Zheng He Treasure Ship - earliest primary sources don't say size

Feb 2011
6,148
#71
. For Portuguese ships there is also the
1556 S. Marcos at 790 Portuguese tons or 1422 metric tons
1560 S. Pedro at 520 Portuguese tons or 936 metric tons
1566 S Joa at 1100 Portuguese tons or 1980 metric tons
(Source: Seapower in GLobal Politics, 1494-1993 by George Modelski, pg 162-164)
Since the Chinese didn't mention any of them in their records, then by your logic this is enough ground to question their existence.
On second check I think the source did something wrong with the conversion of the Portuguese ton to 1.8 metric tons. Nevertheless:

In the mid-sixteenth century, galleons tended to be ships of moderate size, often about 200 tons, wiith high forecastles and sterncastles. They grew rapidly larger. The Spanish Armada in 1588 included three Portuguese galleons of 1,000 tons, and six Spanish galleons of 800 tons, which were among the largest ships of their time in the western world. -Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer




-From the Western Antiquary, Volume 7, regarding Portuguese ships in the Spanish Armada

So whereas 15th century Portugal might regard Zheng He's 5000 liao ships as noteworthy during Zheng He's time period, it was hardly UFOs by the 16th century which was the century when the Portuguese arrived in China. And if Zheng He's ship only exists in the 'collective memory' by the 16th century, I don't see why the Portuguese would report something from word-of-mouth about a story that's not even that unheard of by the time period they are in.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2012
4,277
#72
Sally Church also noted John Edye's calculation for European ships.

"A ship of about 200-250 ft would make much more sense than the 450 ft one. Such a ship would be large enough to transport the required number of people
and amount of supplies and treasures. Although this was the maximum size of wooden ships in the West, this is not the reason why we should accept it as an
optimum size. Gong Zhen’s evidence is perhaps the soundest – his statement that there were 200-300 men on the ships. This number of men could not have man-
aged a ship of 20,000 tons, but would have been quite adept at handling ships of a smaller size, such as the Razee Corvette, a Ship-of-the-Line manned by 205-
220 men, or the Fifth Rate (46-gun) ship with a complement of 280-300 men. The Razee Corvette was 145 ft long, and 38.5 ft in the beam with a burden of
944 tons and a displacement of 1,280 tons. The Fifth Rate was over 150 ft long and 40 ft in the beam with a capacity of 1,063 tons burden and a displacement of
2,154 tons."


If the large rudder reverse engineer yields indeed a ship of 150 feet, then a displacement of around 2,000 tons sounds just about right as well according to standard European calculations. So archeology do tend to lend some evidence to the primary sources here.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,720
Portugal
#73
First of all I want to ask forgiveness to Bart Dale, I never expected that my reference to the Portuguese sources could derail this thread to other themes. Unfortunately this post is a continuation of that derailment.

I consider that were said here things that launched some confusion to the thread, and for my part, I hope that this post can help to give some clarification.

Anyway I don’t think that repeating over and over the same questions and the same answers, with the same or with other words, was contributing for the needed clarification. For me, for HackneyedScribe, and for all the posters and readers of this thread.

I will try to make a short summary of all these pages and the themes of divergence.

First I would like to make some previous considerations. We all have the notion that the size and the travels of Zheng He's ships is a controversial theme. In the academia and in Popular history. The mention to novels, like the one that refers the 450 ft for the ships, or the publication and success of books like “1421: The Year China Discovered America”, by Gavin Menzies, also contribute to sent more noise to the theme that to enlighten us.

Furthermore, if we visit the encyclopaedia that is probably the most used in the world we will continue to see the controversies of these themes: Chinese treasure ship - Wikipedia

Than I will like to make a statement: My ignorance of the Chinese sources about this theme varies from almost total to total. The few things that I know about them are mostly trough Wikipedia, or when rarely quote in Western books. So quite generic, to say the least.

I am also under the idea that there is an overall lack of knowledge of the relevant Portuguese production of sources about the Orient since the 16th century.

The best, or at least the best known, European source about China, previous to Zheng He's voyages, is “The Travels of Marco Polo”, and this is for the late 13th century. Than in Europe we have a hole. A big hole. And I think that we all have the idea what “The Travels of Marco Polo” made to the European imaginary. Columbus by the late of the 15th century referred to it often.

In the beginning of the 15th century we have Zheng He's voyages that reach the Indian Ocean. Followed by a sudden stop.

