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'Overseas shipping' treasures from 2,000 years ago

BY :China Daily

UPDATED :2024-06-24

The Maritime Silk Road, dating back to the Qin and Han dynasties (221 B.C.-220 A.D.), represents the oldest known sea route. The Nanyue Kingdom (203-111 B.C.), located in China's Lingnan region bordering the South China Sea, served as a crucial port and commodity distribution hub. The discovery of the mausoleum of Zhao Mo, the second ruler of the kingdom, in 1983 offered profound insights into the kingdom's grandeur.

A significant artifact, a silver box housed at the Nanyue King Museum, is a testament to the maritime connection between ancient China and the world. Featuring the chiseling technique popular in Persia and petal decorations common in West Asia, the box's thin gold gilding marks a clear departure from typical Chinese artifacts. This box, along with other West Asian-style artifacts found in the tomb, indicate the existence of the Maritime Silk Road during that era.

Additionally, the archaeological site of the Nanyue Kingdom's palace and garden, discovered in the 1990s, reveals the influence of foreign cultures in its architectural ruins. Octagonal pillars, predominantly seen in Indian grottoes and absent on overland routes to India, suggest that they were likely transported via the sea.

Experts infer that China's maritime trade had expanded to the Indian Ocean by the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.) at the latest. Artifacts like the bronze bucket from the Nanyue king's mausoleum and a pottery boat model discovered in Guangzhou provide clues to shipbuilding techniques during that era. The presence of long oars, watertight compartments, and stern rudders indicates advancements in navigation and shipbuilding for ocean travel during this period.

Discover the treasured artifacts that showcase the vibrant exchanges along the ancient maritime route in this video!

Editor: Annie