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Zheng's Contribution to World Regional Geography - Research Paper Example

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This essay is concerned with the exploratory voyages of Chinese Muslim Zheng He, and why this did not lead to Chinese hegemony. It considers the differences between these expeditions and those of other medieval explorers such as Vasco de Gama, and how Zheng He’s achievements are now being interpreted…
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Zhengs Contribution to World Regional Geography
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Download file to see previous pages Introduction Zheng He (1371-1435) may not be as well-known, at least in the west, as other explorers of medieval times such as Magellan and Columbus, even though he was earlier and covered a larger area. According to Bishop et al (2004, page 21) he was castrated while very young and taken from his home to the Beijing palace. However according to Israeli ( 2001) the admiral had already decided as a child, after hearing tales from his father, that he would travel across the seas and reach Mecca, the religious center of Islam. In order to do this however he lost home, family, his ethnicity and even his inherited religion of Islam. They cite the legend that even his name was invented. Background Working during what Iwabuchi et al refer ( 2004, page 129) to ‘ the expansive period of the Ming dynasty’ although not widely known, Zheng He is still remembered. In 2004 there were celebrations to mark the 6ooth year since his first voyage, although Jin Wu, a distinguished oceanic scientist, admits that the literature on his discoveries is thin on the ground. According to Gunde ( 2004), following orders given by the then emperor Yongle, and later by his successor, Xuande. Bloom ( 2010) claims that the emperor was aware that:- The influx of foreign goods and currency would help swell his war chest, and, by enhancing his esteem abroad would help buttress his claim to the throne.’. Zheng He, a eunuch in the imperial service, led seven exploratory expeditions, beginning in 1405 and the last setting out in 1430. The emperor ordered the first voyage when he acceded to the throne and they ceased when he died. Rather strangely perhaps Finlay says that there is no way in which Zheng He could be regarded as an explorer, but purely as a military man acting on behalf of a very militaristic emperor. ( Finlay 2000, page 295) Finlay goes on to describe the controversy as to the long term value of the voyages ( Finlay 2000, page 296) describing how Needham had seen Zheng He as scholar leading a scholarly enterprise, in contrast to the aggressively colonizing men who followed him out into unknown seas over the next two centuries. He also cites Janet Abu-Lughod who declared that historians believe it is impossible to solve the riddle of why Zheng He’s voyages failed to lead on to world dominance for China. Also quoted is William McNeill who in 1998 said that “Chinese navigators might well have rounded Africa and discovered Europe before Prince Henry the Navigator died (in 1460)." Yet, just like Columbus who came later Zheng He :- often did not really even know where he was, believed that India was centered in the Middle East and that Christianity and Islam as well as Buddhism originated there. ( Bloom 2010) His purposes and achievements. When the Han Chinese people overthrew the Mongol invaders and created the Ming Dynasty late in the14th Century, as described by Bloom ( 2010) they inherited the already established fleet of ships, as well as a wide spread network of trade routes. The voyages of Zheng He built on these. The expeditions set out west from China, the first voyage reaching Sri Lanka, ( Maritime Lanka, undated) and later his ships went as far as the Cape of Good Hope on the southernmost tip of South Africa, building , at least for a time, a trading empire without imperialism, although Finlay ( 2000, page 294) , says that merchants were less important to the expeditions than the astronomers and geomancers i.e. those who measured the earth, as well as doctors and naturalists searching for new pharmacological useful materials. The mariners had two purposes – to let the world see the glories of the Ming dynasty, and also to enable the emperor to collect ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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