Prof Ma Yau-woon was invited by Lingnan’s Department of Chinese to speak on the history and authenticity of the Qing court’s Japan-made Chung Shan Gunboat (780 tonnes) on 10 November.
Originally known as “Yongfeng”, the Japan-made warship of the Qing Dynasty sailed from northern China in 1916 to join the Constitutional Protection Movement to defend the burgeoning Chinese republic. Since then it had been staying in Guangdong. In 1922 when Chen Jiongming rebelled against Sun Yat-sen, it became Dr Sun’s vessel and was later renamed “Chung Shan” in honour of him posthumously. On 24 October 1938, soon after China’s War of Resistance against Japan broke out, the gunboat was sunk in an air raid by the Japanese at Jinkouzhen near Wuhan. The shipwreck was salvaged on 24 January 1997 and restored for public visits. However, the restoration works were guided not by any well-thought plan but political considerations and the visual impact on visitors. Errors and misrepresentations of the warship’s original features are easily visible in the photos of the restored vessel.
Prof Ma opposes to the shipwreck salvage because, for one thing, he thinks it is disrespectful to those who died on board when the gunboat was sunk. For another, he is worried that the salvage process would cause irrecoverable damage to the gunboat structure and thus undermine its authenticity after restoration. He suggested that the Chinese government’s treatment of Chung Shan Gunboat should follow the example of the USS Arizona Memorial, which was built on the remaining submerged hull of Arizona, a US warship sunk by the Japanese imperial forces during the Pearl Harbour attack. Not only will it ensure the integrity of the shipwreck but also encourage visitors to pay respect for those who lost their lives in the battle.
Prof Ma graduated from The University of Hong Kong with a Bachelor of Arts degree and obtained his doctorate from Yale University. He has taught at various institutions including the University of Hawaii, Stanford University, National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, Tunghai University, The University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University for a total of 36 years. His research interests focus on classical fiction and modern naval history. He has published nine books, excluding simplified Chinese reprints on the mainland.
Please review the seminar (in Cantonese) at the following link: