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When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 Study Guide & Plot Summary

Louise Levathes
This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of When China Ruled the Seas.
This section contains 567 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 Study Guide

When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 Summary & Study Guide Description

When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 by Louise Levathes.

Plot Summary

"When China Ruled the Seas," by author Louise Levathes, is a historical chronology of China's eventual emergence to a position of dominance on the high seas. Around 1600 B.C., prior to the Ming Dynasty when China enjoyed maritime superiority, the Yi people of China were forced out of working the land and had to turn to the sea for their livelihoods. There is archaeological evidence that the Yi people traveled as far as South and Central America. The fact that the Chinese were able to construct sailing vessels that could withstand rough ocean waters so many centuries ago is a testament to their skills in design and building.

The Ming Dynasty began in the late-fourteenth century. The first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty was Zhu Yuanzhang who was greatly influenced by the teachings of Confucius who strongly opposed China's entering into trade relations with foreign countries. Confucians held the belief that dealing with foreigners held only peril for China. Further, they felt that trading with other countries would be an admission that China was not self-sufficient and needed items from other countries in order to survive. China would, therefore, lose prestige and appear weak. Zhu Yuanzhang ascribed to these Confucian views and did not develop a navy.

Zhu Di was the son of Zhu Yuanzhang and the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, also known as the dragon throne. While giving lip-service to his father's orders against trading with foreign nations, Zhu Di could not deny the potentially positive economics that strong trade relationships with other countries could bring to China. Zhu Di also felt that the people of China would prosper and be benefited by products that were not indigenous to their country. Zhu Di, therefore, ordered the building of a huge first-class naval fleet which consisted of cargo ships as well as warships. Zhu Di proved to be farsighted, as China's economy prospered and its prestige grew from the strong trade relations that were fostered with other countries. He also had good instincts about the importance of spreading Chinese culture. He saw to it that the fleet always had a supply of Chinese brass rulers, scales and other measuring devices as well as books on Confucianism and Buddhism to distribute in foreign lands.

First venturing out in the China Seas and reaching many strategic trading locations in Asia, the famous treasure fleet of the Ming Dynasty eventually voyaged as far as the African coast and the Middle East. Zhu Di enjoyed a lengthy reign and the treasure fleet ruled the seas during most of it. Not only did Zhu Di establish close trade relations with foreign countries, the warships of the fleet were mighty and able to control pirates, settle internal conflicts in foreign nations and keep the Mongols of Northern China at bay.

During the Zhu Di's declining years, he moved his capital to the newly constructed Forbidden City which caught fire soon after its completion. Depression over the loss of the Forbidden City and an economic downturn in his country, led Zhu Di to adjust some major policies. One change he made was to cut back on the voyages of the treasure fleet. China's dominance of the seas paralleled the reign of Zhu Di. His successors either ascribed to the Confucians who were against trade or were unsuccessful in their bids to return China to a dominant force on the high seas.

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This section contains 567 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 Study Guide
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When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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