The construction of the Zhengguo Canal, the first to be built in China, laid the foundations for the rise to power of the state of Qin. It was completed by the Qin in 246 BC and irrigated about 200,000 acres in the Wei Valley north of Xian and led to such prosperity and population increase that the state of Qin became the first to unify China after a long period of internecine strife. The power of that state - and its ability to organise - can be seen at the tomb of the Quin emperor near the central city of Xian today. It is guarded by a life-size army of terracotta warriors ­some 8,000 of them. However, both the canal and the Qin empire were short-lived. The canal silted up and became useless about IS0 years after it was built. Furthermore, the Qin population pressure caused farming to expand out into the loess plateau. Thus the link between hydraulic control and political power is ancient.

During the last decade however, it has taken on a symbolism that is extremely uncomfortable for Beijing 's rulers. The river known as ' China 's sorrow' for its power and ferocity now elicits pathos for an entirely different reason. For example in 1997 it was dry in Shandong for a full 226 days. The problem however is entirely man­made. Well over half the water in the river is taken for industry, agriculture and residential use, but it is estimated that as little as one-third of the water taken for agricultural irrigation actually reaches the crops, spilling out of irrigation ditches or sinks into the soil beneath the eight large dams and thousands of small ones. Perhaps it is that after thousands of years of political organisation to control the consequences of too much water, the machinery of the state has not had enough time to readjust to the reality of too little. Or are there also other lessons to learn from, the sociology of history?

Archaeological evidence and descriptions by visiting Chinese emissaries from the time of  international maritime trade network that circulated goods from China to Rome, indicated that around this same period, also southern Vietnam 's Mekong delta and along the coasts of peninsular Siam , various states emerged with competing capitals substantial populations, arable lands, walled and moated settlements including elite housing  and  documents.

An important point in the Asian maritime route as early as the fourth century AD, many trading settlements were established along its eastern shores. Over several centuries, populations reaped great yields from the land, and canal networks cut across the delta to link settlements and facilitate the movement of goods have been documented. (See Bishop, Sanderson, and M. T. Stark, Dating Pre-Angkorian Canals in the Mekong Delta, Southern Cambodia, Using Radiocarbon and Oslo Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 3, pp.319-36, 2003; E. Bourdonneau, The Ancient Canal System of the Mekong Delta. pp. 257-70, and E.Y. Manguin, The Archaeology of Early Maritime Polities of Southeast Asia. pp. 282-313 in Bellwood and Glover, eds., A Cultural History of Southeast Asia: From Earliest Times to the Indic Civilizations, 2004).

For our earlier larger picture see also:

For S.E. Asia this included fourth-century Pallava style objects and statues from the Andhra coast of eastern India reflecting a widespread economic network, explaining why, the voyages 1421 voyages of Zeng Hi had very little connection with exploration. In fact even Zeng Hi’s much later, seventh and final, voyage that may have sailed all the way to Mecca, would hardly be exploration. The location of Mecca was familiar to Muslims everywhere, including those in China, and the travel by sea of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca had been going on for centuries. The names of both Zheng He's fa­ther and grandfather indicate that they made that pilgrimage, though there is no evidence for the route they took.

Instead the idea that exploration was the purpose of Zheng He's voyages is a modern Western myth, the actual goals of the voyages were stated clearly by the Qing Dynasty historians who compiled the Mingshi.

Zheng He lived in the reigns of five Ming emperors, four of whom had shilu composed for their reigns. Also called "veritable records" the shilu of the period. are the highly formalized process of official historiography, presented to or issud by the emperor in his daily court sessions. After the fall of the dynasty, the shilu served as the primary sources for the official bistory compiled by the successor dynasty, and then they were usually destroyed. Since the Mingshi, the Qing-compiled official history of the Ming Dynasty, was issued only in 1739, long after the fall of the dynasty,  copies of the shilu of the Ming period  survived down to the present.

For example the Taizong Shilu compiled after Emperor Yongle's death includes the period of Emperor Jianwen's reign, and since the first six voyages of Zheng Hi took place under Emperor Yongle, this is the richest source of Zheng He material. The Renzong Shilu of the brief Hongxi reign and the Xuan­zong Shilu covering the Xuande reign also have notices relating to Zheng He.

The tribute system during the Ming, started when Ashikaga Takauji was made "king" of Japan for this purpose. And next, also made possible by earlier maritime advances, 1405-33 Zheng He (1371-1433) asserted Chinese power untill 1433. The first Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, rose from the ranks of the White Lotus (Maitreya) inspired "Red Turban" rebellion. A much later White Lotus (Maitreya) the 'Boxer' Rebellion (against  European influence), from November 1899 to September 7, 1901, is frequently mentioned in the propaganda of the current, Chines regime. Expecially since the 1999 presumed American 'air attack' deemed "part of a greater plot, such as distracting China's attention from the economic development and causing China to be bogged down in upheavals or saddled with the heavy burden of warfare." (People's Daily editorial appeared on the first page of the newspaper on May 19, 1999).

Also Zheng He's biography states that Qing dynasty emperor Yongle "wanted to display his soldiers in strange lands in order to make manifest the wealth and power of the Middle Kingdom." In order to carry out this mission Zheng He's fleet "went in succession to the vari­ous foreign countries, proclaiming the edicts of the Son of Heaven and giving gifts to their rulers and chieftains. Those who did not submit were pacified by force." However this deserves further investigation thus, for the first time ever: From Red Turban to Ming Tax collecting.

The Ming Empire rose from (a much earlier) White Lotus (Maitreya) inspired, in this case "Red Turban" rebellion against the Yuan Dynasty and its 'foreign Mongol,' elite. In fact the Ming derived their name from the White Lotus' messianic figures of "Big and Little Ming Wang" (Brilliant Kings), who were thought to have been sent by Maitreya to the world to restore order. Although no direct relationship has been established, it is not difficult to see a paralell legend among the Shi'ite in Iran of some kind of 'future Maitreya' that will restore order..).
Where the ships used by the Ming 'navy' the larger ships built for the Zheng He voyages were first built in what now would be part of Indonesia. By the time of the Ming, these were often pirate ships.

While the true nature of whatever thalassocracy Majapahit wielded has been much debated, under Rajasanagara (Hayam Wuruk, ruled 1350-89), during whose reign the Ming Dynasty came to power, the Javanese kingdom was certainly able to exert military power at least in southern Sumatra. The proclamation of the Ming Dynasty in early 1368 coincided with an impressive display of Chinese naval power, since troops transported by sea established Ming authority over the southern coast of China at the same time as the Ming main army marched overland to capture the Yuan capital. A new dynasty reigning at Nanjing might well be expected to revive traditional maritime connections between a regime based in south China and southeast Asia. In reality Emperor Hongwu from the beginning based his revival of the tribute system on his understanding of ancient precedents, and he considered the more recent precedents of the Yuan and Southern Song undesirable. He maintained a public posture of indifference to wealth derived from overseas trade, and he was very suspicious of the political and social consequences that might accompany oceangoing commerce. He welcomed tribute missions, but only from truly independent states. He allowed trade to take place only under official auspices and only when tribute was presented. He prohibited private trading between Chinese and "barbarians" and prohibited Chinese from sailing overseas. He repeated his prohibitions against foreign trade and overseas travel frequently, and in an edict of 1394 he admitted that, because he had prohibited even tribute missions from most countries, Chinese merchants were sailing overseas to buy spices and aromatics. His solution was that they should use Chinese substitutes. These prohibitions had the effect of turning the already numerous (even if the numbers are difficult to estimate) Chinese maritime population into pirates and smugglers, since they could not be expected to give up their livelihood. Hence Zheng He found Palembang under the control of a Chinese pirate fleet on his first voyage, and the Chinese sources describe "pirates" -certainly Chinese pirates-preying heavily on shipping in other areas.

