Chapter 5 Life in the Eastern Hemisphere thinking about history and geography

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Life in the Eastern Hemisphere


The story of Chapter 5 stretches across Europe, Africa, and Asia before the peoples of the Eastern and Western hemispheres met. Following the time line, you see that throughout the world people were exploring and trading. It would be only a few years before Europeans began making voyages to the Americas.




Focus Activity


How did the Chinese increase trade in the East?


magnetic compass


Zhu Di

Zheng He



Great Wall

Silk Road




"Let the dark water dragons go down into the sea and leave us free from calamity," prayed the Chinese sea captains. In the autumn of 1405 over 300 Chinese ships were made ready to sail to the east coast of India. The captains' prayer asked their gods to protect them from danger. They were worried about what lay ahead.


You have been reading about the peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Now you are going to read about the peoples of the Eastern Hemisphere. In the late 1400s, the century of contact, the peoples of the West met the peoples of the East. The lives of each of these peoples were changed forever. You will begin by looking at life in Asia at a time when people there were meeting people from Africa and Europe for the first time.

In the eastern part of Asia, northeast of the towering Himalaya Mountains, is the country of China. At about the same time that the Aztec and Inca were building their empires in the Western Hemisphere, the Chinese had enlarged their empire in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Mariner's prayer from "When China Ruled the Seas" (1994), translated by Chu Hung-lam and James Geiss.



The people of China viewed their land as the great empire. As you will see from the map on page 116, this huge land was protected by the Himalayas to the west, the Gobi Desert to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Despite these protections, invaders sometimes broke through. In the late 1200s, after years of fighting the Chinese, the Mongols from northern Asia gained control of the empire.

The Chinese pushed the Mongols out in 1368. In 1402 the new emperor, Zhu Di (ZHOO DEE), set out to rebuild China. The Great Wall, which began as several older walls built around 200 B.C., was repaired. New bridges and roads were also built.

The Silk Road

Zhu Di also increased trade on the ancient Silk Road. The Silk Road was a network of overland trade routes that stretched from China to Persia which is today the country of Iran. During the late 1200s, Europe's demand for Chinese silk was so high that the ancient trade route became known as the Silk Road. Find the Silk Road on the map on the next page.

The most important item carried on the Silk Road was, of course, silk. Through a chain of Chinese, Indian, Arab, and Italian traders, the silk made its long journey over Asia's mountains and deserts to Europe. In exchange, oranges, gold, and horses were brought to China. However, few traders traveled the entire Silk Road. Most of them passed goods from one trading post to the next.

The Great Wall of China (below) is the longest human-made feature ever built. It is 4,600 miles long and was built mostly by hand. The wall can be seen by astronauts in outer space.



The 1400s were a time of exploration and trade for the Chinese empire.

1. Name four different bodies of water that Zheng He sailed during his voyages.

2. In which part of China is the Great Wall located?

3. About how long was the Silk Road?


In 1403 emperor Zhu Di ordered the building of thousands of sailing ships. He put Zheng He (ZHAHNG HUH), a Chinese Muslim sea captain, in command of the huge fleet. Muslims are followers of the religion of Islam. From 1405 to 1433 Zheng He made seven voyages. He explored India, southeast Asia, Arabia, and the coast of East Africa.

The Ships of Zheng He

Over 300 ships were part of Zheng He's fleet. Several ships were over 400 feet long—the largest ever built at that time. To help them find the cardinal directions on the open seas, the sailors used a magnetic compass. The Chinese invented the magnetic compass about A.D. 100. Traders used the compass to guide them across the vast deserts along the Silk Road. The sailors used a compass that floated in a container of water so that the compass needle was not upset by the movement of the ship.

Scholars today do not agree on why Zheng He made these voyages. The emperor might have wanted to find new trading centers or to show outsiders the power of the Chinese empire. In 1433 Zheng He's ships were called home. China's days of exploration ended in 1525 when a new emperor ordered that the empire's sailing ships be destroyed. China's chances for becoming a sea power were over.

A Chinese Tale

Over many centuries, tales have been exchanged among different peoples in the Eastern Hemisphere. Zheng He's voyages helped to bring new tales to


Asia. In fact the Chinese may have been the first to write down a tale about the young woman who lost her shoe. Following is an excerpt from the Chinese tale of Yeh-hsien (YE SHEN). How is her story like the Cinderella tale that you know?


