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Why are Junks called Junks?

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Why are Junks called Junks?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines Junks as:

A Junk with its characteristic "venetian-blind" sails and flat-bottomed hull. 

"classic Chinese sailing vessel of ancient unknown origin, still in wide use. High-sterned with projecting bow, the junk carries up to five masts on which are set square sails consisting of panels of linen or matting flattened by bamboo strips. Each sail can be spread or closed at a pull, like a venetian blind. The massive rudder takes the place of a keel, or centreboard. The hull is partitioned by solid bulkheads running both transversely and longitudinally, adding greatly to strength. Chinese junks sailed to Indonesian and Indian waters by the early Middle Ages."

It is believed that the word Junk came from the Malay-Javanese word jung or ajung, which could have been derived from the Chinese word jung meaning "floating house".

 As to the word's first European use, it appeared in Ibn Battuta's "Voyages" (translated in 1345) which stated that:

"The Chinese ships are of three kinds : the big ones are called joncos (singular: jonc), the medium ones azzana and the little ones the alkakame."

The first Portuguese citation is from 1510:

"...un Junco do Rey de Malacca" [a junk of the King of Melaka] and it was well described, inclusively stating that some have several masts, and one, captured after a fierce combat, had four layers of sheathing, being almost invulnerable to artillery fire.

 The Portuguese employed junks in big numbers, and brought one from India to be a warship in its Gibraltar Strait Fleet, the "Esquadra do Estreito". The only terms used are Junco and Junquo (plural: Juncos or Junquos).

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This page was last modified on September 12, 2000