After researching Maritime Silk Road relic sites in Nanjing for years, a professor at one of China's top universities is working with researchers from eight other cities to seek UNESCO World Heritage status for the ancient route.
The other cities are Beihai, Guangzhou, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Ningbo, Yangzhou, Penglai and Fuzhou.
He Yun'ao said that Nanjing has 12 relic sites that have been confirmed as the remains of the Maritime Silk Road, most of which are connected to Zheng He (1371-1433), the explorer who undertook seven voyages around the rim of the Indian Ocean in the 1400s, with some reaching the Middle East, South Asia and the Horn of Africa.
"Nanjing became the centre of Buddhist culture in China and even East Asia in the Southern Dynasty (AD 420-589)", said He, who is in charge of the Nanjing Maritime Silk Road relics research programme.
"Some Buddha statues unearthed from the ancient tombs of the Six Dynasties (AD 222-589) were shipped from India along the Maritime Silk Road. During the same period, Buddhism, porcelain and cultures spread from Nanjing to Japan and Korea.
"In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Nanjing became one of the world's navigation centres. For example, from 1368 to 1398, the reigning name of Hongwu, the emperor of the time, sent envoys to foreign countries 57 times, and foreign countries sent envoys to Nanjing 183 times. Most of them were by the Maritime Silk Road."
"I suggested as early as 2004 that Nanjing played an important role in the Maritime Silk Road," said He, who works as a history professor at Nanjing University. "In 2011, my team started systematic research with the support of the local government after the State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced that the country's World Heritage application lists will be renewed.
"By recovering the Maritime Silk Road, we can rediscover history and show our respect to our ancestors."