Out to Sea With the Great Ships

Even in our 21st century of supertankers and cruise ships lit like floating cities, Zheng He's treasure fleet still inspires awe. More than 300 vessels with some 30,000 men sailed in the first imperial expedition in 1405. It was one of the greatest fleets ever assembled, rivaling the Spanish Armada and Japan's Pacific fleet during World War II in its ability to instill fear. Zheng He's own ship was a technological marvel; by some accounts it was more than 130 m long, almost 60 m wide and sailed under the power of nine masts. Nobody had ever built a wooden sailing...

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