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

The “Sea Bandits” exhibition, 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.

There is 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.

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