AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

China at sea during the Ming Dynasty

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, February 3, 2007

If ever a first paragraph compelled a reader to finish the entire article, this is it:

During the early years of the Ming dynasty, the Chinese eunuch Zheng He was the commander of the greatest state-directed voyages in the age of sail. Zheng’s seven vast armadas, with crews and soldiers numbering about 27,000, included the largest wooden ships ever built. Beginning in 1405, these voyages were the first projection of Chinese Imperial power by sea over vast distances, reaching across the Indian Ocean to the eastern shores of Africa. They were also the last.

Thus begins Jonathan Mirsky’s review of ZHENG HE: China and the oceans in the early Ming dynasty 1404–1433, by Edward L. Dreyer. The entire review is here at the Times Literary Supplement.

Minsky says, “This is indeed a stupendous story,” and I couldn’t agree with him more.

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