Archaeologists announced that the sunken warship known as Dandong No 1 was tentatively identified on Thursday as the cruiser Zhiyuan of the Beiyang Fleet at Dandong, Liaoning province.
Some 120 items ranging from ship components to ship-borne weapons and daily necessities were salvaged from the wreckage, said Zhou Chunshui with the National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage, who led the 67-day underwater excavation that was completed on Tuesday.
The most crucial evidence for the ship's identity is three porcelain plates, featuring old Chinese characters "Zhi Yuan" surrounded by English words using the Wade-Giles spelling of Zhi Yuan: "Chih Yuan The Imperial Chinese Navy".
"All of the items will be studied further and more work needs to be done before making a final conclusion," Zhou said.
He said the shipwreck would not be pulled out of the water in the near future.
Zhiyuan was one of the most advanced naval vessels in Asia in the late 1800s. A shipyard in the United Kingdom manufactured it and several other warships for the government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
During the first Sino-Japanese war, the Chinese fleet lost four warships, including the Zhiyuan.
On Sept 17, 1894, after the 2,300-ton warship's ammunition was exhausted, Captain Deng Shichang ordered it to run at full speed into the flagship of the Japanese naval force. It was sunk by a torpedo only one kilometer from the target and sank in the Yellow Sea with 246 officers and soldiers aboard.
Deng has been memorialized as a national hero.
"Since the vessel was badly damaged during the war, the shipwreck is in severely damaged condition. We could only faintly discern its original shape," Zhou said.
The shipwreck was discovered in 2013.
It is lying on a 23-meter-deep seabed about 10 nautical miles southwest of Dandong Port.
The Dandong Port Group found a huge steel hull while digging new sailing channels and immediately sent it to Beijing for research, according to Huang Meiyu, executive president of Dandong Port.
Last August, the National Underwater Archaeology Center initiated the first round of excavations and found a unique machine gun that coincided with the historical record of the Zhiyuan's arms.
"The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 greatly deepened the degree of the semi-colonization of Chinese society. We should learn from it," he said.