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Top picks from the Hong Kong Maritime museum

We are now reopened on every day! Nowadays, apart of the special exhibition

Hong Kong’s Maritime Miracle: The Story of Our City since 1945 , C Deck of the museum also opened everyday. We look forward to welcoming you back and hope you can take this chance to discover or re-discover our museum. Here’s our choice that you won’t want to miss.

1. Pottery boat with figures

The boat is a funerary gift from a tomb. Within the main cabin can be seen a group of figures including an instrumentalist on the guqin, a dancer and possibly the deceased. The boat is thought to represent transport to the afterlife, which lay down river. The trio of cabin roof types - hemi-cylindrical, round and pitched - may have had a meaning relevant to the boat's symbolic purpose that is now indecipherable.

(Pottery boat with figures, Eastern Han dynasty, Sichuan province, HKMM2004.0006.0001)

This model is one of the earliest Chinese examples of a vessel with a superstructure for crew and passenger accommodation, as well as a centreline steering system and anchor. At this stage cross-members supported the top of the hull's sides, which may have used nail fastenings. These would later be replaced by transverse bulkheads.

2. Gentiloni Painting: European Trading Vessels

This rare and delicate collection of four painting depicts the narrative of a westerner’s journey into China’s port cities in the 18th century.


(Gentiloni Painting: Macao, late 18th century. HKMM2010.0031.0001)

The painting is dated by the wall of St Joseph’s convent to post-1760. Other elements suggest an intention to portray a Macau of an earlier date. Besides, this painting captures a scene in Macao, showing fascinating details such as a nun taking a stroll on the streets, and a family of pigs wandering in the market square.

Guangzhou (Canton)
(Gentiloni Painting: Canton, late 18th century. HKMM2010.0031.0002)

The distinctive walled city is shown not only replete with its ancient, historic monuments - the Five-Storey Watch Tower, the round or Mohammedan Tower and the Flowery Pagoda - but also with a rare early view - perhaps the earliest known - of the foreign factories or trading offices of the European merchants in the eighteenth century, located on reclaimed land to the west.


(Gentiloni Painting: Whampoa, late 18th century. HKMM2010.0031.0003)

The undeveloped foreign anchorage at Whampoa fits an early to mid-18th century date. Unusually the British ships have the colours of the Union Flag reversed and an incorrect pattern.


(Gentiloni Painting: Zhaoqing, late 18th century. HKMM2010.0031.0004)

Scholars have identified this city as Zhaoqing, 80 miles west of Canton on the West River. It is where Matteo Ricci composed the first European style map of the world in Chinese.

Find out more about the details of these painting in our videos.

3. Chinese Eight-leaf Screen with View of Canton

(Gentiloni Painting: Zhaoqing, late 18th century. HKMM2012.0016.0001)

This screen shows Guangzhou as it was before the foreign factories outside the walls on the southwest of the city. Originally made for the Chinese market, the screen was later cut into sections, hinged and possibly reduced in size for the export trade. It has now been reassembled as a single panel.

Two sorts of landmarks of historic Canton appear. Some a Chinese audience would have known as the ‘Eight Scenes of the City of the Five Rams’. Others would have been familiar to westerners, so relevant ot the remake for the export trade. You can see the Shimen Fanzhao, the Zhenhai Cenglou (Five Storey Pagoda), the Liu Rong Si and Hua Ta (Flowery Pagoda), the minaret of the Huaisheng or Guangta Mosque (Mohammedan Tower), the Hai Zhu Pao Tai (Dutch Folly Fort) and the doubled southern wall.

4. The Trial of Neptune’s Seamen

(The trial of the Neptune’s seamen, 8 April 1807. Unknown Artist, Guangzhou, China, c.1807, On loan from Mr Anthony J. Hardy, HKMM2012.0050.0003)

The Painting represents a notable event in Canton when the seamen from the British ship Neptune were held responsible for the death of a Chinese man that happened during drunken brawling. The three examining officials sit at the central table. On the right sitting are four hong merchants, including Puankhequa, Mowqua, Pioqua and Consequa. A sailor is being questioned, while four more wait for their turn.

After several days of trial, the British were official made to pay for a small fine, while the hong merchant responsible for the Neptune was obliged to pay a much larger sum. This way was satisfied on both sides.

5. Pacifying the South China Sea

(Pacifying the South China Seas, c.1810, HKMM2004.0102.0001 )

Before being purchased for the HKMM Collection in 2004, this scroll had been in France for over 100 years. It lacks both the title at the beginning, and the original owner or owners’ notations at the end.

We call it ‘Pacifying the South China Sea’ because it closely follows the Jinghai fenji by Yuan Yunglun of Shunde published in November 1830 in Guangzhou. This book tells how Viceroy Bailing solved the devastating piracy problem that had plagued the Guangzhou coast since the late 18th century.

The Zheng pirate federation, built by Zheng Yi from 1802 – 1807, had grown under his successors Zheng Yi Sao and Zhang Bap to comprise six fleets, up to 70,000 personnel, 2,000 ships and 5,000 – 6,000 cannons. Between them the fleets controlled the three sea passages along which the trade of Guangdong flowed.

The coastal forces Bailing had to rely on could do well if ably led. However for the most part they were fragmented, ill-equipped, had poor morale and in some cases were in cahoots with the sea bandits.

Find out more about the legend of Zheng Yi Sao and Zhang Bao in our blog.

6. The Alexander Hume Scroll Painting of Foreign Factories in Canton

(The Alexander Hume scroll painting, an unusually large and early panoramic scroll representing the Hongs, or Factories, at Canton (Guangzhou), c. 1772,HKMM2012.0016.0001)

This rare, large panoramic painting is one of the earliest depictions of foreign factories in Canto to date. As a hongs paintings, it illustrates the starting point of the Canton Trade System (1757 – 1842). China controlled trade with the West by restricting maritime commerce to Canton. Made specifically for the European market, this painting is of Western naturalistic is landscape style but was painted and mounted in the traditional Chinese hand-scroll format in a Canton studio.

Five of the hongs in the painting have their flags hoisted aloft. From left to right, you can see the Danish, French, Swedish, British, and Dutch flags. The white flag of the French hong suggests that the painting was created before the French Revolution in 1789. Other landmarks include China Street and Hog Lane.

We can’t wait to welcome you back. Come and find out more about visiting the Museum.

Not able to visit just yet? Don’t worry! You can still explore from home.

We will be opening the rest of the Museum and the Swire Maritime Discovery Centre in summer.


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