When China ruled the seas: the treasure fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433

by Louise Levathes

Paper Book, 1996



Call number

DS753.6 .C48L48 1996


New York : Oxford University Press, 1996.


A hundred years before Columbus and his fellow Europeans began making their way to the New World, fleets of giant Chinese junks commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He and filled with the empire's finest porcelains, lacquerware and silk ventured to the edge of the world's "four corners." It was a time of exploration and conquest, but it ended in a retrenchment so complete that less than a century later, it was a crime to go to sea in a multimasted ship. In When China Ruled the Seas, Louise Levathes takes a look at this dynamic period in China's enigmatic history, focusing on China's rise as a naval power that literally could have ruled the world and at its precipitious plunge into isolation when a new emperor ascended the Dragon Throne. During the brief period from 1405 to 1433, seven epic expeditions brought China's "treasure ships" across the China Seas and the Indian Ocean, from Taiwan to the spice islands of Indonesia and the Malabar coast of India, on to the rich ports of the Persian Gulf and down the African coast, China's "El Dorado," and perhaps even to Australia, three hundred years before Captain Cook was credited with its discovery. [from publisher description].… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RicDay
This is by far the best book I have read on China's exploration of the Indian Ocean and the great voyages undertaken by Admiral Zheng He.
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
An in-depth look at how the voyages of the earlier Ming Ruler covered the Indian Ocean and reached the East Coast of Africa. Certainly not so sensationalist as "1421" and the following books on this theme, but factual and informative about a shining moment in exploration, and a warning of how short-term politics can permanently warp a scientific community and the life of a major Civilization.… (more)
LibraryThing member Freeoperant
Very interesting book. Seems well documented, but I would like to see a more recent book on the same topic.
LibraryThing member DoskoiPanda
A very readable history book, focused on the impact of China's imperial fleet in Asia and abroad, but also telling the story of the Emperor's friendship with a Eunuch who had served him from childhood, and went on to be trusted with the treasure fleet, returning to China with tribute and reports of favourable negotiations.


Physical description

252 p.; 23 cm


0195112075 / 9780195112078


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