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Famous Ships in Ancient China

China boasts a shipbuilding history as long as that of mankind. Spanning a time period of thousands of years, Chinese ships have evolved from rafts and canoes to wheel ships and today's steel vessels. The various ship models, structures, and propellers have vividly reflected the humankind's technological development and creativity, which is true with the famous ships in ancient China, such as the Lou Chuan (castle ships) of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), the Big Dragon Boats of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and the treasure boats used by Zheng He during his voyages to the West seas in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

  Castle Ships of the Han Dynasty

A model of castle ship of the Han Dynasty 

Though first emerging long before the Han Dynasty, the castle ships got fully developed at the beginning of this period. A typical castle ship measured over ten zhang (more than 33 meters) in height, and each of the ship's floors had a name of its own. The first story, named "Lu," was in fact a series of houses, while the second floor, since it was built over the first one, was called "Fei Lu"(Flying Lu). The top floor, called "Que Shi" (Sparrow Room), was used as an observation tower. Usually, soldiers were sent to this floor to keep a lookout on the enemies, just like a bird, hence the name "sparrow room."

Apart from its majestic appearance, the castled ship also had an edge in both defense and assault, and was heavily guarded by spears and daggers, like a castle in water. Due to the giant body, which made movement inconvenient, castle ships were mostly used as command posts in cooperation with other warships.

On top the deck, vehicles and horses could move at ease along the spacious galleries surrounding the building. A famous kind of ship in the Han Dynasty, the castle ship was seen as the representation of the advanced shipbuilding techniques of the Han Dynasty.
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