The Chinese Voyages of Exploration
Succeeded by the non-Chinese Qing Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty is considered to be the last native dynasty to exist. The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644 and is known as the greatest era of social stability and organized government (European). Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty; he is also known as Hongwu, Taizu, and Ming Taizu. Hongwu died in 1382, leaving his grandson, Huidi, the next heir. However, Chengzu, or Yongol, created a military campaign to seize the thrown. This started a three year civil war, but Yongol overcame Huidi and took the thrown as emperor in 1403. Yongol wanted all other countries to fear his Dynasty’s power and see it as being the strongest (Asia). He created an expansion plan of China’s tribute system and as a result Zheng He was appointed to lead seven voyages (Europe). Zheng He, a muslim eunuch, was captured at the age of ten and was given the task of grouping boys to be castrated.
During the time of the voyages, China’s technology was used to help build these massive ships that set sail. Known as “treasure ships,” these 400 feet long and 600 feet wide boats were equipped with nine sails, four decks, and armed with twelve cannons. There were also separate watertight compartments that had been recently invented. There were two major advantages of these compartments. One was if the ship was hit, it would not sink and the second was that it offered a way of carrying water for the passengers, animals, and fish. Another invention that was put onto these ships was sternpost rudders. Sternpost rudders were used to maneuver in crowded harbors and narrow channels and were easily attached to the outside rear (Asia). The Chinese would navigate by using a compass and sailing directions.
Over the past 300 years, China had been strengthening its power in sea. A network of trade had been established in relation to their growing need for spices, herbs, and raw materials. Zheng He...
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