Beginning in 1405, the Yongle emperor of China ordered a massive naval armada, the largest the world had ever seen, to explore the world. (The three puny naval ships of Columbus would have fit nicely on the deck of just one of these colossal vessels.) Seven massive expeditions were launched, each larger than the previous one. This fleet sailed around the coast of Southeast Asia and reached Africa, Madagascar, and perhaps even beyond that. The fleet brought back a rich bounty of goods, delicacies, and exotic animals from the far reaches of the earth. There are remarkable ancient woodcuts of African giraffes being paraded at a Ming Dynasty zoo.