One of the three highlighted discoveries from the shipwreck of Zhiyuan in 2016: a ceramic plate inked with "Chih Yuan" and "Imperial Chinese Navy" in English.
Archaeologists unveil the tragic story of a historic sea battle more than a century ago as they excavate an ironclad warship.
An iconic Chinese warship and the 245 officers－soldiers and crewmen who have been keeping a silent underwater vigil for more than 120 years－have won their rightful place in history, thanks to three years of archaeological work.
The ironclad cruiser Zhiyuan (originally spelled "Chih Yuan") is a household name for Chinese people, a witness to a nation's courage, pain and past glory.
The wreck was first found in 2013, 50 kilometers from the port of Dandong, a city in Northe
ast China's Liaoning province, by port operators. Archaeological research began in early 2014. It was first referred to as Dandong No 1.
Last week, however, the National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage held a symposium in Beijing to announce the field investigation has been completed, confirming that the wreck was indeed one of China's most fabled vessels.
More than 200 artifacts have been excavated from the shipwreck, including articles of daily use, construction materials and weapons. About 30 items were found in 2016, and they were definitive- including a ceramic plate inked with "Chih Yuan" and "Imperial Chinese Navy" in English.<
One of the three highlighted discoveries from the shipwreck of Zhiyuan in 2016: a hand-held telescope carved with the name of Chen Jinkui.
Also found last year: a Gatling gun and a compact, handheld telescope, carved with the name "Chin Kin Kuai" (chief mate of the ship, Chen Jinkui), also in Romanized letters.
"The new findings in 2016 clearly show its identity, though it was suspected to be Zhiyuan before," says Zhou Chunshui, head of the archaeological team examining the wreck.
The discovery of distinctively quadrate (square or rectangular) portholes, for example, coincide with historical records of Zhiyuan.
"Our 20 team members made detailed forays into the cabin twice a day, and the discoveries went beyond our expectations," Zhou says.
The artifacts unveil a period in Chinese history that mixes triumph with grief.
Manufactured in Newcastle, England, between 1885 and 1887, Zhiyuan joined the Beiyang Fleet, which was painstakingly masterminded by the court of the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911) to be a sea power.
On Sept 17, 1894, the Battle of Yalu River－the largest naval engagement during the First Sino-Japanese War(1894-95)－broke out on the Yellow Sea near the estuary of the Yalu River.
Zhiyuan was sunk in the battle. Admiral Deng Shichang and all but seven of the 252 aboard died after the ship was hit by shells.<
One of the three highlighted discoveries from the shipwreck of Zhiyuan in 2016: first mate of the ship; and the label of the Gatling gun.