In ancient China, concept of "Kingdom of Heaven" developed very early, they considered themselves center of world, surrounded by foreign barbarians, and believed that foreign barbarians should obey Heavenly Dynasty and pay tribute to Heavenly Dynasty. This type of thinking was especially prominent in Ming Dynasty. For China, which is based on small-scale farming, China has large land and rich resources sufficient for self-sufficiency, and does not need products of foreign barbarians, and barbarians must rely on China. Therefore, Zhu Yuanzhang listed fifteen "countries that must not be conquered" in Emperor Ming Zu Xiong in an attempt to build a tributary system centered on China.
All barbarians in four directions are bound by mountains and seas, locked in a corner, and their land is not enough to supply them, and their people are not enough to command them. If he does not condemn himself and scratches my side, then he is unfavorable. He doesn't care about China, but it's also ominous for me to raise troops and commit petty crimes. I am afraid that future generations will depend on prosperity of China, will be greedy for momentary military exploits, recruit troops for no reason, and harm lives. —— Emperor Ming Zu Xun by Zhu Yuanzhang
However, during reign of Zhu Yuanzhang, Fang Guozhen, Zhang Shicheng and other remaining forces colluded with Japanese pirate troops at sea, causing sea to not be calm. Therefore, during time of Zhu Yuanzhang, he did not have opportunity to communicate with countries far in West. After economic boom of Hongwu period, Yongle period saw national power of Ming Dynasty reach its peak. China and Japan resumed official exchange of tribute, and Japanese invasion was greatly reduced. Under such circumstances, Ming Dynasty had conditions to establish maritime contacts with overseas countries. The Yongle Emperor also inherited Zhu Yuanzhang's ideal of establishing a tributary system centered in China. Gong Zhen's "Western Fan Guo Zhi" states: "At beginning of Yongle's reign, important officials at home and abroad were sent to follow countries of Western Sea to show their goodness and strength and expand into great rules of saints."
There is much debate among historians about purpose of Emperor Yongle's sending Zheng He to West. Some people think that this is to find missing Jianwen Emperor Zhu Yunwen. The main reason is entry in History of Ming Dynasty of Zheng He's biography: "Chengzu suspected that Emperor Hui had died abroad, and wanted to find him..." Some people thought it was to unite India and other countries to deal with Timurid empire, some people think it was to promote Sino-foreign trade. But these views are either inaccurate or not deep enough. The main goal of Ming Chengzu, who sent Zheng He to West, was to create a tribute system covering whole world. himself." Of course, there is a small goal to find Zhu Yunqi. As for unification of India to fight Timur and promote Sino-foreign trade, it is fundamentally unreliable.
Since Han Dynasty, China has formed two channels of communication with outside world: one is "Land Silk Road" leading to western regions, Central Asia and Western Asia through Hexi Corridor, and other is "Maritime Silk Road". However, since founding of Ming Dynasty, Mongolia has threatened north and Eastern Chagatai Khanate to west, and Ming Dynasty's sphere of influence can only reach Hami to west. The Ming Dynasty had very limited exchanges with Central Asia and Western Asia in western regions via land routes. Therefore, development direction of Ming Dynasty can only go to sea.
The development of navigation in Ming Dynasty was inseparable from development of marine engineering and shipbuilding technology. At beginning of Ming Dynasty, China was largest shipbuilding country in world and country with most advanced shipbuilding technology. Even during Tang Dynasty, watertight compartments, vehicles, boats, balanced rudders, perforated rudders appeared in China. During Song and Yuan dynasties, ancient Chinese ships were basically refined, and famous types of ships such as "Fuchuan", "Shachuan", "Guangzhou ships" appeared. In terms of construction, lap joint method is often used to form a "fish scale" structure that makes boat tight and sealed, with high overall strength and no leakage. During Southern Song Dynasty, Chinese ships could carry over ten thousand stones and carry up to a thousand people. The equipment on board is complete, suitable for long flights. Due to large size and good design of ship, it is able to cope with harsh conditions, with "torrential waves meeting sky, and huge waves like mountains" in ocean. As far as navigation technology is concerned, acupuncture on sea routes is mainly used in combination with transoceanic stretching of stars. During day, he mainly relies on compass to determine direction, while at night he looks to astrology and a water compass to determine direction. It was also most advanced marine technology at time. Back in Yuan Dynasty, folk navigator Wang Dayuan once sailed to Africa and other places.2. Seven Journeys of Zheng He to West
In June 1405, Zheng He's fleet set off from port of Suzhou Liujia on its first long voyage. This voyage passed through countries of Indochina peninsula, crossed Strait of Malacca, and finally returned in 1407. Subsequently, from 1408 to 1430, Zheng He led fleet on six more voyages. The scale of Zheng He's travels was very large. In terms of fleet size, for first time there were 62 ships and more than 27,000 personnel. These large ships were forty-four feet long and eighteen feet wide (presumably eight feet by mistake) and could hold thousands of people, at time they were largest ships in world. Since then, every time Zheng He sailed west, his ships were held by dozens, with over 20,000 men. Most of these people are military, and among others are officials and envoys from different countries.
