Hero of the Ming Dynasty: The man who mapped the world

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Standing seven feet tall, Admiral Zheng He towered over his crew at the prow of his legendary treasure ship. Setting out six centuries ago on the first of seven landmark voyages, he reached south-east Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and as far as the east coast of Africa. Some say he may even have made it to America.

The exploits of the intrepid Ming Dynasty explorer known as the Three-Jewelled Eunuch, a devout Muslim of Mongolian descent from Yunnan province, still resonate in China today, where he is seen as a symbol of emerging modern China's peaceful rise.

Zheng He's journeys took him to 37 countries over 28 years as part of the mightiest fleet that ever sailed, with 300 ships and 28,000 sailors. It wasn't until the First World War that a bigger flotilla took to the seas....

The rehabilitation of Zheng He's reputation began in the early part of the last century, and by the 1930s he worked his way into school textbooks as a national hero. The country has been gripped with Zheng He fever since the 600th anniversary of the first of his fantastic voyages. His exploits have become a focal point for Chinese nationalism because, in the days when the Admiral roamed the waves, China was far more technologically advanced than other cultures and had no equal at sea.

Read entire article at Independent (UK)

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