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June 1, 2012

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

3 models of ancient Chinese ships home for visit over 100 years later

THREE models of ancient Chinese ships are returning home for a visit more than 100 years after their debut at the 1904 St Louis World's Fair in the United States.

The three models, which were among 125 models of Chinese ships shown at the World's Fair, will be shown at the China Maritime Museum in Shanghai for two years starting on June 4.

Carved out of wood, the models - warships and fishing sailboats alike - vividly reflect the development of shipping back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), with small carved cabin windows and even weapons.

"I think each Chinese will be proud to see the models," said Jin Yongxing, a deputy principal with Shanghai Maritime University, who helped to facilitate the return.

The models were based on ships in shipyards and those being used at the time by fishermen in coastal areas like Shanghai and Fujian.

The return voyage for the three Chinese model ships, however, was not so smooth.

Jin first heard about the models during the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai from Marc Van Peel, the vice mayor of Antwerp, a port city in Belgium, who told him that the models were in an Antwerp museum.

Jin investigated and found in Belgium documents showing that the models were transported to Liege, in Belgium, for exhibit in 1905, soon after the World's Fair.

Unable to cover the transportation fee from the United States to Belgium, the Qing Dynasty officials agreed that the 125 models would remain in the hands of Belgium's government, which financed their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

"It's a pity to leave the nice Chinese models in a foreign country," said Jin, who later invited Shanghai traffic and port administration officials to join talks with their Belgian counterparts.

The discussion lasted for two years, given that the models are considered historical relics, and loaning three to the Shanghai museum required the nod of Antwerp's council.

Soon after the approval was granted in Belgium in March, the Chinese models, together with a model of a western ship, embarked for the trip to China on a container ship.


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