Zheng He & the Afro-Asian World

Two volumes of the just published Zheng He & the Afro-Asian World book are now available. The citation for the English volume is: Chia Lin Sien & Sally K. Church (eds), Zheng He & the Afro-Asian World, Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM) and International Zheng He Society (Melaka 2012), 412 pp. The citation for the Chinese volume is 寥健裕,柯木林,許福吉(主編),郑和与亞非世界, 馬六甲博物馆, 囯际郑和学会出版, (馬六甲 2012), 478页, [Leo Suryadinata, Kua Bak Lim & Koh Hock Kiat (eds)],478 pp.

The two volumes comprise selected papers presented at the First International Conference on Zheng He with the same title as the books held in Melaka, Malaysia, in 5-7 July 2010. It was organized by the Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM), the International Zheng He Society (Singapore), and the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum (Melaka) with support by the Melaka State Government. The Preface and Contents of the English volume is reproduced under here.

For those who wish to purchase copies of the book, the list price for each of the books is RM100/- and you may order copies from the Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM).

Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia

by our President, Dr Tan Ta Sen published in July 2009 by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, 292 pp. Price S$59.90/US$49.90.

The book may be purchased from ISEAS http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg/ and it is available electronically. Members may buy the book directly from our Society at a 30 per cent discounted price at S$41.90 not including postal charges.

This is a significant contribution to knowledge of Zheng He (Cheng Ho) in that it is a study of the broader context of culture contact between West and East Asia before narrowing the focus to the influence of Zheng He's voyages to and impact on Southeast Asia specifically Indonesia. The key point to the study is the thesis that it was the Chinese that brought Islam to Indonesia partly through Zheng He's visits to the country. The study is also important in that attention is given to the regional perspective of his voyages rather from a Sinocentric view. This book may prove to the seminal that may lead to further efforts to fill the many gaps of our knowledge of Zheng He's fleet's activities and legacy he left behind in Southeast Asia and other regions visited.

Details of the book including comments from Professors Wang Gungwu, Leo Suryadinata and A. Dahana as well as the contents of the book are available from ISEAS website and given below: "Tan Ta Sen has modestly suggested that, as a book to illustrate the peaceful impact of culture contact, he is concerned to show how such cultural influences not only led to transmissions, conversions and transferences involving Inner Asian Muslims from China and Yunnan Muslims, Chams, Javanese, Malays, Arabs and Indians, but also enabled many Chinese in the Malay world to retain their non-Muslim cultural traits. In placing Cheng Ho's voyages in this context, the author offers a fresh perspective on a momentous set of events in Chinese maritime history. - Professor Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore

Tan Ta Sen's book on Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia is not the first one on the subject, but it is the first book that puts Cheng Hos voyages in the larger context of "culture contact" in China and beyond. He has garnered numerous sources, from published documents to architectural sites and buildings, to support his arguments. He has done much more than previous scholars writing on this subject. - Professor Leo Suryadinata, Chinese Heritage Centre (Singapore)

This long-awaited book is welcomed by the academic community ... Tan Ta Sen has used historical facts to strengthen the argument on the existence of the "Third Wave", i.e. "the Chinese Wave", in the spread of Islam in the Southeast Asian region. Until now, we only know two major waves, i.e. the India-Gujarat Wave and the Middle East Wave through the development of trade relations. - Professor A. Dahana, University of Indonesia (Jakarta)".


1. Introduction

Part I: Culture contact in China
2. Chinese World and Civilization
3. Spread of Buddhism in China and its Sinicization
4. The Advent of Islam to China
5. Sinicization of Islam in China

Part II: Culture Contact in Southeast Asia
6. The Islamization of Southeast Asia
7. Cheng Ho and Islamization of Southeast Asia
8. Localization of Islam in Insular Southeast Asia
9. Conclusion

References/Index/About the author/Illustrations

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A Pictorial Biography of Zheng He – The Great Navigator and Diplomat

edited by Mo Zi, script by Kong Lingren and drawings by Zhao Zhihua, published by Aurora Publishing House, Kunming, July 2005 (in English and Chinese).

This is a beautifully illustrated book intended for children and serves as an excellent introduction to Zheng He, the navigator and diplomat for the Ming Imperial Court. The early part of the book deals with young Ma He and his father and grandfather followed by his capture by the Ming troops and his subsequent service under Prince of Yan who later became Emperor Zhudi (朱棣)whose Imperial title was Emperor Yongle ( 永乐). For his illustrious service to the Emperor, Ma He was given the surname, Zheng and conferred him the Grand Eunuch of the Interior Department. The main body of the book is devoted to Zheng He’s seven voyages to the Western Ocean ( 西洋), the treasure ships ( 宝船) and many of the over thirty countries/sites visited by his fleet. The book is interesting because the places visited, when translated into modern place names, relate to countries and cities/towns across Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the east coast of Africa are familiar o readers.

