The Baoli Era: Treasures from the Tang Shipwreck Collection


Date:2020-09-15 ~ 2021-01-10
Venue:No. 2 Exhibition Hall (2F)

       As a cosmopolitan institute of high culture, the Shanghai Museum always seeks to expand its international horizons by establishing partnerships with leading museums around the globe. Together with the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore, we present The Baoli Era exhibition in conjunction with the 2020 commemoration of thirty years of diplomatic ties between the People’ s Republic of China and Singapore. This exhibition is also a reinforcement of cultural connectivity between Shanghai and Singapore, following the establishment of the Shanghai-Singapore Comprehensive Cooperation Council in 2019.
   The Tang shipwreck is from a merchant dhow that used to sail between China and the Arabian world along the maritime Silk Road routes during the 9th century. It sank off the coast of Indonesia’s Belitung Island, with a full shipload of Tang cargo composed of export ceramics, gold, silver, and bronze mirrors. The ship finally resurfaced after lying silent underwater for more than a millennium. The wreck, like a time capsule, preserves the grandeur of the maritime trade between East and West in the 9th century and bears witness to our Asian seafaring ancestors making glorious maritime history.
   This exhibition is the debut in China of the Tang Shipwreck Collection. For the first time, the largest single collection of Tang-dynasty artefacts found outside of China has been visiting home. Rarities such as the blue-and-white dishes, the legendary Jiangxin mirror, green splashed white wares, gold and silver, are guarantees for a rewarding show for lovers of Chinese relics. Also on display are various objects unearthed or circulated across generations in China, including Hejiacun relics, Gongyi blue-and-white shards, Changsha export ceramics, and relics excavated from Yangzhou and Qinglongzhen. The exhibition is designed to offer a panoramic insight into Tang lifestyles and maritime trade in the 9th century.
   It should be noted that the salvage of the Tang Shipwreck and allocation of its relics is against international policies of heritage protection. This case also calls for proper approaches to underwater cultural heritage preservation. Consensus must be reached on banning any non-scientific and commercial salvage of such heritage. It is the duty of our generation to take greater care of underwater cultural heritage, for the benefit of the future generations.
   I am grateful to our governments for their huge support for the exhibition project. I also express my greatest gratitude to the Asian Civilisations Museum and other lenders for their generous contributions. The exhibition could never have been staged without the unfailing fraternity among museums against the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a most gratifying journey indeed.