China held a seminar Thursday to commemorate its ancient seafaring hero Zheng He in Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian Province.
More than 200 domestic and overseas scholars participated in the seminar and reviewed the contributions of Zheng, a great Chinese navigator who made seven ocean voyages 600 years ago.
The scholars agreed that Zheng's voyages are greatly important to the Chinese and world navigation history. They are not only a part of cultural heritage for China, but also a marked step in world civilization.
From 1405 to 1433 of the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He (1371-1435) voyaged to more than 30 countries in Asia and Africa, traveling more than 100,000 kilometers. At its peak, his fleet comprised more than 300 ships manned by about 27,000 sailors, a number unrivaled in the world at that time.
According to historical resources, Zheng is believed to be the first man to blaze a direct sea route linking the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
Zheng's voyage is also recorded 87 years earlier than Columbus' discovery of the Americas and 114 years earlier than Magellan's round-the-world voyage.
The year 2005 is the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's first voyage, and the Chinese government has set up a special office headed by the Ministry of Communications to organize series of activities to mark Zheng's contribution to the history of navigation.
Besides the seminar, other activities including lectures on oceanography, International academic conference and International Expo on navigation and ocean will be held next year, said sources with Chinese Ministry of Communications.
(Xinhua News Agency December 16, 2004)