Zheng He was a great navigator of the Ming Dynasty. On July 11, 1405, Emperor Yongle ordered Zheng He to launch his first oceangoing voyage, which was regarded as an unprecedented great historical period in Chinese history of trade and cultural exchanges. Zheng He commanded seven voyages to the western sea from 1405 to 1433, nearly a century before Christopher Columbus discovered the American continent in 1492. The fleet led by him consisted of 40 to 63 ships each time, and many soldiers and sailors with a total number of over 27,000 people. In all, they visited more than 30 countries and regions in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the furthest places they reached were the coasts of the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa.
Zheng He’s fleet was built in Nanjing, and the first voyage of Zheng He was also launched from Nanjing. In his later years, Zheng He settled down in Nanjing. Today, traces of Zheng He can still be found in Nanjing.
Zheng He Park
Zheng He Park in Nanjing, formerly known as “Taiping Park”, is located at No. 35 Taiping Lane, the original site of the private garden of Zheng He’s mansion when he was the garrison officer of Nanjing. Built in 1953, Zheng He Park covers an area of 2.2 hectares including a construction area of 2,100 square meters. Inside the park are the Memorial Hall of Zheng He, the earliest one in China, and the Shuangbao Pavilion in graceful ancient style.
Treasure Ship Shipyard Site in Nanjing
The Treasure Ship Shipyard Site (now a park) is located in Zhongbao Village in the Gulou District, on the bank of Yangtze River, west of Nanjing. Integrating tourism, commemoration, exhibition and leisure, it is a large series of ruins built by the Nanjing authorities to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s voyages. The attractions inside the park include the Memorial Archway, Zheng He Bell, Museum Square, the Museum of Treasure Ships (bao chuan), the Watchtower, the Ancient Shipyard, and the Treasure Sailing Vessel.
Jinghai Temple is located southwest of Lion Mountain. To reward Zheng He for his fearless voyages, Emperor Zhu Di ordered to build this temple for him, and the title “Jinghai”, which means peace and calmness, was conferred on the temple. Initially, it covered an area of about 2 hectares, and consisted of 80 rooms and halls including Diamond Hall, the Bell and Drum Tower, the Hall of Heavenly Kings, and the Founder’s Hall. Zheng He lived in the Jinghai Temple in his later years, and it was here he placed some of the rare treasures he took back from his many voyages.
Tianfei Palace is in the northern part of Jianning Road, at the foot of Lion Mountain, outside the Yifeng Gate in Xiaguan District. It was built in 1407, and Emperor Yongle named the palace to commemorate the peaceful return of Zheng He after his first voyage. Tianfei, called “Matsu” in Fujian, Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, is respected as the peaceful goddess of all navigators. To celebrate the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s voyages, Tianfei Palace was rebuilt on the same site.
Zheng He’s Tomb
Zheng He’s Tomb, located in the southern edge of Niushou Mountain, was built to commemorate the 580th anniversary of Zheng He’s voyages. The rectangular tomb runs for about 150 meters from north to south, and 60 meters from east to west, with a height of about 8 meters. The 28 steps in front of the tomb are divided into four groups and seven layers, signifying that Zheng He’s seven voyages which lasted for 28 years in all.
Standing near Sanshan Street, south of Nanjing, Jingjue Mosque is the largest mosque in Nanjing. It is the most famous mosque in China’s South-East coastal area, and is listed as one of the eight famous ancient mosques of China. Jingjue Mosque was first built in 1388 on the orders of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. In 1430, the mosque was destroyed by fire, and Emperor Xuande rebuilt it at the request of Zheng He. Its reconstruction was extensive and elaborate, and today it is one of the best preserved ancient mosques related to Zheng He.