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Poem Commemorating the Journey

 

Ma Huan wrote this poem in 1416. It tells of the observations he made during the voyage of 1413-1415. This translation was made by JV Mills in a 1970 Hakluyt Society publication.

The Poem

Explanations

The Emperor's glorious envoy received the divine commands,
"proclaim abroad the silken sounds, and go to the barbarous lands".
His giant ship on the roaring waves of the boundless ocean rode;
afar, o'er the roaring billows vast and limitless, it strode.
Zheng He
The Emperor's words
The vast sea's rolling billows in lovely breakers sweep;
clusters of mounts, green floating shells, in mystery fade and peep.
Within Chan city's haven halts awhile, repose he takes;
Raise the sails! they scud along; She-p'o he quickly makes.


Qui Nhon, Vietnam
Java
From the Central Glorious Country She-p'o is distant far,
a noisome steam in heaven's breath, and strange the people are.
With unkempt heads and naked feet, a barbarous tongue they speak;
dresses and hats they use not, nor rites nor virtue seek.
China
Here when the heavenly writing came, a happy clamour meeting,
chieftans and heads of the barbarous tribes all tried to give it greeting.
Tribute of southern gold, rare gems, from distant parts appear;
grateful, admiring our virtue, they show themselves loyal, sincere.
The Emperor's commands
From She-p'o again the envoy the Western Ocean broached;
passing on by San Fo-ch'i, five islands he approached.
The peaks of Su-men-ta-la in middle ocean stand;
foreign merchants' sea-junks pass and gather in this land.

Palembang in eastern Sumatera
Semudera in northern Sumatera
A part of the flotilla to Hsi-lan went from here,
and to Ko-chih and to Ku-li and all foreign places near.
There lies the Liu mount country by Weak waters' southern shore;
an endless route they travelled, and dangerous and sore.
Sri Lanka

The Maldives and Laccadives
They wished to go to the Western Land, from afar they fixed their eyes;
but they only saw the glint of the waves as they joined with the green of the skies.
The shipmen lifted up their heads; the west with the east they mixed;
only pointing to the ch'en star whereby north and south were fixed.



Polaris, the Pole Star
Hu-lu-mo-ssu! close to the ocean's side;
to Ta-yuan and Mi-hsi the travelling merchants ride.
Of the embassy of Po wang to distant lands we heard;
greater still the glorious favour in the present reign conferred!
Hormuz
A student, follower, servant, how low and humble, I!
Honoured to go with the envoy, all I visit and descry.
Mountains high and mighty waves I ere then saw but few;
unwonted gems and jewels rare I now began to view.
Above to heaven and down to earth I looked - no boundary ran;
to heaven's ends and earth's extremes each one is the sovereign's man.
Union under imperial Ming our grand and great land shares;
from time forgotten until now no other land compares.
The Emperor's envoy, dutiful, fears to tarry and delay;
just then he meets the south wind, which points to his homeward way.
O'er waves like swimming dragons huge the envoy's vessel rides;
he turns his head back, mist and fog the distant desert hides.
To capital returned, the Palace levee he attended;
in Dragon Court his tribute, every precious thing extended.
One glance of the all-wise eyes, and joy filled Heaven's face;
all dignities, gifts, were bestowed, new pledges of Heaven's grace.


The Emperor's face
The Emperor's favours
Ma Huan, the mountain-woodcutter of Kuei chi

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