The fleets 06-17-2005 10:12

According to Chinese sources, the fleet comprised 30,000 men and over 300 ships at its height.

The 1405 expedition consisted of 27,000 men and 317 ships, composed of:

"Treasure ships", used by the commander of the fleet and his deputies (Nine-masted, about 400 feet long and 160 feet wide).

"Horse ships", carrying tribute goods and repair material for the fleet (Eight-masted, about 339 feet long and 138 feet wide)

"Supply ships", containing food-staple for the crew (Seven-masted, about 257 feet long and 115 feet wide).

"Troop transports" (Six-masted, about 220 feet long and 83 feet wide).

"Fuchuan warships" (Five-masted, about 165 feet long).

"Patrol boats" (Eight-oared, about 120 feet long).

"Water tankers", with 1 month supply of fresh water.

The enormous characteristics of the Chinese ships of the period are confirmed by Western travelers to the East, such as Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. According to Ibn Battuta, who visited China in 1347: comparison of Zheng's ship to Columbus'"...We stopped in the port of Calicut, in which there were at the time thirteen Chinese vessels, and disembarked. On the China Sea travelling is done in Chinese ships only, so we shall describe their arrangements. The Chinese vessels are of three kinds; large ships called chunks (junks), middle sized ones called zaws (dhows) and the small ones kakams. The large ships have anything from twelve down to three sails, which are made of bamboo rods plaited into mats. They are never lowered, but turned according to the direction of the wind; at anchor they are left floating in the wind.

A ship carries a complement of a thousand men, six hundred of whom are sailors and four hundred men-at-arms, including archers, men with shields and crossbows, who throw naphtha. Three smaller ones, the "half", the "third" and the "quarter", accompany each large vessel. These vessels are built in the towns of Zaytun and Sin-Kalan. The vessel has four decks and contains rooms, cabins, and saloons for merchants; a cabin has chambers and a lavatory, and can be locked by its occupants.

This is the manner after which they are made; two (parallel) walls of very thick wooden (planking) are raised and across the space between them are placed very thick planks (the bulkheads) secured longitudinally and transversely by means of large nails, each three ells in length. When these walls have thus been built the lower deck is fitted in and the ship is launched before the upper works are finished" (Ibn Battuta).

Editor:Hu Hang

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