23 April 2015

Jia Ban Chuan (夾板船/甲板船)

17th century Sailing Ship
Drawing of a European sailing ship, probably a Portuguese East Indiaman, from 'Jing Guo Xiong Lue (《經國雄略》)'.
The name Jia Ban Chuan (夾板船 or 甲板船) comes from the Chinese transcription of Malay word "Kapal", meaning ship. Jia Ban Chuan specifically refers to European great ships of the age of sail. The gigantic size and enormous firepower of European warships outclassed even the strongest of Chinese warships, which impressed the Chinese very much.

Chinese attempt to imitate European design were met with limited success. Ironically, the most successful of these attempts came not from the Ming Dynasty, but from the Chinese pirate-turned-admiral Zheng Zhi Long (鄭芝龍), also known by his Baptismal name Nicholas Iquan Gaspard. Unfortunately, Zheng's fleet of European-influenced war junks was destroyed by a Dutch surprise attack before ever seeing combat.

A giant junk can be seen at the lower left corner of this engraving. LA VILLE ET LE CHATEAU DE ZELANDIA DANS L'ISLE DE TOYOVAN, EN CHINE (1670) c1729. 
Even then, the most powerful of the European-influenced war junks were only the rough equivalent of a fifth-rate ship—powerful enough to go toe to toe against armed merchantmen, escorts and smaller warships of the various East India companies, but still miles behind any serious navy of the European powers.


  1. "The name Jia Ban Chuan (夾板船 or 甲板船) comes from the Chinese transcription of Malay word 'Kapal', meaning ship."

    I failed to see the connection here (between Jia Ban Chuan and kapal). Do you have any source for this etymology?

    In Malay world, "kapal" originally refer to a particular type of ship hailed from India until 17th century (from a word of Dravidian languages, "kappal"). In Malay archipelago a term for ship would be "perahu" or "jong". After the disappearance of the jong (late 1600s or early 1700s), the meaning of perahu would shifted to boat in English, "kapal" took over as the word for ship replacing the word perahu.

    What about the Jing Guo Xiong Lue (《經國雄略》), from what year is it?

    1. @Raja Warastra
      Good day and welcome to my blog!

      The connection between Jia Ban Chuan and "Kapal" is mentioned in this article:


      You can read the whole article online.

      Ming Chinese generally used the term to refer to Dutch ships. The Dutch came to Ming China in early 1600s, so this should fit with the dates you've given. Pa La Hu Chuan (i.e. perahu) was also adopted by Ming Chinese on an earlier date.

      Jing Guo Xiong Lue was published in 1645.

  2. Is there any any more information about the fleet zhang zhilong had built?

    1. We know he lost about 30ish large ships and 20ish smaller ships in the Dutch surprise attack. Considering that he mustered another 150 warships soon after for the counterattack, that might not be all of his ships.

  3. Do we know how powerful exactly Zhang zhilong's ships are? like how many cannons and size?

    1. We know Zheng Zhilong's ships had "two reinforced cannon decks and could mount thirty or thirty-six large guns".

  4. Size of the ship is unknown though.


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