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December 4, 2009

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2,000 first to see salvaged treasure

MORE than 2,000 people attended the opening of a new museum on Wednesday to see silver, copper and porcelain treasures salvaged from a Chinese sailing ship that sank 800 years ago.

About 200 artifacts and the pool containing the still submerged merchant vessel, the Nanhai No. 1, were on display at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang City, southern China's Guangdong Province.

Curator Zhang Wanxing said many visitors praised the design of the museum, saying it highlighted the theme of maritime culture, but were disappointed the ship remained unseen and the number of exhibits was small.

The 30-meter vessel is immersed in a sealed glass container in a huge pool at the museum.

The pool - 64 meters long, 40 meters wide, and about 12 meters in depth - was filled with sea water and silt to replicate the water temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions of the vessel's previous resting place.


Archaeologists said after a trial excavation earlier this year the wooden structure was perfectly preserved.

The museum authority was considering showing the excavation process to visitors in the future, said Zhang.

The artifacts on display were mostly porcelain and included a small number of silver and copper items, copper coins and stone statues, according to Zhang.

Construction of the museum, covering 19,409 square meters, began in 2006 and was completed in August at a cost of more than 200 million yuan (US$29 million), said Ma Hongzao, vice director with the publicity office of Yangjiang.

The Nanhai No.1 was lifted from seabed off south China at the end of 2007 with much of its cargo.

Chinese archaeologists discovered more than 200 porcelain artifacts during a 40-day trial excavation in August and September.

They recovered more than 4,000 gold, silver and porcelain items and about 6,000 copper coins, while the ship was still on the seabed.


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