Chinese troops attack pirates on Lantau Island?
HKMM received new donation depict the scene of pirate Cheung Po Tsai being attacked by government forces
Hong Kong, 2 December, 2016 – Renowned London art dealer Mr. Roger Keverne and Mrs. Miranda Keverne recently donated to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum an unusual Chinese export painting on Chinese troops attacking pirates on the China Coast circa 1820. It is believed this and two other paintings in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art depict the similar scene of the famous Siege of Lantau. In this nine-day battle, government forces attacked the Red Fleet led by the legendary pirate Cheung Po Tsai (1786?-1822). This infamous pirate chief and his fleet controlled the coast of Guangdong province between 1800 and 1810 until they were pacified by a series of operations undertaken by government forces under Governor Bailing between the Autumn of 1809 and August 1810.
The gifted painting, according to recent research, is believed to depict pirates in the bay off Tung Chung on the north shore of Lantau, under siege by large Guangdong navy junks at Chek Lap Kok, present-day Hong Kong International Airport. Eventually, the Red Fleet was defeated and Cheung Po Tsai surrendered and became a Lieutenant in the Qing navy. Richard Wesley, Director of Hong Kong Maritime Museum, states ‘it is a fascinating image and further research is required to confirm this interpretation of the scene but what certain is that it brings to life a long forgotten aspect of Hong Kong’s history.’
The ‘pirate painting’ represents a valuable addition to the commitment by the museum to visually portray maritime life in the Pearl River Delta during the nineteenth century, many of which can now be viewed online at the Google Cultural Institute site. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/partner/hk-maritime-museum
The painting will be unveiled at the 2016 Hong Kong Maritime Museum Fundraising Dinner on 5 December and subsequently on display in the Pacific Basin Pirates Gallery on C-Deck.