Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

Song Nan Zhang
Illustrator:  Song Nan Zhang 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 10 to and up
Pan Asian Publications, 2005   ISBN: 978-1572270909

It was the biggest fleet of ships that the world had ever seen. There were hundreds of vessels carrying dignitaries, professionals, support crews, and 20,000 sailors. At the heart of this fleet there were 62 ships loaded with wonderful fabrics, special foodstuffs and other “treasure.” The leader of this extraordinary expedition was Imperial Admiral Zheng He and his objective, as directed to him by his master the Emperor of China, was to travel to lands all over Asia and around the Indian Ocean to show the people in these places how special the Chinese were as a people; to show them how powerful, sophisticated, and how rich they were.

Zheng He was a highly intelligent, well educated and motivated man who was eager to see new lands and to meet new peoples. He hoped that he would be able to trade with these people using the goods in the treasure ships for barter. Assembling and managing the enormous fleet of ships was an enormous undertaking and yet Zheng He managed the job very well in addition to planning the route that the fleet was going to take.

The first journey was an enormous success. Foreign leaders were very impressed with the fleet and by the goods that it carried and were eager to establish diplomatic relations with China. In addition Zheng He managed to rid the seas around China of a very troublesome pirate.

In all Zheng He made seven journeys and the knowledge and goods that he brought back to his homeland were priceless. In this lavishly illustrated picture book the authors tell a fascinating story of a very special person. The book serves as a fitting tribute to a man whose contributions to map making and navigation are rarely mentioned in western history books. Readers will discover that long before the days of Columbus, Magellan, and Drake, there was Zheng He, a great leader and explorer.