Talk by Drs Tan Ta Sen given to students and staff of Hua Chung High School Alumni Association, 20 March 2003.

0n 20 March 2003, Drs. Tan gave a public lecture on the voyages of Zheng He and their implications for Southeast Asia. The lecture, which was organized by Hua Chung High School Alumni Association, was delivered in Mandarin. He gave an account of the Zheng He voyages and pointed out the profound implications of these voyages which are still being felt today. Drs. Tan based his lecture on his intensive fieldwork in many Southeast Asian countries, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Public Seminar on “The Zheng He Fleet and Chinese Settlements in the Americas: the DNA Evidence” by Gavin Menzies, 25 October 2004, Suntec City, sponsored by Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre

The talk is related to the Zheng He fleets and their legacies. It is based on his further research on DNA evidence of the Chinese settlements in the Americas. He demonstrated how the DNA evidence shows that some native groups of people in the Americas today may be direct descendants of Chinese, who may have been on the voyages of Zheng He. They retain Chinese genes, suctoms, linguistics and way of life. Some are nearly extinct whil others still live in substantial communities. The last part of his talk was highly technical explaining how DNA evidence work.

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Public Seminar on “The Zheng He Fleets Discovered the World: New Evidence”, by Gavin Menzies, 16 April 2004, Suntec City, sponsored joinly by the International Zheng He Society and Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Mr Gavin Menzies presented recent evidence he uncovered since the publication of his book 1421 – The Year China Discovered the World. He maintains that Zheng He’s records were not destroyed and that his charts showed his voyages reached Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America. Menzies admitted that he underestimated the scale and ambition of the voyages, that there were in fact more than a thousand ships set sail and not one hundred. The research on Zheng He continues and, with further new evidence, the story of Zheng He will need to be rewritten. The seminar was attended an audience of about 200.

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Dialogue with Mr Gavin Menzies

October 2004: The International Zheng He Society organized a Dialogue with Mr Gavin Menzies over dinner at the Pearl River Restaurant and hosted by Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was attended by about 25 members and friends. Mr Menzies brought to the audience the latest updates on Zheng He. Among other interesting information is the already well developed naval fleets of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty. Click to read the text of his talk in note form.

Frank Lee from Hong Kong, Ian Hudson and Mrs Menzies listening to Gavin Menzies delivering his talk.

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Informal Lecture by Professor Wu Jin at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies on 2 November 2004

Prof Wu Jin of the Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, is an internationally renowned researcher in ocean science and a leading authority on Zheng He. He was in Singapore to attend a meeting early November 2004. He used the opportunity to meet Council Members of the International Zheng He Society on 1 November and exchanged views on the Zheng He Voyages. On 2 November 2004, he was invited by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) to give an informal talk. He gave a detailed account of the history of Zheng He’s voyages and explored the scientific and technological aspects of the voyages. He also expounded on the contemporary significance of the voyages. He informed the audience on activities celebrating the 600 th anniversary of Zheng He’s initial voyages and commented on Gavin Menzies’ book entitled 1421: The Year China Discovered the World.

Prof. Wu Jin delivering his talk at ISEAS

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Mr. Chung Chee Kit gave a public talk on “ Zheng He and Ancient Chinese Warships and Naval Strategies” on 15 March 2005, organised by Friends of the Museums, Singapore

It is generally known that in the year 1405, Zheng He led a fleet of hundreds of sailing vessels on several voyages to visit the nations of the Western Oceans. These left a lasting impact on the cultural, social and political development of many Southeast Asian Countries. Although the voyages were recorded, there is a controversy over the size of the flagship, the Baochuan (Treasure Ship). Did the Chinese actually build the largest wooden vessel afloat of 350 feet in length some 600 years ago?

Mr, Chung Chee Kit discussed the controversy and presented a snapshot of the principal arguments. It drew on known facts regarding the state of shipbuilding and sailing technology of the Ming period to paint an interesting picture of the advanced Chinese marine history in days before Columbus, Magellan and da Gama when they made the voyages of discovery. Insights were given on how early Chinese traders and immigrants braved the perils of the seas to reach the exotic ports of Nanyang.

