Tek Sing

Last updated
China Qing Dynasty Flag 1889.svg China
NameTek Sing
Route China Indonesia
Homeport Amoy
FateSunk February 6, 1822
General characteristics
Class and type Junk
Tons burthen1000 (bm)
Length50 metres (164.04 ft)
Beam10 metres (32.81 ft)
Height90 feet (27.43 m)
Propulsion Wind-powered
Sail plan Junk Rig

The Tek Sing (Chinese, "True Star") is one of the few "Asian vessels discovered in Southeast Asia [that we know its name, for] "generally neither name nor date is known. The Tek Sing is an exception." [1] Generally, shipwrecks are named either after a landmark or location near where they were found or the cargo they held. She was a large three-masted Chinese ocean-going junk which sank on February 6, 1822 in an area of the South China Sea known as the Belvidere Shoals. [2] The vessel was 50 meters in length, 10 meters wide and had a burthen of about a thousand tons. Its tallest mast was estimated to be 90 feet (27.43 m) in height. The ship was manned by a crew of 200 and carried approximately 1600 passengers. The great loss of life associated with the sinking has led to the Tek Sing being referred to in modern times as the "Titanic of the East". [3]



Sailing from the port of Amoy (now Xiamen in Fujian, China), the Tek Sing was bound for Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta, Indonesia) laden with a large cargo of porcelain goods and 1,600 Chinese immigrants. After a month of sailing, the Tek Sing's captain, Io Tauko, decided to attempt a shortcut through the Gaspar Strait between the Bangka-Belitung Islands, and ran aground on a reef. The junk sank in about 30 metres (98.43 ft) of water.

The next morning, February 7, the English East Indiaman Indiana, captained by James Pearl and sailing from Indonesia to Borneo, passed through the Gaspar Strait. The ship encountered debris from the sunk Chinese vessel and an enormous number of survivors. The English ship managed to rescue about 190 of the survivors. Another 18 persons were saved by a wangkang, a small Chinese junk captained by Jalang Lima. This Chinese vessel may have been sailing in tandem with the Tek Sing, but had avoided the reefs.


On May 12, 1999, British marine salvor Michael Hatcher discovered the wreck of the Tek Sing in an area of the South China Sea north of Java, east of Sumatra and south of Singapore.


Hatcher's crew raised about 350,000 pieces of the ship's cargo in what is described as the largest sunken cache of Chinese porcelain ever recovered. [4] The bulk of ceramics were Chinese blue-and-white common tableware, consisting of bowls, tea cups and the like, made in the kilns of Dehua, China. Dehua was famous earlier for its blanc-de-Chine pure-white figurines, but during the 18th and 19th centuries began to mass produce such pieces for the local markets. At a talk that Captain Hatcher gave to the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society in Singapore on 4 October, 2000, he noted that the ceramics "had not been made for the European markets--shapes and patterns were not adapted to European taste, but are genuinely Chinese." [5] A number of earlier Longquan ceramics (celadons) were also found, but Hatcher believed that they were probably the personal possessions of one or more passengers given their limited numbers and the fact that they were found separate from the main bulk cargo.

The Tek Sing's recovered cargo was auctioned at Nagel Auctions  [ de ] in Stuttgart, Germany in November 2000. [6]


Human remains were also found, but they were not disturbed as most of Hatcher's crew, being Indonesian and Chinese, believed that bad luck would befall any who disturbed the dead.

According to UNESCO's Silk Road Programme listing of shipwrecks, "The Tek Sing wreck could have given testimony to one of the biggest catastrophes in the history of seafaring: the sinking of this large junk, that occurred on February 1822 on a journey between the port of Amoy (now Xiamen, China) and Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta, Indonesia), took about 1,500 people– mostly Chinese immigrants – to the bottom of the sea." [7]

See also

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  1. Maude, Roxanna Maude, The Ming Gap and Shipwreck Ceramics in Southeast Aisa, Bangkok, Thailand: The Siam Society, 2009, p. 35
  2. "Treasures of the Tek Sing". Archived from the original on January 24, 2008. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  3. Kam, Nadine (November 21, 2002). "Own a Piece of China". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved May 31, 2008.
  4. "Tek Sing Treasure". Archived from the original on July 27, 2001. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  5. SEACS flyer, 'The Discovery of the Tek Sing Treasures,' a talk to be given by Captain Michael Hatcher at the ACM on 4 October 1999" quoted in quoted in Welch, Patricia Bjaaland, Southeast Asian Ceramic Society 1969-2019 (Singapore, 2019), p. 242. ISBN   978-981-14-2675-9
  6. "Nagel Auctions: Tek Sing Treasures". Hathi Trust. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  7. "Tek Sing wreck | Silk Roads Programme".

Coordinates: 2°24′54.27″S107°04′10.17″E / 2.4150750°S 107.0694917°E / -2.4150750; 107.0694917