A Biography of Zheng He

Chinese naval explorer, fleet admiral, and court eunuch Zheng He

Chinese naval explorer, fleet admiral, and court eunuch Zheng He was born to a Muslim family. He received the surname Zheng from the Yongle Emperor and became one of the greatest maritime and diplomatic figures of his time. However, his life was marred by a string of mishaps. Read on to learn more about this fascinating character.

Zheng He's life and career


Chinese explorer Zheng He was born in a Muslim family and was a diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch. He was originally born Ma He and adopted the name Zheng from the Yongle Emperor. He was well-known for discovering new lands and establishing trading relationships. His interests ranged from astronomy and oceanography to law and politics. Learn more about this influential figure by reading about him in the biography below.

Fleet admiral

Zheng He is one of the most important figures in the history of Chinese maritime navigation. He made voyages to the West 87 years before Columbus, 92 years before Vasco da Gama, and 114 centuries before Magellan. His voyages helped expand China's political dominance in maritime Asia, and their results were significant. Imperial China, however, would turn its back on foreign trade after his death.


Chinese explorer, military, and diplomatic genius Zheng He expanded China's reach into the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. His voyages, which were widely recognized as a symbol of China's friendship with Southeast Asia, represent the country's dominance in the maritime world. Though he died in 1433, his tomb remains in Nanjing. Today, numerous monuments to Zheng He are found throughout the Asian continent.

Explorer of the Swahili coast

Zheng He was born into a noble family in 1371. His father was a hajji (Muslim pilgrim) who travelled to Mecca. His family claimed descent from an early Mongol governor of Yunnan province in southwest China, as well as King Muhammad of Bukhara in Uzbekistan. The Ma family name was derived from the Chinese rendering of Muhammad.

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