Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Medieval Fighting Ships of Korea and Japan

Fighting Ships of the Far East (2) : Japan and Korea A.D. 612-1639. / by Stephen Turnbull, Wayne Reynolds, illustrator. Published by Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 978-1-84176-386-6. Transferred to digital print on demand 2009.

Author Stephen Turnbull again relays the saga of fighting ships of the Far East designed for combat between the countries of Japan and Korea, with battles engaging China and Thailand. A distinction between this book and the prior publication, Fighting Ships of the Far East (1) : China and Southeast Asia 202 B.C.-A.D. 1419, is that the time period covered in this book is actually 800 years later for Japan and Korea, and shows details of ship design and construction that were not possible for the much earlier ships in China’s history. Japanese pirates, called “waku” defended Japan against invasion by the Mongols via the Korean Strait in the late 1200s. The Koreans reacted with a revised “spear ship” that had “… a dragon’s head from whose mouth we could fire our cannons, and with iron spikes on its back to pierce the enemies’ feet when they tried to board.” p. 18. While Japanese invasions took place on land and aboard ships, Korean navies preferred to naval battles from their own turf, and images of their sea battles featured ships' canons.

The Color Plate section of the text features battle scenes and details of the types of ships favored by the Japanese samurai and by Japan and Korea. Naval architecture as an expression of force and strength was remarkably diverse, from the Korean style “turtle ship” (seen on this book's cover) to the Japanese floating castle ship known as the NIHON MARU. Both Japan and Korea had a type of tower ship, illustrated as a barge or junk style hull with one or two decks and a tower or castle built on the topmost deck. Korea’s p’anokson is a particularly striking example of the warship that conceals its oarsmen on the lower deck, while above them an open deck provided space for battles to take place at sea.

For more detail:
See the Naval History of Korea and the
Naval History of Japan
at these Wikipedia sites which display a number of illustrations from each country's art.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Fighting Ships of the Far East (2) : Japan and Korea A.D. 612-1639. / by Stephen Turnbull in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

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