In the late of the 15th century, the Portuguese open a direct trade route between Europe and Asia, after many decades of trying to reach it. The arrival to India is in 1498, but after that they spread relatively quickly, if we compare to the slow exploration of the West Coast of Africa. The Already long established trade routes were used. First Portuguese references to China in a Portuguese document is from 1508: the king of Portugal, D. Manuel, orders to Diogo Lopes de Sequeira to gather intelligence about China. The Portuguese arrive to Malacca in 1509 (Lopes da Silveira), to conquer it two years later, in 1511.

In that same year, Afonso de Albuquerque, from Malacca, that was a Chinese vassal, sends and ambassador to Siam in Chinese junks. It is speculated that he also sent an ambassador to China, but we don’t have enough substance to confirm it. If not previous the contact and the Portuguese mentions to China and the Chinese begins here. The news are sill indirect. In Malacca the Chinese merchants make frequent appearances. All the Portuguese sources until now, about the Chinese continue to be indirect, based in what they saw and what they heard, their concerns are wide, just like in all their writings about India (aka, the Orient). The themes range from trade to military capabilities of the peoples, from anthropology to naval capabilities, from religion to history. This range of themes is consensual with the spirit of the Renaissance.

In 1513, Jorge Álvares , sails from Malacca in a Junk and arrives to China, and, as it was usual by the Portuguese to sign their arrival it raises a “padrão” in the island of Tamão, in the Pearl River Delta (see “padrão”: padrão - Wiktionary). The commercial results of this travel were quite good, so China and the Chinese are by now a direct concern for the Portuguese.

Later in 1543, the Portuguese arrive to Japan.

Meanwhile, from Mallaca, the Pharmacist (among other things) Tomé Pires, who wrote “Suma Oriental” already dedicates a significant part of this work to China.

Duarte Barbosa, in his book “Livro do que viu e ouviu no Oriente” mentions in detail the information that he gathered about China. A sample:

“São muito grandes mercadores; têm muito grandes naus, que eles chamam juncos, de quatro mastros, desviados da feição das nossas. Trazem as velas de esteira e verga muito forte; da mesma verga fazem os cabos e toda outra enxárcia
São, em sua terra, muito grandes corsários por entre essas ilhas e portos da China.”
/
"They are very great merchants; have very large naus, which they call junks, with four masts, diverted from the features of ours. Bring the sails of wake and yard very strong; from the same yard they make the cables and all the other shroud.
They are, in their land, very great corsairs between those islands and ports of China. "

Duarte Barbosa, “Livro do que viu e ouviu no Oriente” / “Book of what he heard and saw in the Orient”, translation is mine with huge doubts on the nautical terms. Google didn’t help me much in the translation of “verga”. No, in this case, it is not what Google says!

Finally after several commercial contacts, we have evidences that an Embassy was sent to China, the ambassador is the already mentioned Tomé Pires, in 1517.

Due to some delays, they are stuck in Canton for three years, went to Nanjing and only arrive to Peking by the end of 1520, or beginning of 1521.

In the meantime the Emperor Zhengde dies and in the following confusion the embassy needs to turn back to Canton.

By that time, a Portuguese Captain and pirate, Simão de Andrade, had been attacking Chinese merchant vessels since 1519, practicing piracy and trade, including as it was usual at the time, slave trade, with the complacency if not the accordance of the Portuguese in Malacca. He is most probably the responsible for the notice that the Portuguese were cannibals that eat small children. Naturally this lead to a cooling of the relations of the Portuguese with the Chinese, and the members of the Portuguese embassy are arrested in Canton.

The trade between the Portuguese and the Chinese proceeds, but it is now trough smuggling.

Some Portuguese captives were executed, 23, on the 23th of September of 1523. In their captivity the Portuguese, like Cristóvão Vieira and Vasco Calvo, wrote letters that they were able to pass to the outside. Fortunately this letters still exist. It is relevant to note that the intention of this letters was mostly to exhort the Portuguese to take Canton and recue the prisoners. I will only post here a couple of sentences, since it was pointed that until now I just had brought a sample about the Portuguese writing about China and the Chinese:

“Nenhuma governança da China tem trato com os estrangeiros senão esta de Cantão;” (p.29)
/
“No governance of China has dealings with foreigners only trough Canton;” – Pointing that Canton was the gateway to the trade in China;

“… muita fustalha que há nesta terra de governança da Cantão, nenhuma de guerra, toda de paz, do tamanho de galés reais e fustas e bergantins…” (p.35)
/
“ there are a lot of fustalha in the governance of Canton, none of war, all of peace, of the size of real gallwyes and fustas and bergantins [kinds of ships]…” – in the beginning of what is an detailed explanation about the ships that could be available for the defence of Canton;

It is relevant to note that these letters are the first presential testimony of Europeans in China since Marco Polo. We have here the end of a gap of more than two centuries.

