Update: 6:59 PM GMT+7, Monday, 12/18/2017
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Implementing the co-operation program of 2015-2020, with the approval of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the VNMH and the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage have co-organized a special exhibition “The Age of Discovery: Asian Ceramics Found Along the Maritime Silk Road” at the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage at Mokpo city, Korea.

Vietnam is located on the Indochinese Peninsula and has an important geo-political, geo-military and geo-cultural position in the region with over 3000 km of coastline and many islands and archipelagos. This special location is important for economic and cultural exchanges. Over the millennia of history, through a process of creative work, the Vietnamese people have created a treasure of rich maritime cultural heritage with many forms of tangible and intangible culture such as festivals, customs, beliefs, ancient trading port system, old town, ancient town, ancient belief construction, anti-foreign invasion tradition ...

Many shipwrecks have been discovered in the Vietnamese sea. Only six shipwrecks have been excavated by the VNMH: Hòn Cau shipwreck (Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu), Hòn Dầm shipwreck (Kiên Giang), Cù Lao Chàm shipwreck (Quảng Nam), Cà Mau shipwreck (Cà Mau), Bình Thuận shipwreck (Bình Thuận), Bình Châu shipwreck (Quảng Ngãi). The results of excavation research have determined the size and technology of making these ships. These ships have carried ceramics from China, Japan, Thailand, especially in the Cu Lao Cham shipwreck, where a large number of Vietnamese ceramics originating from Chu Dau kiln (Hai Duong) and Thang Long kiln (Hanoi) have been collected. It partially shows the Vietnamese active position and role in the history of international trade in Antiquity- Middle Ages, in which the important exports of Vietnam were ceramics.

Map of excavation site of shipwrecks.

With an area covering 500 square meters, the special exhibition The Age of Discovery: Asian Ceramics Found Along the Maritime Silk Road will gradually introduce the heritage of Vietnamese maritime culture to the Korean public and international friends. The exhibition will be held from November 28, 2017 to March 4, 2018.

The exhibition selected 309 artifacts from the most outstanding collections of five shipwrecks excavated in the Vietnamese sea and stored at the Vietnam National Museum of History. These artifacts were exhibited

1.Cù Lao Chàm ancient ship

This shipwreck was discovered at a depth of 70m, in the Cu Lao Cham sea (Hoi An, Quang Nam). The excavation took place from 1997 to 2000. The ship was made of Teak wood, 29.4m long and 7.2m wide. The goods on this ship were mainly products of Chu Dau ceramic kilns (Hai Duong) and Thang Long kilns (Hanoi) dating from the 15th century and the early 16th century.

112 typical artifacts were selected. Most of them were Chu Dau ceramics, Hai Duong with many kinds of shapes, designs, vivid decoration and various colors such as blue and white glaze, multi-color glaze, white glaze, including household items such as bowls, dishes, vessels, pots, lime bottles, vases, boxes, lamp supports, incense burners and pots. Additionally, some utensils made of ceramic, porcelain, terracotta which have Thailand and Chinese origin such as pots, jars, vases, mortar pestle, sinkers and other items such as ink slab, pestle, table stone crushers, metal scales, bronze hooks, walnuts and baby jackfruit’s seed were found.


Blue and white ceramic Kendy.

Blue and white ceramic ewer with the form of phoenix, painted with multi-colors.

2. Hòn Dầm ancient ship

This ship was discovered at a depth of more than 10m, about 5km from Hon Dam in An Thoi commune, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang and excavated in 1991. It was made of wood. Its 30m long and 7m wide hull was fully intact and divided into several chambers, each one approximately 1.8m wide. The goods on the ship were celadon ceramics, some other glaze such as lead colored ones, eel skin colored ones, gold ones and brown ones. The research showed that the main goods were Sawankhalok ceramics of Thailand, dating from the 15th century. The founding of the "Vinh Lac Thong Bao" Chinese coins (1403 - 1424) contributed to determining the date of this ship. We selected eight typical artifacts for exhibition which include pots, plates, vases, cups with celadon glaze.

Celadon ceramics.

3. Bình Thuận ancient ship

This ship was found in Binh Thuan Sea at a depth of 39 - 40m. It was made of wood 23.4m long, 7.2m wide. Goods on the ship were mainly ceramics originating from Canh Duc kiln of Giang Tay town, Duc Hoa kiln of Fujian province and Guangzhou kiln of Guangdong province, China. Most of them were blue-painted ceramics. Some of them were painted in various styles of ceramics in the late Ming dynasty, corresponding to the Van Lich date (1573 - 1620). The selected collections were 50 artifacts including bowls, plates, boxes, vases, jars, blue and white glazed vessels; multicolored glazed, white glazed, black glazed, brown glazed and gold glazed pottery.

Blue and white ceramics.

4. Hòn Cau ancient ship.

36 blue and white glazed ceramics including plates, cups, cans, boxes, pen tubes, jars, radiators, pots, and bottles were selected. It was the first ship discovered and unearthed during 1990-1992. The vessel was discovered in the sea near Hon Cau Island (Ba Ria - Vung Tau). The goods on the ship were ceramics originating mainly from Canh Duc Tran Kiln, Son Dau Dehua (China). Based on the ceramic style of the Kangxi dynasty, and an ink cartridge dating from the year of Canh Ngo, many experts have thought that this ship could be dated in 1690.

Blue and white ceramics and multi-colors ceramics.

5. Cà Mau ancient ship

The ship discovered in Ca Mau sea, at a depth of 40m, was unearthed over two years from 1998 to 1999. The ship was made of wood with a 24m long, 8m wide hull. The goods on ship were mainly blue and white glazed ceramics originating from the Jingdezhen kiln and traditional pottery kilns in Guangzhou (China). Based on the characters of ceramics and coins at Kangxi dynasty, especially some cups and bowls with the inscription "made at Yongzheng King, Qing dynasty ", the ship has been dated in the Qing Dynasty (1723-1735). The exhibition has presented 103 artifacts such as household utensils such as bowls, plates, cups, and boxes; decorations on jars, human statues, animal statutes and blue and white glazed boat models painted with multi-colors.

The exhibition has introduced the special artifacts excavated from these five shipwrecks in the Vietnamese sea to the Korean public and international friends to understand more about the rich cultural heritage of the Vietnamese sea. The heritages was created and developed over hundreds of years in the context of history and nature with many challenges. The life of Vietnamese people has been attached to the sea. They have had great pride of the sea, the territorial sovereignty, cultural identity of Vietnam. The exhibition is also an opportunity for Vietnam and Korea to exchange experiences, publish publications, train specialists in the field of underwater archeology, research, and excavation.

  Author: Lê Văn Chiến

Translator: Chu Bich

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