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Longjiang Shipyard Treatise (1553): A Critical Edition

Longjiang Shipyard Treatise (1553): A Critical Edition

Dr Sally K Church

The "Imperial Readiness Ship", one of 24 ship types covered in the Treatise, was maintained in a constant state of preparedness in case the emperor needed to flee the capital.
The Imperial Readiness Ship, one of 24 ship types covered in the Treatise, was maintained in a constant state of preparedness in case the emperor needed to flee the capital.

The Longjiang chuanchang zhi is a treatise on Nanjing's Longjiang Shipyard written by Li Zhaoxiang, a scholar-bureaucrat appointed in 1551 to improve production at the yard. This shipyard is often confused with the Treasure Shipyard (baochuan chang), where the ships for Zheng He's expeditions were built, but they were two separate shipyards located near each other in Nanjing. With China's shores being besieged by pirates in the mid-16th century, shipbuilding had become an important defense industry. However, procedures were inefficient and corruption was rampant; the end-products were not ship-shape. It was rare for a scholar-official to pay such close attention to such a practical project. Joseph Needham called this work "one of the treasures of technological literature", containing "a great mass of information (not yet digested by historians)". It is divided into eight chapters (juan) including details about the materials used to build particular sizes and types of ship, materials and procedures for caulking and manufacturing such important components as sails, anchors, masts, and ropes, and methods of calculating quantities of wood. Even the costs of materials and the number of man-days needed to do each job are specified. To date there has been a thesis on it in German, but nothing in English. This critical edition will make the Treatise available for further detailed study by sinologists and maritime historians.