About historical themes the letters don’t go much into the past. They just explain the last years, and what led to the present situation of the captives. Many of the captives died in prison, including most probably Tomé Pires. Fernão Mendes Pinto, the Portuguese adventurer and writer of “Peregrinação / Peregrination” said that he met Tomé’s daughter, Inês de Leiria, when he was in China.

(cont...)
 
Likes: Entreri

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,720
Portugal
#74
But still there are interesting memories:

“Em Cantão não faziam armadas como fizeram nos tempos do passado. Haverá agora uns dezasseis anos que fizeram uns chins uns juncos: fizeram-se ladrões e Cantão armou sobre eles. Foram os de Cantão desbaratados...” (p.36)
/
"In Canton they did not make armadas as they did in the past tines. Some sixteen years ago some Chinese made some junks: they became thieves and Canton armed against them. The ones of Canton were defeated ... "

Cartas dos Cativos de Cantão: Cristóvão Vieira e Vasco Calvo (1524) / Letters from the Captives of Canton: Cristóvão Vieira and Vasco Calvo (1524), Alfa – Biblioteca da Expansão Portuguesa, my translation from the original in Portuguese.

After this first events we had a dark phase (aprox: 1520-1550) with some confronts and battles, with several intents of the Portuguese to re-establish the trade, much smuggling, and some bribery of the Chinese authorities by the Portuguese, until that after 1554 the relations would calm down and the Portuguese presence in Macau became more stable.

Anyway China was a constant theme for the Portuguese writers and chroniclers. The first writings as it was said where mostly based on their personals testimony and the information that they could gather orally (Classics are sometimes quoted as sources, in the spirit of the Renaissance – and it is usually here that the biggest nonsenses appear, since their best sources continue to be their observations and the recollections of oral history and collective memories). But, by the 17th century, if not before, the Chinese written sources were already quoted or mentioned. So we already see here a huge evolution. For instance this happens with the work of Álvaro Semedo, “Relação da Grande Monarquia da China”, translated to English and available online, under the extended title:

“The history of that great and renowned monarchy of China. Wherein all the particular provinces are accurately described: as also the dispositions, manners, learning, lawes, militia, government, and religion of the people. Together with the traffick and commodities of that countrey”: The history of that great and renowned monarchy of China. Wherein all the particular provinces are accurately described: as also the dispositions, manners, learning, lawes, militia, government, and religion of the people. Together with the traffick and commodities of that countrey : Semedo, Alvaro, 1585-1658 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

I think that the title also offer us an idea about the content. It is available online and in English, for now I will not quote it here.

Going back a bit, I took some time to write and translate to English (often with Google’s help) some interesting parts of Portuguese authors that were already mentioned in this thread. Let us go back to Gaspar da Cruz:

“…ou porque os chinas senhoraram muitas partes da Índia e as conquistaram nos tempos antigos, de que hoje em dia há memórias como na costa de Choromândel…”
/
"... or because the Chinese were masters many parts of India and conquered them in ancient times, that today there are memories as on the coast of Choromândel ..."

“Há hoje em dia um templo grande de ídolos (…) o qual, como afirmam os da terra, foi feito pelos chinas, de que entre eles ficou perpetua memória e por isso lhe chamam pagode dos chinas, que quer dizer templo dos chinas”
/
"There is a great temple with idols today (...) which, as the people of the land affirm, was made by the Chinese, that among them remained as a perpetual remembrance, and therefore they call it the pagoda of the Chinese, which means the temple of the Chinese"

“E no reino de Calecut (…) há árvores de fruto muito antigas que dizem os da terra terem sido plantadas pelos chinas e nos baixo de Chilau, que correm da ilha de Ceilão para a costa do Choromândel, se afirma pelos da terra que se perdeu mui grossa armada dos chinas que vinham sobre a Índia, a qual se perdeu porque os chinas eram novos naquela navegação…”
/
"And in the kingdom of Calecut (...) there are very old fruit trees that say the ones of the land that were planted by the Chinese, and in the low Chilau, which flow from the island of Ceylon to the coast of the Choromandel, it is said by the ones of the land that was lost many big navies of the Chinese that came upon India, which was lost because the Chinese were new in that navigation ... "

“E assim os da terra, dizem os chinas, foram senhores de toda a Jaoa e de Jantana, que é o reino de Malaca e de Sião e de Champa…”
/
"And thus the people of the land, say the Chinese, were lords of all Jonah and Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malacca and Zion and Champa ..."

