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Nanjing Celebrates Zheng He's Voyages

An African descendant of the sailors of Chinese explorer Zheng He (1371-1435) has arrived in Nanjing during activities marking the 600th anniversary of the voyager's epic journey.

Mwamaka Shariff, 19, comes from Siyu Village, Pate Island, in Kenya, which is on the east coast of Africa.

Some of Zheng He's sailors left the fleet to marry local people, which is why many Africans today claim to be descendants of Chinese people.

"My grandmother told me that my family are descendants of Zheng He's sailors who came to Africa long long ago," the girl said yesterday.

"I am very proud of that. My classmates even call me a Chinese girl."

However, Mwamaka's family is the only family of descendants in her village, according to research carried out by both the Chinese Embassy in Kenya and local experts.

As well as visiting Nanjing, where Zheng officially started his seven voyages during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the girl will go to Taicang in the province, where Zheng set sail.

Various activities are being held to celebrate the anniversary of Zheng's seven voyages, in which he sailed from China to more than 30 countries and regions throughout the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf from 1405 to 1433.

Yesterday morning, a grand opening ceremony of the three-day International Academic Forum in Memory of Zheng He's Expedition was held in the city.

In the afternoon, the Longjiang Former Site of Treasure Boatyards Pack was officially opened to the public.

(China Daily July 5, 2005)

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