|Chinese Fishing 'Machine' at Cochin, Kerela, India. © NMM|
In the early 15th century, the Ming Emperors of China sent out a series of fleets, many under the command of the Admiral Cheng Ho (or Zheng Ho).
These fleets consisted of the largest ships built anywhere in the world at the time. Their missions were to voyage throughout the Far East, and across the Indian Ocean to India, the Red Sea and the East coast of Africa.
According to popular belief the Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, especially those of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, are thought to date from this period.