“Mas vendo el-rei da China que o seu reino de ia desbaratando e arriscando por se quererem estender a senhorar muitas outras terras de fora, se tornou a recolher com suas gentes só em seu reino com fazer édito público que, sob pena de morte, nenhum seu natural navegasse para fora da China, o qual dura ainda hoje em dia.”
/
"But when the King of China saw that his kingdom was falling apart and in risk for wanting to extend himself to the lordship of many other lands outside, he gathered his own people only in his kingdom and made a public edict which, on upon death, none of his naturals navigated out of China, which lasts even today. "

“Estas memórias mostram os chinas não tão-somente terem contratação com as partes da Índia, mas conquistarem e senhorarem muitas partes dela…”
/
"These memories show the Chinese not only hiring with parts of India, but conquering and honouring many parts of it ..."

Gaspar da Cruz, “Cousas da China e do Reino de Ormuz” / “Things of China and of the kingdom of Ormuz, chapter II, pp. 57-60, Alfa – Biblioteca da Expansão Portuguesa, my translation from the original in Portuguese.

The work of Galiote Pereira is also interesting, describing China’s political administration, but sometimes it seems more a travel book, as the ones of the 19th century, going from town to town and describing it, but also recollecting memories form the local peoples, as for instance:

“Disseram-me mais que não tem este rei da china rei com quem tenha Guerra senão com os tártaros, com quem tinha feito pazes havia mais de oitenta anos, mas que [a] amizade não era tanta que bastassem casar os filhos com as filhas.” p.37

Galiote Pereira, “Tratado da China” / “Treaty of China”, Alfa – Biblioteca da Expansão Portuguesa, my translation from the original in Portuguese.

At this point you (those who are still reading this) can say that for now I am centred too much in few writers. True. It is not a coincidence that those are the books that I have available at home. Printed on paper. As I said there are more, I also have “Suma Oriental”, but its reading is challenging.

Some of the bibliography is available on post #60, I don’t think that is necessary to repeat it here. Maybe the most extended source is still the works “Décadas”, by the chronicler João de Barros and then Diogo de Couto, unfortunately I don’t have immediate access to all the works. Anyway in my opinion the quoted parts can give us a tiny idea about what the works are about. I tried to quote parts that could be as relevant as possible to show that the Portuguese sources have many concerns, many themes, including Chinese history, naval history, and nautical themes, and that their main sources, were oral history/collective memoirs, besides their own personal observations.

After this already long considerations, I will try to make a summary of my reasoning, on post (#lost it), a reasoning that had its faults, but that I considered plausible. Like other reasoning there may be people that disagree with its plausibility, as it was already stated, so let us just say that at this point we can agree to disagree.

(cont...)
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,720
Portugal
#75
SUMMARY

Unaware of the Chinese sources, and regarding the time period, but knowing the controversy of the theme, I had doubts about the huge size of the Zheng He ships size.

When the Portuguese arrived to China in the 16th century they wrote about its history and about its navy.

Value above or much above 1000 ton ships were uncommon for the Portuguese at this point (let us for the sake of reasoning forget other bigger sizes that were mentioned, and proceed with this value, even if we should keep in mind that as we downsize this value it comes more probable and common).

It there was a remain in the collective memory of the Chinese, about Zheng He ships, or their size, and if that was told to the Portuguese, while their made their inquires, that information would most probably ended in the written sources.

As far as I know, there are references to his voyages but there aren’t references in the Portuguese sources about Zheng He ships, or their size.

Later I added, what I think it was seen as natural, that the silence of the sources doesn’t prove the inexistence of the ships.

How many times the historical sources don’t talk to us and keep us in he dark?


I questioned the huge dimensions of Zheng He's ships. Questioning history, questioning sources are a common practice in the discipline, it is one thing that makes us go forward.

I mentioned that the Portuguese Sources because, as far as I knew, in their studies about China, never mentioned big ships that would be worth to mention for people that were used to ships dimensions and studding China, including its history and ships if they heard to talk about them they would most probably right about it was they wrote about the ships that they saw and the voyages that the Chinese did in the previous century. It was a reasoning. It was a line of thinking. As I already stated the fact that the Portuguese sources don’t mention them leads me to think that there was not a “knowledge” “remains” (the first words that I used, if I am not mistaken), that there was not a collective memory about the big ships that were destroyed. This doesn’t prove the inexistence of the ships.

