Born in Kunyang prefecture -- present day Jinning County, Yunnan Province. Originally named Ma He.
The Ming army conquered Yunnan. His father Ma Hajj passed away (Hajj is the Muslim honorary title bestowed on devotees who have made their pilgrimage to Mecca). Aged 11, Ma He was taken prisoner by Ming troops, and castrated.
Aged 19, Ma He won the favor of Zhu Di, the prince of Yan, and served in his residence.
Ming Emperor Zhu Di changed Ma He's surname from "Ma" to "Zheng" as an imperial honor, and promoted Zheng He to Grand Eunuch, head of the eunuchs serving in the imperial household.
At age 34, Zheng He was dispatched by Emperor Zhu Di to lead a maiden voyage into the Western Ocean (present day Southeast Asia) with fellow eunuch Wang Jinghong. Zheng He led a huge fleet that comprised 27,800 men.
Embarked on his second voyage with Wang Jinghong, Hou Xian and others.
In September, Zheng He led the third imperial voyage with Wang Jinghog, Fei Xin and others.
1413, 1417, 1421
Led the fourth, fifth and sixth imperial voyages.
At age 60, Zheng He led the seventh and his last imperial voyage to the Western Ocean with fellow seafarers Wang Jinghong, Ma Huan, Fei Xin and others. For this voyage, he led a team of 27,550 people.
During the final voyage, Zheng He contracted a disease and died in Calicut, southwest India. His body was brought back to China in July and he was buried on Niushou Hill (Bull's Head Hill). He was 62.
(China.org.cn June 22, 2005)