Guangzhou, birthplace of world’s earliest rudder
2014-November-13 Source:
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Faced the South China Sea and with scattered rivers and lakes, Guangdong has a long history of shipbuilding.

The world’s earliest rudder was found in a wooden boat model of Han Dynasty (BC202~AD220), which was unearthed in Guangzhou.

It proved that rudder already gained its popularity in Guangzhou in Han Dynasty, over a thousand years ahead of Europe. Shipbuilding grew to a large scale at that time when a boat of 60 tons load capacity was built.


In China, miniature models of ships that feature steering oars have been dated to the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1050–256 BC).Stern-mounted rudders started to appear on Chinese ship models starting in the 1st century AD However, the Chinese continued to use the steering oar long after they invented the rudder, since the steering oar still had limited practical use for inland rapid-river travel.One of oldest known depiction of a stern-mounted rudder in China can be seen on a 2-foot-long tomb pottery model of a junk dating from the 1st century AD, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).It was discovered in Guangzhou in an archaeological excavation carried out by the Guangdong Provincial Museum and Academia Sinica of Taiwan in 1958. Within decades, several other Han Dynasty ship models featuring rudders were found in archaeological excavations. The first solid written reference to the use of a rudder without a steering oar dates to the 5th century.

Chinese rudders were not supported by pintle-and-gudgeon as in the Western tradition; rather, they were attached to the hull by means of wooden jaws or sockets,while typically larger ones were suspended from above by a rope tackle system so that they could be raised or lowered into the water. Also, many junks incorporated "fenestrated rudders" (rudders with holes in them, supposedly allowing for better control). Detailed descriptions of Chinese junks during the Middle Ages are known from various travellers to China, such as Ibn Battuta of Tangier, Morocco and Marco Polo of Venice, Italy. The later Chinese encyclopedist Song Yingxing (1587–1666) and the 17th-century European traveler Louis Lecomte wrote of the junk design and its use of the rudder with enthusiasm and admiration.

Editor: Jecey
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