In history it is common to cross check sources from different origins to see what they have in common , in this case Chinese and European (Portuguese). That was what I tried to do with an apparent inability. Let us recall that the Portuguese sources were the

First direct news that the Portuguese had about China since Marco Polo and that were the only ones after Zheng He’s travels.

Again we can agree or disagree with the plausibility of the presented reasoning. In either cases, I don’t think that it is a reasoning that worth so many pages in this thread to the point of stealing it.

At this point I consider that I answered to all of the questions that were addressed to me. Out of this already long text is the question that the Portuguese considered, in the 16th century, uncommon a ship above or much above 1000 tons. I hope that will answer to that quite soon. This text took me a while to write, and the height of the ships is a technical theme, and I confess that I am not a good sailor.

(will continue about the +1000 ton ships...)
 
Feb 2011
6,148
#76
I think you need to read the counterpoints more carefully because you haven't addressed the points, like those in post 71. You are also bringing in sources that is after the 16th century now, which means you expect "collective memory" to exist for 200 years or more, not just 100 years.

Too many things needs to be true in order for your argument to hold:
1. Collective memory of the exact size of Zheng He's 1250 ton ships must exist (in 100 years that number probably changed).
2. Chinese with said collective memory must tell the Portuguese of it by word of mouth
3. The Portuguese have to treat this "word-of-mouth" as more than a rumor, despite the prevalence of rumors about everything that exist everywhere.
4. The Portuguese must bother to make the proper conversions from Liao to Tons
5. After making the conversions, the Portuguese must think said word-of-mouth information is noteworthy enough to record down, despite having 1000 ton ships of their own by that point, not to mention all the other ships of 1000 tons that were around in Europe at that point.
6. Such records must have survived.

To fulfill all the above six criteria is a possibility, and I would say a very faint one. There are plenty of rumors flying around in China, how should the Portuguese distinguish one from the other? "Collective memory" is just long-hand for rumor. Also again nobody here argued that Zheng He's ships were 450 ft long, that makes closer to 20,000 ton ship. 5000 liao ships are 1250 tons.

As for Marco Polo, during which time the existence of 5000 liao ships were already recorded to have existed:

I tell you that they are mostly built of the wood which is called fir or pine.

They have one floor, which with us is called a deck, one for each, and on this deck there are commonly in all the greater number quite 60 little rooms or cabins, and in some, more, and in some, fewer, according as the ships are larger and smaller, where, in each, a merchant can stay comfortably.

They have one good sweep or helm, which in the vulgar tongue is called a rudder.

And four masts and four sails, and they often add to them two masts more, which are raised and put away every time they wish, with two sails, according to the state of the weather.

Some ships, namely those which are larger, have besides quite 13 holds, that is, divisions, on the inside, made with strong planks fitted together, so that if by accident that the ship is staved in any place, namely that either it strikes on a rock, or a whale-fish striking against it in search of food staves it in... And then the water entering through the hole runs to the bilge, which never remains occupied with any things. And then the sailors find out where the ship is staved, and then the hold which answers to the break is emptied into others, for the water cannot pass from one hold to another, so strongly are they shut in; and then they repair the ship there, and put back there the goods which had been taken out.

They are indeed nailed in such a way; for they are all lined, that is, that they have two boards above the other.

And the boards of the ship, inside and outside, are thus fitted together, that is, they are, in the common speech of our sailors, caulked both outside and inside, and they are well nailed inside and outside with iron pins. They are not pitched with pitch, because they have none of it in those regions, but they oil them in such a way as I shall tell you, because they have another thing which seems to them to be better than pitch. For I tell you that they take lime, and hemp chopped small, and they pound it all together, mixed with an oil from a tree. And after they have pounded them well, these three things together, I tell you that it becomes sticky and holds like birdlime. And with this thing they smear their ships, and this is worth quite as much as pitch.

Moreover I tell you that these ships want some 300 sailors, some 200, some 150, some more, some fewer, according as the ships are larger and smaller.

They also carry a much greater burden than ours.

This parallels with Gong Zhen who says that Zheng He's ships need 200-300 men to crew it.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2011
6,148
#77
Tulius said:
“The history of that great and renowned monarchy of China. Wherein all the particular provinces are accurately described: as also the dispositions, manners, learning, lawes, militia, government, and religion of the people. Together with the traffick and commodities of that countrey”: The history of that great and renowned monarchy of China. Wherein all the particular provinces are accurately described: as also the dispositions, manners, learning, lawes, militia, government, and religion of the people. Together with the traffick and commodities of that countrey : Semedo, Alvaro, 1585-1658 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

I think that the title also offer us an idea about the content.
The title is misleading as it is mostly about cultural and government practices, not actual history. When it does speak about history, it's about the history of Christianity in China.
 