Since Hongwu had prohibited overseas commerce, he was also concerned that tribute missions not become a mere cover for trade, and therefore he looked for proof that entities sending tribute missions were in fact independent countries. By 10S2 Jambi rather than Palembang had become the capital of the state the Chinese still called Shri Vijaya (Sanfoqi), even though trade was conducted in both harbors and a dynasty still ruled Palembang in a subordinate status. The founding of the Ming raised great hopes for the revival of trade with China, and from 1371 to 1377 both harbors sent missions to China . In 1374 a mission came from Palembang, whose ruler called himself both king of Sanfoqi and maharaja (transcribed as manada in Chinese) of Palembang (here called Baolinbang); Hongwu formally invested this unnamed person as king and granted him a calendar and other gifts. In 1377 Hongwu approved the request of the ruler of Jambi (also called Malayu or Malayu-Jambi) for investiture as ruler of Sanfoqi. Java protested that Sanfoqi was a dependency of Java and waylaid and murdered the Chinese embassy sent to confer this investiture. The events of 1377, sometimes described as a Javanese conquest of southern Sumatra, seem in fact to have been more like a firm reassertion of a suzerainty established earlier.

Hongwu, furious that he had been deceived, cut off relations with Sanfoqi for twenty years. In 1380, when he executed his chancellor Hu Weiyong and massacred hundreds of high officers and their families whom he accused of involvement in Hu's crimes, intrigues with foreigners and illicit trade in connection with the tribute missions were a major element in the accusations. Foreign rulers, he felt, often conspired with merchants to turn tribute missions into occasions for trade, and for that reason tribute missions from foreign countries were often rejected. Chinese missions to Southeast Asia during 1377-97 went only to countries that could be reached by land.

Sometime between 1377 and 1397, probably in 1391-92, Java expelled the now subordinate but still hereditary ruler of Palembang from his capital, compelling him to begin the journey that transformed him into the founder of Malacca. Trade unauthorized by Ming China continued to sail to and from Palemban, and in 1397 the old emperor sent an angry letter by way of Thailand to Java, ordering the Majapahit king to order the Palembang ruler to mend his ways. Instead, Java appointed a "small chief" to manage affairs in Palemban, where things were rapidly slipping out of Javanese control partly because of the influx of Chinese merchants. "At this time"-the Mingshi says-"Java had already overthrown Shri Vijaya (Sanfoqi) and annexed the country, changing its name to Old Harbor Uiugang). But after the demise of Shri Vijaya, there was great disorder in the country, and Java also was not able to hold on to all of this territory. Chinese people residing there temporarily more and more often came to live there permanently. There was Liang Daoming, originally of Nanhai District in Gllangdong, who had lived in this country for a long time. Several thousand families of soldiers and people from Fujian and Guangdong, who had sailed across the sea and joined him, selected Liang Daoming as their leader." This was taking place while China was distracted with the civil war that followed Hongwu's death. By the beginning of the Yongle reign, Palembang had become a southeast Asian city ruled by an overseas Chinese community drawn from the Chinese maritime population whose oceangoing trade Yongle's father had tried to prohibit.

In 1405 Yongle sent an official, a native of the same county as Liang Daoming, to summon the latter to court. Liang Damning came to court, presented tribute in local products, received imperial gifts, and returned. In 1406 Chen Zuyi, described as a "headman" (toumu) of the Old Harbor and "also" (like Liang Daoming) originally a native of Guangdong, sent his son to court with tribute; Liang Daoming sent a nephew. "Even though Chen Zuyi had sent tribute to court, he committed piracy on the high seas, and tribute missions going to and fro suffered from this." Returning from his first voyage in 1407, Zheng He defeated and captured Chen Zuyi. Zheng He had been warned about Chen Zuyi's piracy by Shi Jinqing, another member of the Chinese community at Palembang, whom the Ming court then appointed as its chief. Liang Daoming's fate is unknown.

Palembang's previous hereditary ruler Paramesvara, alias Iskandar Shah, by then had ended his wanderings and had established himself as ruler at Malacca. His career consisted of three years in Palembang (1388-91), six years in Singapore (1391-97), two years en route to Malacca (1397-99), and fourteen years as ruler in Malacca (1399-1413), making up the full twenty-five years of rule ascribed to him by the Malay sources. Originally at Malacca he was subject to Thailand, with an annual tribute of 40 Chinese ounces, or liang, of gold, an item confirmed by both the Mingshi and Ma Huan. In 1404 the eunuch Yin Qing was sent as envoy to his land, and Paramesvara (Bailimisula), "very happy" at this, promptly sent back an embassy with tribute in local products. His reward the following year, in which Zheng He commenced his first voyage, was Ming investiture as king of Malacca. Malacca collaborated enthusiastically with the treasure voyages: Ming China, after all, had recognized their royal status; that, plus Zheng He's fleet, protected Malacca against any reassertion of Thai overlordship. Paramesvara's death in 1413 was reported to the Ming emperor in 1414.

 

1274 Zheng He's great-great-grandfather Saiyid Ajall Shams aI-Din (1211-79) appointed governor of Yunnan by Mongol emperor Khubilai Khan (born 1215, ruled 1260-94) 

1368 (23 January) to 24 June 1398: reign of Hongwu (Zhu Yuanzhang, born 1328; posth. Taizu), the first Ming emperor 

1371 Zheng He born as Ma He in Kunyang, Yunnan, then under the rule of Prince Basalawarmi, a descendant of Khubilai Khan 

1380 Zhu Di (born 11 June 1360), fourth son of Hongwu and future Emperor Yongle, created Prince of Yan and sent to live in Beiping 

1381 Ming conquest of Yunnan ; Ma He captured, castrated, and afterward consigned to the household of the Prince of Yan 

1398 (30 June) to 13 July 1402: reign of Jianwen (Zhu Yunwen, born 1377; posth. Emperor Hui conferred in 1736), son of Zhu Biao and grandson of Hongwu, the second Ming emperor 

1399 (August) Prince of Yan rebels; Ma He wins battle at Zheng Family Dike near Beiping 

1402 (July) Defection of river fleet under Chen Xuan permits Prince of Yan to capture Nanjing 

1402 (17 July) to 12 August 1424: reign of the former Prince of Yan as Yongle (posth. Taizong, changed 1538 to Chengzu), the third Ming emperor; Beiping renamed Beijing in 1403 

1402-1405 Ma He (renamed Zheng He on 11 February 1404) is Director of Palace Servants with the highest eunuch rank; extensive shipbuilding begins in 1403 

1405-1407 Zheng He's First Voyage (orders given 11 July 1405), to Calicut and back, defeating Chen Zuyi at Palembang on its return (recorded on 2 October 1407, rewards ordered 29 October) 

1407-1408 Ming invasion and annexation of Vietnam 

1407 Enlargement of Beijing as an imperial capital begins 1407-1409 Zheng He's Second Voyage (orders probably given 23 October 1407), again to Calicut and back 

1409-1410 Yongle travels from Nanjing to Beijing (23 February to 4 April 1409), and, after a Ming army is defeated in Mongolia (23 September), he conducts his First Mongolian Campaign (15 March to 15 July 1410) and returns from Beijing to Nanjing (31 October to 7 December) 

1409-1411 Zheng He's Third Voyage (returns 6 July 1411), to Calicut and back, with the campaign in Ceylon 

1411 Song Li completes canal from Beijing to Yellow River 1412-1415 Zheng He's Fourth Voyage (ordered 18 December 1412) to Hormuz, with the campaign against Sekandar on its return (recorded on 12 August 1415) 

