Marie Koo

Natural History, panel 3 of 18

Oil on canvas, 26” x 26”
The First Voyage Of Zheng He
In autumn 1405, Zheng He, as the Emperor’s Envoy, commanding 317 ships and 27,000 men, set sail for Calicut. The fleet bypassed pirate-controlled Palembary on to Ceylon, where a high mountain (Adam’s Peak) bears the foot-print of Buddha/Adam/Siva. When rivers run down this holy mountain, the streams carry rubies, sapphire and topaz (believed to be tears of the Buddha) out to sea. The fleet arrived in Calicut around December 1406 and stayed until April 1407; they traded silk, porcelain, lacquerware and art objects for cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper and rare woods. On their return trip to China (with ambassadors from Calicut, Quilon, Sumatra, Malacca), the fleet was attacked by a sea dragon. After praying to the sea-goddess Tianfei, they were saved by her magic lantern. (Likely a natural phenomenon known as “St. Elmo’s fire”.)

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