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Zheng He's pedigree

  In the History of Ming Dynasty-Bibliography of Zheng He, there are only some 30 words about the pedigree of Zheng He, saying that Zheng He was a native of Yunnan, and his childhood name was Sanbao, nothing was said about his family. All the extant historical records related to Zheng He also said nothing about his family. Therefore, Zheng He's pedigree remains a mystery.

  It was the tomb of Zheng He's father Ma Hazhi that solves the mystery of Zheng He's pedigree.

  At Ma Hazhi's tomb in Yueshanxipo, Kunyang Town, Jinning County, there are three tombstones. The one in the middle was then erected for the tomb of Ma Hazhi. Although 600 years' erosion by wind and rain, the veins of the tombstone are still very clear.

  On the tombstone are engraved with the Epitaph for Late Ma Hazhi, which gave detailed description of the birthplace and family background of Ma Hazhi and posts he once held, etc. Two other tombstones erected by the latter generations flanked the main tombstone. On one of them was Shi Fan's engraving "History of Ming Dynasty -Bibliography of Sanbao Eunuch Zheng He", and on the other tombstone was Xia Guangnan's postscript for the "Epitaph of Zheng He". There are three lines on the tombstone which says: "Eunuch Zheng He, the second son of the Ma's family, came to sweep the ancestral grave on Nov. 22 of the ninth year of the reign of Emperor Yong Le, and returned in December." From this, we can see that Zheng He went to sweep the grave in 1411 and stayed at his home for one month and a half. Thus this tombstone can serve as a supplement to the History of Ming Dynasty, and a valuable record on Zheng He's pedigree.

  Zheng He's ancestral home was in the Western Regions, and he was the sixth generation of the offspring of Sai Dianchi. Sai Dianchi was the grandson of King Suofeil IV of the Pubi. Sai Dianchi once served as governor of Yunnan. Zheng He's ancestors came to Yunnan along with Genghis Khan, and Zheng He was born in Yueshanxipo, Kunyang Town in Jinning County.

  Zheng He's grandmother surnamed Ma while his mother surnamed Wen. Zheng He was born at the above-mentioned place in 1371, the forth year of the reign of Emperor Hong Wu. He had one elder brother named Ma Wenming, one elder sister and three younger sisters. He was the third child in the family, hence his childhood name was Sanbao. When Zheng He was 12 years old, his hometown became embroiled in the turmoil of war. He was press-ganged by troops of the Ming Dynasty, and shortly afterwards, he was castrated. During the last years of the reign of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, he was sent to Zhu Di's palace. Since Zheng He was smart and handsome, he soon found favor with Zhu Di, and promoted to be a chamberlain. Later, Zhu Di won political power after overthrowing Zhu Yunwen. As Zheng He helped Zhu Di to win the political power, he was granted the surname of Zheng, and promoted to be chamberlain equal to the four-class senior court official. In 1403, Zheng He converted to Buddhism and became a disciple of Monk Yao Guangxia, by the name of Sanbao. Thus Zheng He was also called "Sanbao" eunuch.

  As Zheng He was castrated and unable to have a child, he adopted a son of his elder brother Ma Wenming. The son followed Zheng He's surname and called Zheng Enlai. Later, Zheng Enlai had two sons, the elder son named Zheng Wanxuan, and the younger one named Zheng Tingxuan. Today some of Zheng Wanxuan's descendants still live in Kunyang, but most of his descendants have moved to Daying, Dongying and Shigoutou Villages in Beicheng Town, Hongta District of Yuxi City. One line of the family had migrated to Thailand. Zheng Tingxuan's descendants first lived in Nanjing, and later scattered to other places such as Suzou. The total number of Zheng Tingxuan's descendants is around 200.

  By Jiang Xinghua and Deng Zhongkai

  (July 13, PLA Daily)

[ 2005-07-13 ]