1415 Song Li completes canal from Yellow River to Yangtze River; from this time grain transport to Beijing is entirely by canal 

1413-1416 Yongle travels from Nanjing to Beijing (16 March to 30 April 1413), conducts his Second Mongolian Campaign (6 April to 15 August 1414), and returns from Beijing to Nanjing (10 October to 14 November 1416) 

1416-1417 Yongle's last period of residence in Nanjing, to which no Ming emperor ever returns; he travels from Nanjing to Beijing (12 April to 16 May 1417)

1417-1419 Zheng He's Fifth Voyage (ordered 28 December 1416) reaches Arabia and Africa and returns (dated 8 August 1419) 

1417-1421 Main period of building in Beijing 

1418 Founder of Le Dynasty (1418-1804) rebels in Vietnam 1421 Yongle inaugurates Beijing as primary capital (2 February), orders a sixth voyage (3 March), and then orders a temporary suspension (14 May) of the voyages; later he orders a third Mongolian campaign (6 August) and sends Xia Yuanji and others to prison (11 December); in Vietnam, founder of Le Dynasty eliminates local rivals 

1421-1422 Zheng He's Sixth Voyage (return recorded 3 September 1422) 

1422 Yonglc's Third Mongolian Campaign (12 April to 23 September) 

1423 Yongle's Fourth Mongolian Campaign (29 August to 16 December) 

1424 Yongle's Fifth Mongolian Campaign (1 April to 12 August) and his death, while Zheng He is on a diplomatic mission to Palembang (ordered 27 February) 

1424 (7 September) to 29 May 1425: reign of Hongxi (Zhu Gaozhi, born 16 August 1378; posth. Renzong), son of Yongle, the fourth Ming emperor; Hongxi recalls Huang Fu from Vietnam 

1424-1430 Zheng He is commandant (shoubei) at Nanjing, in association with Huang Fu, and his fleet remains at Nanjing as pa rt of the garrison 

1425 (27 June) to 31 January 1435: reign of Xu an de (Zhu Zhanji, born 16 March 1399; posth. Xuanzong), son of Hongxi, the fifth Ming emperor 

1431-14.1.1 Zheng He's Seventh Voyage (ordered 29 June 1430) and his death 1433-1436 Books by Ma Huan (Yingyai Shenglan, 1433), Gong Zhen (Xiyang Fanguo Zhi, 1434), and Fei Xin (Xingcha Shenglan, 1436) appear, describing the countries visited by Zheng He's fleets 

1597 Luo Maodeng's novel about Zheng He, Xiyang Ji, appears 1905 Liang Qichao's article begins modern interest in Zheng He and his voyages

 

 

Giving Ming naval forces ships were much smaller and due to the large numbers of ships for Zheng He's first voyage, there was not enough wood, and timber-cutting expeditions were ordered along the Min River in Fujian and in the upper reaches of the Yangtze.

The entry dated 11 July 1405 in Taizong Shifu treating the dispatch of the first expedition states simply that," The fleet consisted of up to 255 ships carrying 27,800 men, most of whom were military personnel. The Mingshi says of this voyage that "62 great ships had been built, 44 zhang long and 18 zhang wide." These 62 "treasure ships" were the heart of Zheng He's fleet and had most of its carrying capacity; they are included in the 255 ships that the Taizong Shifu indicates were constructed in time for the first voyage. Despite the Mingshi account, it is unlikely that the treasure ships were all of the same size, but they would still have had plenty of room for the crews. The normal organization of the fleet had several smaller ships assigned to each of the large ships, in the manner made familiar by the accounts of the earlier voyages of Faxian, Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah

The first port of call on all of the voyages was in Champa, at the site of the modern Vietnamese city of Qui Nhon. This city in Champa-called Xinzhou, or "New Department," by the Chinese-was about fifteen miles from the (now ruined) inland capital of Vijaya. The ancient kingdom of Champa (Zhancheng, or " Cham City " in Chinese) was then ruled by King Jaya Sinhavarman V (ruled 1400-41) of its thirteenth recorded dynasty. Champa had been losing its wars with Vietnam ever since Vietnam gained independence in 939, but it was about to have an intermission from these troubles; the ultimately unsuccessful Ming effort to conquer and annex Vietnam began during Zheng He's first expedition, and while the wars in Vietnam lasted (until 1427-28), Vietnam's enemy was China's friend. This state of affairs covered the entire period in which Zheng He's first six voyages took place. Even after China recognized Vietnam 's independence in 1427, China continued to support Champa, and Vietnam. Ma Huan describes a Cham society whose domestic economy resembles that of Vietnam (palm thatched houses, water buffalo) even as their religious practices are clearly Hindu. Since "most of the men take up fishing for a livelihood" the society is oriented toward the sea, and the fishermen may turn into pirates and smugglers who were difficult for the institutionally weak Cham state to control.Zheng He was showing the flag to overawe, rather than exploring in any sense; fleets of Chinese official ships like Zheng He's armada had not been seen in these waters since the period of Mongol rule (though Chinese merchant ships had), and they had navigators who knew the way.

Furthermore, Zheng He's voyages took place at a time when trading patterns in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean were becoming less centralized, and major changes were taking place in the Malay-Indonesian world, both politically and in the sphere of religion and culture. The Chinese fleets withdrew abruptly after a comparatively brief presence, having had little effect on long, term developments in the regions where they had sailed.

But already before the new Zheng He fleet arrived in Indonesian waters, rulers from the region had attempted to forge relations with the new Ming empire, and Emperor Hongwu had come to be frustrated at his inability to understand the complicated and evolving politics of the Malay-Indonesian world.

A major theme in Malay-Indonesian history is the interaction between the maritime Malays, whose major political creation had been the trade-dependent empire of Shri Vijaya, and the Javanese monarchies based on the rice surpluses that could best be grown on that smaller island. During the Southern Song, Yuan, and Ming, the realm of Singosari and Majapahit (1222-1451) flourished on Java. The reign of its fifth ruler had ended in rebellion in 1292; the arrival of a Mongol fleet sent by Khubilai Khan enabled that ruler's successor to use the Mongols to overthrow the usurper and then ambush the Mongols and drive them out. The kingdom prospered afterward, and the chief minister who dominated its affairs during most of the next three reigns swore a famous oath in 1331 not to rest until "the land below the wind" (Nusantara, referring to the maritime Malay world) was subdued. The narrative poem Nagarakertagama (1365), a major source for Majapahit history, claims Brunei in Borneo, Palembang in Sumatra, Pahang and other places on the Malay peninsula, Makassar on Sulawesi, and the Bandas and Moluccas in the eastern archipelago as subject to Majapahit. While the true nature of whatever thalassocracy Majapahit wielded has been much debated, under Rajasanagara (Hayam Wuruk, ruled 1350-89), during whose reign the Ming Dynasty came to power, the Javanese kingdom was certainly able to exert military power at least in southern Sumatra.

