January 4, 2006

Song Dynasty treasure ship

From today's Times of London:

STORMY waves cut short the voyage of the Chinese merchant vessel as it left a southern port laden with exquisite porcelain 800 years ago to sell its wares along the ancient trade route known as the Marine Silk Road.

Now Chinese scientists want to awaken the ship from its slumber in the silt 20 nautical miles off the coast of Guangdong, which British sailors have long known as Canton. The treasure on board is truly amazing and impossible to value. Initial excavations have revealed beautiful green glazed porcelain plates, blue porcelain and tin pots, as well as chinaware specially designed for foreign markets. There could be anything up to 70,000 relics on the ship.

Some cultural relics experts in China say the value of the find could be equal to that of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta warriors in Xian. Archaeologists believe the ship dates back to the second period of the Song Dynasty (1127-1279). At 25 metres (83ft) long and 10 metres (33ft) wide, it is the largest cargo ship from that golden period of Chinese merchant history discovered so far.

More extraordinary yet:
The ship is well preserved, lying upright on the seabed with its hull hard and intact. In what promises to be a complex feat of engineering, the scientists want to use a huge steel basket to lift the vessel out in one piece . . .

The Guangdong provincial government has budgeted £11 million to build a museum and pride of place will be the "crystal palace" — a glass-walled exhibition hall, filled with sea water to house Nanhai No 1 in a similar undersea environment to the one in which it has lain for eight centuries.

The wreck has been known since 1987, and the salvage plans have been in the works for some time -- as this 2003 China Daily article attests.

Posted by David on January 4, 2006 9:11 AM


Wow! Just... wow!

Posted by: John Anderson on January 4, 2006 8:07 PM

The "crystal palace" display idea is the most stunning part of the article. Just imagine....

Posted by: Sarah on January 5, 2006 1:22 PM
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