SINBAD, SHIPWRECKS AND SINGAPORE
2011/2012, Semester 1
University Scholars Programme (University Scholars Programme)
Modular Credits: 4
The module will begin by acquainting the students with the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the ship. Some important facts about the site are these:
-The ship is a dhow, originally made in the Persian Gulf, using some African wood, and was reconstructed in Southeast Asia, using local lashings.
-It carried a cargo mainly consisting of Chinese porcelain from Changsha, Hunan. Province, but with examples from other parts of China as well.
-Other items in the cargo include golden objects from China.
-The ship can be dated to the years just after 828 CE.
-Some objects on the ship were made in Southeast Asia.
Each of these facts can be explained by several competing hypotheses. To compare the competing hypotheses, and to understand why these discoveries are still mysterious, we need to explore the ancient trading system of maritime Asia. We have some historical and archaeological information about the relations between Arabs, Persians, Indians, Southeast Asians, and Chinese during the first millennium AD, but this is the first major trading vessel of this period ever discovered. It has aroused numerous controversies, the most important being the ship’s route: its point of origin and destination. Was it going from China to Oman, as most scholars have inferred, or were its origins and goal elsewhere? Once these questions have been posed, we will step back from the Belitung wreck and begin to investigate the context of this site. Students will explore methods of communicating their insights about ancient Southeast Asia and its relevance to understanding modern events through such media as museum displays of artifacts, videos, and other creative activities.
1) To foster critical thought and reasoning ability; to encourage students to engage in multiple hypothesis formation and testing.
2) To develop skills in drawing conclusions from incomplete data and in evaluating the degree of confidence which can be assigned to these conclusions.
3) To provide students with comprehension of economic, cultural, and religious networks in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea in premodern times.
4) To familiarize the students with the cosmopolitan nature of the Asian maritime trade network in the period before European contact.
5) To create an appreciation of the strategic role of Singapore and its surrounding region in maritime trade.
6) To teach students how to communicate ideas to the general public using various media such as displays and video.