CHP-093-Zheng He Part 2

We continue on with the voyages of Zheng He.  This time we we look at some of the highlights from all seven voyages.  Then after the Yong Le and Xuan De emperors pass from the scene, no further emperors are interested to put their seal of approval on any more of these pricey expeditions.  With historic consequences, China’s focus turns to protection from the west and northwest of the country rather than engaging in diplomacy and further exploration of the seas and distant lands.

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  • Hongwu Emperor 洪武帝 Founding emperor of Ming (Zhu Yuanzhang)
  • Lin’an 临安市 City in Zhejiang, near Hangzhou, capital of Southern Song
  • Jianwen 建文帝 2nd Ming emperor and nemesis of Yong Le
  • Mazu 妈祖 Goddess of Sea, Protector of sailors
  • Da Ge Da  大哥大  A big big brother
  • Ma Huan 马欢 Young Muslim chronicler of several of the voyages of Zheng He.
  • Ying-Yai-Sheng-Lan  瀛涯胜览 The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores – Ma Huan’s book about his observations during the voyages
  • Shaoxing 绍兴 City in Zhejiang near Ningbo, home of Shaoxing wine and many famous people from Chinese history
  • Lu Xun 鲁迅 One of China’s greatest writers of modern times
  • Zhou Enlai 周恩来 China’s great revolutionary and premier
  • Xi Shi 西施 One of the Four Classical Beauties of China who lived during the Spring & Autumn Period
  • Lu You   陆游 One of China’s greatest poets who lived during the period of the Southern Song
  • Wang Xizhi 王羲之 Ancient Jin Dynasty man of letters, considered one of the greatest calligraphers of all time
  • Qiu Jin  秋瑾 Early Chinese feminist and writer during last years of the Qing. Executed by the Qing government
  • Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 Peking Univ president whose writings helped inspire the May Fourth Movement
  • Wen Lai 文莱 Brunei Darussalam
  • Wang Jinghong 王景洪  Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Hou Xian Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Da Bao En Si 大报恩寺 The Temple of Repaid Gratitude, also known as the Porcelain Pagoda (or Porcelain Tower)
  • Nanjing Taota  南京陶塔 The Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing
  • qilin  麒麟 One of the four sacred mythical animals of ancient China
  • Paimapi  拍马屁  To flatter someone (literally pat the horse’s rump)
  • Zhou Man  周满 Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Zhou Wen   Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Yang Qing  Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Hong Bao 洪保 Great Eunuch admiral of Zheng He’s treasure fleet
  • Fei Xin  费信 Author of the Xing Cha Sheng Lan, along with Ma Huan, one of the great chroniclers of the times
  • Gong Zhen Another chronicler from the times of Zheng He’s voyage
  • Xing Cha Sheng Lan  星槎勝览  Description of the Starry Raft, Fei Xin’s chronicle of his voyages during the time of Zheng He
  • Niushou 牛首山  Bull’s Head Hill in Nanjing



An envoy from a faraway land presents a “Qilin” (麒麟) to the Yongle Emperor


  • Thanks for another great episode. I first learned of Zheng He through Gavin Menzies book back in 2005, and, not encumbered by any other significant knowledge of Chinese history, thought it was an interesting read.

    I still think it’s an interesting book, but for other reasons. Having somebody challenge accepted wisdom is a great way to refine that narrative and perhaps even see things in new lights. In this podcast I think I picked up that you’re not terribly convinced by his theories either, which should make for a good next episode!

    Thanks for your continued work on the podcast!

    • It’s mos def a great and interesting read. He also surrounds his theories with a very good and detailed history of the times (in better detail than I gave). Next time I’ll simply present his version and also give the rebuttals against what he said.