The proclamation of the Ming Dynasty in early 1368 coincided with an impressive display of Chinese naval power, since troops transported by sea established Ming authority over the southern coast of China at the same time as the Ming main army marched overland to capture the Yuan capital. A new dynasty reigning at Nanjing might well be expected to revive traditional maritime connections between a regime based in south China and southeast Asia. In reality Emperor Hongwu from the beginning based his revival of the tribute system on his understanding of ancient precedents, and he considered the more recent precedents of the Yuan and Southern Song undesirable. He maintained a public posture of indifference to wealth derived from overseas trade, and he was very suspicious of the political and social consequences that might accompany oceangoing commerce. He welcomed tribute missions, but only from truly independent states. He allowed trade to take place only under official auspices and only when tribute was presented. He prohibited private trading between Chinese and "barbarians" and prohibited Chinese from sailing overseas. He repeated his prohibitions against foreign trade and overseas travel frequently, and in an edict of 1394 he admitted that, because he had prohibited even tribute missions from most countries, Chinese merchants were sailing overseas to buy spices and aromatics. His solution was that they should use Chinese substitutes. These prohibitions had the effect of turning the already numerous (even if the numbers are difficult to estimate) Chinese maritime population into pirates and smugglers, since they could not be expected to give up their livelihood. Hence Zheng He found Palembang under the control of a Chinese pirate fleet on his first voyage, and the Chinese sources describe "pirates" -certainly Chinese pirates-preying heavily on shipping in other areas.

Palembang was the dry land nearest to the sea for the export of Sumatra 's pepper, and the wealth generated by pepper exports had enabled the rulers of Shri Vijaya to attract the seagoing trade of the archipelago into his port, as long as this trade was in the hands of Arab and Indonesian shippers. The rise of a carrying trade in Chinese bottoms during the Song had made the role of Palembang as an entrep6t less relevant, yet it remained an important commercial center, and ironically the vanished Maharajah had been replaced by a committee of Chinese merchants as the local authority.

Since Hongwu had prohibited overseas commerce, he was also concerned that tribute missions not become a mere cover for trade, and therefore he looked for proof that entities sending tribute missions were in fact independent countries.  Jambi rather than Palembang had become the capital of the state the Chinese still called Shri Vijaya (Sanfoqi), even though trade was conducted in both harbors and a dynasty still ruled Palembang in a subordinate status. The founding of the Ming raised great hopes for the revival of trade with China, and from 1371 to 1377 both harbors sent missions to China. In 1374 a mission came from Palembang, whose ruler called himself both king of Sanfoqi and maharaja (transcribed as manada in Chinese) of Palembang (here called Baolinbang); Hongwu formally invested this unnamed person as king and granted him a calendar and other gifts. In 1377 Hongwu approved the request of the ruler of Jambi (also called Malayu or Malayu-Jambi) for investiture as ruler of Sanfoqi. Java protested that Sanfoqi was a dependency of Java and waylaid and murdered the Chinese embassy sent to confer this investiture. The events of 1377, sometimes described as a Javanese conquest of southern Sumatra, seem in fact to have been more like a firm reassertion of a suzerainty established earlier.

Hongwu, furious that he had been deceived, cut off relations with Sanfoqi for twenty years. In 1380, when he executed his chancellor Hu Weiyong and massacred hundreds of high officers and their families whom he accused of involvement in Hu's crimes, intrigues with foreigners and illicit trade in connection with the tribute missions were a major element in the accusations. Foreign rulers, he felt, often conspired with merchants to turn tribute missions into occasions for trade, and for that reason tribute missions from foreign countries were often rejected. Chinese missions to Southeast Asia during 1377-97 went only to countries that could be reached by land.

Sometime between 1377 and 1397, probably in 1391-92, Java expelled the now subordinate but still hereditary ruler of Palembang from his capital, compelling him to begin the journey that transformed him into the founder of Malacca. Trade unauthorized by Ming China continued to sail to and from Palembang, and in 1397 the old emperor sent an angry letter by way of Thailand to Java, ordering the Majapahit king to order the Palembang ruler to mend his ways. Instead, Java appointed a "small chief" to manage affairs in Palembang, where things were rapidly slipping out of Javanese control partly because of the influx of Chinese merchants. "At this time"-the Mingshi says-"Java had already overthrown Shri Vijaya (Sanfoqi) and annexed the country, changing its name to Old Harbor Uiugang). But after the demise of Shri Vijaya, there was great disorder in the country, and Java also was not able to hold on to all of this territory. Chinese people residing there temporarily more and more often came to live there permanently. There was Liang Daoming, originally of Nanhai District in Gllangdong, who had lived in this country for a long time. Several thousand families of soldiers and people from Fujian and Guangdong, who had sailed across the sea and joined him, selected Liang Daoming as their leader. This was taking place while China was distracted with the civil war that followed Hongwu's death. By the beginning of the Yongle reign, Palembang had become a southeast Asian city ruled by an overseas Chinese community drawn from the Chinese maritime population whose oceangoing trade Yongle's father had tried to prohibit.

In 1405 Yongle sent an official, a native of the same county as Liang Daoming, to summon the latter to court. Liang Damning came to court, presented tribute in local products, received imperial gifts, and returned. In 1406 Chen Zuyi, described as a "headman" (toumu) of the Old Harbor and "also" (like Liang Daoming) originally a native of Guangdong, sent his son to court with tribute; Liang Daoming sent a nephew. "Even though Chen Zuyi had sent tribute to court, he committed piracy on the high seas, and tribute missions going to and fro suffered from this." Returning from his first voyage in 1407, Zheng He defeated and captured Chen Zuyi. Zheng He had been warned about Chen Zuyi's piracy by Shi Jinqing, another member of the Chinese community at Palembang, whom the Ming court then appointed as its chief. Liang Daoming's fate is unknown.

Palembang's previous hereditary ruler Paramesvara, alias Iskandar Shah, by then had ended his wanderings and had established himself as ruler at Malacca. His career consisted of three years in Palembang (1388-91), six years in Singapore (1391-97), two years en route to Malacca (1397-99), and fourteen years as ruler in Malacca (1399-1413), making up the full twenty-five years of rule ascribed to him by the Malay sources. Originally at Malacca he was subject to Thailand, with an annual tribute of 40 Chinese ounces, or liang, of gold, an item confirmed by both the Mingshi and Ma Huan. In 1404 the eunuch Yin Qing was sent as envoy to his land, and Paramesvara (Bailimisula), "very happy" at this, promptly sent back an embassy with tribute in local products. His reward the following year, in which Zheng He commenced his first voyage, was Ming investiture as king of Malacca. Malacca collaborated enthusiastically with the treasure voyages: Ming China, after all, had recognized their royal status; that, plus Zheng He's fleet, protected Malacca against any reassertion of Thai overlordship. Paramesvara's death in 1413 was reported to the Ming emperor in 1414 by his son, whom the Ming recognized as the second king of Malacca (1413-23). In 1424 Paramesvara's grandson received Ming confirmation as the third king of Malacca (1423-44). He was stranded in China from 1433 to 1435 with the other foreign rulers and ambassadors who had traveled to China on the final voyage. Soon after his return to Malacca in 1436 he embraced Islam and took the name Sultan Muhammad Shah, and Malacca prospered in his reign and those of his successors until the Portuguese conquest in 1511. The list of "over thirty" countries that Zheng He is said in his Mingshi biography to have visited has 36 names for 35 countries (Lambri on Sumatra is duplicated in the list, as Nanwuli and Nanpoli). Four of them were substantial mainland kingdoms: Champa, Cambodia , Thailand , and Bengal . Eleven others were in the insular or peninsular Malay-Indonesian region, including Brunei on Borneo, Java, and Pahang, Kelantan and Malacca on the Malay Peninsula, and six locations on Sumatra: Palembang, Aru, Semudera, Nagur, Lide, and Lambri. Seven others are in Arabia or Africa: Hormuz, Djofar, Lasa, and Mecca (called Tianfang or " Heavenly Square") in Arabia, and Mogadishu, Zhubu (Giumbo or Jumbo near present-day Kismayu in Somalia ), and Malindi on the African coast. Aden in Arabia and Brava in Africa are both omitted from this list, though both ports were visited by Zheng He's ships. It is unlikely that any Chinese ship traveled to Mecca 's port of Jidda, and there is reason to doubt that the Chinese got as far as Malindi, but at least there is no problem locating those places.

