Sat, Dec 31, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese sailors to recreate Zheng He's epic sea voyage next July


A wooden boat modeled on the one used by Chinese mariner Zheng He (鄭和) (1371-1435 AD) is being constructed and should be ready to set sail next July to retrace his adventurous voyage, the head of a Taiwanese adventure group said.

Hsu Hai-peng (徐海鵬), president of the Society of Extreme Exploration, said that since July he has shuttled back and forth between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait about 30 times, trying to find a suitable shipyard to build the boat.

Hsu said that he was relieved that has he not only secured the funding his project requires, but has also found a shipyard in China that is willing to build the Chinese-style wooden sailboat, which will be 16m long and 3.8m wide.

Hsu said that on Sept. 21 an anonymous person agreed to pay all the boat-building expenses and that the US cosmetic company Kiehl's pledged on Thursday to donate NT$1 million towards the training of the boat's crew.

He said that the boat is expected to be built early next year and that seven sailors are currently being trained for the trip. His alma mater, National Ocean University, has also agreed to provide technical assistance.

The boat is expected to be completed next March and it will then circumnavigate Taiwan in a week for luck before embarking on its primary voyage.

The recreated wooden boat is scheduled to disembark from Taichang, Jiangxu Province, in July on its trip of 33,900 nautical miles (62,782km).

Huang Ling-hsiao (黃凌霄), who has been selected to serve as the captain for the adventurous voyage, said that the boat is similar to a modern sailboat in operation, but since the craft is of ancient design, the crew has to learn old techniques.

He stressed that the South China Sea is the most perilous place during a tropical storm, saying that unforeseen problems could arise several times a day.

While Columbus sailed to the Americas in 1492, Zheng was sent by Emperor Yungle to many places throughout the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Taiwan, the Persian Gulf and even distant Africa in seven epic voyages between 1405 and 1433, some 80 years before Columbus' voyage.

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