When China Ruled the Seas - Article by Howard Smith

2731 S. Victoria Avenue, Oxnard, CA 93035
Tel: 805-984-6260     Fax: 805-984-5970


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        28 October 2005

CONTACT:  Jacquelyn Cavish, Curator of Art                               

Celebration of the 600th Anniversary of the Chinese Treasure Fleet Comes to Channel Islands Harbor

A Chinese Cultural Festival will burst onto the scene Sunday, December 4th, 11-5 pm to celebrate the grand opening of the exhibit, “When China Ruled the Seas:  The Treasure Fleets of the Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433,” December 1, 2005-May 31, 2006 at the Ventura County Maritime Museum. Drummers will awaken the dancing lion and the masters of the martial arts who will do companion demonstrations.  Artists will reveal painting and calligraphy techniques developed from ancient Chinese traditions.  
             The events are free to the public and will be held in the Ventura County Maritime Museum and the adjoining courtyard at Fisherman’s Wharf at 2731 South Victoria Avenue, Oxnard CA 93035.
The exhibit, “When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433”  will highlight artifacts of the early Ming Dynasty as well as, the early compass and Chinese maritime technology of the 15th century.  A portrait commissioned by the Los Angeles artist, Pang Qi, and a replica of the Admiral’s formal uniform lllustrate the colorful and larger-than-life central Asian Islamic admiral of the Treasure Fleets, Zheng He.  The Treasure Ships, some 480 feet long, the size of WWII aircraft carriers, are represented by a four-foot long model specially built for the exhibit. 
  In 1405,  Emperor Zhu Di ordered a massive “Treasure Fleet” of 200-300 ships with 28,000 men to sea on the “Western Ocean” to invite envoys of foreign states to return with the fleet as guests of his court.  The great fleets of specialized ships carried their own water, food, troops, horses and support –crews, as well as diplomats and linguists.  They also carried gifts of silks, patterned cottons, blue and white porcelain ceramics and gold and silver items to be presented on behalf of the Chinese emperor to heads of states.  The fleets made seven voyages between 1405 and1433.  They traveled along the coast of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, India, Arabia and eastern Africa.  They returned with rare woods, herbs and spices, fruit and plants, several giraffes and an oryx, gems and minerals and charts of the tides and stars.  Admiral Zheng He, himself, kept a logbook and made very accurate geographic maps.
In 1433, the Ming imperial policy was changed to one of isolationism.  Foreign trade was banned, maps and charts destroyed and the fleet of ships left to deteriorate.   China, the superpower of the 15th century, closed its doors on the world and was not successfully engaged for five centuries until President Nixon made his historic visit.
The following community organizations are participating in both the exhibit and the cultural festival grand opening activities:  The Ventura County Chinese American Association, The Ventura County Chinese American Historical Society and the Conejo Chinese Cultural Association.
Photo and interview opportunities are available.     
The museum is open daily, 11-5 pm.  Admission and all activities are free and open to the public.  The Museum is located in Channel Islands Harbor at 2731 South Victoria Avenue in Oxnard, at the corner of S. Victoria and Channel Islands Boulevard.  For information, email VCMM@aol.com or call (805) 984-6260.