Feb 2011
6,148
#78
Tulius said:
Going back a bit, I took some time to write and translate to English (often with Google’s help) some interesting parts of Portuguese authors that were already mentioned in this thread. Let us go back to Gaspar da Cruz:

“…ou porque os chinas senhoraram muitas partes da Índia e as conquistaram nos tempos antigos, de que hoje em dia há memórias como na costa de Choromândel…”
/
"... or because the Chinese were masters many parts of India and conquered them in ancient times, that today there are memories as on the coast of Choromândel ..."

“Há hoje em dia um templo grande de ídolos (…) o qual, como afirmam os da terra, foi feito pelos chinas, de que entre eles ficou perpetua memória e por isso lhe chamam pagode dos chinas, que quer dizer templo dos chinas”
/
"There is a great temple with idols today (...) which, as the people of the land affirm, was made by the Chinese, that among them remained as a perpetual remembrance, and therefore they call it the pagoda of the Chinese, which means the temple of the Chinese"

“E no reino de Calecut (…) há árvores de fruto muito antigas que dizem os da terra terem sido plantadas pelos chinas e nos baixo de Chilau, que correm da ilha de Ceilão para a costa do Choromândel, se afirma pelos da terra que se perdeu mui grossa armada dos chinas que vinham sobre a Índia, a qual se perdeu porque os chinas eram novos naquela navegação…”
/
"And in the kingdom of Calecut (...) there are very old fruit trees that say the ones of the land that were planted by the Chinese, and in the low Chilau, which flow from the island of Ceylon to the coast of the Choromandel, it is said by the ones of the land that was lost many big navies of the Chinese that came upon India, which was lost because the Chinese were new in that navigation ... "

“E assim os da terra, dizem os chinas, foram senhores de toda a Jaoa e de Jantana, que é o reino de Malaca e de Sião e de Champa…”
/
"And thus the people of the land, say the Chinese, were lords of all Jonah and Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malacca and Zion and Champa ..."

“Mas vendo el-rei da China que o seu reino de ia desbaratando e arriscando por se quererem estender a senhorar muitas outras terras de fora, se tornou a recolher com suas gentes só em seu reino com fazer édito público que, sob pena de morte, nenhum seu natural navegasse para fora da China, o qual dura ainda hoje em dia.”
/
"But when the King of China saw that his kingdom was falling apart and in risk for wanting to extend himself to the lordship of many other lands outside, he gathered his own people only in his kingdom and made a public edict which, on upon death, none of his naturals navigated out of China, which lasts even today. "

“Estas memórias mostram os chinas não tão-somente terem contratação com as partes da Índia, mas conquistarem e senhorarem muitas partes dela…”
/
"These memories show the Chinese not only hiring with parts of India, but conquering and honouring many parts of it ..."

Gaspar da Cruz, “Cousas da China e do Reino de Ormuz” / “Things of China and of the kingdom of Ormuz, chapter II, pp. 57-60, Alfa – Biblioteca da Expansão Portuguesa, my translation from the original in Portuguese.
Gaspar is talking about the Chinese conquest of India around Herodotus' time, which is obviously incorrect as India and China haven't even contacted each other back then. It's possible that Gaspar did speak unknowingly of the effects of Zheng He's expedition, parts of it could also be speaking about the Yuan invasion of Java. Here is the full quote:

China is a great part of Scythia; for as Herodotus saith, Scythia extendeth itself unto India, which may be understood in one of two ways. Either because the Chinas did posses many parts of India and did conquer them of old time, whereof at this day there are some vestiges, as in the coast of Choromandel, which is on the opposite coast of the kingdom of Narsinga, on that side which we call Sao Thom’, because there is the house built by the apostle, and the relics of his body. There is at this day a great temple of idols, which is a mark for the navigators to know the coast, which is all very low, the which as the men of the country affirm, was made by the Chinas, of whom there remained among them a perpetual memory, and therefore they call it ‘Pagoda of the Chinas’, which is to say Temple of the Chinas. And in the kingdom of Calequu, which is the head of Malabar, there be very ancient fruit trees which the men of the country say were planted by the Chinas: and on the shoals of Chilao, which do run from the island of Ceilam toward the coast of Choromandel, is affirmed, by the men of the country, a very great armada of the Chinas to be cast away which came for India, was lost because the Chinas were but young in that navigation.
And so the men of the country say the Chinas were lords of all Jaoa [Java] and Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malaca, and of Siam and of Champa, as it is commonly affirmed in those parts. Wherefore some do affirm many of these peoples to be like the Chinas, that is having small eyes, flat noses and broad faces, for the great commisture that the Chinas had with all of them, especially with the Joas who are commonly more China-like.
But the King of China, seeing that his kingdom went to decay, and was in danger by their seeking to conquer many other foreign countries, he withdrew himself with his men to his own kingdom, making a public edict that under pain of death none of the country should sail out of the kingdom of China; the which lasteth to this day. These vestiges show that the Chinas had not only had dealings with the regions of India, but conquered and ruled many parts of it, whereby Herodotus said that Scythia reached as far as India. As for China, it reached to the end of Scythia, or, as it seems that Herodotus more truly said, that Scythia reached to India; for some people speak of three Indians and the third and last they call Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malacca, and which they call the end of the earth


