Business Times

Next attraction for Chinese tourists in Sri Lanka: Zheng He

By Sunimalee Dias

State plans are underway to attract more tourists from China by promoting China’s efforts in re-writing world history with the focus on Admiral Zheng, considered the first to sail around the globe.
In this regard, Sri Lanka Tourism together with AIESEC, an international grouping of undergraduate students, organized an oration on the Mongolian Admiral Zheng He who set sail from China with a group of 300 ships during which he is recorded to have visited Sri Lanka as well, according to SLT Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa.

He noted that in a bid to encourage increased tourist arrivals from China the government hopes to establish a memorial chamber in the Maritime Museum in Galle, adding that this is likely to be a key tourist attraction as it would be only one hour’s drive from Colombo.

One of the items on display would be a carved stone discovered in 1911 in Sri Lanka that had been covering a culvert near Cripps Road in Galle. The finder, provincial engineer H.G. Tomalin, had it removed to safety and it was found to have inscriptions detailing the gifts made by Zheng He to a Buddhist Temple on the Mountains of Sri Lanka, which is believed to be that of Adams Peak, Dr. Godahewa said.

The inscription is said to be in the three languages in which trading took place at the time namely Persian, Tamil and Chinese. Currently, it is placed in the National Museum in Colombo with a replica made available at the Maritime Museum in Galle.

Dr. Godahewa speaking further explained how the Admiral had visited the country 100 years before the Portuguese, 233 years before the Dutch and 397 years before the British. China is right now working on archeological evidence, of ship wrecks belonging to Zheng He’s large entourage that traveled with him, indicating the Admiral’s travels around the globe long before other well-known travellers.

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