The Mystery of the Ming Dynasty Galleon and China’s 16th-Century Exports

A group of fisherman diving off the Chinese coast near the Nan’ao island chain discovered a shipwreck and blue-and-white porcelain plates. The Telegraph blog reports:

When the fisherman took the researchers to the site, they discovered the wreck of a 65-foot-long ship, probably a merchant vessel, which may have been carrying tens of thousands of pieces of blue-and-white porcelain to foreign markets.

More importantly, the researchers dated the ship to the late Ming dynasty, probably during the reign of the Wanli Emperor (1573 to 1620).

The wreck is, in fact, the first late Ming dynasty ship ever found. “We have found lots of wrecks from the Song and Yuan dynasties, but this is the first ship we have found from the late Ming era. There’s just nothing to compare it with,” said Cui Yong, the head archaeologist on the salvage operation.

…The discovery of the wreck, dubbed the Nan’ao One, raises some interesting questions about this particular period in Chinese history, which historians have pointed to as the moment when China, which was leading the world with its technology and culture, retreated into isolationism and gradual decay.


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