng He’s voyages were a century earlier than Vasco da Gama’s and Christopher Columbus’, making him the greatest admiral in Chinese history.
- Temples of Zheng He were built in Jakarta, Cirebon, Surabaya and Semarang. During the 600th anniversary of his voyages, a special television series entitled Zheng He Xia Xiyang was produced by China’s CCTV.
- Since 2005, China Maritime National Day is celebrated every 11 July to commemorate the first voyage of Zheng He.
- According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators, Zheng He’s voyages were more impressive than Da Gama, Columbus and Magellan because of the huge ships and enormous number of sailors. Out of three hundred and seventeen ships, sixty were called treasure ships, which were over 400 feet long and 160 feet wide. There was no armada in the world like Zheng He’s until World War I.
- In Fujian, China, a stela by Zheng He was established which reads:
- “We…have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising sky high, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, fully unfurled like clouds day and night, continue their course as quickly as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were threading a public thoroughfare.”
- According to historian Daniel Boorstin, the motive of Zheng He’s expeditions was to collect treasure, trade, conquer and gather scientific information. It displayed the power and splendor of the new Ming Dynasty. Compared to the Portuguese explorers, who seized, the Chinese became known in Asia as explorers who gave.
- Part the legacy of the voyages was the pickup and drop off of ambassadors, diplomats, envoys and tributes to China, which later established relationships with Buddhist nations, Hindu kingdoms and sultanates.
- In 2010, 11 Chinese archaeologists embarked on retrieving a shipwreck, which they believed would prove China’s 15th-century commerce. They suggested that what they discovered was part of Zheng He’s armada.
Zheng He Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Zheng He across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Zheng He worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Zheng He who was one of the greatest Chinese admirals, explorers and diplomats in history. He was known for his seven epic voyages made between 1405 and 1433 in the early Ming Dynasty.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Zheng He Facts
- The Three-Jewel Eunuch
- Zheng’s Words
- That’s Ming
- Explore Explorers!
- Why Sail?
- Zheng He’s Voyage
- Behind the Map
- Zheng’s Truth
- Precious China
- Image Analysis
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Link will appear as Zheng He Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 19, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.