Zheng He Biography

Born: c. 1371
Birthplace: China

An admiral in the Imperial Chinese navy, Zheng He made seven voyages to Southeast Asia, India, and Africa to explore and trade. In 1405 Zheng made his first trip, sailing to Vietnam and India with a fleet of Chinese boats known as junks. He carried a cargo of silk, porcelain, and lacquer ware that the Chinese wanted to trade for pearls, spices, ivory, and timber. On his return trip, he built a warehouse complex near the Strait of Malacca for storing and cataloging the products he acquired. On another expedition, Zheng acquired a giraffe in the kingdom of Bengal, which had been a gift from an East African ruler. The giraffe was sent to the Chinese court, where it was welcomed as a unicorn. Zheng meanwhile sailed to the East African nation of Somalia, where he obtained lions, leopards, ostriches, zebras, and other animals, which were viewed with amazement in China. Zheng probably died during his seventh voyage and was buried at sea.

Died: 1433