Chinese river junks
China is crossed by several navigable rivers that were used long since. They had been complemented by made-made canals, the first reportedly more than 2000 years ago. Ships and naval technology suitable for the area emerged - and later turned out to be very different from the European river shipping and ocean-going ships.
All junks had sails with bamboo battens as reinforcements, the sheets being attached to the end of the bamboo battens. The battens were held by parrels to the mast. The masts were high to catch the wind even above river dykes. The masts could be laid (different from the masts of seagoing junks). Marco Polo reported the junks to have one stern-rudder, which he made a definite point of, as the Mediterranean ships of his time had two side rudders.
The hull was separated into compartments by watertight bulkheads which improved stability and lowered the risks of leaks on grounding. River junks had no keel but a flat bottom. Thus landing at shallow beaches and falling dry in tidal waters was facilitated. The rudder blade was movable and was pulled up when falling dry. The stern construction was adapted for it.
Some regional differences in junk forms emerged, but the main characteristics were kept.
In comparison to the development of European boat types there is not much documentation about Chinese junks. In the book of Peter Wieg and Johannes Freyer, Chinesische Flussdschunken, Verlag Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 1988, ISBN 3768806162, several types of river junks are described and many photos of them from the 1950s and before are shown.
The river junk model, photos, description and dimensions
The model was built to plans of a Hangzhou river junk
from the book of Wieg and Freyer (see above). It shows all the
characteristics of a river junk: the small, detachable mizzen mast on
starboad side, the movable rudder and its lifting gear, the
leeboards, the flat bottom, the "anchor pole" at bow and stern that is housed in a watertight compartment
and rammed down in the ground below the boat - a practical method of
anchoring in shallow waters.
The masts have pennons and wind vanes, as lucky charms and to indicate wind direction. The bow is decorated as tiger face, the ship's sides and stern are ornamented and painted, as on a photo of a Hangzhou junk from the 1940s. The tiger was believed to be an enemy of the demons and destroyer of bad influences.
All doors and hatches are movable and allow for having a
look into the ship.
The finely worked, detailed Hangzhou river junk model is 1 : 54 scale. Length is 61 cm, width 22 cm, height 53 cm. It is a true masterpiece, built by a very experienced ship modeler.
The stand of the model shows intricate wooden intarsia.
At the side of the stand there is the Chinese character of the dragon, 龙 (lóng), as a symbol of China, the Chinese nation and Chinese culture.
The ship can be taken out of the stand, e.g. for transport.