Decades before even Columbus discovered the New World, Zheng He, a Chinese explorer had already made a number of successful voyages (Little 469). Zheng He, was a devoted Muslim and a eunuch, and among the most successful commanders of his time. Within a short time between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He led at least seven successful expeditions. This is one of his greatest accomplishments that Zheng He is celebrated for.
Zheng he was a man of huge physique (Littel 469). Given the situation at the time, it is amazing how he was able to lead the largest ever maritime expedition. This particular expedition had 300 ships and 28,000 people on board. Zheng He rode on the best ship in the fleet. The ship was made of hard wood and was filled with treasure such as porcelain, silk, books, fine material, and other cultural items that China exported to other countries. This ship was 400 feet long. This record remained unbroken until five centuries later, during the World War I.
Zheng He and his crew toured many parts of the world, most parts of which, no one else had been to. However, Zheng He’s interest was only to trade with the people that he met during his tours (Littel 470). He acquired lots of valuable goods like hard wood, medicinal herbs, precious stones (gold, silver), African ivory, horses, to list but a few. At this time, China alone accounted for half of the world’s G.N.P (Littel 470). All these would have been of great use had Zheng He wanted to set up a colonial empire. Zheng He also garnered a lot of knowledge and drew maps that are still used to date.
On the other hand, Christopher Columbus, an explorer from Italy in Europe led voyages to different parts of the world (Little 466). He led his first voyage in 1492. It comprised of three ships, with 90 sailors on board. Of the three ships, the largest one was 85 feet long. One result of this expedition was the colonization of the Americas, a process that eventually had an effect on the whole world. In contrast to Zheng He, Columbus was not out to discover the world, interacting with people, and trade. Instead, he was out to find a route to Asia, and more so, find precious items to loot. His expeditions were mostly limited to the islands along the Atlantic Ocean.
In subsequent expeditions, Columbus created colonies in lands that he had discovered (Littel 466). The Spanish government was happy with what he had achieved and even gave him the title “Admiral of the ocean sea”. More to that, he was made the general-governor of all the areas that he had already discovered and more that he was yet to discover. This are achievements that Zheng He did not get to enjoy, since his people did not think highly of his discoveries.
Conclusively, Zheng He earned a lot of friends for his country since he gave gifts to people that he met during his expeditions. However, his efforts were not as appreciated by his countrymen as much as he is appreciated in the outside world. The Chinese government believed that the he just misused the country’s resources. Columbus on the other hand is celebrated as a successful explorer all over the world. The Spanish carried forth what he had started and finally, Europe was able to colonize America and other parts of the world.
Littel, McDougal. “An age of Explorations and Isolation, 1400-1800.” McDougal Littell World
History: Patterns of Interaction. San Diego, California: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2005. 460-479. Print