Nearly fifty years before the birth of Columbus, when western Europeans like Prince Henry the Navigator were merely studying the possibilities of a sea route to the Far East, the Emperor of China was dispatching naval forces as far as the east coast of Africa. Between 1405 and 1433, Chinese naval power was being felt throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. During that period the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty sent out seven major expeditions, some of them comprising as many as 62 ships, transporting 37,000 troops. These forces, under the command of the Grand Eunuch, Cheng Ho, visited more than thirty countries in the Indian Archipelago and the Indian Ocean, as well as ports in the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa. Even Mecca was visited on one of the cruises, Cheng Ho being a Mohammedan.
Sea Power and the Struggle for Asia (Honorable Mention)
By Maurice H. Hellner