The thirteen remaining locations all seem to be either in the southern part of the Indian peninsula (nine) or in the islands that are relatively nearby (four). Aru to the south of Semudera, and Nagur, Lide, and Lam bri to the north, along with Semudera, all came to be included in the territory of the later sultanate and now Indonesian province of Aceh. Ma Huan described all five countries as having the same pure, simple, and honest customs as their fellow Muslims in Malacca, except that in Nagur the people tattooed their faces. Except for Semudera, these countries were relatively poor and not heavily populated: three thousand households in Lide, slightly over a thousand in Lambri, and Aru and Nagur were "merely small countries."

From Sumatra ships would sail for Ceylon, sometimes making a landfall at the Nicobar Islands to establish the correct latitude. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with their naked people in dugout canoes, are never referred to as a tributary country in the Chinese sources. The internal problems in Ceylon that led to hostilities on the third voyage. From southern India ships could sail to Liushan, a term often used for the Maldives and Laccadives collectively, but Bila and Sunla have been tentatively identified as Bitra and Chetlat atolls, respectively, both in the Laccadives. Whether or not Liushan included the Maldives, it was also "merely a small country" and "one or two treasure ships from the Middle Kingdom went there and purchased ambergris, coconuts, and other such things," according to Ma Huan, whose use of the term "purchased" here is another indication of the private trading that went on on Zheng He's expeditions.

Of the remaining nine countries, all on the Indian mainland, three are certainly identified and have substantial chapters in Ma Huan's account. They are Calicut, Cochin, and Quilon, which Ma Huan calls Xiao Gelan, or "Lesser" Quilon. Calicut was then the most important trading center in southern India and Ma Huan calls it the "Great Country of the Western Ocean ." Calicut was the most distant destination reached by Zheng He's fleet on its first three voyages. To get there the fleet, having sighted the mountains of Ceylon from far at sea, would either pass south of the island or make a port call there, then sail up the west coast of India from Cape Comorin at the southern tip of the subcontinent.

On the mainland of India, the fleet would first reach Quilon, whose people Ma Huan, and the Mingshi following him, calls "Chola" or Suoli, which normally refers to speakers of Malayalam, but Ma Huan did not distinguish between Malayalis and 'LlInils. Ma Huan misidentifies the people of Quilon as Buddhists; since they "venerate the cow" they are clearly Hindu.

Quilon was only a small country, but Cochin further up the l'oast was Calicut 's closest commercial competitor. Cochin 's people are also "Chola" and Hindu. The class structure was identical to Calicut 's, headed by an elite (Nanlwn) of Brahmans, including the king, followed by Muslims members of the trading castes, "who are all rich people" according to the Mingshi. And the Mugua who were very poor and earned their livingS as fishermen and coolies; they lived by the sea in huts and by law were no more than three feet high.

In contrast to the variety of goods produced in Calicut, Cochin 's only product was topper. Both Calicut and Cochin had a matrilineal system of secession to their thrones, each king being normally followed by a sister's son; this tradition was maintained in the princely ties of Travancore and Cochin under the later British Raj.

Other states that are located on the mainnland of India are "Greater" Qui/on (Da Gelan), Chola (Suoli), of the Western Ocean (Xiyang Suoli), Abobadan, and Ganbali. The Mingshi have a few lines appended to another entry. "Greater" Quilon, Chola, Chola of the Western Ocean, and Iiayile were all in the general area of southern India usually referred to as the Malabar and Coromandel coasts. While their exact locations are uncertain, they were on the general itinerary of a fleet whose main destination was Calicut and whose other known stopping points included Ceylon, Quilon, and Cochin.

Some writers have seen Ganbali as Cambay in Gujarat, "the Kambayat of the Arabs." The Zhufan Zhi of the Song writer Zhao Rugua has a chapter on Gujarat, a commercially important region on the northwestern coast of India that both Ma Huan and Fei Xin ignore. The port city of Cambay sits at the head of a long, funnel-shaped bay that concentrates the daily tides into a wavelike bore that is a considerable hazard to navigation. Zheng He's largest ships were most comfortable in smooth tropical seas and brown waters like the river leading to Palembang; they would have been at risk in a tidal bore or other rough waters. Ganbali has also been identified as Coimbatore in southern India. This city is not only inland but, unlike Nanjing and Palembang, both of which are inland yet very important in Zheng He's story, it cannot be reached by water.

 If Ganbali was Coimbatore and Zheng He visited it, he had to do so by going overland. This is not an insurmountable objection; Zheng He was certainly on land when he fought his battles in Ceylon and against Sekandar in Sumatra, but it is nonetheless unusual that Coimbatore should be the only one of Zheng He's destinations that could not be reached by sea. Cape Comorin, at the southern tip of India, is another possibility for the location of Ganbali and nearby Abobadan. Cape Comorin is transcribed on the Mao Kun map included in the Wubei Zhi as Ganbali Headland (tou). 'This problem cannot be resolved conclusively, but a location in southern India for both places would be most consistent with the general pattern of Zheng He's voyages.

In the Malay-Indonesian world the voyages of Zheng He, had an impact by contributing to the rise of Malacca. Elsewhere Zheng He's voyages had a less lasting influence. Major continental monarchies like Thailand and Bengal were not trade-dependent and would have sought or avoided diplomatic relations with China for their own reasons, regardless of the presence or absence of Zheng He's fleet. For the smaller, weaker, and more trade-dependent coastal states of India, Arabia, and Africa, and the islands of the Indian Ocean the presence of Zheng He's huge ships and the powerful army they transported was overwhelming but ephemeral. Zheng He's mission was to enforce outward compliance with the norms of China 's by now ancient tributary system of foreign relations. Most rulers were wise enough to comply, and they benefited both from outright Chinese gifts and from the opportunities for illicit trade that Zheng He's large-capacity ships no doubt provided. When Zheng He's fleets stopped sailing, China 's diplomatic relations with these countries ceased.

Zheng He's first three voyages kept his ships and men in continuous overseas deployment from 1405 to 1411, "Broken by two brief periods of turnaround in China in 1407 and 1409. Each of the three voyages took the same basic route: to Champa, up the Straits of Malacca to northern Sumatra, then straight across the Indian Ocean to Ceylon and on to Calicut and other destinations on India's southwest coast. The outward voyage coincided with the winter monsoon, and the return voyage with the summer monsoon of the following year. Emperor Yongle took an active personal interest in their outcome. Afterward, the building of the new capital at Beijing-Beiling, and his campaigns in Mongolia increasingly dominated the emperor's attention.

But Calicut was truly "the Great Country of the Western Ocean " in the opinion of Ma Huan, the Muslim author of the Yingyai Shenglan, who took part in Zheng He's voyages. Its port was a free trade emporium and point of exchange for the trans-Indian Ocean seaborne trade. The royal title of Calicut 's rulers was Samutiri, a Malayalam word for "Sea King" that was transcribed Shamidixi in Chinese and later transformed by the Portuguese into the familiar "Zamorin" of later accounts. Succession to the throne was matrilineal, the king being succeeded by his sister's son, as in later south Indian states. Because of both the geography of the Indian Ocean and the seasonal nature of the monsoon winds, this trade tended to be segmented into western (from and to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf) and eastern (from and to Sumatra and Malaya) halves, and Calicut had outperformed its rivals on the west coast of India in the competition to be the port where the two halves met.

Ma Huan describes the class systems of Calicut and Cochin in almost identical terms: the king belongs to an upper class called Nanhun in Chinese, which is believed to refer to (Brahman priests and Kshatriya?) warriors in combination; the latter were very rare in southern India. Muslims are the second class listed, followed by the Chetty class of moneyed property owners, and the ordinary Malayalam speaking population, called Geling in Chinese, from Kling, which usually refers to Tamils, but Ma Huan did not distinguish the Tamil and Malayali peoples.

