A wooden boat modeled on the one used by Chinese mariner Zheng He (1371-1435 AD) is being built and should be ready to set sail next July to retrace his adventurous voyage, the head of a Taiwanese adventure group said yesterday.
Hsu Hai-peng, president of the Society of Extreme Exploration, said since July, he has shuttled between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait around 30 times, trying to find a suitable shipyard to build the boat.
Hsu said that he was glad that not only has he solicited funds, he has also found a shipyard in China that is willing to build the Chinese-style wooden sailboat, which will be 16 meters long and 3.8 meters wide.
On September 21, Hsu said an anonymous person agreed to pay all the expenses to build the boat, and the U.S. cosmetic company Kiehl's also pledged yesterday to give NT$1 million for the training cost of the sailors on board.
He said that the boat is expected to be built early next year, and that seven sailors are now being trained for the trip. His alma mater, National Ocean University, has also agreed to provide technical assistance.
The building of the boat is expected to be completed next March and the boat will then encircle Taiwan in one week for good luck.
The recreated wooden boat is scheduled to disembark from Taichang, Jiangxu province in China in July on its trip of 33,900 nautical miles.
Huang Ling-hsiao, who has been selected to serve as the captain of the adventurous journey, said that the operation of the boat is similar to a modern sailboat, but since the craft is of ancient design, they have to learn old techniques.
He stressed that the most perilous place is the South China Sea during a tropical storm, saying that unforeseen problems could arise several times a day.
While Columbus sailed to the Americas on the Santa Maria in 1492, Zheng He, a eunuch , was sent by Emperor Yungle from China to many places throughout the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Taiwan, the Persian Gulf and distant Africa in seven epic voyages from 1405 to 1433, some 80 years before Columbus's voyage.