Sábado, 9 de Julho de 2011





In 1999, New York Times journalist Nicholas D. Kristof reported a surprising encounter on a tiny African island called Pate, just off the coast of Kenya. Here, in a village of stone huts set amongst dense mangrove trees, Kristof met a number of elderly men who told him that they were descendants of Chinese sailors, shipwrecked on Pate many centuries ago. Their ancestors had traded with the local Africans, who had given them giraffes to take back to China; then their boat was driven onto the nearby reef. Kristof noted many clues that seemed to confirm the islanders' tale, including their vaguely Asian appearance and the presence of antique porcelain heirlooms in their homes.

The enterprising spirit of the Ming era reached a climax following the rebellion of the warrior prince Zhu Di, who usurped the throne in 1402. Disapproved of by the Confucian "establishment," Zhu Di put his trust in the worldly eunuchs who had always sought their fortunes in commerce. During his revolt, Zhu Di's right-hand man had been the Muslim eunuch Zheng He, whom he now appointed to command the treasure fleet.

At the start of the first of Zheng He's epic voyages in 1403, it is said that 317 ships gathered in the port of Nanjing. As sociologist Janet Abu-Lughod notes, "The impressive show of force that paraded around the Indian Ocean during the first three decades of the 15th century was intended to signal the 'barbarian nations' that China had reassumed her rightful place in the firmament of nations—had once again become the 'Middle Kingdom' of the world."


The conservative Confucian faction now had the upper hand. In its worldview, it was improper to go abroad while one's parents were still alive. "Barbarian" nations were seen as offering little of value to add to the prosperity already present in the Middle Kingdom.


In addition, the threat of a new Mongol invasion drew military investment away from the expensive maintenance of the treasure fleets. By 1503 the navy had shrunk to one-tenth of its size in the early Ming. The final blow came in 1525 with the order to destroy all the larger classes of ships. China was now set on its centuries-long course of xenophobic isolation.



publicado por quaerendoinvenietis às 11:32
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