UK producer records Taicang's maritime culture
2015-11-11 14:51:00

UK documentary filmmaker Stewart Binns shot footage for an ocean navigation history program in Taicang, Jiangsu province last month.

A small town on the Yangtze River estuary, Taicang's place in the history books of naval exploration is well documented; yet, it is unknown to most.

Binns' main reason for choosing Taicang as a filming location was to retrace the actions of the ancient maritime exploration pioneer Zheng He, who led a series of voyages from Taicang to the wider world in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The expeditions were supported by the then Emperor Yongle and involved fleets of imperial ships.

To echo the bravery and pioneering spirit of the ancient mariners, the TV crew uses the image of Guo Chuan - a leading figure in China's modern sailing scene - to trace the navigation routes deployed by the imperial fleets to travel from Southeast Asia, South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.

Guo Chuan is a professional sailor from the coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong province. His global voyage between November 2012 and April 2013 made him the first Chinese to accomplish a solo, non-stop circumnavigation with a 40-foot sailing vessel. Guo travelled 21,600 nautical miles during the journey, passing Cape Horn of South America.

Many cultural relics attached to Taicang's maritime history were filmed on Oct 5, including the Tianfei Palace. The temple was first built in Yuan Dynasty (1127-1368). Zheng He would pay homage to the patron goddess of seafarers, Mazu, before departing Taicang on his grand voyages. The temple has been heavily restored in recent years, along with its stele. The stele is inscribed with exchanges between China and foreign countries made in the passages of Zheng He and his crew's maritime adventures.

The crew also recorded footage of a large iron pot used in a shipyard in the Yuan Dynasty and the ruins of Haining Temple (haining means pacific sea in Chinese) from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Binns' previous works have covered sport, war, politics and royalty, and Asian history.

His focus of interest has shifted to the exciting stories of human sea exploration, which would be incomplete without noting the numerous nautical adventures led by Chinese civilizations.

The documentary is expected to be distributed globally upon completion. Editor:Hiram