A traditional Chinese seagoing vessel, the Huan Tian, will be anchored at River Thames for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Huan Tian will be the first such vessel to visit Britain in 164 years since the visit of the Keying which created such a stir during the Great Exhibition of 1851.
After leaving Hong Kong for New York in 1847, the Keying had crossed from Boston to London under sail in 21 days, unheard of for a sailing vessel, and close to the record for steamboats. While she was docked in London, Queen Victoria boarded the vessel with her entourage, causing huge excitement.
So it is significant, that the Huan Tian, only the second traditional Chinese seagoing vessel ever to visit Britain, should participate in what is only the second ever Diamond Jubilee for a British Queen.
The most intriguing aspect of the Huan Tian is the recreation of the three masted Chinese sail, carefully handmade from cloth by the only remaining traditional sail craftsmen left in a small corner of Guangdong province in China. The sail is in a 360 degree configuration, which allows the vessel to travel in any direction under any wind conditions.
Although there are craftsmen who still remember how to build the sails, the owners have scoured the Chinese ports for a sailor who has the skills to operate these sails. Tragically it appears that this ancient knowledge may have been lost.
It was these skills, during the Ming dynasty, that allowed the Chinese fleet under the Eunuch Admiral Zheng He, to explored the oceans from 1405. However, in 1433 when the fleet returned to China from its 7th voyage, the Ming court had turned inward, deciding to close the doors on the outside world, and sadly many of the records of his exciting discoveries were destroyed forever.
The Huan Tian's visit is also to celebrate 40 years since the normalization of relations between China and Britain, and the more recent passing of the Olympic torch from China to Britain.
The Huan Tian whose draft of 3.9 meters and total height of 28 meters precludes her travelling past Tower Bridge will be berthed at St Katherine's Dock for the celebrations.