Exhibition ‘Discoveries From the Sinan Shipwreck’

 

Survived discoveries underneath the ocean

Just observing all the historical items that were in the process of cultural exchange in the present gallery room was amazing. Probably this could be one of your typical museum experiences. But, when you are looking at the 24,000 discoveries that were under the water for 650 years in a trading ship, astonishingly well preserved, and then fully excavated, it becomes a different experience. You weave through the first two exhibition rooms, educate yourself, get the idea of the general background, and then you enter the third room. Magnificent splendor of the discoveries, again, surprisingly in good condition, right in front of your eyes. Keep reminding yourself that everything you see- much like a pictorial scene of a historical porcelain factory, has been beneath the sea for 650 years. Just the whole scale of the excavation is unbelievable. The exhibition ‘Discoveries From the Sinan Shipwreck’ aimed to explore the fourteenth century exchange in East Asia by deeply studying, researching, and understanding the excavated artifacts from the Sinan shipwreck. In brief, a local fisherman witnessed the six celadon vases caught in his net in the coast of Jeungdo, Sinan, in August 1975. He showed them to his brother, an elementary school teacher and all of them were reported to the county office. It was a historical moment to have a mere conjecture of what could possibly exist under the sea. As the official starting point for the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea to the excavation had created, no one realized that it was just the beginning of the massive hidden discoveries about to unveil the missing history of 650 years ago from 1975.

Mud flat that preserved the whole treasure ship

The excavation of the Sinan shipwreck became the pioneer and the foundation of underwater archaeology and cultural heritage. Because of the mud flat in the West Sea and the Southern coast of Korea, the artifacts might have been in a good state of preservation. Guessing from the written letters on the 300 loaded wooden tablets, which included names of recipients and information all in Japanese, the ship goods were estimated to be on a trading ship from China en route to Japan. Main customers of the goods were inferred to be Japanese aristocracy from the evidence of rare and precious porcelain. From 800 million Chinese brass coins weighing about 28 tons to porcelains, metalwork, spices, and the oldest Japanese chessboard… They were the survived history. The speculation of usage of the founded coins were either in monetary due to the active currency market of Chinese coins back then, or to melt them for making Bronze Buddha. The enormous volume of the discoveries well-demonstrate how active East Asian trade route was. I visited two times and still it gave me goosebumps of astonishment. Also, it was perhaps one of the happy moments of being captivated by the volume of the exhibit collection, not by the size of the exhibition space.

 

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