The Treasure Ships

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Pablo Edronkin

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Only few times you will be able to get significant prizes without significant efforts: during the thirteenth century China had the most advanced naval and marine technology in the world, and as the ancient nation was attempting to expand its dominions and power, it began to develop oceanic commerce but had to make very significant investments in engineering and the construction of enormous shipyards.

One of the mot famous promoters of these projects was Admiral Zeng He, a Muslim eunuch of Chinese ethnical origin who became the Christopher Columbus of the Far East, as he managed to build an enormous fleet of hundreds of ships, including the mythical 'Treasure Ships,' of great proportions (ranging between 70 - 160 m. long) capable of fighting as well as transporting huge amounts of valuables and goods. Their navigation techniques were also the most advanced.

Zeng He sailed over a dozen times visiting, conquering and trading in places like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Malabar coast of India and Yemen, where it is supposed that he was finally able to fulfil the dream of any Muslim, that is, visit Mecca at least once in a lifetime; he also visited Zanzibar and some of his men settled in Africa, where they developed whole colonies that still exist, albeit the ethnical origins of the inhabitants are not self-evident these days.

Exploring in any form or shape is an activity that is rather not web understood because most people, including leaders that rule societies seldom understand the benefit of paying attention to very long term projects and to the spirit itself that underlies every exploration, whether successful or not. This is why those activities that tend to bring immediate satisfaction are preferred most of the times over those that could produce bigger profits in the end.

This explains why all sorts of explorers, from this admiral to artists - who are explorers of ideas - are seldom appreciated in their own time, and if they are, they also fall victim to the envy and mistrust of conformists.

People have a natural tendency to remain comfortably mediocre and explorers are those that try to get out of their limited but cozy minds; that is seldom forgiven.

Anyone willing to dedicate a whole life to exploration should know that more likely than not there will be no rewards coming from contemporary people; only history will reward the explorer with a true price, and not necessarily for the success in exploration intself, but persistence.

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