Ancient Floating Death Stars | Chinese Super Ships Documentary 2017
The master shipbuilders of the Far East created the most deadly warships of ancient times in their quest for supremacy of the seas.
The naval history of China dates back thousands of years, with archives existing since the late Spring and Autumn period (722 BC – 481 BC) about the ancient navy of China and the various ship types used in war. China was the leading maritime power in the years 1405–1433, when Chinese shipbuilders began to build massive oceangoing junks. In modern times, the current Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments continue to maintain standing navies with the People's Liberation Army Navy and the Republic of China Navy, respectively.
The legendary Xu Fu searching for mythical Fusang, or the setting up of the maritime Silk Road since the 2nd century BC from Hepu Commandery, drew the ancient Chinese naval maps.
Although numerous naval battles took place before the 12th century, such as the large-scale Three Kingdoms Battle of Chibi in the year 208, it was during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) that the Chinese established a permanent, standing navy in 1132 AD. At its height by the late 12th century there were 20 squadrons of some 52,000 marines, with the admiral's headquarters based at Dinghai, while the main base remained closer to modern Shanghai in those days. The establishment of the permanent navy during the Song period came out of the need to defend against the Jurchens, who had overrun the northern half of China, and to escort merchant fleets entering the South East Pacific and Indian Ocean on long trade missions abroad to the Hindu, Islamic, and East African spheres of the world. However, considering China was a country which was longtime menaced by land-based nomadic tribes such as the Xiongnu, Göktürks, Mongols and so on, the navy was always seen as an adjunct rather than an important military force. By the 15–16th centuries China's canal system and internal economy were sufficiently developed to nullify the need for the Pacific fleet, which was scuttled when conservative Confucianists gained power in the court and began a policy of introspection. After the First and Second Opium Wars, which shook up the generals of the Qing dynasty, the government attached greater importance to the navy.
A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing ship design that is still in use today. Junks were used as seagoing vessels as early as the 2nd century AD and developed rapidly during the Song Dynasty (960–1279). They evolved in the later dynasties, and were used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages.
China has one of the longest histories of shipbuilding. The square ship in the Warring States era was already double-bodied and made up of two junks secured together side by side. Third century warships had eight compartments. Paddle-wheel boats were invented in the late Tang and widely used in the Song.
The Song period saw major advances in shipbuilding with improvement in speed, security against foundering, adaptability to marine conditions, and steadiness.
The Southern Song navy was much larger and comparatively stronger than that of the Northern Song, mainly because it needed to keep northern armies from crossing the Huai and Yangtze Rivers. The navy had both small ships such as those on the left and larger vessels. A strong navy of an attacking army could come right up to a riverside city. If a ship's deck was high enough, soldiers could step from it to the top of the city's wall.
"Sea hawks," were invented in the Tang and had floating boards on each side to stabilize the ship. By the Song, sea hawks usually had four to six boards on each side. (In the picture below, it is difficult to distinguish the oars from these boards.) Song ships were also strengthened with iron in the hull. Some had several decks to keep the ship steady.
The Ship Battles
However, the Chinese fleet shrank tremendously after its military/tributary/exploratory functions in the early 15th century were deemed too expensive and it became primarily a police force on routes like the Grand Canal.
Ships like the juggernauts of Zheng He's "treasure fleet," which dwarfed the largest Portuguese ships of the era by several times, were discontinued, and the junk became the predominant Chinese vessel until the country's relatively recent (in terms of Chinese sailing history) naval revival.