Also interesting is that Gaspar did make mention of Chinese yulohs, a type of very big oar, curved or bent at the top (ie the handle) to magnify the movements of the oarsmen (and to allow more oarsmen to handle the same oar):

All these ships as well of war as of burthen use two oars ahead. They are very great, and four or five men do row each of them, laying them alongside the ship they move them with such a sleight, that they make the ship go forward, and they help very much for to go out and in at a bar, and setting upon the enemies for to board them. They call these oars Lios lios; in all manner of their vessels they use the Lios lios neither do they use any other manner of oars in any kind of shipping.
There be other lesser vessels than junks, called Bancoes, they bear three oars on a side, and row very well, and load a great deal of goods. There be other less, called Lanteas, which have six or seven oars on a side, which do row very swift, and bear a good burthen also; and these two sorts of ships, viz BancSes and Lanteas, because they are swift, the pirates do commonly use. The rowing of these oars is standing, two men at very oar, every one of his side, setting one foot forward, another backward. In the junks go four, five, or six men at an oar.


And of course there is mention of Niccolo who mentioned 15th century ships of 2000 butts (or 1000 tons carrying capacity). Checking back he says these are Indian ships, but India and China could be confused during this period and the description of multi-compartments do suggest them being Chinese ships, or that India developed/adopted multi-compartments by that period as well. If he was indeed speaking of Indian ships, then ships of 1000 tons carrying capacity is nothing new in the 15th century Indian Oceans and I don't see why Zheng He's ship size should be mentioned particularly. If he was speaking of Chinese ships, then that's confirmation of Zheng He's biggest 15th century ships of 5000 liao (1250 tons carrying capacity, not far from 1000 tons).
 
Last edited:
Mar 2012
4,277
#79
Gaspar is talking about the Chinese conquest of India around Herodotus' time, which is obviously incorrect as India and China haven't even contacted each other back then. It's possible that Gaspar did speak unknowingly of the effects of Zheng He's expedition, parts of it could also be speaking about the Yuan invasion of Java. Here is the full quote:
It sounds like he was describing Zheng He to me rather than the Yuan invasion of Java, as Malacca itself didn't exist until that time. From the way he also described the Chinese as lords of Siam and Champa, it seems he is merely implying vassalage rather than outright subjugation through military conquest (and even if he wrote that, there is still the chance that he was mistaken as he also described the Ming conquest of Calicut, which was never actually subdued militarily).
Calicut did recognize Ming overlordship (Zheng He also died there), and that was probably what the Portuguese were describing. Zheng He also erected an inscription in Calicut which is now lost, but is preserved in Ma Huan's 1451 work, Yingya Shengjian which goes: “永乐五年,朝廷命正使太监郑和等,统领大 宝船到彼,起建碑亭,立石云:其国去中国十万余里,民物咸若,熙 同风,刻石于兹,永乐万世。”

"In the fifth year of Yongle (1407, the court send the eunuch Zhenghe etc, leading great treasure ships to this place, established an stele, with the inscription: this kingdom is over 100,000 li from China, the people and things have received transformation (from the emperor), they are happy to be similar, now this stone is erected, to make 10,000 future generations happy."

The Ming did have two garrisons in Sumedera and Malacca shown from 16 century maps however and also established a Military Governorship in Old Port 老港宣慰司 and Luzon.


