Zheng He was captured by the Ming Dynasty at an early age and served as a court eunuch. After contributing to the defeat of the Yuan Dynasty, Zheng was offered a governmental position and became an admiral and a diplomat. He was appointed to lead a large fleet to the Western Sea and embarked on several expeditions which led him to Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

On his fifth voyage, Zheng headed for Africa and the Arab Peninsula. Upon reaching Mogadishu, he and his crew did not receive a warm welcome, as the people of the city attacked them but quickly surrendered to the Chinese official.

Zheng made several other voyages and brought back many goods to China. His expeditions happened more than half a century before those of the more famous European navigators.

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