The Palace Museum and Shimao Group are going to build a museum focused on the Maritime Silk Road in Quanzhou, Fujian province, where the ancient maritime route began.
The Maritime Silk Road Museum of the Palace Museum is expected to play an important role in the bid to have UNESCO list the maritime route as world intangible heritage, said Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Shan spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct 15 of the contract to build the new museum, to be located in Shishi (stone lion), a city in the municipal region of Quanzhou. It is to house relics from the Maritime Silk Road and hold temporary exhibitions of treasures from the collection of the Palace Museum.
The Palace Museum will also support the construction, exhibition design and operations of the new museum, Shan said.
The Maritime Silk Road was an ancient sea passage for trade and cultural exchanges between the East and the West. Its heyday was during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties.
It stretched from China’s coastal area, including Quanzhou, one of the important port cities, to East Africa and Europe, by way of more than 100 countries and regions.
At the time, Chinese goods exported through the passage mainly included silk, tea and porcelain. From the West came not only gems, spices and medicines, but also science and technology.
The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, has an abundant collection of Maritime Silk Road relics, given that many of the imported treasures were meant for the royal court. The Palace Museum was China’s royal residence during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Shan said the museum has about 25,000 such relics. They include porcelain, calligraphy and paintings, books, wares made of jade, cloisonne enamel, gold and silver and timepieces that were exhibited at the Meridian Gate Gallery of Palace Museum in 2017.
On exhibition in Shishi now are lion-related treasures from the Palace Museum, given that the lion was seen as a symbol of cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road.
The overland and maritime passages of the Silk Road, along with some inland canals in China, were connected historically and formed a huge network of trade and cultural exchange, Shan said.
Hui Wing Mau, founder of Shimao Group, said the company has been working with the Palace Museum to develop a two-year plan of exhibitions for the Maritime Silk Road museum.
Last year, Hui paid $20 million to private collectors for an ancient scroll named “Landscape Map of the Silk Road” to be housed in the Forbidden City.
The colored map, 30.1 meters long by 59 centimeters wide, is believed to have been painted during mid-Ming Dynasty.
It depicts the ancient trade routes starting from Jiayuguan－at the western end of the Great Wall during Ming rule－through Central and West Asia to the Middle East.
Marked on the scroll are 221 sites in dozens of countries and regions, including key spots on the ancient Silk Road such as Dunhuang in Gansu province, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Esfahan in Iran, Damascus in Syria and Mecca.
The scroll will be exhibited at the Hong Kong Science Museum at the end of the year, Shan said. Presentations on ancient mapping methods also will be given.