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Maritime trade between China and the rest of the world (often passing through Southeast Asia) has been around for nearly 2,000 years, but it has only been in the recent past that China has built up the capability to undertake archaeological investigations underwater.

The ‘Other’ Silk Road: China Peers Into Maritime Past
NPR, 02 July 2010

In China, it is hard to imagine just how much history lies right under your feet. The country has long been a goldmine for archaeologists.

Until recently, they have been confined to digging on land. But in recent years, China has grown into a powerhouse of nautical archaeology, combing its vast coastline for undersea shipwrecks, treasure, and traces of a trade route known as the “Maritime Silk Road,” a less-known parallel to the fabled overland passage.

About 1,000 visitors a day flock to one of China’s newest museums, in Guangdong province’s Yangjiang city. It is called the Maritime Silk Road Museum, and it is on the beach, facing the South China Sea.

The museum houses one of the world’s oldest known merchant ships, dating from the Southern Song Dynasty in the 13th century. It’s been dubbed the South China Sea No. 1.

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