Shenzhen Museum #1 – Ancient Shenzhen 古代深圳 (221 BC – 1839 AD)

Part Three: Marine Economy 海洋经济

Sui, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties 隋、唐、宋、元 (581-1368)

During the late Tang and early Song Dynasties, the Silk Road on land from Central Plains to the West were blockaded by the Tibetan Empire 吐蕃 (618-842 AD). Hence, an alternative route by sea was needed and with the advancement of navigation technologies, the coastal ports along Guangzhou were used for the “Porcelain Road” 陶瓷之路.

Tang Dynasty (618-907) – “Foreign Affairs Envoy” 市舶使

Relics of the Tang Dynasty unearthed in Shenzhen 深圳出土唐代文物

At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, the imperial court setup the office of “Foreign Affairs Envoy” 市舶使 to oversee foreign trade. The location of the office was Guangzhou. In the 24th year of Kaiyuan Reign 开元二十四年 (736 AD), a garrison of 2000 soldiers under the command of Governor of Lingnan 岭南节度使 was stationed in Nantou Tunmen Town 南头屯门镇 to protect the sea trade routes from pirates.

Since the Tang and Song dynasties, the burial system in Shenzhen got simplified, with rectangular tomb chambers with simple burial objects. Discovered objects included copper coin vaults and porcelain marked for export, indicating a vibrant trading port and overseas trade in Shenzhen.

Song Dynasty – Porcelain and Salt

Glazed porcelain for export from Song Dynasty 宋代釉彩青瓷

Porcelain was another major export to the outside world from Medieval China, besides silk and tea. The porcelain trade was increasing during the Song Dynasty, but they didn’t transport well on the land route of the Silk Road due to warring factions and the rather tough journey. The sea route was much more desired.

Model of Song Dynasty (960-1279) boats

Finished products were transported inland under the protection of the Song territories and then these porcelains were exported via the “Porcelain Road” 陶瓷之路 using these simple three masts ships to different parts of the Asia.

Salt production reached its apex in Shenzhen and Hong Kong in the Song Dynasty, with the establishments of five salt fields including Dongguan Field 东莞田 (modern day Nantou 南头), Gui-de Field 归德田 (Shajing 沙井), Huangtian Field 黄田场 (Futian 福田, Luohu 罗湖, Yuenlong 元朗, Tuenmun 屯门), Guanfu Field 官富田 (Kowloon Peninsula 九龙半岛) and Died Field (Dapeng Peninsula 大鹏半岛). The modern port of Yantian 盐田 was named after one of these salt fields.

Built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Longjin Stone Pagoda 龙津石塔 was used to guard Shajing and its residents, who believed that the pagoda could exorcise river monsters. Buddhist carvings can be found in the pagoda.

Copper mirrors from Song Dynasty 宋代铜镜

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period 五代十國

Copper coins from Five Dynasties

Copper coins of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-979 AD) unearthed in Shenzhen. Coins discovered included Later Han’s 汉元通宝 (后汉), Former Shu’s 乾德元宝 (前蜀), Later Zhou’s 周元通宝 (后周) and Southern Tang‘s 唐国通宝 (南唐).

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms tombs 五代十国墓葬

Ming and Qing Dynasties 明清两代 (1368-1912)

By Ming Dynasty, the seafaring trade reached its epitome with seven expeditions by Ming eunuch Zheng He 郑和. His legacy can still be felt in many parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and east coast of Africa. Some said that his fleet even landed in Latin America before Columbus.

People living in boats 水上人家

Fishery was one of the major trades in the local marine economy since ancient times. The diaspora from Central Plains during Eastern Jin period settled in these areas and lived on fish and oysters. Because of their dependency on the weather for their livelihoods, many local traditions arose due to faith and superstitions, which you can decide it’s one or the other.

Cast iron bell from Hong Sheng Temple in Kwaichung 葵涌洪圣宫清代铸铁钟

The cast iron bell, casted in the 21st year of Qing Emperor Jiaqing 嘉庆二十一年 (1816) was collected from the Hongsheng King Temple in Kwai Chung 葵涌洪圣宫, Hong Kong, which was demolished for development of the port. The deity Hongsheng King is now being worshipped at Kwai Chung Tianhou Goddess Temple 下葵涌村天后宮

Kwai Chung Tianhou Goddess Temple 下葵涌村天后宮

Hongsheng King of the South China Sea 南海洪圣大王 is one of the deity that came from such traditions. He is a famous sea god in the South China Sea that we “conferred” the title of the god of the South China Sea with the edict issued by Emperor Wen of Sui 隋文帝 in the 14th year of his reign 隋文帝开皇十四年 (594 AD). For more than 1,400 years, after different generations of rulers have been constantly changing his “titles”. The most famous name was this current title by Song Renzong 宋仁宗.

“Two Men by the Sea” by Caspair David Friedrich (1817)

1816 was considered “The Year without Summer” as a massive volcanic eruption occurred in Indonesia’s Mount Tambora that created a volcanic winter around the world. The eruption 6x stronger that of “Little Boy” (the atom bomb dropped in Nagasaki) destroyed crops in China due to abrupt weather patterns could have prompted the local government to cast this bell to wade off evil.

Oyster farming was another major trade from this region, with early records from the Song Dynasty. And since Ming Dynasty, Shajing oysters 沙井蚝 have been farmed and harvested in Shajing Village in Bao’an District in Shenzhen. These oysters are a delicacy and many would venture to this backwater place to eat them. The dried version which is called Shajing golden oysters 沙井金蚝 because of their colour after they are dried, are sought after by gourmands. Sorry, this video is in Cantonese, the local dialect. Just watch and salivate.

Delicious Shajing oysters

2 comments on “Shenzhen Museum #1 – Ancient Shenzhen 古代深圳 (221 BC – 1839 AD)

  1. Pingback: Shenzhen Museum #2 – Folk Culture 深圳民俗文化 – live2makan

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