Zheng He and the American Liberal Arts Education: contexts and complications
- 12 Downloads
Zheng He was a eunuch of Moslem family heritage who held great authority early in the Ming Dynasty, primarily under the Yongle emperor (reign: 1402–24), as he led seven maritime expeditions, of which three reached the eastern coast of Africa. Of recent English language projects on Zheng He, Henry Tsai (1996) explores the context of the eunuchs of the Ming Dynasty in defining Zheng He’s work, and Edward Dreyer (2007) and Timothy Brook (2010) portray Zheng He within the context of the Chinese tributary system. However, other images also hold power over the Western imagination: Louise Levathes (1994) portrays Zheng He’s travels as trade missions and Gavin Menzies’s popularized Zheng He (2002) is first and foremost an explorer designed to be compared to Western explorers. While Zheng He can be partially understood through comparison to fifteenth-century Western navigators, we limit our knowledge when we identify him and his expeditions through the lens of Western traders and explorers. It is important instead to identify Zheng He within the framework of fifteenth-century Chinese history and culture. An examination of resources and methods for teaching Zheng He in an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum can serve as a case study for important issues to consider when infusing Asian Studies into undergraduate studies.
KeywordsZheng He Ming Dynasty China Tributary system Eunuch Columbus Vasco da Gama
- Dreyer, Edward L. 2007. Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty: 1405–1433, The Library of World Biography, series editor Peter N. Stearns. Harlow: Pearson Longman.Google Scholar
- “Gavin Menzies”. Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jun 2019.Google Scholar
- Goldstone, Jack. 2001. The Rise of the West—or Not? A Revision to Socio-economic History. University of California, Davis. http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/10/114.html. Accessed 11 July 2018.
- Green, John. 2012. Crash Course: World History #21, Columbus, da Gama and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners. https://nerdfighteria.info/v/NjEGncridoQ/. Accessed 19 July 2018.
- Hoon, Hum Sin. 2012. Zheng He’s Art of Collaboration: Understanding the Legendary Chinese Admiral from a Management Perspective. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore and International Zheng He Society.Google Scholar
- Kahn, Joseph. 2005. China Has an Ancient Mariner to Tell You About. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/20/world/asia/china-has-an-ancient-mariner-to-tell-you-about.html. Accessed 11 July 2018.
- Levathes, Louise. 1994. When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405–1433. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ling Meng-ch’u. 1994. Wine within Wine . . . Craft within Craft, The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature (ed: Victor H. Mair), 909–933. Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Menzies, Gavin. 2002. 1421: The Year China Discovered America. Harper Perennial, 2003; first published by Transworld Publishers, 2002.Google Scholar
- Said, Edward. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Tsai Shih-shan, Henry. (1996). The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Yamashita, Michael. 2006. Zheng He: Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer. Vercelli: White Star Publishers.Google Scholar
- Yang Deze. 1993. There Was Only Me: A Boy Eunuch Sees the Bitter End. In Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers’ Jaws, ed. and Trans. Lynn A. Struve, 239–60. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- “Zheng He”. Wikipedia. Accessed September 2008.Google Scholar