    • Professor Morris’ presentation gave me a new untirsdandeng of Chinese history and culture, and I got two main takeaways.First was untirsdandeng the pride the Chinese have of their history. Being the first to invent paper, gunpowder, and countless technology, I can understand why the Chinese are so proud of their history. As a Chinese American, I related well to this topic because I have experienced first hand people expressing their pride about Chinese history and culture. I was excited to see Dr. Morris present the rich history of the Chinese culture, and it made me much more interested in learning about my culture. The second take away I had relates to Chinese history. I had understood that there was animosity between the Chinese and Japanese, but never truly understood why. Dr. Morris explained that this animosity was a large result of World War II, and the Japanese invasion of China. After hearing this, I was determined to learn more about this event. I know about the Japanese invasion during WWII, but I do not know any details. A book someone suggested I read was The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. I will definitely report my findings after I read the book (I plan to Winter Quarter). Dr. Morris’ presentation made me much more aware and proud of my culture. I am very excited to learn more about the history of China, and especially for this trip.

  • Laslo, I love your podcasts. I very much enjoyed Menzies’s books, especially one of his latest ones where he claims that Zheng He’s voyage triggered the European Renaissance. I find his arguments plausible. The Chinese civilization was more advanced at the time.

        • One of the Things Dr. Morris talked about that stood out most for me was his assmnseest of the freedoms of speech and association in China.The biggest surprise was his comment that there is virtually no restriction on individual speech. This runs counter to the image that we are frequently presented with in the media, of a China where one foul word will land a person in the hands of the state police. But it helps to explain the existence of places like English Corner. I had wondered how such a place would be allowed to exist with the active censorship the Chinese government pursues. What is the advantage to restricting Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Wikipedia if one coulod simply speak the same words in English Corner?His clarification that it is not so much speech but assembly that the Chinese government restricts helps to explain this. One may be free to say anything but once it becomes an organization or a movement is when it becomes a concern. It seems that the Chinese government does not have aims to force a certain line of thinking but does try to maintain its hold on power and strike down any assemblance of people that could challenge the authority. It is the difference between a bee and a hive. However, this leads me to wonder where the line is between speaking to another and forming a subversive group. I think this is where the gray area in free speech really shows up. Is one person just speaking his mind or is he starting a movement? Judging from what Dr. Morris talked about, it sounds like the line is where the government detects a challenge to its monopoly on authority and political control.This image of a police-state-China sounds oppresive but this country has its parallel in the McCarthy trials and Communist blacklists. We’d like to say it’s wrong of China for China to do it, but it’s probably difficult for the Chinese to listen to our moral lessons when we have our own history of restricting political assembly. But I’d like to think we’ve moved past it. Will China?

  • Dr. Morris’ insightful lertcue was beneficial to me in several aspects. First, he presented the material from the perspective of which we rarely view Chinae2€a6from what the Chinese want us to know about their culture. This is enormously beneficial as our views about history are often skewed after growing up learning history from an American perspective, lauding ourselves. I found it interesting how the Chinese have invented so many essential items which western inventors later e2€˜discovered’ as this is most Americans believe as the truth. I was also pondering how the Chinese did not take individual credit for revolutionary inventions, while Americans are in every history book for a similar feate2€a6 Dr. Morris aided our visualization about how the China is currently in a depression and how their nationalistic country is on the rise. I thought the music played during the presentation, especially from father of Chinese rock , Cui Jian was a unique way of presenting how there is a diversity of rebels against the Chinese government and authority. For me, Cui Jian seemed like a cross between the Rolling Stones and Rage against the Machine, singing in Chinese. Additionally, comparing the two Chinese e2€˜Wang’s’ was a great way for the audience to conceptualize how nationalistic China ise2€a6It will be interesting to see how China presents themselves as a country in the 2008 Olympics.After hearing about Admiral Zheng He’s armada and his 440 foot Treasure Ships I was also, truly, amazed. Growing up in a port city and spending a good deal of time around boats, I’m still amazed by a ship or yacht over 150 feet. It must have seemed like a dream 600 years ago to see these massive 400+ ft. ships cruising the near shore waters. This fact really brought home the point about how rich and dominant China has been before Europe and the United States took the upper hand. By the waye2€a6I was not aware Maaskamp had a twin who works for Cal Poly.

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