How Did an Admiral Turn Into a God?

To most Thai-Chinese — whose ancestors spoke the dialects of the South China coast — Zheng He is known as Sam Po. Yet very few Thai-Chinese have heard of his naval exploits. Instead, they associate Sam Po with a sacred Buddha image at Phanan Choeng monastery in the old capital of Ayutthaya, visited by Sam Po in 1407. How did a Chinese admiral come to be associated with a gigantic and highly revered Buddha image in Thailand? It's a good question. Unfortunately nobody seems to know the answer.

In the old days it took a full day to navigate the 86...

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