Amazing Ancient Chinese Treasure Ships

Ancient Chinese Treasure ship

Giant sea-going wooden vessels challenge Ark skeptics

by Warren Nunn

One of the objections Bible skeptics raise against the Genesis account concerns the feasibility of constructing such a large wooden vessel as Noah’s Ark.

They claim that ancient people did not have modern shipbuilding techniques, and so a vessel of such dimensions—300 cubits (137 m, 450 ft) long, 50 cubits (23 m, 75 ft) wide, and 30 cubits (13.7 m, 45 ft) high (Genesis 6:15)1—would not be seaworthy because it would twist, and sag, and break up.

Skeptics also say that it wasn’t until the 18thand 19th centuries that wooden vessels of 125 m (400 ft) and upwards began to appear and that this was only because of the technique of using iron strapping.

However, there have been huge wooden ships in the past, such as the 130 m-long Egyptian warship built by Ptolemy Philopator (c. 244–205 BC).2

Furthermore, the size of some of the vessels constructed of wood (teak and bamboo) that the 15th century Chinese imperial fleet used for long sea voyages confirms that shipbuilders had mastered advanced techniques at that time.

From 1405 to 1433, under the command of Admiral Zheng He (formerly romanized as ‘Cheng Ho’), a fleet of up to 300 vessels undertook seven voyages around south-east Asia, India and to ports as far west as Africa. The imposingly tall Zheng was the favoured palace eunuch of the Yongle Emperor, who ordered the voyages.

Known as the Treasure Ships voyages, they were shrouded in mystery for centuries, partly as details of Zheng He’s exploits in the official records in China were lost in a fire. When details began to emerge, doubts were expressed over the size of the Treasure Ships, known as baochuan.3

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image credit: Treasure ship by Mike Peel under licence