HONG KONG MARITIME MUSEUM, Deck C Room C3

Audio File length: 2.38
English / USA Language: English / USA

The Sea Banditsexhibition, in room C3, focuses on piracy which, as you know, remains a huge problem in some areas of the world today.

For China, the worst period from this point of view was between the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to organize shipping expeditions knowing that the waters of the South China Sea were infested with thousands of pirates?

These pirates, known as “haidao”, were divided into fleets. The most fearsome were those captained by the terrible Guo Podai and Zhang Baozai; the latter alone had around 70,000 men under his orders!

These criminals did not just attack European galleons setting out from China with valuable cargo, or the junks of Chinese merchants. They also extorted money from the poor inhabitants of the villages along the coast, often kidnapping people and demanding ransom.

In the early 19th century, during the Qing dynasty, the government devoted a great deal of attention and publicity to combating piracy. Dating to this period is one of the most exceptional masterpieces held in the HKMM: an 18-meter-long ink scroll entitled “Pacifying the South China Sea”, telling of how Bailing, Governor General of Guangdong and Quangxi, managed to obtain the surrender of the two most powerful pirates of the time, thus bringing peace to the South China Sea.

Admiring a painting of this size and understanding its history is no easy task, but this technological museum has a surprise in store for you: a 360° screen illustrating the work with animation and sound effects that draw your attention to the most interesting details of the story.

There is also an interesting collection in this gallery of weapons used by the pirates, as well as a large cannon used by the Chinese to defend the coasts.

 

An interesting fact: one of the most powerful pirates of the 19th century was Ching Shih. If you’re imagining a strong, vigorous man, then you couldn’t be more mistaken: she was in fact a pretty young woman who had worked as a prostitute before marrying a well-known pirate and joining in his thrilling raids. After she was widowed, she proved an able commander of her late husband’s fleet, imposing harsh laws few attempted to disobey for fear they would be beheaded…

At the age of 35, she decided to retire with the riches she had accumulated, signing an agreement of surrender with the government.

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