The Tang Shipwreck

Tang Shipwreck

Tang Shipwreck

Project Overview: 

The Khoo Teck Puat Gallery is the new permanent home for the famous 9th-century cargo recovered from the Java Sea southeast of Singapore. The gallery tells the story of exchange of goods, ideas, and culture in the region around Singapore more than 1,100 years ago. Discovered in 1998, the shipwreck has revolutionized the way we see the world in the 9th century. Impressive ceramics, along with gold and silver objects of great value and beauty, tell of the active trade between China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, India, Africa and South East Asia during the period. In 1998, a shipwreck was discovered just off Belitung Island on the edge of the Java Sea. It contained a remarkable cargo of more than 60,000 ceramics produced in China during the Tang dynasty 唐朝 (618–907), as well as luxurious objects of gold and silver. Bound for Iran and Iraq, the ship provides early proof for strong commercial links between China, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Discovered some 600 km southeast of Singapore, the Tang Shipwreck (also known as the Belitung Shipwreck) demonstrates that the region has been a centre of global trade for more than a thousand years. Singapore lies between two oceans, along a busy sea route running from the Middle East to India, Southeast Asia, and China. This network rivaled the more famous overland Silk Route through Central Asia. Glass was brought from the Middle East, cotton from India, spices and wood from Southeast Asia, and ceramics and silk from China. These economic ties led to the exchange of technologies and artistic ideas, and to contacts between peoples of different cultures. Southeast Asia lay at the heart of a global trading network in the 9th century. Singapore’s success as an exchange point of global shipping is thus rooted in ancient history. The objects recovered from the shipwreck – some of exceptional rarity – testify to the ingenuity of artists and merchants, and show the lengths to which the world’s consumers would go to obtain such commodities. The Tang Shipwreck was acquired through a generous donation from the Estate of Khoo Teck Puat in honour of the late Khoo Teck Puat.

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Project Team: 

Stephen Murphy, Exhibit Curator, Khoo Teck Puat Gallery

Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

Bibliography: 

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