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The Ming Voyages

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 13 October 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ming Voyages. In 1405 a Chinese admiral, Zheng He, set sail with an enormous fleet of ships carrying more than 27,000 people. This was the first of seven voyages of discovery which took Zheng and his ships all over the known world, from India to the Gulf of Persia and as far as East Africa. They took Chinese goods, evidence of the might of the Ming Empire, to the people they visited; and they also returned to China with treasure from the places they visited, and exotic items including a live giraffe.

These seven voyages were an expression of the might of the Ming Dynasty; but they were regarded by some Chinese courtiers as a wasteful extravagance, and after internal disputes they came to an end in 1433. These extraordinary journeys live on in the imagination and the historical record - and had a profound effect on China's relationship with the rest of the world.

With:

Rana Mitter
Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford

Julia Lovell
Lecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of London

Craig Clunas
Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Ma Huan, ‘The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores’, ed. J. V. G. Mills (Cambridge University Press, 1970)

    F. W. Mote, ‘Imperial China, 900-1800’ (Harvard University Press, 2000)

    Edward L. Dreyer, ‘Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433’ (Pearson Longman: New York, 2007)

    Louise Levathes, ‘When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne’ (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1994)

    Henry Shi-shan Tsai, ‘Perpetual Happiness: The Ming Emperor Yongle’ (University of Washington Press: Seattle and London, 2001)

    Henry Shi-shan Tsai, ‘The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty’ (State University of New York Press, 1995)

    Craig Clunas, ‘Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China’ (Reaktion Books: London, 2007)

    Timothy Brook, ‘Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties’ (Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA and London, 2010)

    Philip Snow, ‘The Star Raft: China’s Encounter with Africa’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988)

    Timothy Brook, ‘The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China’ (University of California Press, 1998)

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