9th Century Asian Voyage

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In the Autumn, around 825 AD, an Arabic dhow left the port of Guangzhou (Canton) China and set sail to Gulf area for the Abbasid Empire. The ship was built in Oman and manned by an international crew, including Chinese and Arabs, for a 5 months voyage, leaden with ceramics and treasures. After 2 to 3 weeks later, the ship reached the Java Sea sailing though the treacherous waters around the island of Belitung. It was heading toward Java to pick up some South Sea spices, in exchange of some of its ceramic bowls made in China. It was near the Belitung Island that the heavily laden dhow met its fate and sank with its precious cargo. The wreck laid beneath the waves undisturbed for over 12 centuries, before discovered by a local fishermen diving for sea cucumbers. The wreck was found in shallow water less than 3 km from land and was vulnerable to looting. A team of divers and archaeologists were assembled for the excavation of the wreck. From the wreck, the ship tells a story of China during the 9C and the flourishing maritime trades between China and the countries all along its route to the Middle East.


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First created 4 Mar 2017. Version 1.0 - 21 Jul 2017 . Daperro. London . A 9C Asian Voyage All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial, Educational and personal use. The Maritime Trade of the Belitung


Things in the wrong place Left. An octagonal cup with musician found in Hejiacun, Xian China, at a Tang Dynasty (618-906) site. Probably origin Central Asia or the Middle East . Shaanxi History Museum, Xian. Right. Green-splashed white ware dish found in Samarra Iraq , made in China during Tang Dynasty. Samarra Museum for Islamic Art. Berlin.


Trade between China and its western neighbours must have carried on long ago. But around 114 BC it was expanded during the Han Dynasty (207 BC – 220 AD), when an imperial envoy led by Zhang Qian 張騫 to contact the people in the western regions (Ferghana 大宛 , Yuezhi 月氏 , Bactria 大夏 , India 身毒 , Parthia 安息 , Sogdian 粟特 etc.). mainly for diplomatic reason, in particular alliance against the Xiongnu 匈奴 of Mongolia and partly for trade. The History of the Silk Road The Galloping Horse was found in tomb at Leitai, Wuwei, Gansu China in 1969, along the Silk Road. The figurine showed a galloping horse running so fast that it was stepping on a flying swallow. The Galloping Horse, Late 2C – Early 13C (Eastern Han). Bronze. H34.5 x L45 cm. Gansu Provincial Museum Lanzhou.


The India to Mesopotamia maritime link began during 3 rd millennium BC. During the time of Augustus Caesar up to 120 ships were sailing to India every year from the Red Sea ports. The sea routes to the Japan and Korea was developed in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). The maritime Silk Route section between China and the Middle East was developed during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Eventually these maritime routes were linked, making it possible to travel all the way from China to modern day Iraq. Development of the Maritime Silk Route Development of various sections of the Asian maritime route. Ref Sailing Sinbad’s Seas. Andrew Lawler. Science 26 Jun 2014


The use of sail, advances in ship building, the knowledge of the weather, the availability of safe harbours, political stability are all important for the developments for maritime trade. In general, the maritime trades allow biggest load to be carried with a shorter journey time . The Maritime Route Roman ship like this could be used for the maritime trade between India and the Read port, during Roman time. Roman mosaic find in modern Tunisia. (Ref. Wikimedia).


9 th Century Powers Tang Dynasty (618-907 ), A major dynasty in China. It was a trading empire and an economic powerhouse. Srivijayan Empire (650-1277 ) of Tamil origin controlled the sea lanes of Malacca & the Java sea. Pallava Dynasty (275-897). Imperial Cholas (848-1070 ) controlled the South India and Sri Lanka. Abbasid Caliph (750-1258 ) Basra or Hormuz were final destinations of the Asian maritime trades Byzantine Empire (c330-1453 ) controlled and land & maritime silk trades out of Asia into Europe. Venice Republic (697-1797 ) in 9C was the rising power of the Mediterranean maritime trade


9C Middle East - Abbasid The Abbasid Empire (750-1258 黑衣大食國 also 阿拔斯 ) was largely based on the old Persian Empire, which covered modern day Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The capital was moved to the new city of Bagdad, located on the major trade routes on land and in the sea . The minaret, the Malwiya Tower, at the Great Mosque of Samarra built in 851 under the Abbasid Empire. It was the largest mosque in the world. The Abbasid period is generally considered to be a golden age of Islamic art, science and architecture . Commissions were set up to translate Greek and Persian scientific, philosophical and literary works into Arabic. In the mid-10C, a group of professional soldiers, Buyids, took over the caliphate and Abbasid survived in name until the Mongols conquer in the 13C.


