Chinese Junks on the Pacific: Views from a Different Deck

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.
 

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Product Details

Meet 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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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
List of Tables     xi
Series Foreword     xiii
Preface and Acknowledgments     xv
Junks, Not Just Floating Wood     1
The Journeys Across the Pacific     13
Reading the Junks Themselves     47
The Living Culture of Chinese Vessels     136
Finding Pacific Junks in History     163
Misreading Our Guests: Public Perceptions     193
Views from the Vanishing Deck: Conclusions     216
Notes     223
Glossary     241
Bibliography     247
Index     265
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