Between 1405 and 1433, during the Ming era, Chinese Admiral Zheng He, who was also the court eunuch, commanded seven expeditionary voyages as far away as East Africa and Middle East. These expeditions, known in Chinese history as the treasure voyages, consisted of hundreds of ships of enormous dimensions carrying a crew as large as 28,000 and great amounts of treasures. The purpose of the voyages were to project Chinese power and wealth to the outside world, as well as to establish imperial control over the maritime trade.
Zheng He dedicated the last 28 years of his life to marine navigation until he died during or shortly after his seventh and final voyage. When Zheng He returned, China had a new emperor who was uninterested in the continuation of such government-sponsored naval adventures. The Treasure Shipyard in Nanjing, where Zheng He’s massive fleet was built was shut down, abandoned and subsequently lost to history.