Over a thousand years ago, an Arab dhow sailing from China to the Middle East sank in a storm near present-day Sumatra, taking down with it 60,000 pieces of Tang Dynasty ceramic ware and artifacts of gold and silver. There it lay in the sand, mud and debris until 1998, when some Indonesian fishermen found it by chance.
Included in the ceramic ware, made for everyday use, were cups, jugs, bowls and dishes decorated with freehand drawings. Who were those people who created these dishes? And especially, who was the person who made the whimsical drinking cup below? He showed imagination and humor, delighting us even today.
The majority of us, a thousand years on, will remain anonymous. A minority, like this craftsman, may leave something behind. Most of us will leave imprints on the next generation or two, hopefully for better, not for worse.
The only thing that lasts forever is the Word.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:7c-8)
The Tang Shipwreck is on display in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore.
Pictures taken by Kathlyn Tsang