Ningbo Museum Maritime Silk Road Research Center

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Blogs and Interviews
The Silk Roads: Past, Present, and Future

Ningbo Museum Maritime Silk Road Research Center

Rosemary Wang

Research Associate at the Center for Global Asia

With the introduction and implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), the historical role of the “Silk Roads” has been constantly re-defined and re-investigated. This has resulted in a widespread interest in the topic within and outside China. The emergence of relevant research centers in China has further stimulated the exploration of maritime and overland connections, both during the ancient and contemporary times.

In this series of blogs and interviews conducted by the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai, we aim to provide insights into the “Silk Roads” and BRI-related exhibitions and research in conversation with research centers in China. The aim is to better apprehend the past, present, and future of the “Silk Roads.”

In the first of this series, we interviewed Mr Mo Yida, Deputy Director of the Ningbo Museum Maritime Silk Road Research Center.

Q: CGA

A: Ningbo Museum Maritime Silk Road Research Center (hereafter “the Center”)

01.

How was the Center established? What are its main tasks?

As one of the cities of historical significance to the ancient Chinese Maritime Silk Road, Ningbo, both the city proper and the port, developed and grew at the same time as the Maritime Silk Road. Therefore, the city has always attached great importance to research, exhibitions and shows related to the Maritime Silk Road. One of the key missions of the Ningbo Museum, a key platform for showcasing the city’s history and culture, is to conduct research on and help organize exhibitions related to the Maritime Silk Road. In May 2011, the Maritime Silk Road Research Center was founded, under the auspices of the Ningbo Museum and the Institute of History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, becoming one of the newest additions to the list of strategic collaborative projects between the two organizations. The Center was the first high-level research institute on the Maritime Silk Road in China and was jointly established by a local museum and a national academic institution. The Center’s aims are to consolidate resources, advance academic research on the Maritime Silk Road in Ningbo and across China, promote the conservation of related artifacts, support an application for World Cultural Heritage status, foster the “Maritime Silk Road Spirit”, and facilitate the growth of Ningbo's maritime culture and economy.

At present, the Center’s research is primarily focused on the Maritime Silk Road, including basic research and public education.

02.

What are some of the most noteworthy projects the Center has been working on? What are its areas of focus?

The Center is currently carrying out several research projects focused on the interactions between Eastern Zhejiang province, including Ningbo and other countries. These include: (1) compiling a China Maritime Silk Road Research Yearbook, the first serial publication of this kind on this topic in China, starting with the year 2013; (2) compiling A Compendium of Historical Materials on the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road, which involves collecting and organizing pertinent historical documents; and (3) compiling Tiantong Temple and the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road, an examination of the relationship between them.

03.

Which exhibitions on the Maritime Silk Road has the Center helped curate? What has the Center published on this topic?

In terms of exhibitions, we have planned and organized one entitled “Across the Ocean: Exhibition of Cultural Relics from Nine Maritime Silk Road Cities”. This traveling exhibition was presented in Penglai, Yangzhou, Fuzhou, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai, Nanjing and Hong Kong.

In terms of publications, the Center has published Maritime Silk Road Studies in 20th Century China, Selected Papers on Maritime Silk Road in 20th Century China, Across the Ocean: Selected Papers on ‘Maritime Silk Road and the Process of World Civilization’ International Academic Forum, Across the Ocean: Exhibition of Cultural Relics from Nine Maritime Silk Road Cities (Catalogue) and the China Maritime Silk Road Research Yearbook that has been published every year since 2014 (for the year 2013).

04.

Does the Center work with other departments in the Ningbo Museum? Please say something about these collaborations.

The Center’s main missions are to carry out research on the Maritime Silk Road and to share its findings with researchers, educators and the public. Its collaboration with other departments within the Museum covers a number of areas. First, we have provided support to other departments engaged in work related to the Maritime Silk Road. For instance, we have worked with the Departments of Exhibition, Public Education, and Collection on exhibitions, educational initiatives, and the study and collection of Maritime Silk Road-related relics and materials. Secondly, we have spearheaded educational initiatives and compiled didactic publications on the Maritime Silk Road intended for a general readership, in coordination with other departments.

05.

Could you talk about collaborations between the Center and other Maritime Silk Road research centers, museums, and universities in China, such as those in respect of research projects and academic conferences?