In first half of 9C, the Pallava dynasty (275-897) , a Tamil South Indian maritime power was trading with Cambodia, Annan (modern Vietnam), Java, Sumatra, Malaysia and China. 9C India – Pallava and Chola In second half of 9C, the Pallava was replaced by Medieval Chola dynasty , (848-1070) which became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and Southeast Asia. It had a powerful blue-water navy which could mount strikes and raids far into Southeast Asia, as it did in 1025 on Kedah, Malaysia. A huge gopuram (Hindu temple tower) of the Brihadeeswara Temple complex, in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu was completed in 1010 CE.


9C Southeast Asia - Srivijaya Candi Prambanan is a 9C (c950) Hindu temple in Central Java, Indonesia, build during the Sanjaya Dynasty. First reference of Srivijaya’s existence (650-1377) was reported by a Chinese monk in 671. Around early 8C both the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra were under the Srivijayan domination. The Srivijaya controlled the final section of the maritime Silk Route. Trading ships would stop here before completing their journey to China. Srivijaya declined in power after the 1025 invasion by the Chola Empire.


Unlike previous military dynasty like Qin and Han, Tang Dynasty (618-907) is more of a trading empire on which Chinese prosperity depended on. During this period many monks travelled to India to study Buddhist scriptures but most of them left no records of their travel. 9C China – Tang Dynasty In the 7C, travelling monks was Yijing 義淨 (635-713) travelled to India between 671 and 695, by the sea, visited at the Malaysian Peninsula and the Srivijaya kingdom for two years. He recorded that the journey from Guangzhou to Palembang (Sumatra) took only 20 days. The Guangzhou-Palembang route was so ‘routine ’ that he managed to travel to Sumatra 3 times in his life. He also recorded 21 monks travelled to India by land and 30 travelled by sea. Faxian 法顯 (337-c422) who stayed in Sri Lanka for 2 years, reported seeing a Chinese merchant (with a silk fan) in the island. In Sumatra he travelled on a “large merchant boat” carrying 200 people .


9C Rebellion in China In 755 An Lushan Rebellion 安史之亂 left northern China devastated. It was a turning point in the history of Tang Dynasty (618-907) . An Lushan, a military commander, was half Sogdian and half Turk. The conflict paradoxically stimulated the Chinese economy in the south and on the eastern coastal regions , as the central authority lost its grips, while regional governors took over the local economies. In the first half 9C, with a new set of reforms, the Chinese economy recovered . Guangzhou the main port for Asian maritime trade was reopened once again. The face of the Leshan Gaint Buddha 樂山大佛 , 71m (233 ft ) high, begun in 713 and finished in 803. - 24.10.2006


Map of the Belitung ship journey from the Asian Civilization Museum, Singapore . The Journey of the Belitung ship It was in under these historical environments that the Belitung ship’s voyage took place, in the second quantile of the 9C . It was probably travelled from the Chinese port of Guangzhou (Canton) to Basra in modern Iraq. The voyage would have taken about 5 months , but instead it was sank off the Belitung Island, in the Java Sea, close to the strait between Sumatra and Java. The shipwreck was discovered in 1998.


The date of the Belitung ship comes from 3 pieces of evidences. First Chinese coins were all made before 845 . Radiocarbon dating of organic material – wood, star anise, resin - gives a dates between 670 and 890. Most importantly, one ceramic bowl is inscribed with a specific day in the summer of 826 , giving the earliest date for the wreck. The study of the ceramics suggested they were made in the 830s or 840s. The date of the Journey Inscription Summer of 826 All Chinese coins made before 845


In 758 Guangzhou (Canton) was looted by Arab and Persian pirates , at the time of the An Lushan Rebellion. The government reacted by closing the port for about five decades. Foreign vessels was diverted to Hanoi, which was under Chinese control. When Guangzhou port was reopened, it resumed as the main entry point into China. In mid-9C the foreign population of Guangzhou were reported to be about 200,000 . 9C China - Guangzhou The oldest Chinese mosque in China, Huaishen Mosque 懷聖寺 , Guangzhou, founded in early 7C. Photo taken c1873.


