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Watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junk

Updated : 2016-05-24

Watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junk

[Photo by Xu Weigeng]

Watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junk is a traditional skill that dates back to Jin Dynasty. The junks are built mainly from camphor, pine, and fir timber, with traditional carpenter tools, key skills like rabbet-jointing and caulking. A leading carpenter designs and conducts others to cooperate and build a strongly jointed sailing junk with multiple independent watertight compartments.

This technology has survived the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties and has been continuously reinvigorated by local communities. This is exemplified by a Song Dynasty ocean-going cargo vessel built with a watertight-bulkhead structure that was brought to the surface in Quanzhou Bay. Now this technology is preserved and inherited in Shenhu Town, Jinjiang, a key figure of which is Chen Fangcai, designated as the representative inheritor of a national-level project.

In 2007 the China Sailing Vessel Development Center, based in Fulong, Fujian Province, commissioned master craftsman, Chen Fangcai, to design and build a non-motorized 13-cabin watertight-bulkhead wooden Fujianese junk-- "Taiping Princess". The vessel successfully sailed across the Pacific Ocean, enormously raising the heritage’s public profile across the world. Thus, on November 15, 2010, at the fifth session of UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, this technology was approved to be added to the 2010 List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Urgent Need of Safeguarding.

Watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junk

[Photo by Xu Weigeng]





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