Malacca:

1547867118246.png

Sumadera:
1547867616426.png
 
Last edited:

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#80
Gaspar is talking about the Chinese conquest of India around Herodotus' time, which is obviously incorrect as India and China haven't even contacted each other back then. It's possible that Gaspar did speak unknowingly of the effects of Zheng He's expedition, parts of it could also be speaking about the Yuan invasion of Java. Here is the full quote:

China is a great part of Scythia; for as Herodotus saith, Scythia extendeth itself unto India, which may be understood in one of two ways. Either because the Chinas did posses many parts of India and did conquer them of old time, whereof at this day there are some vestiges, as in the coast of Choromandel, which is on the opposite coast of the kingdom of Narsinga, on that side which we call Sao Thom’, because there is the house built by the apostle, and the relics of his body. There is at this day a great temple of idols, which is a mark for the navigators to know the coast, which is all very low, the which as the men of the country affirm, was made by the Chinas, of whom there remained among them a perpetual memory, and therefore they call it ‘Pagoda of the Chinas’, which is to say Temple of the Chinas. And in the kingdom of Calequu, which is the head of Malabar, there be very ancient fruit trees which the men of the country say were planted by the Chinas: and on the shoals of Chilao, which do run from the island of Ceilam toward the coast of Choromandel, is affirmed, by the men of the country, a very great armada of the Chinas to be cast away which came for India, was lost because the Chinas were but young in that navigation.
And so the men of the country say the Chinas were lords of all Jaoa [Java] and Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malaca, and of Siam and of Champa, as it is commonly affirmed in those parts. Wherefore some do affirm many of these peoples to be like the Chinas, that is having small eyes, flat noses and broad faces, for the great commisture that the Chinas had with all of them, especially with the Joas who are commonly more China-like.
But the King of China, seeing that his kingdom went to decay, and was in danger by their seeking to conquer many other foreign countries, he withdrew himself with his men to his own kingdom, making a public edict that under pain of death none of the country should sail out of the kingdom of China; the which lasteth to this day. These vestiges show that the Chinas had not only had dealings with the regions of India, but conquered and ruled many parts of it, whereby Herodotus said that Scythia reached as far as India. As for China, it reached to the end of Scythia, or, as it seems that Herodotus more truly said, that Scythia reached to India; for some people speak of three Indians and the third and last they call Jantana, which is the kingdom of Malacca, and which they call the end of the earth


Also interesting is that Gaspar did make mention of Chinese yulohs, a type of very big oar, curved or bent at the top (ie the handle) to magnify the movements of the oarsmen (and to allow more oarsmen to handle the same oar):

All these ships as well of war as of burthen use two oars ahead. They are very great, and four or five men do row each of them, laying them alongside the ship they move them with such a sleight, that they make the ship go forward, and they help very much for to go out and in at a bar, and setting upon the enemies for to board them. They call these oars Lios lios; in all manner of their vessels they use the Lios lios neither do they use any other manner of oars in any kind of shipping.
There be other lesser vessels than junks, called Bancoes, they bear three oars on a side, and row very well, and load a great deal of goods. There be other less, called Lanteas, which have six or seven oars on a side, which do row very swift, and bear a good burthen also; and these two sorts of ships, viz BancSes and Lanteas, because they are swift, the pirates do commonly use. The rowing of these oars is standing, two men at very oar, every one of his side, setting one foot forward, another backward. In the junks go four, five, or six men at an oar.


And of course there is mention of Niccolo who mentioned 15th century ships of 2000 butts (or 1000 tons carrying capacity). Checking back he says these are Indian ships, but India and China could be confused during this period and the description of multi-compartments do suggest them being Chinese ships, or that India developed/adopted multi-compartments by that period as well. If he was indeed speaking of Indian ships, then ships of 1000 tons carrying capacity is nothing new in the 15th century Indian Oceans and I don't see why Zheng He's ship size should be mentioned particularly. If he was speaking of Chinese ships, then that's confirmation of Zheng He's biggest 15th century ships of 5000 liao (1250 tons carrying capacity, not far from 1000 tons).
If the Chinese ships are using oars, then these ships. are probably smaller than being claimed, since rowing a 1000 ton ship is not very practical unless you had very large crews which would not be very economical for commerce. Rowing the ships implied they were less than a 1000 tons or 5000 liao.

Gaspar talked about a great Chinese Armada.to India being lost, but we don't have any Chinese record of any of Zheng He fleets being lost, and if Gasparnwas in error here, he could have been in error in other places. He also blamed the loss of this armada on the Chinese being new to the art of navigation, suggesting that the Chinese had not been sailing to India before Zheng He time. I know that when the Chinese monk Faxian returned to China in the 5th century CE, it was on a non Chinese ship. And in another thread talking about the history of the Philippines,a source said it was the Philippines that first sailed to China during the 11th century, not the Song to the Philippines. If Niccolo Conti's 2000 butts ships were India, it might suggest that the large 5,000 liao ships didn't arise until the Ming dynasty.
 

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