Relics re­cov­ered from ship­wreck

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By WANG KAI­HAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

An ar­chae­o­log­i­cal team an­nounced on Thurs­day its three­year ex­ca­va­tion of the wreck of the 19th cen­tury ar­mor-plated cruiser Zhiyuan has been com­pleted.

Zhou Chun­shui, head of the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion, near the port of Dan­dong, Liaon­ing prov­ince, said at a sym­po­sium at the Na­tional Cen­ter of Un­der­wa­ter Cul­tural Her­itage in Beijing that the ex­ca­va­tion had yielded many new find­ings.

Among relics re­cov­ered this year at the site where the famed naval ship came to rest were a ceramic plate in­scribed Zhiyuan and be­long­ings of of­fi­cers, con­firm­ing the ship’s iden­tity.

The Zhiyuan sank on Sept 17, 1894, dur­ing a bat­tle in the First Sino-Ja­panese War. Two hun­dred fifty-five of­fi­cers, sol­diers, and crew­men, in­clud­ing Ad­mi­ral Deng Shichang, died when it was hit by tor­pe­does, caus­ing a mas­sive ex­plo­sion. The Zhiyuan has been widely hailed for its heroic at­tempt to ram a nearby Ja­panese cruiser af­ter fall­ing un­der at­tack. It was built in Great Bri­tain from 1885 to 1887.

“The whole wreck sank into sand, which made a large-scale ex­ca­va­tion dif­fi­cult,” Zhou said. “We were only able to clean smaller ar­eas one af­ter an­other.”

About 200 ar­ti­facts were re­cov­ered from the wreck, he said.

The con­di­tion of the wreck is not ideal, Zhou said, and the wreck is cor­roded with rust. Only 61 me­ters re­main of the once 70-meter-long ship.

Though some mea­sures have been taken to slow the cor­ro­sion, it is ur­gent to de­ter­mine the next steps of a plan to pro­tect the site, he said.

“Field re­search has ended, but there is much more work to be done,” he said.

The im­me­di­ate ques­tion is whether to raise the wreck from the seabed for fur­ther study and ex­hi­bi­tion.

Cui Yong, a Guang­dong Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tu­tion re­search- er who par­tic­i­pated in the project, said: “Any pro­posal to sal­vage it has to be cau­tious and well-eval­u­ated. Without ad­vanced meth­ods and a guar­an­tee of safety, such a move would lead to ir­re­versible da­m­age.”

Song Xin­chao, deputy di­rec­tor of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage, said the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work on the Zhiyuan could pro­vide in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for sim­i­lar un­der­wa­ter projects in the fu­ture.

“In China, there are many other iconic ships that sank in the sea dur­ing wars in re­cent his­tory,” Song said. “The work on the Zhiyuan not only pro­motes pa­tri­o­tism, but of­fer im­por­tant ref­er­ences to study the world’s naval his­tory and set cri­te­ria for ex­ca­va­tions to come.”

ZHOU HAIJUN / XIN­HUA

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The 19th-cen­tury Chi­nese cruiser Zhiyuan sank in 1894 dur­ing a bat­tle in the First Sino-Ja­panese War.

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