A sampan is a relatively flat-bottomed Chinese and Malay wooden boat. Some sampans include a small shelter on board and may be used as a permanent habitation on inland waters. Sampans are generally used for transportation in coastal areas or rivers and are often used as traditional fishing boats. It is unusual for a sampan to sail far from land, as they do not have the means to survive rough weather.
The word "sampan" comes from the original Cantonese term for the boats, sāan báan (三板), literally meaning "three planks". The name referred to the hull design, which consists of a flat bottom (made from one plank) joined to two sides (the other two planks). The design closely resembles Western hard chine boats like the scow or punt. However, Pierre-Yves Manguin pointed out possible Austronesian origin of the word, attested in a Malay inscription from 684 CE.
In the Malay community in Southeast Asia, they also use the term sampan for their boats. Large boats such as sampan panjang, kolek and perahu panjang are used and built by the Malays and Orang Laut living in their coastal villages.
A contemporary sampan comes back from fishing, on the north coast of Java
Small sampan still being used for passenger transportation between islands in Hong Kong
- Merriam Webster online dictionary.
- Manguin, Pierre-Yves. 2012. “Asian ship-building traditions in the Indian Ocean at the dawn of European expansion”, in: Om Prakash and D. P. Chattopadhyaya (eds), History of science, philosophy, and culture in Indian Civilization, Volume III, part 7: The trading world of the Indian Ocean, 1500-1800, pp. 597-629. Delhi, Chennai, Chandigarh: Pearson.
- "How to Scull a Boat", WOODEN BOAT #100, June 1991.
- "Cranks with Planks presents Sampans -n- Yulohs" (via Wayback Machine) (includes excerpt from G.R.G. Worcester's Junks and Sampans of the Yangtse.)