Chinese seagoing junks
Most probably there has been shipping and trading between China and the adjacent islands and countries for more than two thousand years, and seagoing junks for this purpose were developed over time. The ships and their cargos were underway for months or years, using the seasonal monsoon winds.
Ships and naval technology developed turned out to be very different from the European 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. 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. The rudder blade was movable and was pulled up when in harbour or in shallow water. The stern construction was adapted for it.
In comparison to the development of European boat types there is not much documentation about Chinese junks. In the book of Peter Wieg, Chinesische See-Dschunken, Verlag Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 1984, ISBN 3768804720, several types of seagoing junks are described and many photos of them from the 1950s and before are shown. A copy of the books goes with the model.
The seagoing junk model, photos, description and dimensions
The model was built to the description of a South China junk from Hongkong in the book of Peter Wieg (see above) and to plans of a Hainan trading junk of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Modelbouwers (Plan No. 10.00.032). According to the trade reports of the Chinese Maritime Customs more than 150 junks were in regular service by the end of the 19th century. By 1907 there were still 110, and 80 in 1936.
The model shows all the characteristics of a seagoing junk: the hull built on a solid keel, the center board before the gang spill, the movable rudder that can be lowered far enough to act as a second center board, being held by a chain in the current. The decoration-like holes in the rudder blade and the stem and keel at the bow are believed to improve water flow and maneuverability. The part of the hull besides the rudder-well is only partly planked. Water can easily flow in and out of this compartment in heavy seas, thus reducing rolling and stomping in bad weather. For the same purpose the first compartment before the bulkhead at the bow has small holes in the planking, to allow for water running in and out easily (doubts were raised about the efficiency of this method).
There are two anchors, one from steel and a traditional wooden one with only one fluke.
The stern gallery holds the toilets, mere holes in the
bottom about four feet above the waterline.
All doors and hatches are movable and allow for having a look into the ship and on the cargo. The upper planks in the front part of the ship are built as movable panels. They can be lifted or removed to allow the use of the two guns or facilitate loading and unloading the vessel. The guns were used to fend off pirates. The movable bulletproof panels hanging from the sunroof at the stern served to protect the helmsman.
The Chinese character on the hull says Shandong, 山东 Shān dōng , the name of a coastal province in East China.
The shrouds have ratlines only in the upper part of the mast, as the battons of the sails are used for climbing the rig. Three lanterns are hoisted for orientation during (the usual) convoy journeys and as navigation lights. An additional large lamp is hung above the main hatch to light the deck.
The foremast carries the Chinese national flag. The other masts have pennons and wind vanes, as lucky charms and to indicate wind direction.
The finely worked, detailed Hangzhou river junk model is 1 : 39 scale. Length is 74 cm, width 26 cm, height 60 cm. It is a true masterpiece, built by a very experienced ship modeler.
The stand of the model shows intricate wooden intarsia. At
there is the traditional Chinese character of ship's name,
鴻圖 (hóng tú) ,
in Chinese meaning great
plan and grand prospect. There is a corresponding saying in China
"Cherish high aspirations and carry out a great plan". On the other side
the ship's name is also written in German, translated in short as
The ship can be taken out of the stand, e.g. for transport.