The Ends of the Admiral's Universe

It took a good five minutes for Li Changcheng and his wife to locate Mombasa in an atlas. Once they found it, the pair stared at the unprepossessing dot, trying to imagine the riches that lay on Africa's east coast. Six centuries earlier, Admiral Zheng He, with only the barest outline as a guide, did the same, only his imperial fleet was sailing to a mighty sultanate, at the peak of its power, not a faded port crumbling into the sea. Yet, despite the paint peeling from its once majestic, oceanfront villas, Mombasa and the surrounding strip of coastline still lure...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!