Viking ship departs on a peaceful cultural voyage to China

This March, for the first time ever, a Chinese museum will open an exhibition about Vikings. The Viking ship Eik Sande is now beginning the journey from Roskilde to China, to add an extra element to the exhibition, 'Dragons of the Northern Seas'. Its cargo includes a rowing machine, amongst other things.

The exhibition 'Dragons of the Northern Seas' is part of a special Danish-Chinese cultural initiative and Chinese museum visitors will get a unique opportunity to learn about Viking culture and craftwork and their importance for Danish society, as well as the art of Viking Age shipbuilding when the museum in Suzhou opens its doors from the 27th March - 28th June 2015.

"The exhibition will include some of the most important artefacts from Viking Age Denmark", explains Flemming Just, director of Sydvestjyske Museer. He is in charge of the exhibition, and the exhibition team, which is comprised of experts from the National Museum, Aarhus University, Sydvestjyske Museer and the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.  

Fascinating ship stories

The Viking ship Eik Sande, which will be sent to China as the advance party this week, is a detailed, full-scale reconstruction of a boat from the famous Norwegian Gokstad find. The original boat, which was deliberately broken up and placed within the powerful man's burial mound, has been meticulously reconstructed by the boatbuilders at the Viking Ship Museum and demonstrates the Vikings' understanding of the importance of choosing the correct timbers and how to exploit the natural shape of the trees.

"The Vikings were seafarers and their fantastic ability to cross oceans to plunder, conquer, trade and colonise three of the world's continents, transformed the world during the period from 800 - 1050. We want to show people in China the special relationship the Vikings had with their ships. Their warships, trading vessels and fishing boats had an important symbolic value and the ships became the Vikings' homes on their long journeys to distant destinations such as America and Arabia", tells Tinna Damgård-Sørensen, director of the Viking Ship Museum. 

For the last few months, the 10m long Viking boat has been exhibited in the departures hall of Copenhagen Airport, where the vessel has attracted much attention. After a short stay at the Viking Ship Museum to prepare for its next voyage, the ship will then travel on to Suzhou, near Shanghai, where it will later be joined by original artefacts from Denmark's Viking Age.

Gold, silver and upper arms of steel

The Vikings brought luxury items, raw materials, clothing, jewellery and weapons home from their journeys. They encountered new customs, which found their way to Scandinavia and Nordic craftsmen were inspired by foreign methods, which they incorporated into their own practices. In this way, they created new designs, often of unique beauty, 

"We have selected a range of exquisite examples of Viking Age works of art of silver and gold, to demonstrate how advanced Scandinavian design already was, 1,000 years ago", says Søren Sindbæk, professor at Aarhus University. Sailing and rowing a boat like Eik Sande is an undertaking that requires eight men with upper arms of steel. Therefore, the exhibition will also include a special rowing machine, which visitors to the exhibition can use to test their strength, as well as clothing, weapons and tools for the active workshops. 

Collaboration and support

The exhibition has been developed in collaboration between Sydvestjyske Museer, Aarhus University, the Viking Ship Museum and the National Museum, which houses some of the finest archaeological collections in Denmark. The exhibition has been made possible by a generous donation from A.P. Møller and Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møkkers Fond til almene Formål. Transport over sea and land is financed by Mærsk Line.

The Viking ship, rowing machine, costumes and reconstructions of weapons and tools, which will be used as activities in the exhibition, will be packed in a container at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde on Tuesday, 20th January. 


Dragons of the Northern Seas  - The Viking Age of Denmark
Special exhibition at Suzhou Museum, China  

Opening 27th 2015. Exhibition period from 28th March - 28th June 2015. 'Dragons of the Northern Seas' is the result of an initiative developed by museums in the twinned towns of Suzhou and Esbjerg.

The exhibition has been developed in collaboration between Suzhou Museum and an exhibition team comprised of some of Denmark's leading museums and research institutions: Sydvestjyske Museer, Aarhus university, the Viking Ship Museum and the National Museum, which houses some of the finest archaeological collections in Denmark.

Suzhou Museum is regarded as one of China's best museums and receives 1.5 million visitors each year. Suzhou is home to more than 5 million residents and is one of China's old cultural cities.

China as a focus area for cultural exchange:
Cultural excahnge between Denmark and China will be strengthened in 2014 and 2015 with a special cultural initiative, involving a range of leading cultural institutions in both lands. 
The initiative runs from October 2014 - May 2015. 
The Danish-Chinese cultural initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Danish Cultural Institute and the Danish Embassy in Beijing, as well as Statens Kunstfond and a range of Danish cultural institutes, artists associations and individual artists.

14/01 - 2015