First, the Center has been working with museums in Penglai, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Quanzhou, Fuzhou, Zhangzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai and other Maritime Silk Road cities on organizing exhibitions, such as the “Across the Ocean: Exhibition of Cultural Heritage from Nine Maritime Silk Road Cities”. Secondly, we have co-organized academic events with other research institutions. These include the “International Forum on the Maritime Silk Road and the Process of World Civilization” and the “Maritime Imprints: Ancient Ocean Map and Maritime Silk Road Symposium”, which we co-organized with the Institute of History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Thirdly, the Center is involved in a number of research projects in collaboration with universities. For example, we have been working with Ningbo University on a putting together A Compendium of Historical Materials on the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road.

06.

What has the implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) meant to the Center’s development and operations?

Since the Center works mostly on research related to the ancient Maritime Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative has had minimal effects on what the Center does.

07.

Has the Center been involved in exhibitions or research outside China?

No, not so far.

What about the Ningbo Museum? Can you share with us information about its international outreach and collaborations?

Related collaborative exhibitions include:

(1) 2016.12.20-2017.02.28: “China-Malaysia Relations: From Ancient Times to the Future”, Ningbo Museum/ Department of Museums Malaysia (Jabatan Muzium Malaysia, JMM)

Relevant link in Chinese:

http://www.nbmuseum.cn/art/2016/12/21/art-_46_17841.html

(2) 2020.07.04-09.06: “Lost in Lace: Lace & Lace Making in Nottingham”, Ningbo Museum/ Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Relevant links in English:

https://nottinghammuseums.org.uk/lost-in-lace/

https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/asia-businesscentre/2020/08/25/an-exhibition-of-historic-nottingham-lace-finally-lands-in-china-for-exclusive-museum-tour/

Relevant link in Chinese:

http://www.nbmuseum.cn/art/2020/7/6/art-_461_4905.html#ad-image-0

(3) 2021.4.01-05.28: “Boundless Silk Road: From the Mediterranean to China – Selections from Japanese Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum Collections”, Ningbo Museum/ Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum

Relevant links in English:

http://www.musesilkroad.com/en/?c=news&a=view&id=201

http://www.silkroad-museum.jp/english/

Relevant link in Chinese:

http://www.nbmuseum.cn/art/2021/4/1/art-_461_4915.html#ad-image-0

08.

Can you elaborate on the educational services the Center offers to the general public (including students) on the Maritime Silk Road?

The Center takes its public education responsibility seriously in relation to the history of the Maritime Silk Road. To that end, the Center has launched a number of awareness-raising campaigns using the Ningbo Museum as a platform. In 2019, “Experiencing Ningbo Maritime Silk Road in Person through Real-life Interactive Activities” was launched. This program aims to impart knowledge about the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road to children and young people by incorporating pertinent data points and information into games that facilitate edutainment through scene-based and experiential activities. The games are intended to help players learn about and appreciate the historical, cultural, and national significance of Ningbo and the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road, and strengthen their sense of identification with the city’s history and culture.

In addition, the Center has organized five consecutive Maritime Silk Road creative design competitions, which highlight design elements inspired by Maritime Silk Road-related artifacts from the museum’s collection. Products built on the basis of these designs have been made commercially available for sale to the public.

09.

What role did the Center play in the applications for a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing for the Maritime Silk Road?

Since the Center does research on the Maritime Silk Road, it is also actively involved in the process of applying for World Cultural Heritage status. In 2011, China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration began work on updating the “Chinese World Cultural Heritage Tentative List”. The Center, in cooperation with concerned organizations in Penglai, Yangzhou, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou and Beihai, among others, jointly commissioned the Institute of History at the China Architecture Design & Research Group to prepare the application for inclusion in the candidate list. In 2013, the application was approved, and the Maritime Silk Road was added to the tentative list. In 2016, when China’s World Cultural Heritage status application for the Maritime Silk Road was being put together, the Center not only provided research, documentary and material support, but also prepared the Maritime Silk Road exhibition outline that was submitted as part of the application.

10.

What are the Center’s future plans?

Our plans include first, strengthening basic research on the Maritime Silk Road, especially on the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road. The focus will be on collecting, classifying and compiling historical records, archaeological findings, and other materials on the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road. This will help elucidate the setting, history, and evidence for the Ningbo Maritime Silk Road. Second, with the Ningbo Museum as a platform, we shall highlight and share our findings on the Maritime Silk Road with the public through exhibitions and educational activities. Third, we shall pay close attention to the ongoing research on the Maritime Silk Road within and outside China to enhance understanding of the history of scholarship on the Maritime Silk Road.

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