Visit to Maritime Silk Road Museum - 24/01/2010
Sunday, 07 February 2010 16:22

If you want an introduction to maritime archeology and one of China’s foremost shipwrecks without getting your feet wet, pay a visit to the new Maritime Silk Road Museum, also known as the NanHai No. 1 Museum.





The Crystal Palace
Our Group visited Yangjiang City, Guangdong on 24 January to see the museum and the 800-year old Song Dynasty shipwreck for which the building was purpose built and named after.


Nestled on a picturesque beach, nearby the site where the NanHai No. 1 was first discovered in 1987, the museum and its distinctive architecture catches your eye long before you even reach the building. Designed to evoke the idea of rising and falling waves, a series of large inter-linking oval ‘cylinders’ provide the interior space for the museum’s exhibits. The most central of these, of course, is the wholly salvaged 30m Song Dynasty shipwreck itself.


Along with seawater and silt from its original environment, the fragile remains of the Chinese ancient ship and much of its cargo now rest in a ‘Crystal Palace’ or 64m x 23m x 12m sealed glass tank. Primarily intended to stabilise the wreck, the controlled environment now not only allows maritime archaeologists easy access to the site, but eventually also will offer museum visitors a first-hand glimpse at real-time underwater excavations. According to our museum guide, to date, only one on-site excavation of NanHai No. 1 has been carried out, but further excavations are planned this year after a water filtration issue in the tank has been resolved.


Our guide also explained that the NanHai No. 1 had sunk with approximately 60,000 items on board, much of it cargo meant for trade along the Maritime ‘Silk Road’. Only a small selection of these intricate porcelain, copper and gold treasures have been put on display, leaving visitors eagerly awaiting the other treasures yet to be unearthed. Some local Yangjiang artefacts are also featured in the spacious exhibit halls that echo various parts of a sailing ship.


A chance encounter

At the museum, the Group also had the honour meeting of Deputy Curator Zhang Wanxing, who in addition to enthusiastically sharing his knowledge of current and future works on NanHai No.1 in more detail, also graciously arranged for us to visit the Maritime Archaeology Base Camp nearby and generously gave us a few handy suggestions for our own project! (click here for video)