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Entrepreneur aims to revive traditional shipbuilding

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: February 2, 2021 L M S


A traditional Shaoxing-style wooden boat is displayed at Songling Shipyard Co, which is located on Donghu Street, Yuecheng district in Shaoxing. [Photo/zj.zjol.com.cn]

Boats hold a great meaning for residents in Shaoxing, a well-known water city in East China's Zhejiang province. For generations, Shaoxing residents have developed its unique shipbuilding craftsmanship and boat culture.

Shaoxing Songling Shipyard Co, which is located on Donghu Street in the city's Yuecheng district, has more than 100 years of history. It was listed as a municipal-level base for promoting Shaoxing's intangible cultural heritage.

The corporation epitomizes the development of Shaoxing's shipbuilding industry over the years.

He Guanming, chairman of Songling Shipyard, began to learn how to build a wooden ship from his father when he was 17 years old. He developed an obsession with duplicating the styles of ancient wooden ships since then.

In an effort to preserve traditional Shaoxing shipbuilding craftsmanship, He has searched for old photos of Shaoxing wooden boats for decades, with some photos costing him a great sum of money.

To date, He has collected more than 800 photos of traditional-style Shaoxing boats.

"Generally, I will figure out how to reproduce the boat after studying the photo," He said. In addition, he has employed many skilled workers and founded a team dedicated to reproducing traditional wooden boats.


A traditional boat is displayed at Songling Shipyard Co, which is located on Donghu Street, Yuecheng district in Shaoxing. [Photo/zj.zjol.com.cn]

According to He, his team has duplicated over 95 varieties of wooden boats, with many of them having previously existed in history.

"It will take seven or eight craftsman at least a week to hand make a boat as simple as a black-awning boat," said He. "Building a larger boat will require more complicated efforts and more time, sometimes half a year or even longer for each vessel."

The Shaoxing Boat Culture Museum, which received over 20 million yuan ($3.11 million) in investment from He, is now entering the final stage of its construction.

The museum, which will display boat models, photos of traditional wooden boats, and old tools for building boats, is expected to open to the public in July.

"The Shaoxing boat-making skills may be lost forever if we don't take actions to preserve them," said He when discussing his reasons for his devotion to rebuilding traditional-style boats.