Answer to Question #175154 in History for Angelina

Question #175154

During the Ming Dynasty, China launched seven maritime expeditions. These expeditions were led by Zheng He and traveled as far as West Africa. However, the expeditions suddenly ceased after 1433, leaving the oceans open to the Europeans.

Why did the Chinese suddenly stop their oceanic exploration and what impact do you believe it had for European exploration? How might the history of the world have been different if the Chinese had not pulled their navies back to China and left the seas open to the Europeans? (150 words)

Expert's answer

First, the Yongle Emperor who sponsored Zheng He's first six voyages died in 1424. His son, the Hongxi Emperor, was much more conservative and Confucianist in his thought, so he ordered the voyages stopped. In addition to political motivation, the new emperor had financial motivation. The treasure fleet voyages cost Ming China enormous amounts of money; since they were not trade excursions, the government recovered little of the cost. The Hongxi Emperor inherited a treasury that was much emptier than it might have been, if not for his father's Indian Ocean adventures. Finally, during the reigns of the Hongxi and Xuande Emperors, Ming China faced a growing threat to its land borders in the west. The Mongols and other Central Asian peoples made increasingly bold raids on western China, forcing the Ming rulers to concentrate their attention and their resources on securing the country's inland borders.

Then China would have discovered the Americas before they stopped exploring. Likewise the Europeans heading west could have found themselves meeting the Chinese as an established force heading east which could even resulted in war between the two forces.

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