Ming Maritime Expeditions: How an Empire Interacts with the World in the Fifteenth Century
With the expulsion of the Mongols in the mid-fourteenth century, the Chinese imperial tradition was reasserted by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in 1368. This also led to the recommencement of the tribute system. China was now once again presenting itself as the superior world power, demonstrating its overlordship over the rest of the world (Murphey). Historically, navies are used as a projection of power and China’s maritime fleet of about 60 vessels led by the eunuch Commander Zheng He was of unprecedented power. Previously, the Silk Road had been the primary trade route but the Yongle Emperor (1360-1424) wanted to expand and so he took China to the seas to establish new trade routes and discover new kingdoms. The chief aim of the maritime expedition was political, to show the grandeur of the Chinese imperial power to the world as well as to enroll more tributaries.
As China re-established its superior power over the world, Ming…show more content… Though, China’s maritime endeavors had always been given a far lower priority than her land frontiers. Conquest was never part of the plan and there is no evidence that the expeditions discovered anything worth the effort. Nonetheless, Zheng He’s travels were impressive. This is supported in Chun’s paper “Huangming Zuxun and Zhen He’s Voyages To The Western Oceans,” where according to Chun, by today’s standards there should have been numerous records by contemporaries about Zheng He’s travels, but apart from his followers and their personal experiences and some anecdotes by Ming Scholars, the Ming historians and government paid very little worry to the voyages (Chun). While the Portuguese were merely beginning their travels along the west coast of Africa in prospect of land, Chinese vessels dominated the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific conducting trade throughout most