The Chinese Imperial Artwork Found In Indonesia ( Continiu )






Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA

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 Sunken Ship Found Treasure Ceramics and Jars from a old chinese Shipwreck in the South China Sea

Sunken Ship Found Treasure Ceramics and Jars from a old chinese Shipwreck in the South China Sea

3.3.1 i



Historical Shipwreck




Shipwrecks which remain undisturbed on the seabed for centuries provide vital information about the past. The challenge of archaeology is to understand the past by studying material traces.

On land, archaeologists may excavate burial sites, lost monuments or deposited waste.

At sea, marine archaeologists may excavate ships fully loaded with today’s antique pottery. Object on board are usually assumed to be contemporary products dating from the year of sinking. Antique pottery recovered from such dated assemblages in the South China Sea, yield important clues about Asia’s ceramics developments and associated maritime trade.

“As time capsules, each with content deposited at a single moment in time, these are more valid as dating evidence than are decades of scholarly guesswork based on unprovenanced museum collections” (Asian Ceramic Research Organization)

The European East India ships of the 17th century provided the first direct contact with Asia’s spices, silk and ceramics. The Wanli Shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Terengganu, Peninsular Malaysia in November 2003. It was fully excavated in mid-2005 in association with the then Malaysian Department of Museums and Antiquities. Believed to be a Portuguese vessel circa 1625, the ship was carrying an impressive cargo of late Ming Dynasty blue-&-white kraakware, a form of export porcelain produced during and following the reign of Emperor Wanli (1563-1619).

Kraak was the first blue & white porcelain to arrive in Europe in large quantities where it became highly sought after. The Ming


Wanli Kraak Porcelain with Bied on the rock symbol and surround by eight buddhist emblem and treasure emblem motif bigger palte 70 cm

porcelain of this period charmed buyers with its lively and spontaneous free painted images of deer, crickets and birds in natural settings.

The porcelain was named after the Carracks, the Portuguese ships that first transported this cargo. 

The Wanli Shipwreck bears testimony to the treacherous nature of maritime trade in the 17th Century. The distribution and condition of the porcelain cargo suggest that the ship’s gunpowder room may have exploded before sinking. It is thought that it was boarded and set alight by a ship from a rival nation.



Still Life with Fruit in a Wan-Li Bowl A Roemer c.1630

Detail from Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619,


Chinese kraakware was far superior in terms of form and style to anything available at the time. It inspired the development of blue & white Delftware in Holland which emerged more than a century later. Prized Wanli bowls and plates featured prominently in the still lifes of the Dutch Masters of the 1600s who wanted to demonstrate their skill at depicting the delicate surfaces and intricate detailing of the exotic blue & white porcelain from the Far East.

Quoted from Sten Sjostrand essay:

“The ‘‘Ming ban’’ was officially abolished in 1567 and this allowed the Portuguese to openly trade with China.  By now Chinese potters were crafting exquisite blue and white porcelain ware that was as translucent as jade and almost as precious.  It captivated an ever-increasing group of European buyers and by the beginning of the 17th century blue and white porcelain was being exported to Portugal, Holland and England. From the beginning of the 18th century, more and more European merchant vessels were crossing the South China Sea with thousands of pieces of blue and white porcelain onboard. Many private European traders settled in Asia, using locally built ships to join in this lucrative commerce. “



The Bin Thuan Shipwreck Ceramics

Motif duck and lotus flower

Salvaged in 2001, from the Bin Thuan shipwreck situated 40 miles east of Phan Tiet, Vietnam, these Zhangzou (Swatow) ceramics were produced in China between 1550 and 1650

(3) The Camau Shipwrec’ 

The Ca Mau wreck


Tea bowl and saucer from the Ca Mau wreck, about 1725

A tea bowl and saucer.

