Turiang: a 14th century Chinese shipwreck, upsetting Southeast Asian ceramic history
The Turiang is one of several 14-16th century wrecks discovered in the South China Sea by Sten Sjostrand. All carried ceramics and offer new insights into this glorious period of maritime trade in Southeast Asia, and in particular into the history of Thai ceramics. The Turiang was a Chinese ship with a multinational cargo of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese ceramics, apparently heading for Borneo and/or Sulawesi. The wreck is tentatively dated to AD 1305-1370. This is one of the earliest shipwrecks yet discovered with Thai export ceramics. The find prompts a reassessment of the relative importance of the two major production centres at Sukhothai and Si-Satchanalai. It also proves that almost-identical black underglaze ware was available simultaneously from Sukhothai and Vietnam.
Turiang's ceramic significance
The Turiang suggests that:
The Turiang and other ship sites together suggest that the early dominance of Chinese ceramics in export markets during the Song and early Yuan dynasties was threatened by vigorous competition from Vietnamese and Thai producers from the 14th century onwards. Chinese involvement dwindled further in the late 14th and early 15th century, following the 'Ming ban'.
The ceramics sections of this preliminary report are as follows:
Ceramics background & issues
The ceramics on Turiang
The importance and interest of the wreck goes beyond the ceramics. General readers may be interested to read this site in the order of the navigation bar, and that is the order in which we will guide you through it. Those interested specifically in the ceramics will find other relevant comments in the following sections:
Several wrecks investigated by Sten Sjostrand have represented a useful time series for interpreting the history of Thai ceramics. A brief summary of the findings, and a chronological chart, may be found in 'other wrecks'. Reference will be made to those other wrecks in the course of this report. Names were given to each ship by the excavation team, by association with the ceramics carried or with their history (in this case, with the 'Turiang kiln sites' in Sukhothai); original names, if assigned, are unknown. Images on this site have been chosen with regard to download times; many can be clicked to obtain a larger or higher-quality version.
15 Nov 2001