Leaving Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, one of the world's largest cargo ports, Merchant Vessel (M.V.) COSCO Netherlands arrives at the Ningbo Zhoushan Port late on April 17, 2017. (Xinhua Photo)
by Xinhua writers Yan Liang, Ye Shan
NINGBO, China, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Merchant Vessel (M.V.) COSCO Netherlands left Ningbo Zhoushan Port in Zhejiang Province in eastern China on Tuesday afternoon continuing its roughly 40-day journey from China to Europe to retrace the Maritime Silk Road, an ancient trade maritime route linking China with the rest of the world.
The vessel began its journey on Sunday from Shanghai to relive the old-time trade route. China proposed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013, which is not only a valuable spiritual treasure to all of humanity but also a road of dialogue for Chinese civilization with the world.
On the backdrop of surging counter-globalization in the world today, retracing the memory about that history that different countries, regions and peoples along the route shared is a global call for peaceful intercultural ties.
LOOKING BACK IN NINGBO'S HISTORY
Leaving Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, one of the world's largest cargo ports, M.V. COSCO arrived at the Ningbo Zhoushan Port late on Monday afternoon.
Ningbo, called Mingzhou during China's Tang and Song Dynasties, was one of the Chinese coastal cities linked with the ancient Maritime Silk Road. Nowadays, traces of the Maritime Silk Road relics still can be found in Ningbo, including the Yongfeng warehouse, a key official depot from the Southern Song Dynasty through to the Ming.
On the site of Yongfeng, large quantities of cultural relics had been found, like famous porcelain products from the Song and Yuan Dynasties, which prove that Ningbo was a significant trading port on the thriving Maritime Silk Road in ancient China.
Located in the middle of China's long coastline, Ningbo possesses rare geographical advantages and serves as a unique port. The city has a special position in China's history engagement with the world as the estuary of the Grand Canal of China and also the port of departure on the Maritime Silk Road in ancient China.
China's Grand Canal was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2014, which consists of three sections -- Beijing-Hangzhou Canal, the Sui and Tang Dynasties Canal, and East Zhejiang Canal which refers to the section from Hangzhou to Ningbo.
It is because of Ningbo's unique geographical advantages that cargo and people could be transported to Japan and the Korean peninsula through the Zhoushan Islands in the east, and reach anywhere in the world through ports in Quanzhou and Guangzhou in South China, Liu Hengwu, a professor at Ningbo University, told Xinhua.
Ningbo was an important "window" for Chinese civilization, and it was irreplaceable in the trade and cross-cultural exchange in ancient East Asia, Liu said.
Traditionally, it it believed that the ancient Maritime Silk Road came into being in the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.- 220 A.D.), grew up in the Three Kingdoms Period and the Sui Dynasty (220 - 618 A.D.), flourished in the Tang and Song Dynasties (618 - 1279 A.D.), and fell into decline in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911 A.D.).
CIVILIZATION EXCHANGES ACROSS OCEANS
From China to East Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe, the ever-extending Maritime Silk Road brought business and trade convenience to the countries and peoples along its route, while enriching the culture of local societies.
A huge number of well-known cultural sites and examples of engagement with foreign societies are preserved in Ningbo today, Liu said. Among these are the Tiantong Temple, Asoka Temple, Samo Pagoda, the Site of the Goryeo Embassy, and the Site of the Yongfeng Warehouse, among others.
Contact between Tiantong Temple and the Japanese Buddhist temples started from the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.), said Liu.
During the Song and Yuan dynasties, there were not only many Japanese monks living and practicing Buddhism at the Tiantong Temple, but also eminent Chinese monks, such as Lanxi Daolong and Wuxue Zuyuan, who went to Japan and cast a profound influence on the development of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
The ancient Tiantong Temple, as an international religious cultural center, left its glorious mark on the history of cross-cultural exchange on the Maritime Silk Road.
Since the Southern Song dynasty, the relationship between Tiantong Temple and Japanese Zen Buddhism has been ongoing for nearly 1,000 years. Chinese and Japanese Zen monks have played a significant role in promoting cultural ties between China and Japan.
The Maritime Silk Road had facilitated the melting of different countries, religions and peoples. Its abundant relics constitute its various cultural heritages while promoting mutual learning between China and the rest of the world.
In this sense, the Maritime Silk Road has witnessed the progress of the human civilizations. And it is the common responsibility of all humankind to preserve its many heritages.
China has also been lending a helping hand in this regard to some Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia.
Chinese cultural relics experts have spent many years in Cambodia, protecting and repairing cultural relics from the Angkor Wat complex, such as the Chau Say Tevoda and Prasat Ta Keo.
These experts working in the countries along the Maritime Silk Road today play a similar role like the 29 sailors of the M.V. COSCO Netherlands.
RELAYING LEGEND OF ANCIENT MARITIME SILK ROAD
The Maritime Silk Road signifies a long journey that crosses different oceans and civilizations. Looking back on the history, numerous monks, scholars and artists from foreign lands had travelled a long way to China by ship through the ancient route regardless of the various risks in order to learn Chinese culture while spreading Western civilization.
In addition to exchanging needed goods, another important reason why foreigners flooded in was the diligence, courage, wisdom, openness, tolerance, and integrity of the ancient Chinese, who became curious about foreign things, accepted outside civilizations, and lived in peace with foreign nations based on mutual respect and trust.
After all, this inclusiveness stemming from the Chinese culture enabled many foreigners and religious cultures to co-exist and converge in China's coastal ports, or even the hinterland. Together with these foreigners, the industrious and courageous Chinese people have composed glorious chapters in the history of human civilization.
In the 21st century, it is of greater significance to study and carry forward the Maritime Silk Road spirit.
It wasn't always smooth sailing for the ancient Chinese. Sometimes, they encountered raging waves and died in foreign lands. But despite all the hardships, the merchants and sailors along the Maritime Silk Road remained fearless in pursuing the world.
In the 21st century, it is more important than ever to carry forward the spirit of the Silk Road when dealing with complicated international and regional situations.
On this warm spring day, the M.V. COSCO Netherlands is travelling along the Maritime Silk Road. With history as a mirror, it hopes to embrace a brighter future.
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