My Beautiful Wickedness

1421 and all that….
July 11, 2007, 1:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Nick has put together a fascinating post on Zheng He (sounds like Zung Ha to English speakers), the hugely influential Chinese explorer of the 15th century. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a tantalizing excerpt:

Zheng He captained seven naval expeditions to project Imperial power, protect and extend Chinese trade, and possibly vassalize far-away peoples. He assembled a huge naval fleet–317 ships holding almost 28,000 armed troops for his first voyage. By comparison, the U.S. Navy in 2007 has only 277 ships on active duty. Imagine if you were an early 15th century Indian or Arab, and saw 317 ships bearing down on your harbor! This was meant to impress (and intimidate) foreign peoples into paying China tribute.

Anybody know anything about the East India Trade? Do the Chinese compete with the Portuguese, Dutch, and English as well or do they decide to scrap maritime empire on the whole?


4 Comments so far
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I love when you mention my posts 😀

The Chinese decided to scrap maritime empire. They burned their fleet well before the Europeans geared up big-time.

Comment by Nick Dupree

One of my favorite alternate history books of recent years, The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, posits that the Chinese keep their navy because some of Zheng He’s ships circumnavigate the globe. Of course, the first 14th-century plague also wipes out 99% of Europe’s population, so everything is different. But I do love the seafaring Chinese.

Comment by nm

*winces* I had a hard time with The Years of Rice and Salt. The concept was amazing, but the execution left me tired and kind of annoyed. I gave it to my mom, and she liked it better’n I did, though … I think I just prefer my historical fiction/fantasy to be more, well, like the rest of everything I read. (My favorite example of historical fantasy world building is in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books … where the point is not so much that they’re fantastical as that they hit all of my geeky in-joke “Hey, I know that term! That’s a real thing!” buttons.)

Comment by magniloquence

Robinson isn’t my favorite writer, but I thought he did better than usual with this book. I will say that the history was much more interesting than any of the characters.

Comment by nm

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