Zhejiang, China’s southeastern coastal province, has an inseparable bond with sea. People living in Zhejiang live by and off the sea; they battle against the gales, waves and storms, which have nurtured their broad-minded and generous character.
Since the Tang and Song dynasties, Hangzhou, the city at the southern end of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, has been closely communicating with the administrative center of the country while serving the development of the coastal ports in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. It’s fair to say the development of Hangzhou is in close relationship with the prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road during the Tang and Song dynasties in East Asia.
On November 9, the annual exhibition of West Lake Museum, named “Under a Thousand Sails - Life on the Maritime Silk Road in East Asia during the Tang and Song Dynasties”, was unveiled. The exhibition will remain open to the public until January 8, 2023. Based on existing written records and archeological evidence, the exhibition introduces the stories of diverse groups of people who have left a mark on the Maritime Silk Road to demonstrate the flow of goods and cultural exchanges in East Asia during the Tang and Song dynasties and to highlight the pivotal role of Hangzhou on the Maritime Silk Road.
The exhibition has four chapters. The first chapter shows the diverse diplomatic exchanges in East Asia from the Tang to the Song dynasty through the stories of diplomatic envoys, including the envoys of the Tang dynasty, merchants in the Wu and Yue states charged with diplomatic duties and envoys sent by the Song dynasty to the Goryeo Kingdom; the second chapter demonstrates cultural exchanges on the Maritime Silk Road in East Asia through the stories of ancient cultural influencers such as Jianzhen, Yitian and Nampo Jomyo; the third chapter unfurls a panoramic picture of the commercial world in East Asian through the stories of merchants and those playing an important role in overseas trade administration in regional countries, such as Zhang Zhixin and Xie Guoming, and the fourth chapter revolves around ordinary people living by the sea as well as their important role in the prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road.
Besides people’s stories, the exhibition also introduces examples of the dissemination of cultural elements on the Maritime Silk Road via theme exhibitions, or “hyperlinks” in an attempt to make the exhibition more information-intensive.
The exhibition displays as many as 116 objects (sets), and for a lot of them, it’s their first time to meet the public, including the compass-holding figurine from the Southern Song Dynasty from China Port Museum (Ningbo). The compass in the arms of the figurine has noticeable scale-showing cuts and a pointer with a round hole, which should be the bearing structure. As a treasure of China Port Museum, the compass proves that China’s usage of compass independent of water for directions can be dated back to no later than the Song Dynasty. The object will not be withdrawn until November 24. Don’t miss it if you are interested.
In addition to exhibits from elsewhere, West Lake Museum also puts on display its own treasures, including a pair of glazed hairpin from the Song dynasty. The eye-catching object is glazed lake blue, and its head is exquisitely shaped into a plum flower. It represents the superb glass-making technique in the Song Dynasty when glass could be made into almost any ornaments and glazed hairpins were available for even ordinary people, hence a nationwide glass fad at that time.