Tang Shipwreck, The: Art And Exchange In The 9th Century

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From Select Books: A new book on the Belitung Shipwreck and its cargo which is now largely held and displayed in Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum.

Tang Shipwreck, The: Art And Exchange In The 9th Century

This book tells the story and presents the objects found on the Tang Shipwreck, discovered off Belitung Island in Indonesia in 1998, and now housed at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. It is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of recent times. Found at the site was a remarkable cargo of some 60,000 Chinese ceramics dating from the Tang dynasty (618-907), along with finely wrought gold and silver objects, bronze mirrors, and more ordinary objects belonging to the crew. The ten essays in this profusely illustrated volume discuss the ceramics and other commodities on board, the ship’s construction and possible origin, China’s maritime trade in the Tang period, Chinese ceramic production, ports of call in Asia and Southeast Asia, and life on board the ship.

Source: Tang Shipwreck, The: Art And Exchange In The 9Th Century (Select Books: The Asian Book Specialist – Bookseller, Publisher and Distributor)

Symposium: The Belitung Shipwreck and the Maritime Silk Route

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Readers in Toronto may be interested in a symposium on the Belitung Shipwreck held in conjunction with the exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum.

Aga Khan Museum_Exhibition_Lost-Dhow_800x450_1

The Belitung Shipwreck and the Maritime Silk Route – Symposium
28 February 2015
10am – 5pm
Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada

The discovery of the 9th-century Belitung shipwreck in the Java Sea in 1998 revealed an astonishing cargo of close to 60,000 Tang period ceramic vessels as well as a rare collection of intricately worked silver and gold boxes, bronze mirrors, and silver ingots. It also revealed some of the belongings of an international crew that was once on board of this Arab trade ship.

The Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, and the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, are co-hosting a one-day symposium about the shipwreck’s discovery, excavation, its exceptional Tang period cargo, and the important narratives it provides of an active cultural and commercial maritime silk route. International experts discuss the maritime silk route, including the Belitung shipwreck and other recently excavated shipwrecks in the Indian Ocean. The symposium includes a round-table discussion of the historical and ethical implications of shipwrecks and the role of museums as venues for exploring and showcasing archaeological materials.

Details here.

Public Forum: The Cost and Value of Heritage in Singapore: The Belitung Shipwreck and Bukit Brown

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The Singapore Heritage Society is organising a public forum on April 14 to discuss several heritage-related issues that have become hot topics over the past few months – the partial destruction of a large cemetery Bukit Brown, and the controversy over the Belitung shipwreck. Register here.

The Cost and Value of Heritage in Singapore: The Belitung Shipwreck and Bukit Brown
Date: 14 April (Saturday)
Venue: Mochtar Riady Auditorium, Level 5, Administration Building, Singapore Management University, 81 Victoria Street, Singapore 188065
Start Time: 2.00 pm

In general, heritage refers to the inheritance – both physical and intangible – bequeathed on the present by the past. Beneath this straightforward understanding, however, lies myriad implications and complications, particularly in the present age of globalised interests and diverse nation-states. While there is little dispute about the overall value of heritage in providing a window of knowledge to the past, that value is usually complicated by questions of ownership, the costs of recovery and preservation/conservation. Such questions raise further issues, including the tussle between tradition and development, the ethics and legalities surrounding heritage recovery and conservation, and engagement between the state and civil society.

Such issues were ever-present in the recent Belitung shipwreck controversy as well as in the ongoing debate over the future of Bukit Brown Cemetery. The manner in which Singapore has approached these two heritage issues and others has significant implications and consequences for how Singapore determines the value of its heritage, or, indeed, how heritage is defined in Singapore in the first place. What are the considerations and concerns involved in making such decisions? How far is Singapore willing to go to preserve or to conserve heritage?

To address those questions and to raise public awareness of such issues, the Singapore Heritage Society and the School of Law, Singapore Management University, bring together a distinguished panel of professionals to share their expertise and to reflect on their experiences working in particular areas of Singapore’s heritage.

More details and registration here.

Another place to find the Tang Treasures

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Belitung Shipwreck artefacts at the Goodwood Park Hotel, Straits Times 20120209

The Asian Civilisations Museum is not the only place one can find the Belitung Shipwreck on display. You can also see them at the Goodwood Park Hotel!

Belitung Shipwreck artefacts at the Goodwood Park Hotel, Straits Times 20120209

Belitung Shipwreck artefacts at the Goodwood Park Hotel, Straits Times 20120209

Tang treasures at hotel
Straits Times, 09 February 2012 (subscription required)
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Tang Treasures at the Asian Civilisations Museum

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Tang Treasures exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum

Some of the gold and ceramics from the Belitung Shipwreck are now at the Asian Civilisations Museum in a small exhibition featuring some of the more spectacular pieces – and some that were not exhibited before.

Tang Treasures exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum

Tang Treasures exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum


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Tang shipwreck treasures at the Asian Civilisations Museum

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Asian Civilisations Museum, cc image

I briefly mentioned this at my last post about the Belitung Shipwreck – The Tang Treasures are now on display at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore until July.

Asian Civilisations Museum, cc image

Asian Civilisations Museum, cc image

ACM showcases Tang Dynasty artefacts from 8th century shipwreck
Channel NewsAsia, 23 January 2012
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Shipwrecks and Shark's Fin Soup

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I was on holiday when the Smithsonian announced that it would not be hosting the Belitung Shipwreck exhibition last month. Much inked has been spilled, particularly by commentators in Singapore decrying the decision. Here’s a roundup and my take.

Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck

Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck

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The Belitung Shipwreck as a symbol of international cooperation

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The famed Tang Treasures recovered from the Belitung Shipwreck are now being displayed to the public (for the first time, I believe) at the new ArtScience Museum in Singapore. The wreck, which was excavated slightly over a decade ago is unique for the quantity of the artefacts recovered and its unusual context: primarily Chinese cargo in what is essentially a Arab-style boat. This editorial from Wreck Watch discusses the excavation and display of the Tang Treasures in the larger treasure-hunting and public interest context.

Editorial: Tang Treasures, Monsoon Winds and a Storm in a Teacup
Wreck Watch International, 13 March 2011
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Tang Shipwreck Treasures to go on display in Singapore

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The Tang Dynasty treasures recovered from Indonesian waters will finally go on display in Singapore at the new ArtScience Museum. Last year, a reconstruction of the shipwrecked vessel was made by the Sultanate of Oman and was sailed from Oman to Singapore. I managed to get onboard the ship when it docked at Georgetown in Penang – check it out here.

Ninth Century Tang Archaeological Finds Go On Display In Singapore
Bernama, 16 February 2011
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Public Lecture: Treasure from the Sea

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this public lecture by Dr. Michael Flecker about the Belitung shipwreck, soon to be exhibited in Singapore and around the world!

Treasures from the Sea: An Arab Shipwreck in Indonesian waters
by Dr. Michael Flecker
Date: 21 August 2010
Time: 4.00pm
Venue: Imagination Room, National Library of Singapore
* Registration required. See here.

The Belitung Wreck, an Arab dhow dating all the way back to the first half of the 9th century, was found in the Indonesian waters. Curiously it carried a cargo almost exclusively Chinese. Dr Michael Flecker, who directed the archaeological excavation of this magnificent find, will discuss the excavation, the ceramic and non-ceramic cargo, dating, identifying the origin and likely route of the ship and the composition of the crew. What was this Arab vessel doing so far from home?