Price S$10 per copy for members

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1421– The Year China Discovered the World

by Gavin Menzies, Bantam Books published by Transworld Publishers, 2002, 650 pp.

This book has been an international bestseller and has been translated into more than 20 languages including Bahasa, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Japanese, Korean, and Thai. The author has given talks in Singapore under the auspices of our Society. He was a retired British submarine commander and spent 15 years researching on the voyages of Zheng He. His accounts go well beyond the east coast of Africa asserting that Zheng He’s fleet or sub-fleets visited the Azores, then to both North and South America and sailed through the northern waters (now ice bound) of the Euro-Asian continent. His sub-fleets also visited Europe and Australia and New Zealand. There are fascinating details of old maps purportedly drawn by the Chinese and used by European explorers, evidence of Chinese visitors including Chinese chickens, Chinese junks, artifacts and other relics, and evidence of Chinese components of the DNAs of native Americans and others. The book made a huge impact on world awareness of the capabilities of Ming and earlier Chinese ships and navigational skills. Nevertheless, it remains highly controversial unless concrete proof such as future discoveries of the ‘lost’ records of Zheng He’s voyages or archaeological finds of Chinese junks and relics in areas not considered to have been visited by Zheng He’s ships by established Chinese scholars. It is an eminently worthwhile book, easily readable and rich in details of Zheng He’s ships and voyages. For updates and more information, please visit Gavin Menzies’ website www.1421.tv

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Cheng Ho and Malacca

by Dr Tan Ta Sen (2005) published by Cheng Ho Cultural Museum and International Zheng He Society (Singapore), 102 pp.

The first chapter introduces the reader briefly to the life and exploits of Cheng Ho (郑和 Zheng He) leading to his seven historic sea voyages to the Western Ocean – meaning the maritime area eastward of the Philippines then some details of the treasure ships (宝船 baochuan) and five other categories of ships in his enormous fleet of over 200 ships carrying some 27,500 men on his first voyage. The sea routes including the many destinations covering 33 states given in a convenient chart are provided.  The chapter then discusses the practice of the worship of Mazu (妈祖), the Goddess of the Sea which lead to this widespread practice throughout coastal China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.  Samples of the Mao Kun navigation chart are given in the chapter.

Chapter 2 begins with some background to the conflict between the Sumatra-based Srivijaya and Javanese Majapahit from end of the 13th Century.  Events led to the defeat of Parameswara who fled to Singapore before establishing the new state in Melaka. Diplomatic relations between Melaka and Ming China under Emperor Yongle. This led to the tribute mission to China in 1405 resulting in the latter giving protection to Melaka.  Zheng He then established a base in Malaka for his fleet to conduct diplomatic and entrepot trade activities in Southeast Asia and beyond.  The fleet visited Malaka five out of the seven voyages undertaken from 1403-1435 while the Malaka Sultanate made tributary missions to China on 20 occasions including personal royal visits on several such trips.  In 1410, Parameswara with his consort, son and a retinue of 540 persons visited  the Ming court himself.  Emperor Yongle presented the visitors valuable gifts and hosted banquets for them. 

The rest of the chapter is devoted to giving an account of the guangchang ( 官厂 ) – meaning warehouse or factory -- in Malaka with details of its location and evidence of Zheng He’s presence. The chapter also has an account of Kapitan Li Jun Chang 李君长 (1614-1688) –  appointed by the Dutch Government-- and the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum.  Highly interesting details with photos of artefacts, Ming coins, and relics including several wells in the premises of the guanchang – now the Cultural Museum, urns, etc. are given in the chapter.

Chapter three deals with 15th Century Malaka using Chinese as well local/regional and western contemporary sources.  Mention is given to the visit to Eunuch Yin Ching’s visit to Malaka in 1404 just prior to the visit of Zheng He’s fleet. Cheng Ho brought with him the Ming Imperial decree to appoint Parameswara as the king of Malaka, a stone poem inscription as well as other gifts.  Zheng He’s scribes, Ma Huan, Fei Xin and Gong Zhen, all reported Malaka in their records. The reports gave details of Malaka’s physical condition as well as a great entrepot with products coming from widely scattered sources. The chapter gives a list of gifts – both local and imported – given to the Ming Court as tribute. Mention at the end of the chapter is also given to the Sultans after Parameswara, their visits to China until the arrival of the Portuguese and the founding of the Johor-Riau Sultanate.

