Adrienne's Reviews > When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433

When China Ruled the Seas by Louise Levathes
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's review
Nov 13, 2009

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bookshelves: book-count-09, non-fiction
Read in November, 2009

I've known for awhile that the Chinese in the Middle Ages/Renaissance were very advanced technologically when compared with Europe. China had gunpowder and useful clocks long before Europeans did, for example. But I did not know that during this same era, China sent out large fleet of ships to trade with the countries that bordered the Indian Ocean, even on the east coast of Africa. And not just once, either, but 7 different times, all before Columbus sailed to the New World. Wow!

In When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, Louise Levathes tells the story of Zheng He, the man who commanded each of the 7 voyages, and of the Ming emperors who sent him on them. Levathes weaves together the history of China in the beginnings of the Ming dynasty with fascinating details about the people involved, including non-Chinese people and the setting of the Indian Ocean. While that might sound a)really boring and b)super confusing, it isn't. Well, I had a hard time keeping some of the Chinese names straight, but that's more of a familiarity issue and a personal failing of mine rather than a problem with the book.

To sum up, this is a fascinating history about a region and a time that I didn't know much about before, but feel like I have a better understanding of now.

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