China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Its roots go back more than 3,000 years. Today China has the world's largest number of people. Over 1 billion live within its borders. Until about the 1400s, China had done little trading with Europe. During the voyages of Zheng He, China began exploring countries in the Eastern Hemisphere before Europe had started exploring the Western Hemisphere. China's voyages soon ended, which prevented it from competing with Europe.



Excerpt from Yeh-hsien translated by Arthur Waley, in The Chinese Cinderella Story, adapted by Judy Sierra, 1992.

The man who had picked up the gold shoe sold it in T'o-han (TOH HAHN), and it was brought to the king. He ordered all the women of the court to put it on, but it was too small even for the one among them that had the smallest foot. He then ordered all the women in his kingdom to try it on, but there was not one that it fitted. It was as light as down, and it made no noise even when treading on stone. His search finally took him to the place where Yeh-hsien lived with her stepmother, and the shoe fitted her perfectly.

T'o-han: an imaginary kingdom

down: fine, soft feathers

treading: walking

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In the 1400s, while the Aztec and Inca empires were growing, the Chinese were strengthening their already powerful empire.

• Traders on the Silk Road carried silk and other goods from China to Europe. Oranges and horses were brought back to China.

• From 1405 to 1433, Zheng He explored India, southeast Asia, Arabia, and the east coast of Africa.


1. What natural and human-made features helped protect China from invasions? Which group broke through in the late 1200s?

2. How did the Silk Road get its name?

3. FOCUS What did Zheng He's voyages accomplish for the Chinese empire?

4. THINKING SKILL List the cause and effect connections between the Chinese invention of the magnetic compass and Zheng He's voyages.

5. WRITE Write a tale about the special shoes Cinderella might wear today.



Reading Line and Circle Graphs



line graph

circle graph


As you have read, the Chinese empire went through a great period of shipbuilding in the early 1400s. The Chinese built warships, passenger ships, and transport ships for the empire's fleet. A fleet is a group of ships under one command. Some of these ships took part in Zheng He's voyages.

One way to picture how large the Chinese fleet was is by using a graph. A graph is a diagram that presents information in a way that makes it easy to understand. Graphs are especially useful for showing such things as patterns, trends, amounts, or how things change over time.


Line graphs show changes over time. The graph below shows how the size of the Chinese fleet changed during the 1400s through the middle 1500s.

To read a line graph, first look at its title. What is the title of the line graph on this page? Then read the years shown on the bottom of the graph. The numerals on the left side show the number of ships that made up the Chinese fleet.

For each year, a dot is placed on the graph to match the number of ships. The first dot shows that in '1410 China had about 3,500 ships. Trace the line of dots to see how the number of ships changed. How many ships were there in 1470?


When you look at a line graph, pay special attention to patterns. For example, in the graph on page 118 you can see that the number of ships decreased over time. When did the empire have the highest number of ships?


A circle graph shows how something can be divided into parts. All of these parts together make up the whole. Circle graphs are also called pie graphs because the parts look like slices of a pie. The circle graph on this page shows what kinds of ships China had in the early 1400s.

Looking at the graph, you can get a picture of how many of each type of ship there were in the Chinese fleet. For example, you can see that there were 400 transport ships. Look at the sizes of each part of the graph to see how they compare to each other. Of which ships did the Chinese have the largest number?


Take another look at each of the graphs. Then answer the following questions about the Chinese fleet. The Helping Yourself box on this page can give you hints about how to read circle graphs and line graphs.

Which graph or graphs would you use to find out the size of the fleet in 1410? In 1450? Which graph tells you how many warships were built? Which graph shows how many ships existed over time?


1. How are line graphs different from circle graphs? How are they the same?

2. In which year did the greatest drop in the number of Chinese ships occur? How do you know?

3. Which kind of graph is better for showing how the population of your school changed over several years?

4. Which kind of graph would be better for showing the number of boys and the number of girls in your school this year? How do you know?

5. When might it be useful to know how to read line graphs and circle graphs?


Line graphs show how information changes over time. Trace the line of dots to see how the information changes.

Circle graphs show how something can be divided into parts. Look at the sizes of the parts of the circle graph to see how they compare.




Focus Lesson


How did trade help the Songhai kingdom to grow?





