Hi, I'm Zach Toombs for About.com and today we're taking a look at the life of the celebrated Chinese admiral and diplomat Zheng He.Zheng He is best known for his voyages to the Middle East and Africa, and across Southeast Asia while climbing in rank from a captured servant to one of his nation's most trusted statesmen. He was born in 1371 in what is now China's Yunnan province during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. Like his father and grandfather, he was a Muslim.And his great-great-great-grandfather was a Persian who served at the top ranks of the Mongolian Empire and as a governor under the Yuan Dynasty. Zheng He's father was killed when the Ming Dynasty sought to destroy remnants of the Yuan era, and Zheng He was captured, castrated and brought to Beijing. There he served in the palace of Prince Zhu Di, a son of the Ming Dynasty's founder. Zheng He quickly gained the prince's trust in the course of several battles and campaigns across China as a bodyguard and informal adviser.When Zhu Di became emperor, Zheng He was promoted to work in maritime affairs, exploring the seas surrounding China. He also became known by a second name, given to him by the prince — San Bao, or "Three Gifts."Some historians believe Zheng He's journeys might have taken him as far as the Cape of Good Hope, at the very southern tip of Africa. They certainly took him to at least 30 nations in East Africa and along the Arabian Peninsula. For centuries after Zheng He's death, China's imperial powers minimized the importance of his work. But today, Zheng He is widely celebrated for his seven voyages as China's greatest navigator.Thanks for watching our overview of the life of Chinese admiral and diplomat Zheng He. For more information, check out About.com.