Muslims are prominent in the administration of the kingdom, reflecting the fact that the kingdom lived by trade and that (despite a Chinese presence that was to prove temporary) Muslim sailors controlled the Indian Ocean trade. Indeed, this trade was the major vehicle for the propagation of the Islamic faith in the Indonesian archipelago.

The foreign embassies who had come to China at the end of the sixth voyage (1421-22) of Zheng Hi arrived at court only in 1423 because of the time needed to transit overland or through the Grand Canal to Beijing. They included envoys from Brava and Mogadishu in Africa and from Hormuz and Aden in Arabia. Since then Malacca had sent tribute twice (1424, 1426), Semudera once (1426), Thailand three times (1426-28), Champa, badly affected by Chinese recognition in 1427 of the renewed independence of Vietnam-three times (1427, 1428, 1429), and the declining Majapahit kingdom on Java four times (1426-29). Except for Bengal, whose solitary tribute mission of 1429 was the most distant to arrive by sea in this period, those were all of the embassies from the countries on Zheng He's normal itinerary. The virtual cessation of diplomatic activity after 1422 indicates clearly that the overwhelming military power represented by Zheng He's fleet-the Xiafan Guanjun, or Foreign Expeditionary Armada-was the key to maintaining the kind of diplomatic relationships that Emperor Yongle, at least, wanted to have with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean .

For the very last voyage (1431-33of Zheng Hethere is a detailed itinerary, Xia Xiyang ("Down to the Western Ocean"), which is preserved in the miscellany Qianwcn Ji ("A Record of Things Once Heard") of Zhu Yunming (1461-1527), a reclusive scholar of the Soochow (Suzhou) area who became famous for his unconventional views and for his attacks on the Neoconfucianism that had become a stifling orthodoxy in his lifetime. The Qianwcn Ji in turn was included in the collection Jilu Huibian (literally, "Collection of Records," published about 1617), which included many unofficial accounts of military campaigns and related activities in the early part of the Ming.

According to the Xia Xiyang the fleet of the seventh voyage departed Longwan (Dragon Bay at Nanjing, near the Longjiang, ' Shipyard) on 19 January 1431. Four days later they came to Xushan, an island in the mid-Yangtze whose current identity is uncertain, where they hunted animals by beating them into a circle in the manner made famous by the Mongols. On 2 February 1431 they went by Fuzi Passage (now Baimaosha channel) into the broader waters of the estuarial Yangtze, and on the next day reached Liujiagang. Liujiagang is 184 miles from Nanjing, according to modern charts, and the fleet went slowly on this leg of its voyage. How long they remained there is not certain, but Zheng He and his colleagues were in no hurry, having planned to forfeit the 1430-31 winter monsoon and to spend the rest of 1431 organizing the fleet and-not necessarily a secondary purpose-completing temples to Tianfei.

The fleet then left Liujiagang and arrived at Changle (here called Changlegang, 402 miles from Liujiagang) on 8 April 1431, where they remained until mid-December. Toward the end of this period Zheng He and his associates erected the Changle inscription, which described the extensive work done on the Tianfei temples while the fleet was in residence. The long layover was dictated by the need to wait for the winter monsoon, but since the decision to begin the overseas voyage with the 1432 winter monsoon was certainly deliberate, it is probable that the fleet left Nanjing essentially empty and was fully ph)visioned and otherwise fitted out at Changle. This may have been the normal practice for all of the voyages.

The fleet went out through Pive Tiger Passage (Wuhumen), the normal route used by the fleet to leave the Min River estuary, on 12 January 1432 and arrived at Zhan City (Zhancheng; the term usually refers to the kingdom of Champa, but here it refers to its capital near present-day Qui Nhon in Vietnam) on 27 January. Zhan City was the first overseas stop of the fleet on all seven voyages. Ma Huan says that it could be reached from Fujian in ten days with a favorable wind, but the Xia Xiyang notes that this particular voyage took sixteen days, which we must shorten to fifteen since neither the departure date nor the arrival date can count as a full day of sailing. The distance sailed is 1,046 miles on modern charts, which works out to about 70 miles per day, or an average sustained fleet speed of about 2.5 knots (one knot is 1.15 miles per hour; the nautical mile used for computing these speeds is 6,116 feet).

The fleet left Zhan City on 12 February 1432 and reached Java on 7 March. Here again the 25 recorded sailing days must be reduced to 24 full days. Ma Huan does not give sailing directions, but Fei Xin gives "twenty days and nights from Zhan City" as the duration of a typical voyage to Java. The Xia Xiyang notes that the port of destination was Surabaya (Silumayz), well to the east on the island of Java and near the historical heartland of the Majapahit kingdom. The distance sailed on this leg is 1,383 miles on modern sailing charts. The fleet needed to sail west of Borneo before turning east into the Java Sea, and the voyage to Surabaya would require tacking rather than just running before the monsoon winds. The average speed on this leg was about 58 miles per day, or 2.1 knots.

The fleet remained in Java waters for months, setting sail only on 13 July 1432 and arriving at Palembang (Old Harbor) on 24 July. This time the Xia Xiyang records the length of the voyage correctly as eleven days, and the distance sailed is 756 miles from Surabaya to the mouth of the Musi River leading to Palembang, for an average speed of about 69 miles per day, or 2.5 knots-or perhaps somewhat faster, since the end phase of the voyage involved moving at least some of the ships up the river to Palembang itself. One of the unanswered questions of the Zheng He voyages concerns whether his largest ships sailed up the river to Palembang; the silence of the sources on this question argues that they did, which is further indication of their shallow draught. Again Ma Huan gives no sailing directions, but Fei Xin gives "eight days and nights from Java" as the duration of a normal voyage to Palembang.

The fleet did not remain long at Palembang; it departed on / 27 July 1432 and arrived at Malacca on 3 August after a voyage that the Xia Xiyang reckons as seven days. The distance is 354 miles from the mouth of the Musi River and the average speed about 51 miles per day, or 1.8 knots. This part of the voyage included some difficult navigation: down the river from Palembang, through the narrow Bangka Strait , and past the Lingga and Riau archipelagos, whose piratical maritime populations were normally a threat to shipping but apparently not to Zheng He's armada. Ma Huan's sailing directions to Malacca are eight days with a fair wind from Zhan City to Longya Strait (Singapore Strait), then two days west (actually, northwest). Fei Xin says eight days and nights from Palembang, essentially the duration of the voyage in 1432.

Leaving Malacca on 2 September 1432, the fleet reached Semud era on 12 September after a voyage of (and recorded as) ten days. Semudera is the present Lhokseumawe district in the region of northern Sumatra, now commonly known as Aceh; it is 375 miles northwest of Malacca. The leisurely progression of Zheng He's fleet on this leg of the voyage works out to an average speed of less than 1.4 knots. The winds might have been bad; Ma Huan says five days and nights with fair wind from Malacca will get a ship to Semudera, but Fei Xin gives nine days and nights, closer to the actual duration of this leg of the voyage in 1432.

