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[Opinion] Celadon Treasure Ship

Posted October. 10, 2003 23:05,   


The news of the discovery of a ship loaded with tens of thousands of celadons (chung-ja) made during the late 11th century and early 12th century of Koryo Dynasty at the coast of Jeonbuk Province Gunsan City Okdo-myeon ‘Shibidongpado Anpum’ , excited my heart. The excavated spot was where 12 uninhabited islands were circled, and it was named this way because the inner sea was soft and comfortable just like a mother’s bosom. The ship was buried with the Koryo celadons almost in perfect condition, just like an ‘undersea treasure ship’. At an international auction, a noted Koryo celadon bid over tens of billion won.

The sea area neighboring the Korean Peninsula, especially the West Sea (Yellow Sea) and the South Sea, are the treasure houses of undersea antiques. This area was the international bridge that connected China, Japan and Southeast Asia when trading in the past, and the waters are deep and has much mud like slime, which is why the celadons in the wrecked ship could retain their original form for such a long time. The undersea antiques discovered and reported to the National Maritime Museum in Mokpo City during the last 30 years numbered 211 items, and among them, nine places have started a full-scale excavation. Off the coast of Jeonnam Province Sinan City, the salvage work of an ancient Chinese ship, 28m in length, and 22,000 ceramics from the Song and Won Dynasty and coins weighing a total of 28 tons started in 1975, and a special museum was established.

Mankind has found most of the antiques above the ground left by the predecessors and are starting to show interest in excavating undersea antiques. It is because many ships had sunk during the process of trading and extending territories and shipping war goods. Just in the sea area surrounding the U.S., some 100,000 ships are assumed to have sunk. Treasure explorers particularly eye the Spanish Invincible Armada and the merchant ships from Netherlands East India Company, presuming to have much loot and gold and silver valuables. According to the records, half of the Invincible Armada was lost in the sea, and about 250 ships from the East India Company were lost.

“Titanic,” the luxurious excursion ship that had set sailed for the first time in 1912 but met with misfortune, is probably the most symbolized figure of wrecked ships. Director James Cameron took notice that on the ship, there was ‘humanity’ and ‘love’ along with the valuables, and put Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the huge full-size set with heart-rending love and parting in the movie “Titanic” (1997), becoming very rich and famous. Domestic artists could find much inspiration in the excavation of the ‘celadon treasure ship’. I hope that Admiral Yi Sun-shin’s ‘Turtle Ship’ will show itself somewhere in the waters of the South Sea and that we can show our nation’s pride to the world.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com