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Zheng He hanghai tu 鄭和航海圖

Sep 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zheng He hanghai tu 鄭和航海圖 "Map of Zheng He's maritime voyages" is a map drawn according to the reports of several journeys made by admiral Zheng He 鄭和 (1371-1433) during the years 1425 and 1430 of the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The original was a map wrapped up to a scroll but is commonly printed in book shape. The first print was made in Mao Yuanyi's 茅元儀 (1594-1640) military treatises Wubeizhi 武備志 (chapter 240), on 20 pages, together with a navigation chart called Guohai xianqing tu 過海牽星圖.

The map was drawn after Zheng He returned from his sixth travel when all officials participating in the journey still stayed in the southern capital Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu, and Emperor Xuanzong 明宣宗 (the Xuande Emperor 宣德, r. 1425-1435) envisaged a seventh journey. Nanjing is the centre of the map, and the whole route is shown on to the east coast of Africa. Each country or state the travelers touched on is indicated, as well as the distance, the astronomical height, and in some places also the water depth. It is likewise indicated of which quality the shore is. The given distance from the starting point to Hormuz in the Gulf of Persia is longer than the distance back.

Figure 1. Detail from the Zheng He hanghai tu 鄭和航海圖
Image of the coast of southern Vietnam (Champa, Ch. Zhancheng 占城), showing ports, mountains, cliffs, rocks, and possible passages, with notes.

The map renders more than 500 names of foreign places and countries, much more than any book on foreign countries of that period. Inspite of these advantages the map is only drawn with the aspect of relative position, and not according to real scale.

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