Semudera and the little countries that were its neighbors were more important for their location than for their wealth or their products, and Ma Huan wrote that Sell1udera was "the most important place of assembly [for ships going to[ the Western Ocean ." On 2 November 1432 Zheng He's fleet set sail from Semudera, and on 28 November it reached Beruwala (Bieluoli; given in a note in Xia Xiyang) on the west coast of Ceylon after a 26-day voyage that the Xia Xiyang incorrectly records as 36 days. This voyage is 1,096 miles for modern ships, and Zheng He's fleet in late 1432 traveled it at an unimpressive average speed of 42 miles per day, or 1.5 knots. This was the most frightening leg of the voyage. Cyclones develop in the Bay of Bengal and the adjoining sections of the Indian Ocean, and voyagers in Zheng He's day had no way to predict them other than by a general awareness of the seasons. The fleet was far from land in all directions, calculating its Course by dead reckoning and relying on the help of the Goddess for its safety; the references to immense waterspaces and huge waves.

The fleet left Ikruwala on 2 December 1432 and arrived at Calicut on 10 December. The Xia Xiyang reckons the voyage as nine days, which we must shorten to eight. The length of this leg was 408 miles, giving an average speed of 51 miles per day, or 1.8 knots.

On 14 December then, the fleet left Calicut bound for Hormuz, which they reached on 17 January 1433 after a voyage that the Xia Xiyang reckons as 35 days, which we must reduce to 34 full days. The elapsed distance was 1,461 miles, which works out to an average speed of 43 miles per day, or 1.6 knots. Ma Huan gives 25 days and nights from Calicut (and Fei Xin an utterly improbable ten days and nights) as the duration of a normal voyage.

Hormuz is the westernmost destination mentioned in the Xia Xiyang, and the fleet, or at least the main poriipn of it, remained there for less than two months, beginning its return voyage on 9 March 1433. Reference to other sources, primarily the Mingshi, however makes it seem that seventeen countries, other than the eight destinations listed in the Xia Xiyang, were visited by ships and/or ambassadors connected with the expedition. In the five cases of Canbali (Coimbatore), Lasa, Djofar, Mogadishu and Brava, the Mingshi explicitly mentions Zheng He in connection with the seventh expedition.

The visit of elements of Zheng He's fleet to Thailand on the seventh voyage is not mentioned in the Mingshi, but the enduring relationship of Thailand with Ming China paralleled Zheng He's voyages rather than being a part of them in the strict sense. The little countries of Aru, Nagur, Lide, and Lambri were near neighbors of Semudera in northern Sumatra, and they certainly received visits from one or more of Zheng He's ships as the armada passed through. Whether the Andaman and Nicobar island chains should properly be called a "country" might be debated, but the fleet's visit there is solidly attested by Fei Xin's account, dated within the 26-day period of the fleet's passage between Sumatra and Ceylon. Quilon and Cochin are on the way to Calicut, and Coimbatore (if it was Canbali) could be visited only by someone who went overland from Calicut. For other reasons it seems likely that a substantial detachment of the fleet operated from Calicut after Zheng He took the main body to Hormuz, so an overland mission of that kind was possible even if it was not led by Zheng He in person.

This accounts for nine of the seventeen countries, in addition to the eight destinations mentioned in the Xia Xiyang, that were probably visited by Zheng He's last expedition. The other eight are Bengal, the Laccadive and Maldive island chains, four locations in Arabia (Djofar, loasa, Aden, and Mecca) and two in Africa (Mogadishu and Brava). The eunuch Hong Bao, one of Zheng He's colleagues and collaborators in both the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions, and the Chinese envoy to Thailand in 1412, was involved with both Bengal and Mecca and perhaps with the others.

It seemed strange, that the chapter on Bengal came near the end of Ma Huan's book, after Aden and before Hormuz and the final chapter on Mecca. This argument adds to the circumstantial evidence supporting a detached role for Hong Bao's squadron, but there is no reason to believe that the breakup of the fleet occurred before Semudera. Hong Bao's squadron, including Ma Huan, went straight from Semudera to Bengal and then back around India to Calicut, arriving there after Zheng He and the main fleet had gone on to Hormuz. It would have to have been a powerful squadron to overawe Bengal, and this might have provided enough ships for later detachments to African and Arabian destinations.

Bengal's king Ghiyath-ud-Din (Aiyasiding) sent a tribute mission to China in 1408; in 1412 another embassy from Bengal announced the death of Ghiyath-ud-Din and the succession of his son Sa'if-ud-Din (Saiwuding). In 1414 his successor Jalalud-Din (1414-31)-described merely as "the succeeding king" by the Mingshi-had sent the giraffe described as a qilin to China, and the following year Emperor Yongle sent a ¡®Grand Director¡¯, who had accompanied Zheng He on his second and third voyages, to confer presents on "the king of this country and his queen (or queens; fei) and ministers (dachen).

The Mingshi account of Bengal then skips from 1415 to 1438, when they sent another qilin; after one more mission in 1439, tribute missions from Bengal ceased. By then Shamsud-Din Ahmad (1431--42) was king. When Ma Huan visited the country in 1432, he found Bengal hot, wealthy, and densely populated and speaking Bengali (Banggeli). He mentions that two crops of grain could be grown in one year, and he describes as an oddity the Muslim lunar calendar without intercalary months, something one would think that a Muslim like Ma Huan would have encountered before. He notes with approval government institutions that remind him of China: punishments that include beating with the light or heavy bamboo and banishment, officials with ranks (guanpin), government offices (yamen), and documents bearing seals (yinxin).

Hong Bao and Ma Huan are next seen at Calicut. Ma Huan's chapter on Mecca (Tianfang) concludes:

In the fifth year of Xuande (1430) an order was respectfully received from the imperial court that the Grand Director and eunuch official Zheng He and others were to go to the foreign countries to open and read the imperial commands and bestow gifts and rewards. A detached squadron [of the fleet] came to the country of Calicut. At this time the eunuch official and Grand Director Hong Bao saw that the said country had sent men to go there. He thereupon selected an interpreter and others, seven men in all, and sent them bearing as gifts musk, porcelains, and other things. They joined a ship of the said country and went there. They returned after a year, having bought various unusual commodities and rare valuables, including qilin (presumably giraffes, as usual), lions, "camel fowl" (tuoji, a common term for ostrich), and other such things. Also they painted an accurate representation of the Heavenly Hall. rAil of these itemsl were returned to the capital. The king of   Mecca (Moqie) also sent official ambassadors with local products, and [these were] accompanied by the interpreter land the others, in all] seven men who had originally gone there, and these were presented to the Court.

An entry for Mecca, under the same name Tianfang ("Heavenly Cube," referring to the Qa'aba) that Ma Huan uses to head his chapter, appears in the very last chapter of the Mingshi and is clearly derived from Ma Huan's account, which it repeats in slightly more elegant language. A squadron of the Chinese fleet arrived in Calicut, and men from the squadron joined a Calicut ship already scheduled to travel to Mecca. There they bought strange gems and rare treasures, as well as giraffes, lions, and ostriches for their return. "The king of that country also sent servants to accompany them as ambassadors coming with tribute to the [Ming] court," and the emperor "rejoiced and gave them even more valuable gifts [in return]."

This Mingshi passage clears up the references to the "said country" and "there" in Ma Huan's account, and it confirms that the Chinese who went to Mecca did not go on a Chinese ship. Aden therefore is as far as the Chinese fleet, or any part of it, sailed in that direction. It is certainly peculiar that the only strange and rare things that are mentioned by name as having been "bought by" (rather than presented to) the Chinese visitors (who are not described as envoys) are three fauna (giraffe, lion, ostrich) typically associated with Africa rather than Arabia. Yet Ma Huan's description of Mecca contains so much convincing detail that it is difficult to doubt that he saw it in person.

To get to Mecca, Ma Huan relates, one sails three months from Calicut to the port of Jidda and then journeys overland to Mecca. All the people speak Arabic (Alabi). The Great Mosque bears the "foreign" (fan) name of Qa'aba (Kaiabai), and near it is the tomb of Ishmael (Isma'il, Simayi). The Muslim pilgrimage and its ritual of circumambulating the Qa'aba are described, and the city of Medina is mentioned, though Ma Huan errs in making it only a day's journey from Mecca.

