Shelves: attic-bookshelf Louise Levathes had me at "Treasure Fleet. But, while she had me at Treasure Fleet, she soon lost me after that. Which is a shame, because the topic is so darn intriguing. What went wrong?
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Shelves: attic-bookshelf Louise Levathes had me at "Treasure Fleet. But, while she had me at Treasure Fleet, she soon lost me after that. Which is a shame, because the topic is so darn intriguing. What went wrong? Throughout the reading of the book, I kept asking myself the same. I wondered if maybe it was the author or the sources or some other unknown factor. All in all, however, the book just was not that interesting--which Louise Levathes had me at "Treasure Fleet. All in all, however, the book just was not that interesting--which frustrated me, since I thought it should be.
It felt like Louise Levathes had enough information for a nice long National Geographic article, but not near enough for a book. So, to fill in the missing gaps, she added a bunch of pre-history and cultural quirks--many of which had absolutely nothing to do with the era where China ruled the seas.
On occasion such offenses are forgivable, especially if the asides are interesting, but I found them to be annoying divergences. Certainly, they take several chapters worth and destinations are revealed, foreign countries dabbled on, but it feels so empty of actual, researched material.
I understand if Levathes is limited in the information she could have garnered about these expeditions, but if that is the case, it would have been nice to explain the lack of resources to the reader so that the scarcity of knowledge on the voyages can be explained. I would have liked the author to skip past the distant, pre-history of China--or at least summarized the essentials in one, short chapter, and then moved on to the Treasure Fleet, dwelling there for the rest of the book.
This could be filled in with accounts from the fleet or from the countries visited or compared with European progress at the time. That is what I would have enjoyed reading. To give Levathes credit, she does drop interesting tidbits here and there, such as the constant philosophical struggles between the Confucians and the Eunuchs in the royal court and how the personalities of the Chinese rulers controlled the fate of the fleet.
But those things are verdant oases in an otherwise colorless text. We had to draw a slip of paper, and on it was the name of a potential candidate for this list. Our job for the entire rest of the year was to research this person and find out what they did to impact the world and present an argument that they should or should not be on this hypothetical list.
When I drew my slip, I got "Zheng He". I was not pleased. Well, by the end of the year I totally changed my mind. On the other hand, whenever Levathes described the battles He had to fight and the diplomatic maneuvers he employed to get foreign royalty to trade with the Chinese, I was riveted.
When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 / Edition 1
The largest wooden boats ever built, these extraordinary ships were the most technically superior vessels in the world with innovations such as balanced rudders and bulwarked compartments that predated European ships by centuries. For thirty years foreign goods, medicines, geographic knowledge, and cultural insights flowed into China at an extraordinary rate, and China extended its sphere of political power and influence throughout the Indian Ocean. But instead, China turned inward, as suceeding emperors forbade overseas travel and stopped all building and repair of oceangoing junks. Disobedient merchants and seamen were killed, and within a hundred years the greatest navy the world had ever known willed itself into extinction. She sheds new light on the historical and cultural context in which this great civilization thrived, as well as the perception of other cultures toward this little understood empire at the time. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, When China Ruled the Seas is the fullest picture yet of the early Ming Dynasty--the last flowering of Chinese culture before the Manchu invasions.
When China Ruled the Seas
Why are we reading this book in this class? It helps us to see how China rose to become a great maritime power and also how it its navy disintegrated. This book provides great details that we are not able to see in the book or in class. Why did the Yongle Emperor, the 3rd of the Ming Dynasty, authorize the treasure fleets?
When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433
Levathes All rights reserved. Separated by mountains that run parallel to the south China coast, the inland peoples spoke a Tibeto-Burman language most closely related to modern Chinese, whereas the eastern and southern Yi peoples are believed to be linked linguistically to the future Khmers and to the Austronesians who would spread throughout the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. In the stew of Neolithic cultures from which Chinese civilization would evolve, the Yi had a strong influence. The inland people were tied to the soil; the Yi, pressed against coastal mountains, were forced to turn to the sea for their livelihood.
When China Ruled the Seas