War Boat

Photo by Alice Lu.
Photo by Alice Lu.
Photo by Alice Lu.
Photo by John Henry Ronan.
Photo by John Henry Ronan.
Photo by John Henry Ronan.
Photo by Norman Storer.

Build Your Own War-Junk: Quick, Stable, and Navigable:  While conducting preliminary research on War-junks, I found a Wikipedia site for the Age of Empires video game about different kind of war ships. Which leads me to ask: if you were fighting in the Opium War, what sort of ship would you choose and how would you build it? Big and bulky to carry lots of weapons and ram into ships? Or small and quick to avoid enemies? Aspects of this model junk make it a stable but speedy and easily maneuverable craft suitable for traditional Chinese oceanic warfare. The V-shaped hull and large rudder balances the ship in rough ocean waters. The holes in the rudder and the ability to raise and lower the rudder allow the ship to navigate smoothly. Oars and sails on the ship provide both man- and wind-power to drive the ship through the water. However, the First Opium War was not traditional warfare. Even the best construction of a Chinese War-junk was no match against the British who fought with modern weaponry on iron steam-powered ships. Click to read more.

Alice Lu

 

Designed to sail the difficult trade winds of coastal China and overpower enemy vessels with manpower in close-quarter combat, this Chinese War Junk is an example of adaptive ship design. The ship features tall, sturdy sails designed to be easy to control in difficult trade winds as well as a medium draft that allows the ship to navigate inland waterways yet provide stability on the open ocean. The large square deck on the ship was designed to hold as many sailors as possible, necessary to launch projectiles from close-quarters and overcome the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Yet although the ship dates to 1840, cannons are decidedly an afterthought on the vessel, as the ship only features two breech-loading cannons loosely latched to the rail that would have been nearly impossible to aim and fire. Click to read more.

John Henry Ronan

 

What do a Chinese war junk and a piece of bamboo have in common? What makes Western vessels so different from Chinese junks? What can sail shape tell us about the origin of a junk? Does it matter how many sticks are on a sail? How are holes in the keel and rudder significant? Chinese shipbuilding traditions stretch back centuries and have managed to establish certain patterns while also creating a beautiful array of regional variation. By studying some of the questions mentioned above and more, we can learn more about these variations and about this model of a Chinese war junk. Click to learn more.

Norman R. Storer

 

Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.