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Timeline: Zheng He and the Treasure Fleet


Zheng He is justly famous as the commander in chief of seven voyages of Ming China's treasure fleet, between 1405 and 1433. The great Muslim eunuch admiral spread word of China's wealth and power as far as Africa, and brought countless emissaries and exotic goods back to China.


June 11, 1360. Zhu Di born, fourth son of future Ming Dynasty founder.

Jan. 23, 1368. Ming Dynasty founded.

1371. Zheng He born to Hui Muslim family in Yunnan, under birth name of Ma He.

1380. Zhu Di made Prince of Yan, sent to Beijing.

1381. Ming forces conquer Yunnan, kill Ma He's father and capture boy.

1384. Ma He is castrated, sent to serve as a eunuch in Prince of Yan's household.

June 30, 1398-July 13, 1402. Reign of Jianwen Emperor.

August 1399. Prince of Yan rebels against nephew, the Jianwen Emperor.

1399. Eunuch Ma He leads Prince of Yan's forces to victory at Zheng Dike, Beijing.

July 1402. Prince of Yan captures Nanjing; Jianwen Emperor (probably) dies in palace fire.

July 17, 1402. Prince of Yan, Zhu Di, becomes Yongle Emperor.

1402-1405. Ma He serves as Director of Palace Servants, highest eunuch post.

1403. Yongle Emperor orders construction of huge fleet of treasure junks at Nanjing.

Feb. 11, 1404. Yongle Emperor awards Ma He honorific name "Zheng He."

July 11, 1405-Oct. 2 1407. First voyage of Treasure Fleet, led by Admiral Zheng He, to Calicut, India.

1407. Treasure Fleet defeats pirate Chen Zuyi at Straights of Malacca; Zheng He takes pirates to Nanjing for execution.

1407-1409. Second Voyage of Treasure Fleet, again to Calicut.

1409-1410. Yongle Emperor and Ming army battle Mongols.

1409-July 6, 1411. Third Voyage of Treasure Fleet to Calicut. Zheng He intervenes in Ceylon succession dispute.

Dec. 18, 1412-August 12, 1415. Fourth Voyage of the Treasure Fleet to Hormuz. Capture of the pretender Sekandar in Semudera (Sumatra) on return trip.

1413-1416. Yongle Emperor's second campaign against the Mongols.

May 16, 1417. Yongle Emperor enters new capital city at Beijing, leaves Nanjing forever.

1417-August 8, 1419. Fifth Voyage of the Treasure Fleet, to Arabia and East Africa.

1421-Sept. 3, 1422. Sixth Voyage of the Treasure Fleet, to East Africa again.

1422-1424. Series of campaigns against the Mongols, led by Yongle Emperor.

Aug. 12, 1424. Yongle Emperor dies of possible stroke while fighting Mongols.

Sept. 7, 1424. Zhu Gaozhi, eldest son of Yongle Emperor, becomes Hongxi Emperor. Orders stop to Treasure Fleet voyages.

May 29, 1425. Hongxi Emperor dies. Son Zhu Zhanji becomes Xuande Emperor.

June 29, 1429. Xuande Emperor orders Zheng He to take one more voyage.

1430-1433. Seventh and final Voyage of the Treasure Fleet, to Arabia and East Africa.

1433, exact date unknown. Zheng He dies and is buried at sea on the return leg of the final voyage.

1433-1436. Zheng He's companions Ma Huan, Gong Zhen and Fei Xin publish accounts of their travels.

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