Cheng Ho Museum and the Seven Voyage to the Western Ocean

Diorama of Cheng Ho's great fleet of hundreds
Diorama of Cheng Ho’s great fleet of hundreds

When in Melaka, it’s not enough to admire the many shophouses lining up in Jonker Walk. There are several shophouses turned museums in Melaka that it’s worth walking inside one of them to get a deeper insight on Melaka’s history and culture. One that I would highly recommend visiting is the Cheng Ho Museum found near the tail end of Lorong Hang Jebat before the bridge. With a floor area spanning 55,000 square feet, occupying about 8 units of old shophouses dating back to 1786 and three floors of artefacts, it is considered as the largest museum in Melaka.

The facade of the museum
The facade of the museum, recreated from the old illustrations of the original Guanchanc

Who is Cheng Ho?

A Muslim born Chinese during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Cheng Ho (also called Zheng He) was assigned as admiral in control of a fleet of 317 ships, commanding over 28,000 crewmen while sailing over the Western Ocean. Their purpose is to strengthen the Chinese trade routes in several countries and also a massive manhunt for the exiled Zhu Yuwen.

Trading spices
Trading spices

Among Cheng Ho’s seven expedition, five of them visited Melaka. He was even entrusted to accompany the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Hang Li Po to marry the Sultan of Melaka mid-15th century. Among the Princess’ entourage are about 500 men who intermarried with the locals which are now also known as the Baba-Nonyas.

Graphic panel displays, artefacts and video clips room
Graphic panel displays, artefacts and video clips room

Lost Warehouse Found

During his Melaka visits, Cheng Ho constructed a Guanchang (a government warehouse) on a 10 acre area by the northern bank of Melaka River. Somehow, there was no historical investigation done on the actual location of the Guanchang until year 2000 when attention was drawn to a dilapidated set of buildings exhibiting Ming Dynasty architecture. After three years of extensive research and finding convincing evidence like relics dug up from the site, the location of the current museum is where the Guanchang was located.

Melaka diorama
Melaka diorama

Cheng Ho Museum Tour

The museum was part of our itinerary of activities with the group for “A Date with Bloggers”. At first I didn’t mind the place but was surprised to see the wealth of history and culture inside its walls. For RM 10 (RM 5 for students and for visitors 18-yo below), one can delve into the history of Melaka and learn more about the life of Admiral Cheng Ho. I thought the museum was well curated and displays were well thought and impressively done. But to truly enjoy the museum, ask for a good guide (which is included with the entrance fee). The first one we got would just point us to the next rooms and not tell us anything, but I did caught up with another group and got better understanding of the museum displays.

Replica of Cheng Ho's office with navigation maps and tools
Replica of Cheng Ho’s office with navigation maps and tools

A visit to Cheng Ho Museum added another facet of my appreciation of Melaka as a heritage city. Definitely worth a stop. And after the tour, take a munch at their café which surprisingly has good food too.