Since Hong Bao from Calicut sent the seven intrepid travelers on their voyage to Mecca, it is probable that he also sent squadrons or detachments of the fleet to Djofar, Lasa, and Aden on the south coast of Arabia and to Mogadishu and Brava on the Somali coast. All these locations had been visited previously, beginning with the fifth voyage, and the sailing directions for all of them in the Mingshi are various distances from Calicut (Djofar, Lasa, Aden), Quilon (Mogadishu), or Ceylon (Brava). The Maldives are also located with reference to Ceylon. One therefore imagines that the fleet, many of whose leading personnel had sailed these waters before, had peeled off detachments as it rounded Ceylon and southern India and had left a substantial squadron in Calicut under Hong Bao while the main body under Zheng He went on to Hormuz. The wording of the Mingshi entry for Mecca, the vague sailing directions given for Malindi ("a long way from China"), and the lack of sailing directions for Zhubu (located correctly as being near Mogadishu), argue that squadrons of Zheng He's fleet never visited these destinations, even though they were known to exist, and that envoys (or merchants posing as envoys) from these nations made their way to pickup points from which they could be transported to China on Zheng He's ships. It might be noted that the Mingshi does have entries on Portugal (Folangji, whose location is "near Malacca"), the Netherlands (Helan, located "near Portugal"), and Italy (Yidaliya, "located in the Great Western Ocean, and not communicated with since antiquity"), none of which was visited by Zheng He's fleet even though a later Chinese reader might think they had been from the description of their locations in the Mingshi.

The Xia Xiyang says that the main body set sail from Hormuz on 9 March 1433 and arrived in Calicut on 31 March, calling this a voyage of 23 days, which we must reckon as 22, for an impressive average speed of about 66 miles per day (1,461 miles in all), or 2.4 knots. We must infer that the squadrons sent to the other destinations had already assembled at Calicut, for the entire fleet did not remain long. On 9 April it departed Calicut, and on 25 April it reached Semudera. Again the 17 days of the Xia Xiyang must be reduced to 16 to account for the arrival and departure dates not being full days of sailing. There is no mention of a stop at Beruwala on Ceylon on the way out, and really no time for a stop there or at any of the other south Indian ports that Zheng He's fleet had visited previously, because now the winds and waves were cooperating and the fleet, no doubt running straight out before the southwest monsoon, averaged 93 miles per day, or 3.4 knots, over a stretch of open ocean that J. V. G. Mills calculated at 1,491 miles. Six days later, on 1 May, the fleet left Semudera and arrived at Malacca on 9 May; once again reducing the length of the 375-mile voyage from nine days to eight, the fleet's average speed was 47 miles per day, or 1. 7 knots.

The next entry in the Xia Xiyang says "fifth month, tenth day (28 May 1433): returning, [the fleet I arrived at the Kunlun Ocean," referring to the seas around Poulo Condore and the Con Son Islands off the southern tip of present-day Vietnam. The fleet had only reached Qui Nhon or Zhan City sixteen days later, on 13 June. Mills calculates the entire distance from Malacca to Qui Nhon as 983 miles and notes cautiously that "we are not told how many days were taken" on this leg of the voyage. It seems more likely that the fleet left Malacca on 28 May and proceeded to Zhan City at a respectable average speed of 61 miles per day, or 2.2 knots. The word hui (returning) had been used to refer to the fleet's departure from Hormuz, and its presence here suggests that the date of the fleet's arrival in the Kunlun Ocean has dropped out in the recopying process. Accepting the text as it stands would require the fleet's leaving Malacca after a stay of only a few days and then spending sixteen days moving up the Champa coast at a much lower than average rate of speed.

The fleet spent only three full days at Zhan City and then set sail on 17 June, the first day of the sixth lunar month. The Xia Xiyang records several sightings on the next leg of the voyage, incidentally providing confirmation that the navigators of Zheng He's fleet were happy to sail by landmarks when they could find them, rather than by dead reckoning. The fleet did not anchor until it came to Liujiagang (here called Taicang, from the name of the prefecture) on the 21st day, or 7 July 1433. Mills reckons this leg at 1,429 miles; Zheng He's fleet had accomplished the voyage in 20 days at an average speed of 71 miles per day, or 2.6 knots.

The average speed on these thirteen measured legs of the seventh voyage was 58 miles per day, or 2.1 knots. The better performance on the Calicut to Semuclera leg of the return voyage probably reflects the full force of the monsoon winds driving the ships. The Chinese term shunfeng used in the sailing directions found in the sources, which Mills translates as "with a fair wind," might also be translated as "running before the wind." It implies wind from straight aft or on either quarter, so that the ship is not delayed by tacking.

By the standards of Western navies during the sailing ship era, these speeds are not high. In 1805 Lord Nelson with ten ships of the line-large warships designed for fighting power rather than speed-crossed the Atlantic at an average speed of 135 miles per day, or 4.9 knots. Mid-nineteenth-century clipper ships, during a period in which sail and steam were in serious competition, often achieved sustained speeds in the double digits.

According to the Xia Xiyang, the fleet commanded by Zheng He "arrived in the Capital" on 22 July, and five days later its personnel were rewarded with ceremonial robes, other valuables, and paper money. These events are not mentioned in the Xuanzong Shilu, but the latter source does have one final entry related to Zheng He's voyages: Xuande, eighth year, intercalary eighth month, xinhai, the first day of the month (14 September 1433). The king of Semudera Zainuliabiding (Zain al-'Abidin) sent his younger brother Halizhi Han and others, the king of Calicut Bilima sent his ambassador Gebumanduluya and others, the king of Cochin Keyili sent his ambassador Jiabubilima and others, the king of Ceylon Bulagemabahulapi (Parakramabahu VI) sent his ambassador Mennidenai and others, the king of Djofar Ali (Ali) sent his ambassador Hazhi Huxian (Hajji Hussein) and others, the king of Aden Mowukenasier (AI-Malik az-Zahir Yahya b. Isma'il) sent his ambassador Puha and others, the king of Coimbatore (Devaraja) sent his ambassador Duansilijian and others, the king of Hormnz Saifuding (Sa'if-ud-Din) sent the foreigner (fcmren) Malazu and others, the king of "Old Kayal" (Jiayile) sent his ambassador Aduruhaman (Abd-ur-RahnJ;]n) and others, and the king of Mecca (here Tianfang) sent the headman (toumu) Shaxian and others. [They all] came to court and presented as tribute giraffes (qilin), elephants, horses, and other goods. The emperor said: "We do not have any desire for goods from distant regions, but we realize that they [are offered] in full sincerity. Since they come from afar they should be accepted, but [their presentation] is not cause for congratulations."

The emperor's remarks are not as ungracious as they seem; the "congratulations" that he rejects are the flattery of officials and courtiers to the effect that his virtuous rule has attracted yet another qilin to China. Yet obviously the emperor's remarks do not have the "full sincerity" that he claimed to detect in the presentation of tribute. The emperor himself had noted that tribute missions from the Western Ocean countries had ceased after the sixth of Zheng He's voyages, and he certainly understood that the tribute missions whose offerings he was disparaging were the result of the reappearance of Zheng He's armada in those waters. This final, if oblique, reference to Zheng He's expeditions in the primary sources is thus added proof that the function of the voyages was to enforce outward compliance with the forms of the Chinese tributary system by the show of an overwhelming armed force. The emperor did not live to see the long-range consequences of this, but the tribute missions from the Western Ocean countries had again ceased, this time forever.

 

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