Glimpse of China’s Maritime Civilization

BEIJING, Nov. 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from on remarkable achievement of ancient China in shipbuilding:


Glimpse of China’s Maritime Civilization

Quanzhou city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a history of more than 1,300 years. During the 10th to 14th centuries AD, Quanzhou thrived in the flourishing international marine trade. 

Underwater archaeological activities related to numerous shipwrecks have given people a glimpse of the influence of Quanzhou, a window into maritime civilization.

A shipwreck called Fujian ship originally built in the 13th century and discovered at the Houzhu Harbor of Quanzhou in 1973 is so far one of the earliest Fujian-style ocean-going vessels. It was one of the most dominant ship types in ancient Chinese seafaring.

The ship is 11 meters wide and about 34 meters long. Its moulded depth is 3.8 meters and its cargo capacity is over 400 tons. This ship has watertight compartments. When water enters one compartment, it won’t affect the whole ship. The planks are overlapping. The outer planks can be replaced when they are broken. To strengthen the bond between the planks, iron cramps are used. Back then, this ship had three sails. The main mast was in the middle. According to current calculation, the height of the main mast reached 32 meters, more than the height of a 10-story building. The design of the sails and the rudder at the stern allowed this ship to sail both day and night.

Spices were important trade goods on the Maritime Silk Road. We can see that a lot of spices were found in the shipwreck, about 4,700 grams. There is eaglewood from Southeast Asia, frankincense from the Arab region, and even ambergris from the west coast of the Indian Ocean and the African region.

It must have traveled to Southeast Asia and beyond.

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Glimpse of China’s Maritime Civilization