Sunni Ali

Leo Africanus


Sahara Desert






"Life is a perpetual coming and going," says a West African song. The endless comings and goings of trade have long been a part of life in Africa. Many great kingdoms that began as villages became powerful because of trade.


Zheng He's voyages during the early 1400s brought China into contact with Africa. Africa is home to many peoples. It is also the second largest continent in the world. Stretching across most of North Africa up to the Mediterranean Sea is the Sahara Desert. The Sahara is the largest desert in the world.

People called Berbers lived in the Sahara and along the Mediterranean coast. They had been in contact with Europe for centuries. Yet the Sahara made it difficult for them to communicate with regions south of the desert. In the 1200s, however, caravans of traders from Arabia began riding south on horses, donkeys, and camels across the Sahara. A caravan is a group of people traveling together, especially through desert areas. In the late 1400s most of the caravans were headed for Songhai (SAWNG hi), the powerful and wealthy kingdom that ruled a large part of West Africa.



Notice that most African kingdoms of this time period were formed along a body of water

1. What river flowed through the Kongo kingdom?

2. Name two deserts in Africa. In which part of the continent is each located?

3. Along which body of water did the Swahili cities lie?

4. Through which part of Africa did the caravan trade routes run?


In 1464 Sunni Ali became king of Songhai. He captured Timbuktu from

the Berbers in 1468 and Jenne (je NAY) about 1475. Find them on the map on this page. Both cities are located along the Niger River, which runs mostly through the present-day country of Mali.

Ruling Songhai

At its peak Songhai stretched over 1,000 miles across West Africa. To maintain power, Sunni Ali enslaved the people he conquered. Many African rulers did this. Slaves in Africa were often criminals or had been captured in wars. African rulers traded slaves with Arab sailors in the 1400s. People also asked to be enslaved as a way of getting food and shelter in difficult times. Although they could be sold, African slaves were often treated as family members rather than as property.

Sunni Ali's tolerance of different religions encouraged traders of gold, ivory, cloth, and salt to come to Songhai. Diversity brought a great variety of goods to the kingdom.


A brass smith in Nigeria (left) sells his work. The leopard carvings (below) were done by an artist from the ancient kingdom of Benin. In Timbuktu (bottom) women carry goods to the market.


Sunni Ali ruled until his death in 1492. Songhai had become one of the largest kingdoms in West Africa during the 1400s. It controlled almost all trade coming south from the Sahara to the Niger River valley. It also controlled the valuable salt and gold mines of central Africa. The trading of salt and gold with people from North Africa helped make Songhai a wealthy kingdom.

Songhai's Cities

Gao, Timbuktu, and Jenne were the major centers of trade in Songhai. But each also had its own special character. Gao was a city full of skilled workers, craftworkers, and artists. The historian al-Kati called Gao an "artist's paradise." Leo Africanus, an Arab historian born in Spain, wrote that in Gao "it is a wonder to see ... how costly and sumptuous [rich] all things be." Gold was so plentiful that miners sometimes had trouble finding a buyer.

Timbuktu, on the other hand, was a great cultural center. Scholars from far and wide studied astronomy, mathematics, music, and literature at Timbuktu's university. Arabic was the main language used by most people at the


university. Leo Africanus was deeply impressed with the value the Songhai people placed on learning. Books, he reported, were "sold for more money than any other merchandise."

While Timbuktu was a place of learning, scholars at Jenne were known for their knowledge of medicine. Doctors there performed operations on the human eye. They also made the discovery that mosquitoes cause malaria, a disease caused by the bite of certain mosquitoes.


In the 1400s Songhai, one of Africa's wealthy kingdoms, increased trade with other peoples in the Eastern Hemisphere. Over the centuries, traders and explorers from Europe came seeking Africa's gold, ivory, and other riches. Arab traders sailing off the east coast of Africa would bring the religion of Islam to the people there. Today people in many countries throughout Africa are Muslim.


How did African gold miners trade without giving away the location of their secret gold mines?

A tenth-century Arab writer described how silent trading took place in Africa. Traders spread out goods such as salt and ivory near a stream. Then they left. Later gold miners crept in and put down bags filled with gold. Then they left also. The trading continued until both sides were satisfied with the amount the other group had left behind. Neither group of traders ever saw the other. In this way the gold miners did not fear that they would be kidnapped and forced to tell the location of the secret gold mines.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In the 1400s caravans helped connect parts of Africa south of the Sahara Desert with Arab traders coming from North Africa.

