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When Vietnamese fishermen discovered a historical shipwreck about 90 nautical miles south of the Ca Mau Peninsula in southern Vietnam in 1998, they hauled up more than 30,000 artefacts and 2.4 tons of metal objects in their nets. Subsequently, a Vietnamese diving and excavation company, working in close collaboration with the Ca Mau Provincial Museum and other responsible agencies, began to salvage the ship. In 1998 and 1999 more than 130,000 artefacts were recovered from this 450m2 site.
Sometime between 1723 and 1735, a Chinese junk sank off the coast of Vietnam’s farthest point in the South China Sea. Its cargo consisted of chinaware, porcelains, blue and white ware, porcelains decorated in brown, white-glazed porcelains over-glazed with enamels, and various stoneware, all originating from different kilns in southern China. The exact journey of the Ca Mau junk is still not clear, but It is believed the wreck was a Chinese merchant’s junk on its way from Canton (Guangzhou) to Batavia when it caught fire and sank in about 1725. The goods on board had been ordered by the merchant for Dutch traders, who had limited access to China and its ports.
The shipwreck contained numerous types of porcelain, designed for the European market. Included are blue and white dishes, sometimes in sets of five, decorated with the well-known so-called ‘Scheveningen’ landscape (formerly known as the ‘Deshima’ décor), depicting a typical Dutch fishing village. In the background the sails of fishing boats are visible in between the roofs of houses, a church, and a fire beacon (executed in Chinese style). Chinese dishes with European motifs were made to order and are known as ‘Chine de commande’. European motifs were, apparently, very popular. They appear not only on dishes, but also on cups, plates, and other kitchen- or table- ware.
The ship was involved in trading Chinese ceramics and portrays how Vietnam participated in the large inter-Asian trade between East and West. Vietnam was an important hub in the flourishing Asian trade. Similarly, the Dutch would have had access to the larger European markets.
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