Modern day Basra., Iraq. .Shipyard in modern Guangzhou, China The sea route from China to the Middle East was well trodden by the Arab sailors by the time the Belitung ship set sail. It was some 400 years later, after the journey of the Chinese monk Faxian , who arrived back to China from India by sea in 412. The construction of the Belitung ship suggested it was from the Middle East, probably port of Basra, main port of entry into the Abbasid Empire. On the way, the Belitung could have stopped by Palembang of Srivijayan Empire and somewhere in South India (perhaps Kollam) or Sri Lanka (perhaps Galle) before sailing into the Persian Gulf for its final destination. The Route


The Java Sea The most obvious route from China to Abbasid was to sail through the Malacca strait, but the wreck was found in the Java Sea. The excavation team speculated that the Belitung was heading toward Java, possibly to pick up valuable species like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Cinnamon Nutmeg Clove


The trade wind pattern of the South China Sea is such the ship would mostly likely to arrived in Guangzhou the about the summer months (July) and leaving China from the October onward . On route, the ship would be likely to stop in south India and in Sumatra or somewhere on the Malaysian Peninsula. Once the ship arrived in Guangzhou, the Chinese authorities would seized the cargo of any foreign merchant, collected 30% tax and then returned the goods after six months. The Seasons On the eastward journey from the Middle East the ship would mostly to set sail in the summer months on the South-West Monsoon.


Large sections of the wooden keel and hull were found by the archaeologists. Every timber was fastened with stitching . No sign of iron fastening or nail were found. From the construction techniques, it was clear the ship came from the Gulf. The Ship The ship had two rectangular sails (not the triangular lateen sail). It also had two steering oars instead of a rudder. Temporal canopy can be constructed in mid-ship or at the stern of the ship as shelters.


An 18 metres replicate of the Belitung ship was built, called the Jewel of Muscat. The dhow was constructed in Oman. The entire ship was tied together using coconut husks without peg or metal nail. The Jewel of Muscat The Jewel of Muscat was constructed using African timber, teak and rosewood, juniper and palm wood. Coconut husks were used to sew the boat together. The stitching holes were filled with putty. The stitching pattern.


The Jewel of Muscat On completion the ship, the Jewel of Muscat sailed the 5000 kilometres from Oman to Singapore via Galle in Sri Lanka, after nearly 6 months of sailing .


The Cargoes & their origins By and large the ship carried mostly Chinese ceramics. The bulk of it were the 60,000 pieces of ceramic bowls from the Changsha kiln, together with other more precious metal goods..


Tea and silk No tea or silk were found , these items maybe carried by the Belitung ship, but did not survive the length of time. China is known for its silk and rich Roman were dressed in it. Drinking of tea was popular in Tang. Tea was grounded into powder and then stirred in hot water before drinking. But it was in Song, the following dynasty, when ‘tea cakes’ were made for long distance transport. A grinder wheel was found on Belitung wreck. Top left – A grinding wheel found with the wreck. Stoneware with brown glaze Changsha kiln, Hunan. Bottom left – A piece of Chinese silk with a dragon emblem. Right – A well-known Tang dynasty painting (detail), called ‘A Palace Concert’, a prized exhibit in the National Palace Museum of Taipei, showing courtiers drinking tea and making music.


Tea and silk Among the Middle East exports were glass, ceramics, metal ware, frankincense and pearls in the above. Pearl Burning frankincense


It is customary to use wide-mouth ceramic urns for packaging breakable goods in China. The practice is still used today. Very often straws or husks are added to cushion the goods in the urn. The ceramic items on the Belitung ship were packed this way. Because of the packaging, many ceramic items have survived unbroken around the wreck. Packaging urn


A collection of the packaging stoneware urns made in Guangdong province. Packaging urn


Personal belongings were found on the Belitung ship, suggesting it was manned by an international crew . On board, there was a Chinese inkstone and a ceramic grinder used to prepare tea. The ship was built in the Middle East. Among the possessions from the Middle East were two turquoise-glazed amphorae, a jar and a glass bottle. To help the ship to navigate in the Southeast Asia, there would be local navigators and pilots from the major ports of the time – Vietnam, Indonesia (mainly Sumatra and Java), Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. International crew Left. A Chinese inkstone, a palette for Chinese ink for writing. Middle. A tiny blue-glass bottle, likely from west Asia perhaps for medicine or for cosmetics. Right: A piloncito coins like one found on the ship used in Indonesia until the 13C. Ref: Shipwrecked p 43.


