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Smithsonian and Singapore Organize World Tour of Shipwreck Treasure
WASHINGTON, DC.- The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board of Singapore today announced a partnership to organize the first exhibition and international tour of one of the oldest and most important marine archaeological finds of the late 20th century.
The discovery offers scholars and scientists an unprecedented time capsule of knowledge about the period and a wealth of unanswered questions that will fuel research for decades to come.
The grand opening of the exhibition will take place in Singapore in late 2010 or early 2011. The Sackler Gallery will host the U.S. premiere in spring 2012, coinciding with the museum's 25th anniversary celebration. The exhibition is expected to travel for about five years to major museums in Asia, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
"The 'Tang Shipwreck Treasure' has a special meaning for Singapore," said Aw Kah Peng, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. "Its compelling story resonates with Singapore's growth into a premier port and trading hub. Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Singapore has always benefitted from the cultural exchange created through trade among the Chinese, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian civilizations, and maintains the same cosmopolitan outlook today. We are particularly honored to join with the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries to develop this important exhibition."
The cargo will provide the focal point for an exhibition of dramatic scope, illustrating the dynamic interchange of ninth-century geopolitical powerhouses along the maritime silk route from Changan (modern Xian) to Baghdad, as well as the human stories of those who toiled in China's factory-like kilns and the ship's crew, whose few surviving belongings provide clues to their multi-ethnic identities.
|Changsha ware plate with ancient symbol of the Goddess, the reverse swastika.|
"The extraordinary story of the cargo-a testament of cultural exchanges and interactions in Asia via the Maritime Silk Route-resonates with our work to promote understanding of the rich cultures that make up Singapore's multi-ethnic society," said Michael Koh, chief executive of the National Heritage Board. "Through our partnership with the Freer and Sackler galleries, this remarkable story can now be presented to a wider audience, both locally and internationally."
Often referred to as the Belitung Shipwreck, in reference to the nearby Indonesian island, the dhow, approximately 21 feet wide and 58 feet long, is the only vessel of Arab origin ever found in Southeast Asian waters. Although the goods carried by the ship originated in China, the ship is similar to a type built in the Middle East during the period and for centuries thereafter. The port of departure and destination are unknown, but scholars believe that the ship was bound for the Middle East with a full load of goods from a southern Chinese port, possibly Guangzhou. An accurate reproduction of this vessel, sewn together without the use of a single nail, has been made in Oman and was recently presented by the Sultanate of Oman to the government and people of Singapore. Named The Jewel of Muscat, the vessel sailed from Muscat Feb. 16 and docked in Singapore July 3.
***********************************************************************For further information:
Information on recovery of items from the wreck and some photos.
Photogallery at National Geographic.
Inside the Storerooms of the Belitung Shipwreck, by Dr. Victor Mair.