11 Jul: Zheng He’s Treasure Odyssey

China’s greatest naval explorer, Zheng He, set sail on the first of seven epic voyages on 11th July, 1405. He led a fleet of 255 ships, with an estimated 28,000 people on board.

A eunuch, and a Muslim, he had risen through the ranks to become a right-hand man of the Emperor, and his prowess at sea vastly bettered the likes of his European contemporaries Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether reports of his size and stature were nonetheless exaggerated; consider why, for many years prior to this, China had limited exploration by sea; and explain why, despite his incredible success, bureaucrats then tried to purge He’s name from the records…

Further Reading:

• ‘Biography of Zheng He, Chinese Admiral’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): https://www.thoughtco.com/zheng-he-ming-chinas-great-admiral-195236

• ‘China’s greatest naval explorer sailed his treasure fleets as far as East Africa’ (National Geographic): https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2020/05/chinas-greatest-naval-explorer-sailed-his-treasure-fleets-as-far-as-east-africa

• ‘Zheng He: World Explorers’ (PBS):