Bishop Museum scientists
have been in search of answers to the question of the origins
of the Pacific people and cultures since the inception of the
Museum in 1883. They are about to place a few more pieces of
the puzzle with the world debut of Lost Maritime Cultures:
China and the Pacific, a groundbreaking exhibition opening
Feb. 24 and continuing through April 15 that explores cultural
and anthropological connections between ancient China and Oceania.
Included will be sample artifacts of some of the prehistoric
seafaring civilizations of China, featuring many rare national
cultural treasures that have never traveled outside of the country.
Most scientists have determined that Southeast China is the original
homeland of the Austronesians, a group that includes Polynesians,
Melanesians, Micronesians, and the indigenous people in Southeastern
Asian Archipelagos. Some of the maritime cultures featured in
this exhibition are believed to be the ultimate source of the
seafaring Austronesian culture that eventually spread out throughout
the Pacific, reaching as far north as the Hawaiian Islands and
as far east as the west coast of South America.
Tianlong Jiao, Bishop Museum’s chairman of Anthropology
and a world-renowned expert in Chinese archaeology, is directing
this international research project with cooperation from the
government of the People’s Republic of China and the support
of the Freeman Foundation. Working with the Chinese State Bureau
of Cultural Heritage, the Department of Cultural Affairs of Fujian
and Zhejiang Provinces, Jiao has arranged for the loan of exciting
examples of material culture from a prehistoric past dating from
3,000 to 7,000 years ago.
Bishop Museum was founded to honor Hawaiian royalty, and our
collection of cultural objects and natural history specimens
from across the Pacific Basin helps present the rich history
of Pacific cultures and migration,” said Bishop Museum
President Bill Brown. “We hope Lost Maritime Cultures will
stimulate more discussion, more questions, and more reasons to
identify what these cultures share in common and what makes them
Lost Maritime Cultures will include extraordinary archaeological
discoveries in Southeast China made over the past half century.
The coast area of Southeast China was home to prehistoric peoples
who had great maritime traditions, civilizations that flourished
from 7,000 to 3,000 years ago, but whose existence was never
recorded in historic texts. It wasn’t until modern archaeology
began in China that these cultural finds were unearthed and studied
The exhibition will consist of three parts: The Beginning of
Maritime Traditions in China, specifically in the Hemudu culture
(7,000-5,000 B.C.E.); Voyaging on the Pacific Coast, featuring
four seafaring societies in prehistoric Southeast China (6,000-4,000
B.C.E.); and the Splendor of Coastal Civilizations (5,000-3,000
B.C.E.), featuring three complex societies: The Liangzhu, the
Huangtulun, and the Fubin.
The Hemudu people were rice farmers and fishermen who developed
seafaring which allowed them to migrate southward along the coast
of Southeast China. Many scholars believe the Hemudu culture
was the ultimate source of the proto-Austronesian cultures. Their
descendents colonized most of the Pacific Islands. The Hemudu
people were also skilled carpenters and craftsmen, manufacturing
fabulous ceramics, bone tools, stone adzes, and personal ornaments.
The exhibition will feature objects found in the Tianluoshan,
Zishan, and Hemudu sites will be featured.
The second section of the exhibit looks at four seafaring societies
of Southeast China 4,000-6,000 years ago: Keqiutou, Damoashan,
Tanshishan, and Huangguashan. These people that lived along the
coast and on the islands of Southeast China at that time were
voyagers with a mixed economy of farming and fishing. They lived
in small villages, made stone tools, manufactured ceramics, and
exchanged goods with one another.
The last section of the exhibition features extraordinary artistic
works created by indigenous peoples who lived on the coast of
Southeast China from 5,000 to 3,000 years ago. This society had
a high level of complexity of social and political organization.
These people are believed to be descendants of the pre-/proto-Austronesians
who continued to live in China for the past two millennia. Among
the highlights are discoveries of the lost civilizations of the
Liangzhu, Huangtulun, and Fubin cultures.
Liangzhu culture has been called the “civilization of jade,” and
will be represented by splendid jade works with unparalleled
artistic sophistication. The Huangtulun and Fubin cultures were
early Bronze Age civilizations and will be represented by elaborately
manufactured ritual stone tools, weapons, and pottery.
The exhibition will include a hardcover, full-color catalogue
(approximately 300 pages) published by Bishop Press available
for $49.95 in Shop Pacifica at Bishop Museum. For catalogue ordering
information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 848-4135.
The Museum also plans a variety of programs to augment the presentation.
For more information about Lost Maritime Cultures: China and
the Pacific, call (808) 847-3511, or visit the Web site at www.bishopmuseum.org.