Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 

Construction under way on sea museum in Guangdong

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China Daily
By Zheng Caixiong
January 02, 2005


GUANGZHOU: Construction of a large museum with a historical theme started last week in Yangjiang, a coastal city in western part of South China's Guangdong Province.

The museum intends to prove that the province did not become a commercial upstart only after the mainland opened to the outside world in the late 1970s.

"There is strong evidence to prove Guangdong has been a commercial and trading hub in South China since ancient times," said Jing Lihu, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Culture.

The 130,000-square-metre China Marine Silk Road Museum, which has been designed to display more than 300,000 historical relics, is scheduled to open to the public before the end of 2007.

It will mainly protect and exhibit ancient vessels that will be salvaged from the South China Sea and the cultural relics from those sunken boats, Jing said.

Construction of the museum alone will cost more than 190 million yuan (US$23 million). It is, so far, the largest cultural project that has been constructed in Guangdong Province, which Jing acknowledged has long been known as a "cultural desert."

When completed, the museum is expected to become a new tourist attraction. It can even compete with the terra cotta warriors in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Meanwhile, the Guangdong government has decided to salvage an ancient boat that sank in Yangjiang waters during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The project will start in the first half of this year, and the entire vessel should be out of the water sometime next year.

Local fishermen discovered the sunken vessel in the late 1980s.

Huang Weizong, an archaeologist at Sun Yat-sen University, said the wooden vessel, which is still in good condition, is estimated to contain between 60,000 and 80,000 valuable cultural relics, more than the number of historical relics that have been collected in the museums in Guangdong in recent years.

The vessel, which sank more than 1,000 years ago, is reported to be 24.58 metres long and 9.8 metres wide and weighs more than 3,800 tons. The vessel is covered by 2 metres of deep silt, Huang said.

Experts have urged that the entire vessel be salvaged and moved to the museum for display. The ancient vessel is believed the largest one to be so well preserved in the world and a marvel of world navigation history.

It will also be value in the study of ancient Chinese ship-making and navigation technology. The ship is believed to be an international merchant vessel operating out of the southern Chinese region that sank on its way to the Middle East and Europe.

Archaeologists estimate that, as a starting point of China's "marine silk road," waters in Guangdong and the surrounding area may hold more than 1,000 ancient sunken vessels.


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