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Ma He, Ma Sanbao, Cheng Ho
Admiral, diplomat, explorer, and palace eunuch
Zheng He was born Ma He to a Muslim family of Kunyang, near Kunming, Yunnan province, China. When Ma He was about 10, the Ming army invaded Yunnan to take it back from the Mongols and bring it under Ming control. The young Ma He, was among the boys who were captured, castrated, and sent into the army as orderlies.
Ma He became a eunuch of great influence in the Yongle court. Zheng was selected to be commander in chief, a series of missions to the “Western Oceans.” He visited Champa, Siam (Thailand), Malacca, and the island of Java, Calicut on the Malabar Coast of India and Ceylon. Zheng He returned to China in 1407.
Zheng commanded of voyages to Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. Zheng He was the best known of the Yongle emperor’s diplomatic agents. Zheng He died in Calicut in the spring of 1433.