Archeologists Find New Starting Point of "Silk Road on Sea"

Chinese archeologists said they have found evidence of a new starting point of ancient China's "silk road on the sea."

The newly recognized starting point, Ningbo, is a coastal city in east China's Zhejiang Province. Beilun Port in Ningbo is one of the country's four largest deepwater ports and has established connections with 518 ports in 84 countries and regions.

Shi Cunlong, an expert with the Water Carriage Research Center affiliated to the Ministry of Communications, said, Ningbo had trade and cultural exchanges with Japan and Korea during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).

The city of Nara in Japan has preserved cultural relics such as silk and celadon transported from Ningbo.

Ningbo also has in its downtown area a pagoda that was used as a lighthouse during the Tang Dynasty. Other evidence includes such cultural relics as a Tang Dynasty quay, and residence of Korean and Persian envoys.

Chen Yan, a professor with Peking University and one of the initiators of research on the culture of "silk road on the sea," said shipping business in Ningbo started earlier than the Tang Dynasty, as records in history books on the period dating back to BC 1,000 indicate Ningbo residents had already acquired shipbuilding technologies.

Chen added that wooden oars and clay ships found at Hemudu Neolithic Site (BC 7,000) are also strong proof of the claim.

Other historical archives also show celadon made in Ningbo kilns was exported to over 17 countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Africa.

Chen said UNESCO sent teams to inspect China's ancient "silk road on the sea" a few years ago. However, unlike recognized starting ports such as Guangzhou and Quanzhou, Ningbo was not mentioned.

Chen said Ningbo failed to make sufficient theoretical research on the matter.

Experts have suggested that Ningbo, Guangzhou and Quanzhou jointly apply for inclusion on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list.

(People's Daily December 17, 2001)

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