Ancient merchant boat arrives at purpose-built museum

Updated: 2007-12-28 22:04

YANGJIANG -- An 800-year-old Chinese merchant ship loaded with precious trading goods was moved to its purpose-built museum on Friday in Guangdong Province, five days after being raised from the sea.

The intricate salvage process, which involved constructing a special container around the 5,000-ton Nanhai (South China Sea) No. 1, finished with the delivery of the 30 meter wooden vessel to its "Crystal Palace" at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang.

The glass pool featured a water temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions that were the same as where the ship had rested on the sea floor for centuries.

Workers planned to fill the pool with 12 meters of seawater. They would also spray water on the vessel sporadically to ensure its safety, said Shan Jixiang, State Administration of Cultural Heritage director.

The pool was to be sealed after the ship and silt taken from the sea were put in.

Shan said archaeologists would start collecting the estimated 60,000-80,000 pieces of cultural relics from the boat after a minimum of at least six months. The excavation of its contents could last between three to five years, Shan said.

He expected it to take longer to conduct the archaeological research of the boat and its relics.

The ship was raised from about 30 meters of water in the South China Sea by crane on Saturday. Guangdong had earmarked 150 million yuan ($20.3 million) to build the Marine Silk Road Museum.

Discovered in mid 1987 off the coast near Yangjiang City, Nanhai No.1 was recognized as one of the oldest and biggest merchant boats sunk in Chinese waters.

Archaeologists have already recovered more than 4,000 artifacts of gold, silver and porcelain, as well as about 6,000 copper coins from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) boat.

The well-preserved vessel might confirm the existence of an ancient maritime trade route linking China and the West.


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