Gaming on Board Among the objects salvaged were a bone die and ivory gaming pieces for gambling or for board games. The game pieces resemble similar pieces found in China for the game GO . 圍棋


Life on Board Top Left. Grater in the form of a fish, Stoneware with brown glaze from the Changsha kiln, Hunan. China. Bottom Left. Spoon, copper alloy. Right. Lantern. Stoneware with green glaze. South China design . Some more personal items from the Belitung wreck. Asian Civilizations Museum. Singapore.


The main cargo of the ship was Chinese ceramics. Thousands of ceramic bowls were tightly coiled inside storage jars. The 18-metre long ship was carrying some 70,000 bowls, weighed about 25 tons . The Ceramics Cargo


Location of Chinese Kilns in Tang Dynasty


Excavated Tang Dynasty Kiln


The vast majority of the ceramics stoneware, some 55,000 bowls , on the ship were from the kiln of Changsha, Hunan, in middle China south of the Yangtze River. .Changsha wares were popular within China as well. Changsha wares Underglaze iron brown and copper-green pigments. Changsha Kilns. Hunan.


Changsha wares have been found throughout Southeast Asia and especially in Indonesia. It is possible that at least part of the these wares were destined for sales in a Javanese port of densely populated Sailendra Kingdom of Central Java. Changsha wares Ewers with West Asian influenced motifs – including palms, lions and warriors. Changsha Kilns. Hunan, clearly for exports..


Green-splashed wares, probably Gongxian Kilns Henan 巩县 Chinese green-splashed wares were widely imitated in the Middle East. Several colours were produced in China, but green colour had particular appealed to the Middle East. Most green-splash wares were made in Gongxian kilns in Henan province , Northern China.


Celadon (Yue) ware of Eastern China Some 900 Chinese green-glazed wares were made in Southern China, Zhejiang province (Yue ware) and Guangdong province near Guangzhou. Bottle with lugs and incised floral sprays. Stoneware with iron-green celadon glaze, also known as Yue ware. Bottle stopper with moulded flowers. Stoneware celadon glaze. Yue ware.


White ware of Northern China Highly prized for their delicacy and durability. White Glazed Stoneware. Bottle with quatrefoil from Gongxian, Henan kilns and the two pieces in front were from Xing kilns, Hebei. Chinese white wares were immensely desirable, both within China and abroad. The 300 pieces found in the wreck are of high quality and were probably very expensive. These delicate and durable wares were made in Northern China .


This is the prized object from the Belitung wreck. It is the largest known example of a solid gold cup from the Tang dynasty . Two similar gilded bronze with an iron core, octagonal cups were excavated in 1970, at Heijiacun, near Xian China, decorated with Sasanian Musician. It was estimated the Belitung gold cup had an equivalent value equal to ten year salary of a middle ranking official of the Tang Dynasty. The gold objects together with the silver objects was hidden, in a special compartment in the bottom of the boat. The metal objects is the most important find of Tang gold and silver ever made. The Octagonal Gold Cup Octagonal footed solid gold cup from the Belitung wreck, with Central Asian Dancer. Made in China probably Yangzhou, Jiangsu.


The Gold Bowl and Plate Among the gold dinner set were a pair of oval lobed Gold Bowl with two ducks (for drinking wine) and a pair of square lobed plates. These were most likely made in Yangzhou , Jiangsu. China. Left. Oval lobed gold bowls. H 3, L 15.6, W10.2 cm. Right. Lobed dish with a Buddhist swastika. H1, L14.5. w14.5 cm..


The Silver boxes These silver were most likely made in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, where it well-known for making metalware. The boxes were used for storing cosmetics, incense and medicines. The Belitung metal wares were the first Tang Dynasty metal wares discovered outside of China .


The Silver Plate A silver platter decorated with a rhinoceros, which can only found in Africa, India and Indonesia. The Belitung ship coincided with the time when the most prolific production of gold and silver wares during the late Tang Dynasty. .


The Silver Wine Bottle A magnificent silver Bottle, partly gilded, with a pair of mandarin ducks. This is the only example of a silver wine flask dating to the Tang Dynasty. Rice wine and plum wine were popular drinks in Tang China. They were served warm from bottle and drunk from oval cups. Silver wind bottle with handle, probably made in south China and partly gilded.


