Saving a tradition of creativity

Updated: Jun 8, 2022 Print
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A millennium-old ceramic variety, which came to global attention when a shipwreck's cargo was salvaged, sheds light on a fascinating period of trade and art, report Wang Kaihao in Beijing and Feng Zhiwei in Changsha.

High waves, a perilous, yet lucrative, voyage by a fully loaded cargo boat and an accident that seems too trivial to be documented in the long course of human history. These are the raw ingredients of an intriguing tale. A tale of treasure lost and found but also an insight into a creative era.

The Arabic-style sailing boat may have failed to deliver to the eager and expectant merchants waiting at its destination, most likely somewhere in the Middle East.

No one can exactly say how the ship sank more than a millennium ago, but when the Batu Hitam ("black stone") shipwreck was found in 1998 off the coast of Indonesia, it stunned the world: Its well-sealed hoard offered a startling glimpse into the world of Chinese ceramics during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) — a cultural and social pinnacle during China's imperial era.

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