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Two Seals and A Seal Case Made in the Southern Song Dynasty of China Discovered in the Coastal Waters off Sinchang-ri, Jeju
International Cooperation Division

- An Excavation Team Formed Jointly by the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage and the Jeju National Museum/ The Artifacts will be released at 11.00 AM in Jeju Special Self-Government Provincial Office -

Contact: Senior Researcher Yang, Soon Seok (Tel: 061-270-2063), Researcher Heo, Mun Nyeong (061-270-2073)

Underwater Excavation Division, The National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage


A seal case contained with two seals was recovered from the coastal waters of Sinchang-ri, Hangyeng-myeon, Jeju, by a joint excavation team composed of researchers from the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage (Director Lee, Gwiyoung) and the Jeju National Museum (Director Kim, Yoo Sik), which conducted the underwater excavation of the site from April to June, 2019. These items are the first seals from the Southern Song Dynasty of China (1127-1279) ever discovered in Korea.

Seals made of wood were discovered in the process of removing the sands between rocks on the seabed. It is assumed that the seals were possessions of the merchant on board the ship.

Seal No. 1, which measures 1.7 cm in length, 1.7 cm in width, and 2.3 cm in height, has a knob on the top of its body. Judging from the engraved Chinese characters, 謹封 (geunbong), meaning 'respectfully sealed', this seal was used for stamping on envelopes or packages. Red seal pastes were remained between strokes. All Korean seals inscribed with the Chinese characters, 謹封, to have been found in Korea to date were the products of the Joseon Period.

Seal No. 2. which measures 2.8 cm in length, 1.4 cm in width, and 2.2 cm in height, is a portrait seal (肖形印) that is inscribed with auspicious signs. Its pattern can be divided into two parts, the upper and the lower. It is assumed that its upper part is a coin-shaped pattern; but the pattern engraved in its lower part is unclear.

The original shape of a seal case made of the alloy consisting of lead and thin is unclear, because it is too fragmented.

The Sinchang-ri Underwater site became known in March, 1983, as a female diver reported a gold ornament collected in the region to the government office. In April 1983, the excavation team of the Bureau of Cultural Heritage that conducted the underwater excavation in the region collected two gold ornaments. The underwater excavation campaign of this coastal waters carried out by the Jeju National University Museum in 1997 revealed celadon vessels of the Southern Song Dynasty. Most of them were products fired in Longquan kilns (龍泉窯) in Zhejiang Province; and a few celadon vessels produced at kilns in Fujian Province were also collected. An underwater archaeological survey team of the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage collected more than 500 pieces of the broken Chinese celadon vessels in the Southern Song Dynasty, which include items engraved with the Chinese characters 金玉滿堂 (geumokmandang), '河濱遺範 (habinyubeom) in September, 2018.

The necessity of a series of the detailed excavations of the site was raised after completing the underwater survey carried out by the institute in October last year; and this year's underwater excavation campaign was planned conducted as part of them. Whereas researchers collected artifacts scattered on the seabed in the previous surveys, they identified the distribution pattern of the artifacts by removing sands deposited on the seabed in this year's excavation.

Along with two seals and a seal case, the excavation revealed more than 400 pieces of broken celadon vessels distributed in a narrow area measuring 30 m in length and 10 m in width. In considering that celadon vessels of the Southern Song Dynasty showing the common typological characteristics with those in the site have been found at the Kurakijaki Underwater Site (倉木崎海底遺跡), Amami Islands (奄美群島), Kagoshima Prefecture, (鹿児島県), Japan, these artifacts suggest the active maritime exchange between Korea, China and Japan in those days. Notably, the seals assumed to be the possessions of the merchant on board the ship provide new impetus of the studies on various aspects of the maritime exchanges of the pre-modern Northeast Asia.

Together with the Jeju National Museum that collects the artifacts recovered from the previous surveys, the institute plans to publish the excavation report of the site. In addition to the joint excavation campaigns of the coastal waters at Sinchang-ri, the joint investigation team composed of the staffs from both institutes has a plan to reveal the maritime trade routes centered at Jeju Island by conducting the systematic underwater investigation on the seas around the island.


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