When China Ruled the Seas

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When China Ruled the Seas Book Review

In the book, When China Ruled the Seas, Levathes tells us about seven voyages made by junk armadas during the Chinese emperor Zhu Di's reign. "Treasure ships" as they were called, were under the command of admiral Zheng He, these ships traded silk, porcelain, and many other fine objects of value. They sailed from India to East Africa, throughout Korea and Japan, and possibly as far as Australia. She believes that China might have been able to create a great colonial realm one hundred years before the Europeans explored and expanded, from China's navy of some three thousand ships. The chief purpose of the fleet was diplomatic in nature. Zhu Di's intent to make known his ascension to the dragon throne to the rest of the world, was to make it known by the most superb way possible: a vast fleet of massive ships bringing gifts. These ships in his fleet were over four hundred feet long and could carry a load of up to three thousand tons of cargo. They were by far the largest ships most people had ever seen. This created a certain intimidation that Zhu Di liked because he was concerned in having the "four corners of the earth" stoop down to China as being middle kingdom. The striking size and wealth the fleet represented would make most rulers consider beginning trade with China. The "Treasure ships" were filled to the brim with expensive goods and were taken to trading ports all over the Indian Ocean.

The treasure fleet was also accountable for reopening trading routes between eastern Asia and Africa. Due to prowling pirates in the Malaccan Strait, Zheng He was forced to take action and the pirate raids were cut back, therefore making the trade routes secure for the first time in years. Feuds between Siam and Malacca were also alleviated because of Chinese involvement. The voyages of the treasure fleet were not to inhabit foreign lands, but to open up foreign dealings and international relations. Zheng He managed this and...
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