The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) marked China's entry into the late feudal period of historical development. Despite its feudal nature, early Ming Dynasty China was one of the most powerful nations on Earth, leading the world in many areas.
Zheng He's western voyages occurred during the early Ming Dynasty's Yongle reign period, one of the most magnificent periods of classical Chinese history. Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor, was a ruler of great talent and bold vision, responsible for many historic innovations.
In addition to Zheng He's western voyages, Emperor Zhu Di was responsible for the construction of the Grand Canal, compiling Yongle Dadian (The Yongle Encylopaedia), establishing the Nurgam Regional Office of Government and Military Affairs, and moving the imperial capital to Beijing.
The Yongle Emperor transformed China's foreign policy to meet changing international conditions, opening China to the outside world and stabilizing China's border regions. By linking China's development with that of its neighbors, he hoped to attain lasting security and durable peace for China in the international arena. Zheng He's western voyages were instrumental to the political and economic growth of the early Ming Dynasty, and had a major influence on Chinese foreign policy.
(ChinaCulture.org June 17, 2005)