(Under the direction of Professor Lawrence E. Babits) Department of History, December 1994.
The purpose of this thesis is to serve as an introduction to a 500-year period of the Chinese maritime experience. Much of the long seafaring history of the East remains unknown to Western scholars. The study begins with an historical survey of several centuries of seagoing trade and naval evolution, highlighting traditional navigation patterns and technological developments in China's complex relationship with the Southern Seas. Limiting the study to the Southeast Asian region emphasizes the importance of this area to the Chinese, and helps to concentrate the topic on the era of expansion.
The geographical distribution of related artifact remains and significant maritime events throughout Southeast Asia are then examined. This section combines modern archaeological reports with historical documentation and Chinese navigation charts from the early Ming period. The description of traditional Chinese ships, from contemporaneous reports and modern site investigations, provides clues for future nautical research.
Since the study draws only from sources available in the West, the final section acknowledges some important institutions in China and Southeast Asia currently working on nautical research. Although linguistic, cultural, and geographical barriers impede the transfer of academic knowledge, the future promises greater understanding and opportunities for cooperative investigations of maritime history and nautical archaeology.