CHP-092-Zheng He Part 1

zLaszlo is back after more than two weeks on the lam.  This time we look at part 1 of a series featuring the great adventurer/explorer/diplomat Zheng He.  Zheng He’s seven voyages to India, Persia and the east coast of Africa created a big sensation in the early 15th century. Today Chinese look back with pride at his achievements.  China, at this time was the richest, most technologically advanced and most powerful nation on the planet.  Zheng He’s sponsor, the emperor Yong Le, was determined, through these voyages, to let the world see for itself all the splendor and richness of China.

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  • Zhu Yuanzhang  朱元璋 Founder of the Ming Dynasty
  • Hongwu Emperor 洪武帝 Era Name of Zhu Yuanzhang
  • Ming Taizu 明太祖 Temple Name of Zhu Yuanzhang
  • Zhu Di  朱棣 The Prince of Yan, Yongle Emperor, Ming Chengzu
  • Yong Le Emperor 永乐帝 3rd Emperor of the Ming, after Jianwen
  • Yan 燕 Ancient State located around present day Beijing
  • Yanjing 燕京 Capital of Yan State (Zhu Di’s turf)
  • Beiping 北平 Yanjing renamed to Beiing (later renamed to Beijing)
  • Dadu 大都 Name of present day Beijing during Yuan Dynasty
  • Ma He 马和 Zheng He’s birth name
  • Kunyang 昆阳 Yuan dynasty government based here (present day 晋宁)
  • Dian Chi 滇池 Lake Dian (near Kunming, Yunan)
  • Xibei Sanma 西北三马 The Ma’s of the Northwest
  • Fu Youde 傅友德 Tusty and effective general of Zhu Yuanzhang
  • Zhu Biao 朱标 Zhu Yuanzhang’s first son
  • Zhu Yunwen 朱允文 The name of the later Jianwen Emperor
  • Jianwen Emperor 建文帝 2nd Ming Dynasty emperor after Hongwu and before Yong Le
  • Wang Mang 王莽 Han Dynasty official famous for usurping the throne and founding short lived Xin Dynasty (9AD)
  • Longjiang 龙江 The Longjiang Shipyards where most of the ships were built
  • Qinhuai River 秦淮河 Largest river in Nanjing
  • Jingdezhen 景德镇 Most famous and historic center in China for ceramics. Located in Jiangxi 江西
  • Baochuan 宝船 Treasure Boat (the biggest of the vessels that sailed in Zheng He’s fleet)
  • zhang 丈 Chinese unit of measure equal to 10 Chi
  • Chi  尺 Chinese unit of measure equal to 12-13 inches
  • Tianfei 天飞 Also called 妈祖 Goddess of the Sea and protector of sailors
  • Hai Jin 海禁 The Ban on sea trade put into effect by the Hongwu Emperor
  • Han Libao 汉丽宝 Known as Hang Li Po in Malaysia, great granddaughter of Yongle Emperor given to Sultan of Malacca
  • Bukit Cina (Malay) China Hill (in Malacca) where earliest Chinese settlement can be found
  • Baba and Nyonya (Malay) Name of the original Chinese settlers in the Straits of Malacca (also known as Straits Chinese)
  • Chen Zuyi 陈组义 Notorious Cantonese pirate based in Palembang, Sumatra who was defeated by Zheng He on his return back to China after Voyage One
  • Gavin Menzies: British author of two controversial books on Zheng He that we will discuss in the next episode
The Treasure Ships 宝船 of Zheng He’s fleet were over 440 feet long and 165 feet wide. They were the largest and most magnificent vessels of their day.


  • Lazlo

    I have spent the last 1.5 years listening keenly to your podcast, in my car and usually going home from work.

    This is the episode Zheng He I eagerly await to hear. I have sent you an email more than a year ago suggesting you attempt this topic and thank you, it is now here.

    I now live in Australia but I was born in Malaysia and came to Oz in the mid 70s. I am third generation Chinese – my grand father left guangzhou in the later 1800s to seek a better life in Malaysia. I am therefore very anxious to hear your spill on Zheng He and his influence on the Malay Peninsula.

    I am now living in Australia and like my grandfather, I too travelled to a strange land seeking a better life. My 38-year journey in Australia has its own challenges – and I am proud to let you know that I have written and published my 38-year journey in an ebook – “The Yellow Banana” (by Jian Qiu Huang aka me :))

    In the end we are all migrants one way or another and it is through efforts like your podcasts and to a small extent my ebook, we contribute to the betterment of this world by bringing information to those who are yet to be awakened.

    Keep up the good work Lazlo.

    Jian Qiu Huang aka Steven

  • I am a tech guy living/traveling in Beijing for the past three years (spent many years in Japan before that) and am now very interested in China.

    What a treat to have discovered this excellent podcast. I had it on my iTunes feed for a while (can’t remember who recommended it) but finally got around to listening. Can’t wait to hear more!

    I especially loved your background info about how we know about Zheng He. It’s good that you emphasize which are original sources — something I’m disappointed I don’t see as often in other history summaries.

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