• Sunni Ali ruled the Songhai kingdom in West Africa from 1464 to 1492.

• Trade brought great wealth to Songhai. Artists, scholars, and people of medicine flocked to its cities.


1. Why might people have traveled in caravans when crossing the Sahara Desert?

2. What did Sunni Ali accomplish as king of Songhai?

3. FOCUS How did trade help the Songhai kingdom to grow?

4. THINKING SKILL Compare the features of Songhai's three major cities. How are they different?

5. GEOGRAPHY Look at the map on page 121. Why might you think that the Songhai culture was different from that in North Africa?




Focus Activity


What was Portugal's role in European exploration?






Marco Polo

Johannes Gutenburg

Prince Henry

Bartholomeu Dias

Vasco da Gama







Cape of Good Hope


In 1274 Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to reach Asia. When he returned 20 years later, he brought back many treasures, among them ivory, jade, and silk. Marco Polo also wrote a book about his travels. Stories about China's emperor and his pet leopard, for example, buzzed all over Europe. Like people elsewhere, Europeans wanted to learn about the rest of the world.


Starting out in 1271, Marco Polo traveled from Persia to China along the Silk Road. The voyage took three years. When he returned to Europe in 1292, he knew more about China than any European of his time. Before then few Europeans were interested in China or any other part of Asia.

Europeans eventually developed contacts with Asia. By the 1400s an important link between the two continents was trade. When Europeans saw what kinds of goods Asia had to offer, they began searching to find a direct sea route there. In the middle of the 1400s the countries of Portugal and Spain sent explorers throughout the world in search of this route.



Why were Europeans looking beyond their own borders? One reason is that the people were influenced by the Renaissance (ren uh SAHNS). The Renaissance was a period of cultural and artistic growth that began in Italy in the 1300s. It spread throughout Europe in the 1400s and 1500s.

Renaissance is a French word that means "rebirth." In Europe there was a rebirth in learning about the past. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenburg about 1448 helped to spread learning through books. Probably about 100,000 books existed in Europe at the time—all hand-copied. By 1500 Europe had close to 6 million printed books.

Science was one kind of learning that people read about. New knowledge about science encouraged people to try new ideas. New inventions enabled them to explore places that were new to them.

Trade with Asia

In Europe, as you have read, the demand for Asian silk was very strong. But Europeans also wanted spices. Without refrigeration, people wanted especially pepper and cloves to preserve food over the winter.

Europeans paid high prices for their spices. A single pound of pepper from India, for example, was traded dozens of times before it reached England or France. With each trade along the Silk Road, the price would rise. European traders decided to find another, cheaper route by which they could get goods from Asia.

The Pieta (below) was carved by the great artist Michelangelo in 1498. The Gutenberg Bible (left) was one of the first books made using the new printing press.



To find another route to Asia, Europeans could only look to the sea. Stud: the map on this page. Was it possible to reach the shores of Asia by ship? Prince Henry of Portugal proved that it was. Although Henry never went on any explorations himself, he became known as Prince Henry the Navigator.

Portuguese Exploration

Prince Henry got his name from the improvements in navigation he made. Navigation is the science of determining a ship's sailing direction and location. Scientists working for Henry improved such inventions as the astrolabe and magnetic compass.

In the early 1400s Prince Henry also brought together shipbuilders, scientists, mapmakers, and ship captains in Europe. Together they created a new type of ship called the caravel. The caravel was about 70 feet long and could be steered more easily than other ships. It could sail at fast speeds through dangerous waters, even against the wind. The caravel also had a hold for carrying large amounts of cargo.

Using these new technologies, Henry's caravels first sailed the coast of West Africa. In 1445 he paid for voyages that

This is a model of a caravel that was used during the 1400s.


reached Cape Verde, the westernmost point of Africa. By 1460, when Henry died, his ships still had not reached southern Africa. As you can see on the map, though, other explorers achieved Henry's goal. In 1488 a Portuguese explorer named Bartholomeu Dias (bar TOH loh myoo DEE ush) rounded the tip of southern Africa, which was later named the Cape of Good Hope. In 1498 Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese sea captain, reached Asia when he arrived in Calicut, India.