Bronze Mirrors Square mirror With auspicious Animals and flowers. Lobed mirror with flying birds and floral springs. Foliated mirror with flying birds. Mirror with lion and grapevine design, with drawing below. These are designs on the back of bronze mirrors from the shipwreck. Some 29 bronze mirrors were found . The mirrors were mostly silver and highly reflective. One mirror was identified as made in Yangzhou, where it was well-known for making the best mirrors in Tang Dynasty. Bronze mirrors were very popular in China.


The Belitung ship carried 10 tons of lead ingots . Some 2000 or more lead ingots were left on the seabed . The lead ingots were either used as ballast and as a export cargo, since Tang China was a significant producer of lead in Asia at the time. There was a large lead mine in Huameng, close to Guangzhou. Lead Ingots The lead ingots were stored inside jar. It is not certain that the lead ingots were originated in China.


Only star-anise spice from China was found on the Belitung ship . None of the south sea spices were found. Star Anise Spice


With 70,000 pieces of Chinese ceramics were found in a single ship. It strongly suggests that mass production techniques were used in China to made thousands of standardised ceramics. This would include the use of on assembly lines, job production or batch production methods. A single piece of ceramic would had to pass through many specialist workers during the production process. Mass production technique were used in the 10C-12C during the Song Dynasty. The discovery of the Beliturng wreck pushed the date back by at least a century earlier. Mass Production in China The centrepiece at the Asian Civilisations Museum showing a model of the Belitung ship, float on a sea of mass produced ceramics bowls.


China as a single market Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China. Probably c1816-17. William Havell (Reading 1782 – London 1857). English. [The Grand Canal was the single most important transport link that bind northern China, eastern China and southern China together. It was completed in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD). It is 1794 km long, connecting China’s major river systems – Hai River, Yellow River, Huai River, Yangzi River and Qiantang River. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the bank along the canal was the economic trading hub of the empire. The cargo on the Belitung wreck were sourced from northern, eastern, middle and south China. To make this possible, a distribution shipping network must have existed to deliver the mass produced goods to the final consumers. In another words, China became a single market . Mass produced goods were able to be transported freely across China, instead of isolated in local markets. This was supported by the centralised administration system created by the Tang Dynasty.


Mass Production, Mass Profit Map and description displays at the Asian Civilization Museum on China’s mass production.


The Financiers Who were the likely financiers of the cargoes from the Belitiung ship? They are likely to be the rich and powerful political elites. In early 9C, tens of thousands of vessels were commissioned by the court and from rich provincial governors. People involved with the maritime trades were likely to be :- Court officials Guest from West Asia Japanese guest Northeast minority guest Fresco from the tomb of the Crown Prince Li Huai. 684. Foreign merchant like Li Susha, a very rich Persian trader who was presented to the emperor Jingzong in 824. People with well connected court eunuchs, court officials and military governors .. People who were well connected to the Imperial family . Corrupted officials who conducted directly with the maritime trade, even though forbidden by the law of the time to engage in private businesses - like Wang E, the military commissioner of the prefect of Guangzhou from 795 and 801 and his successors Hu Zheng, military commissioner of Guangzhou 826 and 828.


Some of the precursors of industrialization existed as early as the 9C from our look at the Belitung wreck. Steel was first made some 2000 years ago. Mass production techniques were practiced. A single large market existed in China. There are plenty of coal in China. The delay of the Industrial Revolution has always been a puzzle to many historians and scholars. This is particularly true during the Song dynasty (immediately after the Tang Dynasty from the following 10C onward), when scientific discoveries and major inventions were also made. Chinese Industrial Revolution? A blast furnace operates with a bellows powered by a waterwheels. An illustration printed in 1313 AD.


Global Trade Competition Description and artefact displays at the Asian Civilization Museum. Singapore..


The new Asian Civilization Museum Asian Civilization Museum of Singapore.. The museum was founded in 1997 specialised in the material history of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The Belitung Shipwreck gallery in the museum housed one of the most important excavation of artefacts from the Tang Dynasty. It was one of the largest and unique finds. It tells us about 9C China and documented the east-west Asian maritime trading in history.


A pair of flying ducks on the gold wine drinking bowl. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The End Music – Deborah’s Theme by Ennio Morricome


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