The following chapter is titled Pahang, Kelanan, Trengganu and Johore and draws from Chinese official sources of information – the Ming Shi and Ming Shi Lu and other documents.  The first three Malayan states have intimate kinship links with Malaka and goes further back in history than Malaka and were also vassal states of Ming China going back to 1378 in the case of Pahang.  Tribute missions to the Ming Court and visits by Zheng He are given.  The chapter also reports a legend of Zheng He’s visit to Trengganu and a shrine dedicted to him on the Jeram River, also called the San Bao River. Subsequently, in 1942, the San Bao Gong temple was built on the site.

An account of the Johore-Riau Sultanate is given including its attempts to capture Malaka and subsequently joining forces with Pahang and Perak to oust Portuguese Malaka.  Physical and cultural conditions and events pertaining to these four states as well as the presence of Chinese traders and migrants are also provided in the centuries that followed.  These records show the long relations between these states with China, and how the Chinese have made their way to these areas even from before the arrival of Zheng He.

The fifth and final chapter is devoted to an account of the Maritime Ceramic Route beginning with details of the discovery of the discovery of wrecks of four ships  identified to be of Ming dynasty origins.  One of the wreck is the Royal Nanhai which yielded 300,000 pieces of celadon  that predated the blue and white porcelain.  This account is followed by a discussion on the long history of China’s maritime trade involving Asian and Arab trders operating out of Guangzhou and Quanzhou in southern China.  The main products traded were silk and tea and the volume traded, as indicated by the Nanhai was huge.  By the 17th Century, European traders came on to the scene.  The Dutch East India Company carried a total of 16 million pieces of porcelain over the period 1602-1682. Southeast Asian states that participated in this trade included Thailand and Vietnam.  The strategic location of Malaka became clear.

The chapter gives a list of nine shipwrecks excavated and investigated by the Nanhai Marine Archeology.  These wrecks date from as early as 960 to 1840.  Details of the ships, their location and site and also the goods carried are also given. Several of the photos to the ceramics from these wrecks are also shown.

This small book makes highly interesting reading and its contents should be given wider attention because of the factual and historical information provided.  The evidence given to Guanchang in Malaka indicate unquestionable to visits of Zheng He’s fleet that established it as the most important of all of the destinations visited.  Unfortunately, the book does not provide a bibliography of the sources of information and the quality of the photos of places and images of goods are less than satisfactory.  No doubt a larger and more thorough investigation is warranted.

(Reviewed by Dr Chia Lin Sien, 7 May 2009).

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Admiral Zheng He and Southeast Asia

edited by Leo Suryadinata (ed.)(2005 ), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and International Zheng He Society (Singapore), 168 pp. List price $29.90/US21.90

This book serves to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Admiral Zheng He’s maiden voyage to Southeast Asia and beyond. This compilation of nine articles written by Asian scholars have been reproduced to represent an Asian viewpoint and contribution on the subject matter.

Description of the book by ISEAS publications has this to say: “Originally published from 1964 to 2005, the articles are grouped into three clusters. The first cluster of three articles examines the relationship of the Ming court, especially during the Zheng He expeditions, with Southeast Asia in general and the Malacca empire in particular. The next cluster looks at the socio-cultural impact of the Zheng He expeditions on some Southeast Asian countries, with special reference to the role played by Zheng He in the Islamisation of Indonesia (Java) and the urban architecture of the region. The last three articles deal with the route of the Zheng He expeditions and the location of the places that were visited.

The International Journal of Maritime History recommends this book for the reason that “it contains a great deal of information not found elsewhere and presents a valuable local perspective".  It also fulfils one of the International Zheng He Society’s  objectives to foster research and raise awareness of the spirit and deeds of the Admiral.

The titles of the nine chapters with an introduction by Leo Suryadinata are as follows:

1. The Opening of Relations between China and Malacca--1403-05, by Wang Gungwu

2. The First Three Rulers of Malacca, by Wang Gungwu

3. Did Zheng He Set Out to Colonize Southeast Asia?  by Tan Ta Sen

4. Chinese Element in the Islamization of Southeast Asia: A Study of the Story of Njai Gede Pinatih, the Great Lady of Gresik, by Tan Yeok Seong

5. Zheng He, Semarang and the Islamization of Java: Between History and Legend,  by Leo Suryadinata

6. A Celebration of Diversity: Zheng He and the Origin of the Pre-Colonial Coastal Urban Pattern in Southeast Asia, by Johannes Widodo

7. Notes Relating to Admiral Cheng Ho's Expeditions,  by Hsu Yun-Tsiao

8. Did Admiral Cheng Ho Visit the Philippines?, by Hsu Yun-Tsiao

9. Longyamen is Singapore: The Final Proof?, by Chung Chee Kit