Ancient ship exhibition revives China’s maritime culture

By Wang Yitong Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-8 17:03:01

Michael Goo (left) and You Zefeng (right) put together an exhibition featuring model ships at Aman at Summer Palace. Photo: Courtesy of Y.O.U-Shanghai

The art exhibition "Inheritance" co-hosted by Y.O.U-Shanghai landed in Beijing on February 5 at the luxury resort, Aman at Summer Palace. The three-month art exhibition leads viewers to the forgotten sources of Chinese traditional culture and art: ship model craftsmanship. Curators You Zefeng and Michael Goo helped put together a selection of ancient ship models that will bring visitors to the historic Maritime Silk Route.

Ship models on display include the "Anfulu River Boat," which Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) used for tours of inspection to the south of China. "The Green Eyebrow" was used by Zheng He (1371-1433) when he explored the Maritime Silk Route. Even more noteworthy is the traditional handicraft nijincaiqi, whose history can be traced back 7,000 years to the neolithic Hemudu culture. Now it is facing extinction, failing to be handed down from past generations. 

Growing up in a maritime family, You has forged an indissoluble bond to ships. A graduate from King's College London in the UK, he works as deputy director at the Institute of Ancient Chinese Ships. He is also the founder of Ninghai Maritime Museum in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province and a program committee member of the International Congress of Maritime Museums.

"Ships have become a part of my life. I love to explore them because they have many legendary stories," You said. "They are not just simple ships, but the masterpieces of intelligent ancient craftsmen. Nowadays, ship culture is being gradually forgotten by people and many types of wooden ships are endangered. Therefore, we need to inspire more people to learn more about its history and preserve its culture."

China's maritime history dates back to around 7,000 years ago when people began to sail with basic rafting skills. During the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), the Maritime Silk Route was established and boosted China's foreign trade. Traditional Chinese shipbuilding technology reached its climax and evolved into ships like the beautiful models on display at Aman.

A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Wharton in the US, Goo worked in property development in the UK for more than nine years and relocated to China in 2010 to set up a subsidiary in Asia dealing with interior design. His working experience in various countries has strengthened his global perspectives in different industries. As a Malaysian American, Goo has a good understanding of different cultures. He is also an art collector and has helped set up this exhibition to help preserve a form of disappearing art.

"We hope that this exhibition can lead people, especially China's youth, to revisit China's roots through its ancient culture as the country has a rich and beautiful heritage," Goo said. "We will host another art exhibition in May at The Opposite House, Beijing that incorporates ancient and modern culture, with the objective of connecting people to the exhibits. Further exhibitions will be held in Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing in June and at Beijing Design Week. We hope that the Chinese ancient culture can be continuously inherited and further developed and appreciated."

Posted in: Press Release, Enterprise

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