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Muslim In China
Zheng He was born in 1371 in the southern China region of Yunnan to a Hui (a Muslim Chinese ethnic group) family. His birth name was Ma He. In China, the family name is said first, followed by the given name. “Ma” is known in China as short for “Muhammad”, indicating Zheng He’s Muslim heritage. Both his father and his grandfather were able to travel to Makkah and complete the Hajj, so Zheng He came from a practicing Muslim family.
At a young age, his town was raided by the Ming Dynasty’s army. He was captured and transported to the capital, Nanjing, where he served in the imperial household. Despite the oppressive and difficult circumstances he was in, Zheng He actually befriended one of the princes, Zhu Di, and when he became the emperor, Zheng He rose to the highest positions in government. At this time, he was given the honorific title “Zheng” and was known as Zheng He.