A few weeks ago I wrote about Intrepid Dragon, the Chinese junk that inspired my not-yet-published novel, Water Ghosts.
Another inspiring junk I had the good fortune to visit while she was still afloat was Princess Taiping. Built in Taiwan this 54 foot, 35-ton vessel was a replica of a Ming-era, Fujian-style warship. Launched in June, 2008 from Xiamen, in the People’s Republic of China, the junk made it to the West Coast of the United States under the command of Captain Liu, a 61-year-old Taiwanese sailor . Built of traditional materials, the junk was crewed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and an American. Outward-bound, they had planned to make landfall in Seattle but due to gales, landed in Oregon instead. After visiting San Francisco and San Diego, they started back across the Pacific on the trade winds, with a final stop in Hawaii before completing their journey home.
She was in Hawaii’s Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, tied up at the fuel docks across from the Hawaii Yacht Club, when Bob and I visited her.
The Princess Taiping mission, born of the Taiwan’s Chinese Maritime Development Society, had three major objectives were recovering and preserving ancient Chinese shipbuilding and navigation techniques, sharing Chinese maritime culture with the West, and promoting mutual East/West understanding and cultural appreciation. For me she accomplished that — plus inspired me to read more about Ming-era warships and Zheng He.
The boat was a replica of the warships sailed by Zheng He, famed Chinese mariner of the early Ming Dynasty. He beat Columbus and other Western explorers by decades with naval expeditions to nearly 40 countries, including Viet Nam and East Africa. Some say he sailed to North America as well.
The intrepid Princess Taiping was rammed at night by a Norwegian chemical tanker operating under a Liberian flag, splitting the ship in half less than 30 miles from the end of her voyage. Although the tanker did not stop to give aid, the skipper and all crew members were rescued by a Taiwanese helicopter and rescue ship after several hours in the water.
Water Ghosts, a contemporary YA nautical thriller with Chinese paranormal and Ming-era historical elements, to be published later this year.