China's Maritime Heritage
Traditional Maritime China
This Gallery presents the maritime world of traditional China, tracing the roots of its famous and distinctive sailing junk`s hull and rig from the earliest days of rafts, dugouts and coracles.
Covering the period from the Song Dynasty through to Qing - the days when China`s fleets ‘ruled Asia’s seas’ - the gallery tracks the growth of China’s trade routes. The diverse and exotic goods that were traded, so prized by people from near and far, are on display and can be both seen and smelled. An interactive timeline plots China’s progress in maps, comparing it to developments elsewhere. There are also the displays describing the seven extraordinary voyages of the Treasure Fleets of Zhenghe to admire.
Anthony & Susan Hardy Gallery -
The China Trade
A rich collection of paintings and artefacts displayed in The Anthony & Susan Hardy Gallery gives testimony to the Canton Trade, an arrangement between China and foreign governments that limited trading to one port, Guangzhou, known to Europeans as Canton.
This trade, which began in 1757, was plied by foreign merchants in a small group of thirteen ‘factories’ with Chinese `hong` or middlemen facilitating deals. The trade encompassed a range of Chinese produced goods, many of which are on display in the gallery and include tea, paintings, furniture, silks, hand-painted wallpapers, fans, lacquer ware, porcelain, ivories, pewter ware and silverware.
The great wealth of the trade between China, Europe and America passed through the hands of these merchants. However, few western goods found a significant market for their own goods in return, making the trade one-sided. In the late 18th century, the British and Americans used the import of opium into China to redress the balance of trade, resulting ultimately in war and the end of the Canton Trade in 1839.
This gallery has been sponsored by Anthony & Susan Hardy who have also donated a great many of the treasures that grace the gallery.
Anthony & Susan Hardy Gallery -
The Keying Display
The extraordinary model of the Keying, which the Museum is lucky enough to have on view in this display, was built on a scale of 1 to 12. The three-masted Chinese trading junk, built of teak, was the first junk to sail around the Cape of Good Hope.
She left Hong Kong in December 1846 and moored in New York the following July, where she remained for several months as a much visited tourist attraction. The Keying sailed on to Boston in November 1847 and then to England, arriving there at the end of March 1848 where a medal was struck in honour of her visit.
The display has been sponsored by Taiship, in honour of the company`s founder, D.L.Wu.
Piracy is a very serious issue for seafarers and shipowners today, and it was a scourge for centuries around the China seas.
The pirate Zhang Baozai operated six fleets in the South China Sea with over 70,000 followers, presenting the largest maritime security problem any nation has ever faced anywhere. An extraordinary ink painting scroll entitled ‘Pacifying the South China Sea’ which is 18 metres in length, depicts the nine-day Battle of Lantau that heralded the strategy of Viceroy Bailing to rid the Chinese seas of this blight.
The gallery also contains weapons used by pirates, dioramas and the huge cannon that the Qing Dynasty used in coastal defences. There are Images and artefacts relating to the piracy that plagued Hong Kong in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including portraits of ships that were hunted in the Rongsheng Heavy Industries China Export exhibit.
China’s First Maritime Modernization
This gallery`s main focus is on the challenge of securing the safety of seafarers at sea, recounting how today`s measures evolved through events in China and contributions made by historical figures such as Li Hong Zhang.
The lives of seafarers depend on systems, equipment and maritime regulations for their safety and security at sea. Serious incidents have led to improvements in equipment and rules: for example, accidents around coastlines led to China being at the forefront in developing lighthouse technology; experience of the damage that can be wrought by typhoons has led to warning procedures and designated shelters for ships; collisions have been greatly reduced by adherence to the 'Rule of the Road', for ships. For many years Hong Kong was the region`s centre for salvage operations.
Major incidents did occur and the fire on board the Queen Elizabeth/Seawise University provides a sobering example. There are also accounts of other dramas including the ordeals of Poon Lim BEM, who is the record holder for solo survival at sea.