East Asian shipbuilding traditions
and its historical evolvement

Dublin Core


East Asian shipbuilding traditions
and its historical evolvement


Session 4
The archaeological study of ships’ cargo, hull, and maritime infrastructure


The archaeological study of excavated ships can contribute to knowledge and understanding of past seafaring and maritime activities. Such study includes the assessment of the hull structure and construction methods. This paper highlights technological innovations evidenced by the remnants of ships in China, Korea, and Japan. Based on data of the excavated ships from the tenth century onwards, this paper addresses the significance of the bulkhead in oceangoing ships in the light of technological innovations, diffusion, and hybridization. This contributes to further understanding of the relationship between the “Yellow Sea shipbuilding tradition,” the “East China Sea shipbuilding tradition,” and the “South China Sea shipbuilding tradition.” The “South China Sea shipbuilding tradition” has been presented by earlier researchers as a hybrid ship building technology. This paper highlights the integration of the technologies from the Yellow Sea and East China Sea into the South China Sea tradition by tracing specific hull components, such as bulkhead(s) used for East Asian seagoing ships. The “Yellow Sea shipbuilding tradition” is exhibited by ships operating in the northern waters of East Asia. Traditionally, these ships have flat bottoms but variations are represented by the early Tang Dynasty riverine ships and Goryeo Dynasty ships, and in later periods by Ming Dynasty ships excavated in Penglai, China.

Recent archaeological inspections conducted on the Quanzhou ship, Shinan shipwreck, and ship timbers from the Takashima Underwater site established that these ships were built in the “East China Sea shipbuilding tradition”. V-shaped bottoms, keel and bulkheads, and multiple-layered hull planking with iron fastenings, characterise this tradition. The ships built according to these two traditions came to be used in seaborne activities within and beyond East and Southeast Asia. The chronological linkage of three shipbuilding traditions developed in two regions will be pursued.


Jun Kimura


November 2011



Jun Kimura, “East Asian shipbuilding traditions
and its historical evolvement,” The MUA Collection, accessed January 29, 2023, http://www.themua.org/collections/items/show/1261.

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