March 16, 2008
In Memoriam ... Li Bangyan
News reached us that naval engineer Li Bangyan one of the listed participants, would not be part of debate any more.
The son of a ship outfitter from the upper Yangtze River, Li Bangyan was a naval engineer trained at Jiatong University in Chongqing in the 1940’s. Part of his studies were made between raids from Japanese bombers trying to devastate Chongqing, then capital of China at war, a time when the future naval engineer met his future wife, then a schoolmate.
Soon affter WW II, young Li Bangyan embarked on British merchant ships. After several years of sailing around the world, in 1953, Li Bangyan was asked by his father to come back to China where he graduated in 1956. Unlike many of his schoolmates who were sent to modern shipyards, the young engineer and a sizable group of his colleagues were directed towards local traditional shipyards to record the old-fashioned but still active wooden sailing ships.
From this effort aiming at modernizing local commercial fleets, Li Bangyan inherited a life-long interest for traditional Chinese wooden sailing boats. His training as a naval engineer led him to draw detailed plans of the many boats he had thoroughly examined and recorded years in a row. The purpose, this time, was to have ship models built for marine museums in China.
Not an historian neither an archaeologist by training, engineer’s Li Bangyan produced boat records unsurpassable in detail and quality. As a true naval engineer, he commented in 2005 «What I know goes into my drawings and my plans, not in texts» (drawing above: late motorized sailing boat. Credit Li Bangyan, personal comunication, Pudong, 10/VIII/2005). His enthusiasm as an amateur of Chinese maritime history was always balanced with his deep knowledge of Chinese traditional shipbuilding features still observable in the late 1950’s.
This Chinese nautical universe is now gone, and so is engineer Li whose memory will be remembered at the coming Asia Europe Workshop.
We lost an exceptional observer, a daring outspoken technical analyst of the Chinese naval past, a mostly unpublished author and above all a longtime generous friend.
Jean-Yves Blot, Asia-Europe Workshop Coordinator