郑和 (Zhèng Hé) was China’s most famous explorer, and he sailed all the way to Eastern Africa on colossal ships almost one hundred years before Columbus crossed the Atlantic.
Zhèng Hé was born to a Muslim family in Southwestern China, and was captured by the troops of the newly founded Míng Dynasty when they invaded the area in 1381. He was put in service of the future emperor while still a child and rose through the ranks to become Chief Envoy.
He went on seven epic voyages, sailing everywhere between Arabia and Indonesia, fighting pirates, mapping India (ok, ok, partly), showcasing China’s naval power, and exchanging gifts like silk and porcelain for exotic curiosities. He once brought a giraffe home from Africa, to the emperor’s great delight.
The “treasure ships” Zhèng Hé took sailing are said to have been several times larger than contemporary Western ships.
I am sailing, I am sailing... Wikimedia Commons