Chen Zuyi (Chinese: 陳祖義) was a 14th-century Chinese pirate from Guangdong, and was one of the most respected and feared pirates to ever infest the seas of Southeast Asia. He ruled the city of Palembang, and raided the Strait of Malacca to plunder shipping and prey on both native and foreign merchants for several years, until his defeat by Admiral Zheng He in 1407. Chen was executed at Nanjing later the same year.
According to Ming records  his name is first recorded after 1400, when a Ming convoy was attacked by pirates commanded by Chen Zuyi. At Palembang Chen had 5,000 men and 10 ships under his command, and was the strongest pirate of Southeast Asia at the time. The city of Sumatra had a diverse ethnicity of people from different parts of Asia, including a large minority of Han Chinese population (mostly male migrants, traders and merchants), and as well as the majority Sumatrans. A Hui Chinese, Shi Jinqing, reported the atrocities committed by the pirate chieftains, and requested assistance to help get rid of Chen Zuyi.
Defeat by Zheng He
In 1407 Chen was confronted at Palembang by the returning Imperial treasure fleet under Admiral Zheng He. Zheng made the opening gambit, demanding Chen's surrender, and the pirate quickly signalled agreement—while preparing for a surprise pre-emptive strike. But details of his plan had been provided to Zheng by a local Chinese informant, and in the fierce battle that ensued, the Ming soldiers and Ming superior armada finally destroyed the pirate fleet and killed 5,000 of its men. Chen was captured and held for public execution in Nanjing in 1407. Peace was finally restored to the Strait of Malacca as Shi Jinqing was installed as Palembang's new ruler and incorporated into what would become a far-flung system of allies who acknowledged Ming supremacy in return for diplomatic recognition, military protection, and trading rights. By the end of the Yongle reign, the kings or ambassadors of more than 30 foreign states had paid official visits to the emperor bearing tribute. They were ferried to China in luxurious staterooms on the Chinese treasure ships.
Chen Zuyi appears in the Chinese historical dramas related to the legendary navigator Zheng He. In 2009, China's CCTV released Zheng He Xia Xiyang, a television series specially produced in 2005 to mark the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's voyages. Gallen Lo starred as Zheng He. His defeat was considered the most famous of all Zheng He's military achievements.
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