The Great Chinese Mariner Zheng He [Cheng Ho]
Columbus sailed to America in St. Maria (eighty-five feet) in 1492. Zheng He sailed from China to many places throughout South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Taiwan, Persian Gulf and distant Africa in seven epic voyages from 1405 to 1433 ,some 80 years before Columbus"s voyages.
Zheng He (1371-1435), or Cheng Ho, is arguably China"s most famous navigator. Starting from the beginning of the 15th Century, he traveled to the West seven times. For 28 years, he traveled more than 50,000km and visited over 30 countries, including Singapore. Zheng He died in the tenth year of the reign of the Ming emperor Xuande (1435) and was buried in the southern outskirts of Bull"s Head Hill (Niushou) in Nanjing.
In 1985, during the 580th anniversary of Zheng He"s voyage, his tomb was restored. The new tomb was built on the site of the original tomb in Nanjing and reconstructed according to the customs of Islamic teachings, as Zheng He was a Muslim.
At the entrance to the tomb is a Ming-style structure, which houses the memorial hall. Inside are paintings of the man himself and his navigation maps. To get to the tomb, there are newly laid stone platforms and steps. The stairway consists of 28 stone steps divided into four sections with each section having seven steps. This represents Zheng He"s seven journeys to the West. The Arabic words "Allah (God) is great" are inscribed on top of the tomb.
Zhenghe constructed many wooden ships, some of which are the largest in the history, in Nanjing. Three of the shipyards still exist today.