Chinese Shipwreck Yields Treasure Trove of Kangxi Porcelains
Off the coast of mainland China in Pingtan County, Fujian their is an area frequented by fishermen known as Bowl Reef or Wan Jiao, as they fairly often would haul up old Chinese porcelain bowls in their nets thus earning the name.
|Detail, Kangxi Soldier Jar, Circa 1700|
Chinese Shipwreck From Kangxi Period, Bowl Reef Treasury
However, in June of 2005, the fisherman hauled up what can only be described as an astonishing tip of the proverbial iceberg. It would become known as Bowl Reef 1 also known as Wan Jiao Yi Hao. While shipwrecks have been found on many occasions throughout the routes taken by traders from China to the west over the years, never before has an actual wreck been found here. More importantly the quality and patterns on these newly discovered examples were unique and of the very best quality from the Kangxi Dynasty (1661 - 1722) viewed by many as the pinnacle of Chinese Blue and White Production.
After the discovery, the fisher men contacted the local government official who then called in the National Museum's Underwater Archaeological Research Center which began excavating in nearly 70 feet of water with divers and pumping equipment on September 17, 2005.
While some of the pieces were the typical everyday wares seen form the era, bowls, plates, cups and vases. Many were decorated with an astonishingly rare patterns depicting figures from the Chitan or Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125). According to Chen Huasha a research director at the Palace Museum, it was the first time a Chitan figure has been seen on Chinese blue and white porcelain. Also found was a scene depicting a woman wearing an ethnic Han costume and is thought to be the image of Wang Zhaojun, one of the Four Beauties in Chinese History. Numerous other examples have since been found with fascinating mixtures of Chinese history intermingled with designs from Europe. Including flowers and plant life found along the coast of the Mediterranean Ocean. All of this helps scholars reconstruct the Silk Trade Routes established between China and the rest of world going back centuries, currently over 100 known wrecks exist stretching from Southern China to the Arabian Coast line.
Happily, much of the ship was encased after sinking by a very fine mud that sealed the cargo, thus preventing the destruction of glazes so often seen with other wrecks found by archaeologists.