(The bronze cannon above was recovered with five more from a shipwreck in China last year)
" The coat of arms and eulogy inscribed in Han characters and filled with gold and silver.
by Vu Toan
On the evening of August 15, 2003, while catching oysters at the depth of 30m, about 36 nautical miles (57.6km) away from the mouth of the Nhuong River in Ha Tinh Province, divers touched something very hard.
Looking at it carefully, they determined it was an incense burner. News of the discovery quickly spread to other boats. About 30 divers plunged into the sea to recover the bronze objects.
After 17 days of hard work under heavy seas, the divers lifted three cannons with the help of a crane on a 45-tonne ship. Six of them became unconscious during the work in the deep sea but they recovered.
Countless antique hunters have flocked to the village of Cam Linh in Cam Xuyen District since the discovery of the cannons and other artifacts. The divers gave one of the cannons to the owner of the ship for his service. Police seized the cannon before it reached the Viet Nam-Chinese border. The other two are in the gardens of Pham Tien Phuong and Tran Trong Thuong, two other ship owners.
The cannons are 2.43m long and weigh 1.4 tones each. The barrel is 40cm in diameter, while the diameter of the bore is 22cm. A large copper band covering the barrel is adorned with silver patterns. There is an inscription in Han Chinese characters at one end of the guns that states, "The second year under the reign by King Minh Mang."
"Minh Mang’s the second year of reign indicates the year 1821, after King Minh Mang, the second sovereign of the last feudal dynasty of Viet Nam, ascended to the throne," said Nguyen Tri Son, vice-director of the Ha Tinh Museum. "These cannons may have been made in China by order of the king. They went down with the ship during its voyage home."
Divers also found three large and 11 small incense burners and a tea pot. The heaviest weighed about 10kg. Delicate dragon heads, the symbol of royal power, are engraved on all of the incense burners as well as the lid and handle of the pot.
The cannons have been lying in the gardens of the ship owners for more than two months. Responsible organizations have done nothing about the wreck and the finds since they were discovered.
A diver, whose name was withheld, said the wreck was about 30m long and 4m wide. A thin layer of copper covered the hull. Local antique hunters frequently visited the ship. They might hide artifacts they find in another area marked on their charts, retrieving them when the opportunity arises. — VNS "