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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
|The Emperor's glorious envoy received the
"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.
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
|From the Central Glorious Country She-p'o is
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.
|Here when the heavenly writing came, a happy
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
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.
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!
|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|
@ dragonvoyage.com Magnus Ström (exBerglund) magnus
Last Updated 31/12/10 Ship communications