By Manik Kumar
During the early 1400s in China, there existed a naval explorer who extended the realms of his empire’s knowledge and power far beyond any civilization in the world at the time. The name of this legendary navy admiral was Zheng He. He was found by Zhu Di, a Ming prince at the time, on one of his purges to eradicate the Mongols. Zheng He was one of the boys that was castrated there (Menzies, 20), but was then recruited into Zhu Di’s house, and trained as a soldier. In time, Di became the emperor, and Zheng He became his trusted right hand man and the Grand Eunuch, which was the highest title apart from Emperor (Menzies, 24). Due to his trustworthiness, Zhu Di entrusted Zheng He with the task of commanding the entire Ming navy to conquer the world (Menzies, 26, 37). He had 1,681 ships built for this purpose, many of them gigantic treasure fleets that were larger than any ship at the time, or any that would be built for the next 100 years (Gronewald)! The first voyage was commenced with an elaborate ceremony by the emperor himself, and Zheng He left with 317 enormous ships and a crew numbering about 28,000 (Gronewald). But why all the extravagance? Why all the massive show of power? What were they setting out to do, conquer the whole world? Yes, that is exactly what they had in mind. The aims of the Ming armada and emperor were to unite the “barbarians beyond the seas” under the tributary system, chart all the oceans, and bring trade routes and hubs under their influence and subsequent command (Menzies, 26). Basically, they aspired to become the most powerful empire in the world. The Ming achieved that prestigious position, but with two major unexpected consequences. One of these out-of-the-blue outcomes was that, the main reason that Zhu Di’s magnificent capital, the Forbidden City (known today as Beijing), was built, was upon the...