archaeology has resulted in a new, deeper knowledge of both, ancient
trade routes and the ceramics and other wares traded by sea.
Much of this trade occurred considerably earlier than originally supposed, it is now known that China exported products by sea as early as the Tang dynasty (618-907), over 500 years earlier than the arrival of the first explorers from Europe in the area.
Evidence from shipwrecks and their cargo discovered in the South China sea suggest that Annam (present northern Vietnam) and ancient Thai kilns had also an important role in the ceramics trade to and among South East Asia's ancient kingdoms.
Shipwreck archaeology has contributed a lot to our current
knowledge of pre-Ming sea routes and marine archaeology has uncovered
facts about early trade with South and Southeast Asia unknown before.
But, it is known that as early as
the Tang dynasty Chinese ships laden with merchandise sailed for
Southeast Asia, long before European ships were capable to reach the
Much of this relatively new knowledge has its source not in documents preserved in China or other places, but is the result of marine archaeology, documenting and retrieving shipwrecks and their cargo from their centuries old resting place on the bottom of the sea.
Long before the great expeditions of Zheng He in the Ming dynasty, China already had trading relations with the big Kingdoms in Southeast Asia.
When Malacca became dominant, the port of Malacca also grew into an international trading hub where goods from China were transshipped to the Middle East and Europe, and from where South Asian wares were shipped to Southeast Asia and China.
A number of ships did sink during their shipping voyages due to various reasons in centuries past. These shipwrecks now provide information that otherwise would have been lost. In the vicinity of the Malay peninsula alone about ten ship wrecks have up to date been successfully investigated or excavated, contributing a great deal of new information and facts regarding early ceramics trade in the region, which were unknown before.