China 1382 A new emperor has been on the throne since 1368 and proceeds to purge the empire of the supporters of the previous Muslim Mongol dynasty. The village of Kunyang in Yunnan is destroyed and its young taken into slavery. Out of this chaos, an exceptionally gifted boy grows up to become ZhengHe, the right-hand man of the founding emperor’s third son, the Warrior Prince Zhu Di. He helps Zhu Di take the throne from his nephew, the mandated heir.
As Emperor Yongle, Zhu Di makes the former Mongol capital of Dadu his own and calls it Beijing. He builds The Forbidden City and moves the entire court there. He instigates the writing of world’s greatest encyclopaedia and builds the Great Treasure Fleets, bringing all nations encountered under the thrall of China in the first instance of gunboat diplomacy. But the Emperor’s drive comes at great cost to those closest to him.
His closest friend and ally, ZhengHe is not only forced to endure indignity and suffering at his hand, but also gains greatness as Grand Admiral of the Treasure Fleets. The tumultuous love-hate relationship between two of the greatest men in Chinese history lies at the heart of this sweeping novel.