In the book, When China Ruled the Seas, Levathes talks about seven voyages made by the Chinese armadas during emperor Zhu Di's reign. Admiral Zheng was in control of many “Treasure ships”. These ships traded silk, porcelain, and many other fine goods. They sailed from India to East Africa, through Korea and Japan, and might have even traveled all the way to Australia. Levathes believes that it could have been very possible for China to have been able to create a great kingdom to rule over one hundred years before the Europeans even explored and expanded, with China's giant navy of about three thousand of these large treasure ships.
The chief purpose of the fleet was diplomacy. Zhu Di's intent to make known his rise to the dragon throne to the rest of the world was to make it known in the best possible way. He intended to use a fleet of massive treasure ships to do this. The ships in his fleet were a little over four hundred feet in length and could carry around three thousand tons. They were filled with the empire's finest porcelains, lacquer ware, and silk. They were definitely the largest ships that the majority of the people at that time had ever seen. This intimidated other countries, which Zhu Di liked because he wanted to have the “four corners of the earth” stoop down to China as being a middle kingdom. The amazing size and wealth that the fleet represented would make most rulers consider beginning trade with China. These “Treasure ships” were filled with expensive goods and were taken to trading ports all around the Indian Ocean. These ships would also occasionally intervene in the affairs of other nations in order to obtain the best trade conditions for China from these other nations.
There is a unique look at a period in China's history about one hundred years before Columbus began exploring the New World. Levathes focuses on China's rise as a naval power that literally could have ruled over the world. It was a time of exploration and conquest, but it ended in a reclusion so great that less than a century later, it was a crime to even go to sea in a multi-masted ship.
During the brief period from 1405 to 1433, seven epic expeditions brought China's "treasure ships" across the Seas around China, the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, Taiwan, the coast of India, the rich ports of the Persian Gulf, down the African coast, and perhaps even to Australia, three hundred years before Captain Cook was credited with its discovery.
Zhu Di had over 300 ships and some measured as much as 400 feet long and 160 feet wide, with upwards of nine masts and twelve sails, and combined crews sometimes numbering over 28,000 men. These extraordinary ships were the most technically advanced ships in the world with...