Chinese Junks on the Pacific: Views from a Different Deck (New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology)

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9780813030531: Chinese Junks on the Pacific: Views from a Different Deck (New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology)

"It is Van Tilburg’s goal to broaden our understanding of Chinese nautical technology, to explore the evolution of Chinese vessels between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, to investigate the differences between Chinese and Western ships and, in the absence of historical documents, to read the vessels themselves as cultural artefacts [sic] or texts that contain historical information regarding their construction and functions that would otherwise be lost to history."--International Journal of Maritime History

"This monograph is rather unusual, not because it deals with old-fashioned Chinese ships but because it treats surviving ships as living records of China’s pre-modern shipbuilding and shipping practices at an archaeological and anthropological juncture. This is a welcome move in scholarship."--Mariner’s Mirror

"Seeks to introduce Chinese agency into Pacific history by focusing on the voyage of ten junks that crossed the Pacific between 1905 and 1989.... Reveals the multifarious history behind these vessels and the stereotypes held by an intrigued American public witnessing their arrival."--Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

"This important and original study, with the rather unlikely selection of twentieth-century representatives, reaches far beyond that era to explain the historical and cultural significance of a vessel type poorly understood by westerners."--Sea History

"Successfully shows how Chinese oceangoing junks are linked to the West, both in the past and the present."--Historical Archaeology

"Van Tilburg’s whole-hearted admiration of the achievements of Chinese ship-builders and sailors underlies his exploration of their role in the modern North American and Chinese maritime culture."--Cheryl Ward, Florida State University

From a Western perspective, junks were among the most mysterious vessels ever to sail the open seas. Offering more than just history, Chinese Junks on the Pacific focuses on ten ships, such as the Whang Ho, Ning Po, and Amoy, that sailed to the United States in the early twentieth century. Hans Van Tilburg examines why these ships, some of the last commercial sailing junks of China, came to the West, what they represented, and why we are only now beginning to understand East Asian seafaring. Crowds gathered in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland to welcome the ships with a mixture of surprise and derision. In the era of the steamship, these were quaint, unwieldy constructions fashioned to look like sea monsters and bizarre objects of fancy. But they were also traveling cultural objects. Some served as floating museums, displaying grisly weaponry and other artifacts. The arrival of these vessels allowed Western observers a rare glimpse of a littleknown yet sophisticated maritime technology and seafaring culture.

Combining history with ethnology, anthropology, maritime archaeology, and nautical technology, Van Tilburg provides a window into the lives of Chinese seafarers, their transpacific experiences, and a critical look at our own crosscultural perceptions. He draws on a wide range of newspaper sources, secondary texts, nautical treatises, archaeological site work, rare historical photos and sketches, and the personal testimony of the sailors themselves to view these junks not only as transport vehicles but as complex cultural artifacts that “speak” of a distant seafaring past and intimate cultural ties to the sea.

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Book Description:

“Chinese mariners and their incredible craft represent one of the world’s oldest and most advanced seafaring traditions. Chinese Junks in the Pacific is a scholarly and readable examination of the subject and how the West’s mistaken perceptions of China’s seafarers led to more than a century of neglect and misguided condescension.”--James P. Delgado, Vancouver Maritime Museum “Van Tilburg’s whole-hearted admiration of the achievements of Chinese shipbuilders and sailors underlies . . . his exploration of their role in modern North American and Chinese maritime culture.”--Cheryl Ward, Florida State University Beginning in 1905, a handful of traditional Chinese sailing vessels, known as junks, sailed from China to North America across the Pacific. These were some of the last commercial sailing junks of China, most of which had little trouble crossing thousands of miles of ocean on their way to American ports. Crowds welcomed them in Victoria, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and San Diego, yet often regarded them with a mixture of surprise and contempt as quaint, unwieldy constructions in the fashion of sea monsters and even bizarre objects of fancy. As traveling cultural objects, displaying a variety of gruesome weaponry and other artifacts, some of them served as public floating museums. The arrival of these vessels allowed Western observers to catch a rare glimpse of a little-known yet sophisticated maritime technology and seafaring culture.Van Tilburg’s study of this history--the maritime heritage of Chinese junks and their transpacific voyages--examines ten junks, how they were made, why and how they traveled, and how the West received them. Combining historical narrative with ethnology, anthropology, maritime archaeology, and nautical technology, he draws on a wide range of newspaper sources, secondary texts, nautical treatise, archaeological site work, rare historical photos and sketches, and the personal testimony of the sailors themselves to examine these vessels not only as transport vehicles but as complex cultural artifacts that “speak” of a distant seafaring past and intimate cultural ties to the sea.While attention to maritime China has focused primarily on periods versus centuries, Chinese Junks in the Pacific is the story behind the traditional Chinese vessels of the 19th century and how the West misunderstood them. Accessible reading, this book will appeal to scholars of Asian seafaring and archaeology, sailing aficionados drawn to the junk’s form and sailing qualities, and those interested in Chinese-American interactions and encounters. 

About the Author:

Hans Konrad Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Sanctuary Program in the Pacific Islands Region, has also served as an instructor in maritime archaeology and history at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.

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Hans Konrad Van Tilburg
ISBN 10: 0813030536 ISBN 13: 9780813030531
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Van Tilburg, Hans Konrad
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Hans Konrad Van Tilburg
Editorial: University Press of Florida (2007)
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