Jiangsu professor re-portrays Chinese navigator's voyages to the West
Zheng He (1371-1435), the great navigator and explorer who led seven voyages to the Indian Ocean from 1405 to 1433 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). [Photo/sina.com]
Zheng He (1371-1435) was a great Chinese historical navigator and explorer.
He led seven voyages to the Indian Ocean from 1405 to 1433 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and also left many unexplained mysteries behind, such as how did he plan his travel and what kind of regional oceanic conditions did he encounter.
Dong Changming, a professor at the School of Marine Sciences of Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, has long admired Zheng’s brave voyages. He devoted all his energy to studying Zheng and discovered some unknown facts by seeing things from an oceanographic perspective.
In his recent monograph Oceanography in the Voyages of Zheng He to the Western Ocean, he explains how he and his team went back to the historical information, simulated it using numerous climatic statistics, and finally shed new light on Zheng’s sixth voyage to the West.
The team’s work identified various influential factors, such as regional maritime features, ocean temperatures, salinity, tides, oceanic general circulation, and climatic systems, and also took into account the influence of the so-called Little Ice Age, a period of cooling that occurred during China’s late Ming and early Qing dynasties.
“Though arguments about the starting time of the Little Ice Age still remain, we believe in its influence on Zheng’s voyages as there has been research preferring an alternative timespan from about 1300 to about 1850 and considering that China had already entered the cooling season,” the professor said.
In answering how Zheng was able to take advantage of natural conditions and drive his fleet forward – a question of greatest concern – the professor spoke highly of Zheng’s ability to tackle monsoons and gave several examples.