This figure of Prince Henry (below) is part of a statue titled "Monument to Discoveries," which is located in Lisbon, Portugal.


Vasco da Gama's 1498 voyage to India showed Europe a way to Asia without using the Silk Road. By 1503 the price of pepper in Portugal dropped to less than half of what it had been when Portugal's explorations first began.

Portugal made huge profits from the new sea routes. Its captains explored the Congo region of Africa, and they enslaved prisoners there. Spain, seeking a much shorter route to Asia, began to sail the Atlantic Ocean—leading one of the most important voyages of Europe's age of exploration.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Marco Polo's visit to China in 1274 made Europeans interested in Asia.

• The demand for Asian goods and the expense of goods traded on the Silk Road caused Europeans to seek a sea route to Asia.

• Prince Henry of Portugal built up a fleet of ships in the early 1400s that eventually reached Africa and Asia.


1. What navigation equipment did European sailors use in the 1400s?

2. Why had Europeans become interested in finding a sea route to Asia?

3. FOCUS What did Prince Henry do to find a sea route to Asia?

4. THINKING SKILL List the cause and effect connections between the beginning of the Renaissance and Vasco da Gama's arrival in India.

5. GEOGRAPHY Use the map on page 126 to find the land and sea routes from Europe to Asia. Which route is longer?




Number a paper from 1 to 5. Beside each number write the word from the list below that best matches the description.






1. A period of great cultural and artistic rebirth in Europe

2. The science of determining a ship's location and direction

3. An instrument used to find direction by the stars

4. A kind of small, fast-sailing ship that can be steered easily

5. A group of people traveling together for safety, especially through desert areas


1. What geographical features protected China from invaders?

2. What was the Silk Road?

3. Who was Zheng He?

4. What instruments did Zheng He use?

5. What is the largest desert in the world? What is the name of the people that lived there in the early 1400s?

6. Name and describe the three great cities of the Songhai kingdom.

7. What are some of the goods that were traded in the Songhai kingdom?

8. Which European countries sent explorers to find a sea route to Asia in the 1400s?

9. What kind of people did Prince Henry bring together in the early 1400s? What was their goal?

10. In 1503 the price of pepper in Portugal had dropped by more than half of what it had been in the 1400s. What event on the time line led to this drop in price?




Reread the sections in the chapter about Prince Henry and Zheng He. Write a paragraph in which you compare and contrast the ocean explorations involving them.


Research more information about the early explorers' instruments. Write a brief report explaining these inventions and how they helped sea travel.


Suppose that you are on Da Gama's trip to India in 1498. Write three log entries that

I describe your expedition. One entry should describe the beginning of your trip, another some time in the middle, and the third the day you reach India.



To practice the skill of reading circle graphs, answer the questions below. Use the circle graph on page 119.

1. What do circle graphs show?

2. How many types of ships did China have in the early 1400s? What types were they?

3. What type of ship made up the greatest part of the Chinese fleet?

4. What kind of ship made up the smallest part of the graph?

5. How are circle graphs useful?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the main idea map on a separate piece of paper. Review the chapter to find details that will complete the blank sections. After you have finished, use the map to write a few short paragraphs that answer the question "How would you describe each person in the chart?"



Nampeyo, the woman who helped bring back the art of traditional Hopi pottery, at first tried to copy ancient designs. Then she created her own designs in the ancient style. What do you think of what Nampeyo did? Should she have continued copying designs? Why is remembering the past important for the future?


Here are some books you might find at the library to help you learn more.


by Susan L. Roth

This fact-based journal describes Marco Polo's journeys as though he wrote it himself.


by Marcia Keegan

A young boy's life includes both ancient traditions and present-day activities.


by Peter Chrisp


Design a Civilization Mural

This vividly illustrated account describes the Inca civilization and its culture.

1. Work in a group. Choose a civi­lization that you learned about in this unit, such as the Maya or the Aztec.

2. Have each group member list the civilization's achievements. For example, the Maya developed a unique writing system.

3. Create your mural on a sheet of oaktag. Choose at least one achievement from each group member's list. Paint, glitter, color- streamers, beans, pasta, and seeds live. will make your mural come alive.

4. Be sure to label your mural and write a description under each picture.

5. Share your mural with the class.


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