You may know the Silk Road, a trade route from west China to Europe and Africa dating back to China´s Han Dynasty. But have you ever heard of a silk road on the sea, which can be dated back even further? An exhibition on the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ is currently being held at Beijing’s National Museum of China, unveiling the stories behind it.
During the 14th century, Zheng He led his great fleet on historic expeditions connecting West and East, but these only represent a small episode of the Maritime Silk Road, which is less well-known than its overland counterpart.
And this exhibition at the National Museum of China tells much more of the seafaring story.
The “Maritime Silk Road” took goods and people to and from China and the west, and proved to be an equally hazardous and important trade route .
The exhibition features more than 240 cultural relics from 51 museums all over China.
“We’ve gathered collection highlights from all the other museums, so the exhibits you see are truly the creme de la creme. You also get a glimpse of the latest research results in this field,” Shan Yueying, curator with National Museum Of China said.
Divided into four parts, the exhibition presents the long development and history of the “Maritime Silk Road,” including its formation, development, and its period of great importance, from ancient times to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Exhibits include not only exported porcelain, silk and other specialties from China, but daily-use articles from the Roman Empire and West Asia. There are also products of ancient international contact, including some of the earliest Christian relics in China.
Many items were excavated via underwater archaeology.
“For a long time, it is believed that ancient China mainly focused on its agro-farming culture. But in the past few years, we’ve discovered our ancestors also attached great importance to the sea. And relics have been found from the Bohai Gulf all the way to the Nanhai Sea. So hopefully through this exhibition, people could better understand the maritime silk road, this crucial marine passage for international economic and cultural communication,” Liang Guoqing, archaeologist with State Admin. Of Cultural Heritage said.
The exhibition runs until January 5th next year.