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Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 (Library of World Biography Series)

By Edward L. Dreyer

Published by Pearson

Published Date: May 3, 2006


This new biography, part of Longman's World Biography series, of the Chinese explorer Zheng He sheds new light on one of the most important “what if” questions of early modern history: why a technically advanced China did not follow the same path of development as the major European powers. 


Written by China scholar Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He outlines what is known of the eunuch Zheng He’s life and describes and analyzes the early 15th century voyages on the basis of the Chinese evidence.  Locating the voyages  firmly within the context of early Ming history,itaddresses the political motives of Zheng He’s voyages and how they affected China’s exclusive attitude to the outside world in subsequent centuries.

Table of Contents

I. The Enigma of Zheng He.

The Chinese Tributary System and the Purpose of Zheng He’s Voyages.

Traditional Chinese Interpretations of Zheng He’s Career.

Zheng He’s Voyages and Western Imperial Expansion.

Zheng He’s Voyages and the Course of Chinese History.

Historical Problems in the Interpretation of Zheng He’s Career.

II. Zheng He’s Early Life and His Patron Emperor Yongle.

The Fall of the Yuan and the Rise of Zhu Yuanzhang to 1368.

The Reign of Emperor Hongwu, 1368-1398.

Civil War, 1398-1402.

Yongle’s Reign as Emperor, 1402-1424.

III. China and the Asian Maritime World in the Time of Zheng He.

The Purpose of Zheng He’s Voyages.

Patterns of Trade in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

The Malay-Indonesian World in the Hongwu Era.

Southern India and Ceylon in the Time of Zheng He.

IV. Sailing to India: Zheng He’s First, Second and Third Voyages.

The First Voyage, 1405-1407.

The Second Voyage, 1407-1409.

The Third Voyage, 1409-1411.

V. Sailing to Africa: Zheng He’s Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Voyages.

The Fourth Voyage, 1412/14-1415.

The Fifth Voyage, 1417-1419.

The Sixth Voyage, 1421-1422.

The Last Years of the Yongle Reign, 1422-1424.

VI. The Ships and Men of Zheng He’s Fleets.

Dimensions and Displacements of the Treasure Ships.

Masts and Sails.

Shipbuilding Notices in the Taizong Shilu.

Shipbuilding Costs.

Numbers of Ships in Each of the Voyages.


VII. Zheng He’s Career after 1424 and His Final Voyage.

Ming China in the Hongxi (1424-25) and Xuande (1425-35) Reigns.

Zheng He’s Career from 1424 to 1430.

Zheng He’s Inscriptions at Liujiagang and Changle.

Zheng He’s Seventh and Final Voyage, 1431-1433.

VIII. The Legacy of Zheng He.

Appendix. Translations of Primary Sources.

Zheng He’s Biography in Mingshi  304.2b-4b.

Zheng He’s 1431 Inscriptions.


Note on Sources.


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