East China’s Quanzhou sees archaeological breakthroughs on ocean trade

January 16 02:46 2021
The latest research and excavation results on iron-making remains in Quanzhou’s Anxi County showed that it previously manufactured big iron and steel, major commodities of trade along the historic Maritime Silk Road, mainly during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

Jan 15, 2021 – The city of Quanzhou in east China’s Fujian Province, one of the most important Chinese ports along the historic Maritime Silk Road, reported new findings over archaeological efforts from 2019 to 2020, experts said at a seminar held in Quanzhou from Friday to Saturday.

The latest research and excavation results on iron-making remains in Quanzhou’s Anxi County showed that it previously manufactured big iron and steel, major commodities of trade along the historic Maritime Silk Road, mainly during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), said Shen Ruiwen, a professor at the School of Archaeology and Museology of Peking University.

East China's Quanzhou sees archaeological breakthroughs on ocean trade

Historical sites pertinent to the Maritime Silk Road

Two other sites were discovered and identified as the remains of regulatory bodies that existed within the two dynasties, said Wang Bo, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

One of them oversaw affairs related to the emperors’ kin and the other served similar functions as today’s customs, according to Wang.

The city is the site of China’s only UNESCO World Cultural Heritage application project in 2020 named “Quanzhou: China’s World Ocean Trade Center in Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty.”

In The Travels of Marco Polo, Marco Polo, the famous Italian traveler on the Silk Road, mentioned that Citong City (or: City of Erythrina) was once one of the world’s biggest ports. In Southeast Asia in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, citong, or the erythrina that bear fiery red flowers every spring, were cultivated widely in the region to a circumference of ten kilometers, hence the nickname “Citong City” was born. Quanzhou, situated on the southeastern coast of Fujian, was an important harbor and the starting point on the Maritime Silk Road. In the Sui and Tang Dynasties, silk was the main exported product. In the Song and Yuan Dynasties, porcelain substituted silk as the main exported product and the foreign trade reached the peak of prosperity. At that time, Dehua, well known for its ceramic whiteware, was an important whiteware capital. The South China Sea No.1 or Nanhai No.1, an 800-year-old treasure-bestowed merchant ship discovered on the Maritime Silk Road of the South China Sea, testifies to the once-flourishing whiteware trade.

Dehua ceramic whiteware in the Maritime Silk Road years

The four great travelers of the medieval West — Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Giovanni Marignolli, and Odoric — all wrote of the openness and prosperity of Quanzhou. The North African traveler Ibn Battuta compared it to the Egyptian port of Alexandria, and Marco Polo described it as “one of the largest ports in the world.” As a booming trade centre, Quanzhou also gathered merchant ships from Southeast Asia, India, the Arabian Peninsula and even Europe. Businessmen carried with them all sorts of precious and exotic items, and went back on their ships fully loaded with Chinese silk and porcelain. Today, lots of historical sites pertinent to the Maritime Silk Road remain in Quanzhou, like the Qingjing Mosque and Kaiyuan Temple.

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