Sixth Voyage 1421-22:
Early 17th century Chinese woodblock print, thought to represent Zheng He's ships.
Besides taking ambassadors home, this voyage explored more of the coast of Africa. At Semudra the fleet divided and the majority of the ships went to Aden and the coast of Africa while Zheng He returned to China, perhaps so he could participate in the events surrounding the dedication of the Forbidden City in Beijing as the new capital.
1419-23: A costly rebellion erupts in Annam.
1421: Fire destroys much of the Forbidden City. Emperor Zhu Di firstinvites criticism, but soon he kills those who criticized him.
1422: Emperor Zhu Di plans a military expedition against the Mongols.
1424: Emperor Zhu dies while on military maneuvers in the north.
1424: Zhu Di's eldest son becomes Emperor. He favors his Confucianadvisors and hopes to lessen tax burdens on the people caused by expensive military maneuvers, the voyages of the fleet and moving the capital.
1424: The Emperor issues an edict ending all voyages of the treasure ships.
1425: The Emperor dies.
1425-1435: Zhu Zhanji becomes Emperor.
1430: Emperor Zhu Zhanji issues an edict calling for a 7th voyage to inform distant lands of his rule and to urge them to "follow the way of heaven and to watch over the people so that all might enjoy the good fortune of lasting peace." (Levathes, pg. 160 -- see Sources)
Seventh Voyage 1431-1433
300 ships with approximately 27,500 men embark. Besides ports on Champaand Java, the fleet stops at Palembang, Malacca, Semudra, Ceylon and Calicut. The Chinese urge the Siamese king to stop harassing the kingdom of Malacca. At Calicut, one part of the fleet goes along the east African coast to Malinidi and trade on the Red Sea and several ofthe Chinese sailors may have visited Mecca. Zheng He, who had probably stayed in Calicut, died on the return voyage and was buried at sea.
1435: The Emperor dies.
1436 - 1449: Zhu Qizhen, the emperor's seven year old son, becomes Emperor. Initially he is controlled by eunuch Wang Zhen.
1449: Wang leads an expedition against the Mongols on the northwest frontier. During this campaign, the Mongols capture the Emperor Zhu Qizhen and hold him prisoner.
1450: Emperor Zhu Qizhen gets free from Mongols and is reinstated as Emperor. Tension and rivalry exist between Confucian scholars and other advisors, particulars the court eunuchs. Emperor Zhu Qizhen faces the urgent question: Should the court resume the voyages or end them?
John King Fairbank, Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast: The Opening of Treaty Ports 1842-1854.
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953).
J.V.G. Mills. The Overall Survey of the Ocean's Shore
, (Cambridge University Press 1970). (A translation from a Chinese account of Zheng He's voyage.)
Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas.
(Oxford University Press, 1994).
Author: Jean Johnson.