A Chinese woodblock print thought to represent Zheng He's ships

Zheng He (1371 – 1433 or 1435) was a Chinese court eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat and admiral.


Zheng He was captured at an early age by the Ming dynasty and became a court eunuch. After he contributed to the defeat of the Yuan dynasty, Zheng was offered a position in the government and became an admiral and a diplomat under the Yongle Emperor. He was appointed to lead a large fleet to the Indian Ocean and embarked on expeditions that led him to Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Beginning his fifth voyage in 1417, Zheng headed for Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Once he and his crew reached Mogadishu, they were attacked by the city's inhabitants, but the latter soon surrendered to Zheng.

Zheng would make several other voyages and bring back many goods to China. His many expeditions notably took place over half a century before those of the more famous European navigators.