Zheng He (郑和) was a Ming Dynasty mariner who led trading missions all over Asia, some people think he even made it as far as America. His fleet was very advanced and had features like watertight compartments to make the ships unsinkable, and magnetic compasses.
In this drama I played a Persian government official who has dealings with Zheng He’s fleet when they come looking for trade. A lot of this play was filmed in Hengdian but the bits using the boat were filmed on the semi-tropical island of Hainan.
The scene with the four Arab looking gentlemen was filmed in Hengdian. I learned my lines in Chinese and was determined to give them in Chinese, but as the whole play was being recorded without sound and dubbed in post-production the assistant director was very relaxed about it and told the Arab looking gentlemen they could speak their own language. The first guy had to say something like “I will give you four cows”. So the camera rolled and he said “Ho hum ho hum something like that diddley pop ho hum rhubarb bread and butter …” or some very similar stuff that was pure nonsense. I said to the assistant director, “Look, isn’t that going to be a bit too long? He’s only supposed to say I will give you four cows.” The assistant director looked at me as though I was a complete and utter idiot. “He is speaking his mother tongue!” he patiently explained.