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Talk by Encik Jaffar b Mohd. Kassim on “Zheng He’s Voyages And The Malay Community” on Friday, 25 June 2005


A synopsis of his talk is given below:


In China’s more than 5,000 years history, there are two dynasties that the Chinese and the Muslims/Malays have close religious, cultural and economic relations. The dynasties are Sui Tang ( 隋唐) and Ming ( 明), especially the latter, during which Admiral Zheng He ( 郑和) was born. The Admiral is a born into a Muslim family who made great contributions to the spread of Islam to the Malay world six hunded years ago. This is something not commonly known by Malays or even among the Chinese.

In 1371, Admiral Zheng He, whose original name was Ma He ( 马和 ), was born in a city known as Kun Ming ( 昆明) in Yunnan ( 云南), a province in southwestern China. Over a period of 28 years, this powerful leader made seven historical expeditions from 1405 to 1433 from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Middle East and as far as Africa. He visited about 30 countries.

Admiral Zheng He was a towering icon in the golden Age of Exploration in the 15th Century. He was a eunuch, a navigator, a diplomat, a warrior and adventurer who outshone his Western navel heroes such as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Megellan. His scribes kept a detailed logbook and made a nautical chart of each voyage. His voyages involved an armada of about 300 ships carrying 27,000 sailors, soldiers, experts and Islamic scholars. This talk was intended to inform our Malays compatriots of the many contributions made by Admiral Zheng He to the Malay world.

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Seminar on Zheng He by Dr. Geoffrey Wade at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 9 November 2004 and an article by Terence Tan published in the Straits Times on 11 November 2005

Dr. Wade of the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, was invited to give a seminar at ISEAS 0n 9 November 2004. The report written by Terence Tan published on November 11, 2004 in the Straits Times is reproduced.

Admiral Zheng He “Set out to Colonise Southeast Asia”

A visiting scholar has challenged the widely held view that the voyages of the Ming Dynasty’s Admiral Zheng He in Southeast Asia were non-aggressionist and peaceful. The 15 th century expeditions, were in fact, colonialistic in nature, Dr. Geoffrey Wade told a seminar organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). He cited the examples of military intervention by Adm Zheng to illustrate that Ming China was keen to establish its hegemony over the region, a charge Chinese scholars deny.

To begin with, he claimed that the size of each of the expeditions—nearly 30,000 people and up to 230 ships—and the military background of the men sent on these trips “suggest that they weren’t really voyages of peace and friendship.” “The traditional view is to paint the Zheng He voyages as voyages of friendship and friendly diplomacy. What they were was that they were gunships”, he said.

Dr. Wade … highlighted numerous examples of violence committed by Adm Zheng and his troops to backup his argument. … his soldiers invaded places like Palembang in Sumatra, Java and Ayutthaya in Thailand. The Ming navy also established several guanchang (government depots) in Malacca and Sumatra—essentially military and commercial bases which gave it control over the Malacca Straits, a key waterway at that time. All these, he said were proof that the Ming court was practicing what he termed “proto-colonialism”, with the intention to achieving control over its neigbours.

Elaborating on what he meant by “proto-colonialism”, it said that it differed from the modern colonialism of the 19 th century in which Western power held control over large swathes of territory and population. Rather, it was a form of colonialism similar to what the Portuguese would later practise in the 16 th Century—merely taking control of the main ports on the East West maritime trade route.

Several members of the audience—including Dr. Leo Suryadinata, the senior research fellow at ISEAS who chaired the talk—disagreed with Dr. Wade’s assertion that Ming China was a colonial power. Ties between Ming China and Southeast Asia were more of an overlord-vassal relationship rather than that of a colonial empire, Dr. Suryadinata argued. He said that many of the states were in fact glad to pay tribute to China in exchange for military protection and trade benefits, in what was known as the “tributary-trade system”.

China is gearing up for major festivities next year to commemorate the 600 th anniversary of the voyages of Adm Zheng, who is often held up as early exponent of the country’s “benevolent diplomacy”. Historical records suggest that the Admiral, who led a total of seven expeditions to Southeast Asia, India, Arabia and Africa between 1405-1433, did not colonize any newly discovered areas or enslave their inhabitants. This fits in nicely with the concept of China’s peaceful rise, which has been touted avidly by Beijing to counter worries about the country’s growing clout in everything from trade to military might.

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