Porcellaneous stoneware wine-jar of guan form, with ovoid body and gilt copper-bound mouth rim. Finely crazed turquoise glaze. Inscription on the shoulder. Late Ming to Early Qing circa 1600-1700. Courtesy of The British Museum.
Between 1405 and 1433, Ming China sent out enormous armadas of ships into the Indian Ocean, commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He. The flagship and other largest treasure junks dwarfed European ships of that century; Christopher Columbus's flagship, the Santa Maria, was between 1/4 and 1/5 the size of Zheng He's. Incredibly, the largest ships in the fleet (called baoshan, or "treasure ships") were roughly 1/3 to 1/2 the displacement of modern American aircraft carriers.