Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds
Smithsonian Books (DC), Hardcover, 9781588343055, 307pp.
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Part adventure story, part maritime archaeological expedition, part historical look into ninth-century Chinese economy, culture, and trade, Shipwrecked is a fascinating journey back in time.
Twelve centuries ago, a merchant ship—an Arab dhow—foundered on a reef just off the coast of Belitung, a small island in the Java Sea. The cargo was a remarkable assemblage of lead ingots, bronze mirrors, spice-filled jars, intricately worked vessels of silver and gold, and more than 60,000 glazed bowls, ewers, and other ceramics. The ship remained buried at sea for more than a millennium, its contents protected from erosion by their packing and the conditions of the silty sea floor. Shipwrecked explores this precious cargo and the story of the men who sailed it, with more than 250 gorgeous photographs and essays by international experts in Arab ship-building methods, pan-Asian maritime trade, ceramics, precious metalwork, and more.
Regina Krahl, an expert in the Chinese production of high-quality ceramics and their export markets, has published widely in the field.
The shipwreck discovered off the Indonesian island of Belitung provides the most important material evidence of the seafaring trade between China and the Arab world in the ninth century. The ship itself was Arab by construction. Having been loaded up in south China, it went under while en route, probably to the Near East. Of the more than 60,000 items discovered, most were ceramics from Changsha. In addition, there were pieces from the Ding and Yue kilns. Other types of finds include bronze mirrors and gold and silver wares. The high quality and large quantity of these export goods stand in testimony to the strength of Tang China as the dominant manufacturing power in East Asia, a position unchallenged by any neighboring country. It is particularly remarkable, given that in the course of the ninth century the Tang Empire was on its way to political decline and disintegration. This volume is the catalogue of an exhibition on the shipwreck mounted in Singapore in 2011. The book contains a number of well-researched articles on the shipwreck and its cargo by archaeologists and art historians. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. --V. C. Xiong, Western Michigan University