Shipwrecks in Late First Millennium Southeast Asia: Southern China’s Maritime Trade and the Emerging Role of Arab Merchants in Indian Ocean Exchange
In the eighth and ninth centuries, a sustained maritime trade between the Persian Gulf region and China emerged as a major innovation in Indian Ocean long-distance exchange. The innovations in Chinese ceramic production stimulated by the demands of international markets and the responsiveness of the ceramic industries of the Gulf, especially at Basra, are major themes in this period. The impact of these two factors on ceramic style in West Asia was profound. This paper would first present archaeological evidence, including new finds, on the distribution of trade goods from the Persian Gulf to South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. It will then examine the circulation of Chinese objects in West Asia and their legacy, the latter principally through the evidence of the Belitung shipwreck cargo (ca. 826), excavated in 1998–99 in the Java Sea. Finally, it will examine aspects of technological and stylistic exchange between the Abbasid caliphate and late Tang China as reliable indicators of the process of historical dialogue in late first millennium Indian Ocean trade.