Zheng He
from China
Vasco da Gama 
of Portugal
Explorers
Christopher Columbus
of Spain

Was a Muslim

Was captured at 11 and 

made a Eunuch

Greatest admiral in 

Chinese history

Made 7 voyages between 
1405 & 1433 throughout the Indian Ocean

China was the leading manufacturer of quality goods in the world at this time

Chinese were world leaders in naval technology 

He had an armada of over 300 ships - ‘Swimming Dragons’

Some voyages had 

over 27,000 crew 

Treasures ships were over 122 metres long and had 7 -9 masts

Ships 5 times the size of Vasco da Gama’s Portuguese caravels 

Cargo: food, treasures, horses, grew fruit & veg on the decks

Indian ocean trade routes already know to Zheng & Chinese sailors

He visited Africa, India 

& the Middle East 

Brought back many 

African animals

Zheng He’s died at sea 

on his 7th voyage

The Emperor died & his successors destroyed all records of Zheng He’s voyages

Portugal has lots of coastline

Portugal had to rely on trade as it was resource poor

Region had large numbers 

of Muslims

Prince Henry the navigator was a patron of sailors and 
nautical knowledge

Prince Henry commissioned sailors to:

find a path to the Indian Ocean

find a mythical Christian king in Africa

De Gama was the first to sail around Africa and into the Indian Ocean

In 1498 Vasco landed in Calicut on the west coast of India – a major trading post

Motives: Gold and 

spreading Christianity

Captured and controlled a number of coastal cities to create “trading post empire”

Captured ships & forced them to purchase trade permits called ‘cartaz’ 
Were basically glorified pirates

Sponsored & funded by monarchs Ferdinand & Isabella

Columbus promised the royals riches & conversion of the ‘natives’

Navigated using dead reckoning that uses direction, speed & time

First voyage had 3 ships

Landed on a Caribbean island (aka West Indies)
Returned without spices or gold - did convert some Christians 
His voyage was less successful than Zheng He or Vasco da Gama

Spain soon became very wealthy and a leading power in Europe due to subsequent voyages to the Americas

Columbus’s voyages had a hugely negative impact on the people of the Americas