Where and how it was made

This tea bowl and saucer were made in about 1725 at a porcelain works in Jingdezhen in southern China. The blue and white pattern is called ‘over the wall’. It shows a man climbing over a wall to meet two maidens, and may have been inspired by a Ming dynasty novel. While this is a Chinese design, some of the other ceramics found in the same shipwreck feature European motifs.

Two decorative dishes.

Left: These ‘Scheveningen’ dishes were recovered from the Ca Mau shipwreck. The decoration shows the Dutch fishing village of Scheveningen. Courtesy: Sothebys.

Where and how it was traded

It’s believed the wreck at Ca Mau was a Chinese merchant’s junk on its way from Canton (Guangzhou) to Batavia when it caught fire and sank in about 1725. The goods on board had been ordered by the merchant for Dutch traders who had limited access to China and its ports.

Engraving of a port.

Left: This engraving shows the port of Canton (Guangzhou) in China, about 1669. Courtesy: The Bridgeman Art Library.

22 ceramic dishes stuck together.

Right: Many of the ceramics in the Ca Mau wreck were tightly packed in 60-centimetre pinewood barrels. The fire on board was fierce enough to fuse some of the ceramics together. Courtesy: Sothebys.



(AD. c. 1830)

Pirates could have attacked the Desaru ship, killed her captain, captured passengers and crew, taken the most precious cargo, and set fire to the ship before selling the captured as slaves.

If this happened, the pirates would have been likely to take the ship’s cannons, valuable commodities at the time. Piracy was virtually uncontrolled during the first half of the 19th century. Writing in the late 1830’s, Newbold indicated that pirate activities around the Malay peninsula were seasonal and determined by the wind conditions.

From April to May, pirates would focus on the east coast; from June to September the brunt of their depredations fell on Johor and nearby islands. One pirate chief boasted that he had killed twenty-seven captains of European ships with his own hands. Piracy was curbed in 1837 when Admiralty jurisdiction granted prosecuting authority to the Straits Settlements; until then, all cases had to be referred to Calcutta. Around this time, Singapore started to supply ships with anti-pirate cannon, similar to the one found on the Desaru ship.

During excavation, structural members were held in place only by the ceramics and the surrounding compacted mud.

The scattered shards are found up to 4 metres either side of the ship, and up to 20 metres to the north and south, along the trawling directions.

Ceramics found in the port bow area were more broken and disorganized than in other sections of the ship

The blue and white porcelain found on the ship is attractive and of not  high quality,

The many large and crudely-potted storage jars found onboard suggest that more practical objects were in higher demand than decorative objects or wares for fine dining – although the discovery of over 50,000 soup spoons

unmatched with bowls also demonstrates the scale of contemporary trade and the danger of extrapolating too much from a single cargo.

 By the 18th century imitations were being made in Europe.  Genuine Yixing pots are made from a distinctive purplish red clay found only in Jiangsu province, and each of the examples from the Desaru displays a mark on the base giving either a potter’s or a supervisor’s name.  A number of the teapots carry the mark of Shao Youlan who is known to have been active in the Daoguang reign (1821-1850) and this, for the time being, is the best indication for the age of the shipwreck.




Blue & white porcelain on board consisted of a range of tableware from the Dehua and Jingdezhen kilns. Among these were flower bowls and dishes, lion dog and chrysanthemum blossom plates, Kamcheng jars decorated with delicate pea blossoms, covered wine bowls with Double Happiness motifs, and a large quantity of spoons.
The cargo comprised items typically used throughout Southeast Asia throughout this period.

Lion Dog Kamcheng Jars, teapots and Om plates from the Desaru Shipwreck

Much of the blue & white survived intact.  Excavated shards, however, were less abundant.  Due to the relative scarcity of these shards, pieces from from Tradewind Treasures’ Desaru Collection

The Desaru Shipwreck was found off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia at a depth of 20 metres. It was fully researched and excavated in 2003. 

Chinese ceramics comprised 10% of the cargo of this Chinese vessel.  This included finely crafted Yixing teapots, and brown, black and green glazed stoneware for practical everyday use.


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