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Past Exhibits

Voyage with the Tailwind: Qing Archival and Cartographical Materials on Maritime History in the National Palace Museum
Voyage with the Tailwind: Qing Archival and Cartographical Materials on Maritime History in the National Palace Museum
  • Dates: 2013/05/03~2013/11/24
  • Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 104

Exhibit Info

Vessels of the Qing dynasty sailing in East Asia often had on their sterns words "Voyage with the Tailwind" to signify the sailors' wish for a safe and smooth voyage. Here the monsoon season ran usually after the summer solstice, breezing a flow of southwest winds from July through September, and northeast in November and December. Merchants set their sails and went with the seasonal fair winds to conduct their business everywhere. As trading activities in East Asia became increasingly active in Tang and Song periods, the monsoon not only propelled the vessels, but also the economies and civilizations.

With the sea routes accessible for commerce, also came the need for coastal defense. From the Ming dynasty on, the politico-economic tributary system intended for strengthening the international prestige of China greatly furthered the trade along the coast. Selected ports were opened for this purpose; at the same time, the defense system to protect China's coast against both domestic and foreign pirates also came into existence gradually. People started to actively learn about, to explore, and to manage oceans and seas, achieving progress in shipbuilding and navigation technologies. As China gained more and more knowledge about the world overseas, her coastal society was also experiencing rapid changes.

The National Palace Museum houses a large collection of historical maritime materials from the Qing dynasty, including various sea charts, court decrees, palace memorials, imperial comments, official records, and all kinds of writings about foreign lands and coastal life, as well as western media's reportage on China’s maritime frontiers. The rich collection provides a full view of how the maritime activities during the period related closely to its politics and society, and demonstrates the diversity of Qing maritime affairs.

The present exhibition is divided into four sections: "A Million Miles of Defense" on the Qing court’s views and governance of sea affairs, "Sailing on the Seven Seas" on the ships and trade competitions, "Those Exotic Foreign Lands" on the tributary system and Qing China's knowledge of foreign lands, and "Changes in the Coastal Life" on the development of coastal cities and overall changes in life of those living off the seas.

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