Timeline Description: Zheng He was a Chinese eunuch and explorer who commanded the Ming dynasty's "treasure fleet" of trading vessels on expeditions between 1405 and 1433. Aiming to spread the word of the Chinese emperor's might and open Chinese trade to new markets, Zheng He traveled as far as the east coast of Africa. After his voyages ended, China turned inwards once again ended its brief period of exploration.
|1371||Ma He is born.
The man who will be named Zheng He is born in Kunyang prefecture in Yunnan Province, to a poor Muslim family. He is named Ma He.
|1381||Ma He is taken prisoner and castrated.(Autumn 1381)
When the Ming army conquers Yunnan, Ma He's father is killed in the army's cleansing of previous dynasties. Ma He is taken prisoner by the troops. He is castrated, which is customary treatment for the sons of Ming prisoners.
|1385||Ma He is placed in the home of the prince of Yan.
Ma He is placed in the home of Zhu Di, the prince of Yan. He accompanies Zhu Di on all his military campaigns and learns the art of war and strategy from the prince.
|July 1402||Ma He assists Zhu Di in ascending the throne.
Ma He serves as a military commander in Zhu Di's campaign to usurp the throne. Ma He distinguishes himself in battle, and Zhu Di is ultimately successful in becoming the next Ming emperor.
|February 11, 1404||Ma He is renamed and promoted to Grand Eunuch.
To honor his loyal service, Emperor Zhu Di changes Ma He's surname from "Ma" to "Zheng." He promotes Zheng He to Grand Eunuch, head of the eunuchs serving in the imperial household.
|1405||Emperor Zhu Di sends Zheng He to lead a voyage across the South China Sea.(Fall 1405)
Emperor Zhu Di sends Zheng He to lead a maiden voyage across the South China Sea, heading for present-day Vietnam. Zhu Di names Zheng He Admiral, a sign of his immense trust in the eunuch. Zheng He leads a huge fleet of 27,000 men.
|December 1406||Zheng He's fleet arrives in Calicut, India.
After a brief stop in Champa and Java, Zheng He's fleet sails across the Indian Ocean and arrives in Calicut, India, their ultimate destination. Though the Chinese consider most foreigners to be barbarians, they respect the citizens of Calicut for their efficient bureaucracy and honesty in trading. They take advantage of the rich trading opportunities in Calicut.
|1407||Zheng He begins his second voyage.
Emperor Zhu Di is so pleased with the results of the first voyage that he immediately orders a second one. Zheng He's voyage, which lasts until 1409, establishes friendly contact with Malacca, an important trading center.
|1409||Zheng He leads his third voyage.
In September, Zheng He led the third imperial voyage to Ceylon, where he and his fleet display a veneration for Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. They return in 1411.
|1413||Zheng He leads his fourth voyage and reaches Africa.
On his fourth voyage in 1413, Zheng He's fleet reaches Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf, and detachments sail south along the east coast of Africa almost as far as present-day Mozambique.
|1417||Zheng He leads his fifth voyage.
On his fifth voyage, Zheng He reaches Yemen, Southern Arabia, and the Eastern Coast of Africa. He returns in 1419.
|1421||Zheng He leads his sixth voyage.
On this voyage, Zheng He once again establishes friendly contact and trade routes with a number of key cities.
|1424||Zheng He is called home to become a military commander.
When Emperor Zhu Di dies of natural causes, his son takes the throne and immediately calls back all military and exploratory campaigns. Zheng He is called home to become military commander of Nanjing, but the new emperor dies suddenly, and his successor orders a new voyage to begin.
|1431||Zheng He leads his final voyage.
Zheng He leads his last imperial voyage, his seventh, to the South China Sea. His journey takes his fleet down the East African coast as far as modern-day Kenya, and they trade for amber with the African people they encounter.
|1433||Zheng He dies.
During his final voyage, Zheng He contracts a disease and dies at age 62 in Calicut. His body is later brought back to China, and he is buried on Niushou Hill (Bull's Head Hill).