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The story behind it all


Early in the fifteenth century, Zhu Di, emperor of China ordered a newly built fleet to sail to China's neighbours in order to establish diplomatic and trade relations. Seven voyages where made between 1405 - 1433. These voyages were led by the eunuch Admiral Zheng He. As we travel in his wake we will endeavour to tell the story of these remarkable Ming journeys. To help us, we have some excellent material left to us by Zheng He's cartographers and writers ...

The Mao K'un Map

The picture on the right shows a copy of the beginning of the Mao K,un map - a sixteen feet long map with sailing directions for the different parts of the voyage. We have a translation of these directions to follow and navigate by (as well as modern charts on paper and CD-Rom).

The first part of Mao Kuns map

Ma Huan's Diary

(Ying-yai Sheng-lan  :  The overall survey of the ocean's shores  :   1433)

Four people who sailed on the original voyages of Zheng He wrote books about their experiences. The most detailed of these is Ying-yai Sheng-lan, written by Ma Huan - an interpreter on three of the original voyages.

Ma Huan's book is incredibly descriptive of the countries the fleet sailed to. He describes the people: their customs, religions and way of life. He describes the topography, geology and wildlife in each country.

We are using Ma Huan's six hundred year old diary as our guide in each country. Are the customs which he describes still practiced by the local people ? Is the wildlife he describes extinct ? What has changed in the last six hundred years ?

Ma Huan's book begins with a poem commemorating the voyages.


Emperor Zhu Di

E-mail  Rex Warner rex @ dragonvoyage.com Magnus Ström (exBerglund) magnus @ dragonvoyage.com.
Last Updated 31/12/10 Ship communications