During Zheng He's seven journeys to West, his main activities were as follows: 1. He visited various countries and established a tribute system, 2. He carried out tribute trading; Zheng He's fleet had to visit any country before he arrived. Over course of seven voyages, Zheng He visited Java, Sumatra, Sulu, Pahang, Zhenwa, Guri, Siam, Adan, Tianfang, Zuo. These are more than 30 countries, including Farr, Krumos , Mugudusu. and others, with a geographical range from Southeast Asia to coast of Indian Ocean and East Africa. Some think that Zheng He's fleet reached Cape of Good Hope. During this process, some countries will also send ambassadors with a fleet to China. Through this exchange, China's understanding of world has deepened, and the world has also recognized China as a great country.
Zheng He's travels also played a role in stabilizing relations and political situation of countries located along coast of Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean. Before sailing to Western Seas, sea routes in Nanyang area were controlled by pirate Chen Zui. He had about 100 warships and more than 10,000 subordinates, he passed through Japan, Taiwan, South China Sea and Indian Ocean, plundering more than 10,000 ships and capturing more than 50 cities and towns. After death of Manage Wuli, king of Kibolin State of Three Buddhas, Chen Zuyi became king himself and became even more rampant. During Zheng He's first voyage to West, Chen Zui planned to attack Zheng He's fleet, but Zheng He succeeded and two sides started a sea battle. At that time, Chen Zui's pirate group killed over 5,000 people, and Chen Zui was captured and then returned Ming Dynasty and beheaded. After this battle, order of sea communication in Southeast Asia was improved. The story says that "the sea routes are clean and peaceful, and people rely on them for their work."
In addition to killing pirates, Zheng He's fleet also established relations between countries of Southeast Asia. At that time, Malacca was repeatedly invaded by Siam. During Zheng He's third voyage to West, leader of Malacca accepted canonization of Ming dynasty, and since then Siam has not dared to invade it. Zheng He never took initiative to provoke disputes with other countries and usually counterattacked passively. For example, on first voyage, passing through "Kingdom of Mana Baxi" in Java Island, two countries fought in east and west, and King Xi killed Zheng He's team by mistake. King Xi then sent envoys to apologize, but Zheng He did not retaliate. During third trip to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), king attacked Zheng He's fleet, was defeated by Zheng He, and his king was abolished by Ming dynasty. On fourth voyage, Zheng He's fleet passed through Sumatra, where a coup had just taken place. His assassination of Sugan seized throne, but Ming dynasty did not recognize his orthodox status and he was called a "false king". He led an army to intercept Zheng He's fleet and was finally captured alive by Zheng He's army.
Zheng He's fleet will also be ordered to formally canonize countries along coast. For example, after Chen Zui was eliminated for first time, Shi Jinqing of Jiugang was canonized as Jiugang's comforting envoy; during second journey, King Guli was canonized, and a stone monument was carved in memory of this; in third voyage was canonized as King of Malacca; fourth voyage bestowed title of King of Champa; fifth voyage awarded title of King of Kezhi in Southwest India. This kind of canonization largely satisfied vanity of Ming dynasty in pursuit of "kingdom of heaven."
In addition to conducting political activities, another important task of Zheng He's fleet was to trade tribute. Zheng He's fleet was loaded with porcelain, silk, brocade, gauze, musk, iron, gold and silver, etc. Every time Zheng He's fleet reached a place, he asked locals to send envoys to "pay tribute to ". Local officials, ambassadors, or merchants basically "paid tribute" to Zheng He's fleet in exchange for some local property such as valuable wood, spices, gems, pearls, and corals. Zheng He's fleet opened an official factory in Malacca, which became center of tribute trade between Ming dynasty and other countries.Third, impact of Zheng He's travels to West.
