Sunday, 4 July 2010

Admiral Zheng He's tomb is empty

Admiral Zheng He's tomb is empty

An unconfirmed story, so far...
A recently excavated tomb in Nanjing, China has been confirmed to be the grave of Zheng He, a eunuch from the early Ming Dynasty who led historic voyages to Southeast Asia and eastern Africa.

The tomb was discovered accidentally on June 18, by workers at a construction site near Zutang Mountain that also holds the tombs of many other Ming Dynasty eunuchs, the Yangtse Evening News reported.

The tomb, which is 8.5-metre long and 4-metre wide, was built with blue bricks that archaeologists said were only used in structures belonging to dignitaries during the time of Zheng He.

However, Zheng He's remains were not found in the tomb.

Experts believed the remains were not placed there because of the long distance between Nanjing and India, where he died during a visit in 1433. It was also believed that Zheng He was "buried" in the sea during his last voyage.

Born in 1371, Admiral Zheng He - whose name is also spelled Cheng Ho - was from the Hui ethnic group that are Muslims.

He was an excellent navigator and diplomat in the Ming Dynasty who had led the royal fleet to southeast Asia including Malacca during the Malay Sultanate in the 14th century.

Legend has that Admiral Zheng He also led the voyage to send a Ming princess, Hang Li Po, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah as a mark of friendship between China and Malacca.

The princess's entourage of 500 sons of ministers and a few hundred handmaidens eventually settled down and married the locals. Their descendants are known today as Baba (male) and Nyonya (female).


Before this news from June 26, 2010, his grave was restored/ recostructed in 1985.

Zheng He (1371-1435), or Cheng Ho, is arguably China's most famous navigator. Starting from the beginning of the 15th Century, he traveled to the West seven times. For 28 years, he traveled more than 50,000km and visited over 30 countries, including Singapore. Zheng He died in the tenth year of the reign of the Ming emperor Xuande (1435) and was buried in the southern outskirts of Bull's Head Hill (Niushou) in Nanjing.

In 1985, during the 580th anniversary of Zheng He's voyage, his tomb was restored. The new tomb was built on the site of the original tomb in Nanjing and reconstructed according to the customs of Islamic teachings, as Zheng He was a Muslim.

At the entrance to the tomb is a Ming-style structure, which houses the memorial hall. Inside are paintings of the man himself and his navigation maps. To get to the tomb, there are newly laid stone platforms and steps. The stairway consists of 28 stone steps divided into four sections with each section having seven steps. This represents Zheng He's seven journeys to the West. The Arabic words "Allah (God) is great" are inscribed on top of the tomb.

Zhenghe constructed many wooden ships, some of which are the largest in the history, in Nanjing. Three of the shipyards still exist today.

1 comment:

vmenkov said...

A few days later, however, Nanjing archaeologists decided that, based on the inscription text, this new grave (on Zutang Hill) is in fact the grave of one of Zheng He's subordinates, Hong Bao, rather than that of Zheng He himself:
南京祖堂山神秘大墓主人系郑和副手洪保 (The "owner" of the mysterious grave on Nanjing's Zutang Mountain is Zheng He's deputy Hong Bao).

As to the "original" grave (on the Niushou [Cow's Head] Hill) nearby, which was restored in 1985, here's its photo: