Researching this model was not as simple as I had assumed when embarking on this assignment. There is very little information on Chinese barges in the academic literature, and the information I was able to find was scattered over a period of thousands of years. It was not until I found several sketches of similar-looking boats that I was able to formulate an approximate time period for this model. Given the obviously intricate decoration on the boat and the similarity it bears to other sketches I found from the Song and Qing dynasties, I propose that this is a model of a pleasure barge that sailed the Chinese rivers sometime between 1000 and 1600 CE. Click to read more.
Ship Model 52940 is a relatively large, (41.8 by 91 by 21.6 cm) wooden boat with golden ornate decoration lining the sides and Asian conical hats hanging from various points. It has a light green base that resembles the color of jade. Above deck, the ship is painted dark green. What drew me to this ship was its beautiful, detailed decoration lining the sides. Upon viewing the ship model in-person, I found the inside of the ship even more fascinating. Inside, there was a small stepstool, a Chinese lantern, some side tables, a bench, and most curiously, a wooden block that does not have any clear connection to the ship. The decorations, design, and artifacts suggest that the ship is of Chinese origin, but there are still many puzzles to be solved. Click to read more.
When attempting to identify the history surrounding “A Barge”, I initially researched the broader history of Chinese barges. After I failed to discover anything conclusive, I realized that the decoration of the ship was what originally interested me, so I devoted my time to learning more about it. The back of the ship model features a picture of a bird surrounded by vines and flower blossoms. This picture may offer a clue to the period that the ship operated. Known for their bright colors and intricate detail, Bird-and-Flower paintings were extremely popular amongst the ruling class during the Song and Ming Dynasties of China. When paired with ornate siding that also features vines and flowers, it seems increasingly likely that the ship was either a contemporary and “culturally fashionable” vessel operating during Song or Ming China or a vessel built after these dynasties designed to honor their achievements. Click to read more.
Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.