Zheng He's travels expanded Chinese understanding of world. Ma Huan, who followed Zheng He on his travels to West, wrote Yingya Shenglan, Fei Xin wrote Xingcha Shenglan, and Gong Zhen wrote Western Fanguozhi. These works introduced geography, politics, territory, humanities, language , characters, climate, products. , crafts, etc. enable China to understand world. Zheng He's Nautical Chart, left behind by Zheng He's voyages, is world's earliest surviving nautical atlas. It contains more than 530 toponyms from Southeast Asia to coast of East Africa, indicating cities, islands, navigational signs, beaches, reefs. , mountains and airways, etc.
Zheng He sea chart
However, these historical materials are mostly known only to a few people, and breadth and depth of their influence is very limited. Yang Congjian, during late Ming Dynasty, wrote Zhou Zi Lu of Special Domains, which introduced countries of Southeast Asia. However, entries in this book are full of errors, for example, it says that Sumatra is an ancient food country (Arabia), in northeast of Phan Rang, Vietnam, near snow-capped mountains and Kongling mountains; (located in Thailand), said that Sulu (southwest of Philippines) and Soli (southeast of India) are neighboring countries, and even said that Portugal was renamed country of Nambali (in northwest corner of Sumatra). It can be seen that central officials of late Ming Dynasty no longer understood overseas world.
Zheng He's travels to West not only brought overseas treasures, but also introduced some handicrafts and raw materials, which played a role in development of handicrafts in Ming Dynasty. For example, sumalicin, imported from West, was used by Chinese craftsmen to make pottery, forming a style of thick and pale blue and white during Yongle and Xuande periods. Porcelain during this period also absorbed styles of Arabic and Persian art, resulting in new types and patterns. Overall, however, Zheng He's travels had very limited promotion of domestic industry and commerce. Zheng He's travels were to replace private trade with official trade, which was also part of sea embargo policy.
The Ming Dynasty encouraged inflow trade and promoted "all countries come to DPRK" through policy of "those who come with less and more exchange". Zheng He's travels to West are epitome of this kind of tribute trading. Since Ming Dynasty rewarded tribute missions generously, countries in Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean sent tribute collection missions. For example, in ninth year of Yongle, king of Malacca brought more than 400 concubines and ministers to pay tribute to Ming Dynasty. All items are given away. All concubines and below will be rewarded. When they return, they will present king with a jade belt, a horse with a pommel, one hundred gold , five hundred platinum, 400,000 guan banknotes, 2,600 guan coins, 300 pieces of brocade gauze, 1,000 pieces of silk, and Zejin wenqi. 2". To receive this generous "reward", many foreign businessmen also came to trade with Ming Dynasty under banner of envoys, resulting in appearance of world paying tribute to Ming Dynasty, but in fact it became a tribute to world.
As a result of this tribute trade, Ming Dynasty gained reputation of "Kingdom of Heaven", while other countries gained huge benefits. The Ming Dynasty gave many awards to other countries, which caused a continuous outflow of copper coins, a shortage of domestic copper coins, and an increase in prices. The attendant said that Zou Ji once said, "Money taken abroad has been forbidden since past, but now whole world is exhausting it, which can be said to be inappropriate." In addition to spending a lot of money year after year on bounties, Zheng He's 28-year travels to West also brought in an astounding amount of money. Luo Dengmao's novel Sanbao Eunuch Western Records Romance says, "There are so many ships, production is good, and praise is great. They need to be used to save money and food from all over world before there is enough.” During reign of Yongle Emperor, one after another, ministers wrote letters, "It is not good to take treasures from abroad," suggesting that travel to the West be stopped.
In 1421, Yongle Emperor stopped his travels to West due to financial difficulties. After Emperor Renzong of Ming Dynasty Zhu Gaochi inherited throne, he issued a decree: "All treasure ships of all countries in western seas are stopped." According to Zhou Zi Lu of Special Domains, archive of Zheng He's travels to West, "Zheng He's Mission to West", was originally kept by Ministry of War, but was not found during Chenghua period. Liu Daxia, a chauffeur at time, said, “Three guarantees cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to West, and tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians died. What is use of getting treasures? Even if old files are still there, they must be destroyed. Why are you asking?" For Ming Dynasty, this was a great financial pressure.