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The Great Voyages of Zheng He

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

by Demi

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Demi’s account of 15th-century Chinese explorer Zheng He is enlivened by images of the dazzling wealth his fleet carried back to China: “Precious ambergris used for medicine, cowrie shells, sapphires, rubies, oriental topaz, and Persian carpets filled the Forbidden City.” His 62 “Treasure Ships” were the largest the world had ever seen, but Zheng He also displayed a wealth of intellect and imagination that allowed him to embrace religious tolerance and open-mindedness—an attitude that might have had its source in his status as a Muslim in China. After a war in Ceylon, a statue he erected there “addressed Buddha, Shiva, and Allah, offering thanks for their compassion and moral virtue.” Demi’s skill as a biographer is on display, with details and context that add life and clarity. Her Persian miniature�like illustrations teach, too, showing the building of one of the fleet’s ships and a portrait of Zheng He’s burial at sea. It’s especially valuable as a portrait of a hero whose adventures were driven not by the hunger to conquer, but by a desire simply to know and be known. Ages 8�up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Author-illustrator Demi (Buddha, Muhammad, The Boy Who Painted Dragons, and numerous other titles) employs her customary combination of delicate visual detail and clear, direct prose in this picture book rendering of the life of the Chinese admiral who led the Ming Dynasty's Treasure Fleets around the world in their remarkable dual mission of trade and diplomacy. The sheer might and size of the enterprise is impressive—the loads of precious goods, the "Galloping Horse-Ships" escorting the massive flotilla, the peaceful intentions that led the expedition as far as Siam and Malacca, India, Mecca and Jeddah, and the coast of eastern Africa. More personal details leave an impression as well. The sailors invoked the protection of Buddhist goddess Bodhisatta Mazu. In fact, Zheng He believed he saw a vision of her when they encountered storms at high sea. We learn as well that Zheng He dreamed of "a world of intellectual growth and religious tolerance, and a world of everlasting, worldwide peace." It is a goal worth discussing across the generations in our own time. In all this is a beautifully crafted introduction for young readers to a life writ large, at a time that was the peak of China's golden age of exploration. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal
Gr 4�6—This glowing tribute to the 15th-century Chinese admiral describes the seven voyages Zheng He commanded, commissioned by the third Ming emperor, Zhu Di. Overseeing a fleet of more than 300 ships, sailing on the world's largest wooden vessels, and commanding a navy of more than 27,000 men required a larger-than-life figure. Zheng He is described as not only a large man with a powerful voice but also as educated, skilled in diplomacy, and having ideas far ahead of his time. The voyages he commanded were designed to set up and reinforce diplomatic relations. Each commission returned loaded with riches and ambassadors from faraway ports. His travels are documented as sailing as far west and south as southern Kenya, but Demi hints at the theory that the fleets found their way to Australia and the New World, beating Columbus by 70 years. All records were destroyed after the emperor's death and China turned inward, leaving the ships to rot. After Zheng He's death at sea, the navy crumbled. Descriptions of the ships; details of the riches they traded, including giraffes and other animals; and battles with pirates all add interest. A map tracks the general path of all seven voyages with a single line. Done in her signature gold, finely patterned borders and Chinese red, Demi's images evoke a sense of time and place. No source information is provided. Units on explorers and China will be enriched by this offering.—Carol S. Surges, Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

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Shens Books
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18 MB
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Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

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