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Pacifying the South China Sea

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Before being acquired for Hong Kong Maritime Museum's Collection in 2004, this 18-meters scroll had been in France for over 100 years.

An 18-meter-long ink scroll entitled “Pacifying the South China Sea”, 1810.

Both the title at the beginning, and the original owner(s)’ notations at the end are lacking in the scroll. We name it “Pacifying the South China Sea” because it closely follows the Jinghai fenji by Yuan Yunglun of Shunde published in November 1830 in Guangzhou. This book tells how Bailing solved the devastating piracy problem that had plagued the Guangdong coast since the late 18th century.

Besieging the pirates in Lantau, 1810

The Zheng pirate federation, built by Zheng Yi from 1802 -1807, had grown under his successors Zheng Yi Sao (Shi Xianggu) and Zhang Bao to comprise six fleets, up to 70,000 personnel, 2,000 ships and 5,000 – 6,000 cannons. Between them the fleets controlled the three sea passages along which the trade of Guangdong flowed. Here are the comments to show how powerful Zhang Bao and Zheng Yi Sao were by Yuen Yunglun in Jinghai fenji.

Zhang Bao

“Captain Zhang Bao robbed and plundered incessantly and constantly recruited his men, to a thousand or ten thousand (i.e. over 20,000 men), and continued to do so every year … while growing his fleet at the same time. He made three regulations”

Yuen Yunglun, Jinghai fenji (History of the Pirates who infested the China Sea), 1831

Zhang Yi Sao

“Zhang Yi Sao went herself to Canton with some other ladies to meet the Qing officials, accompanied by Yuche Chang to negotiate for the safety of Zhang Bao. After the negotiation, the Governor-general chose not to kill but to pardon him.’

Yuen Yunglun, Jinghai fenji (History of the Pirates who infested the China Sea), 1831

The "Pacifying the South China Sea" scroll tells, how Bailing solved the problem through a combination of force and guile – the strategy labelled jiaofu or ‘annihilate’ and ‘appease’.

Besides, one of the delights of the scroll is Bailing who appears in the scroll nine times. Where's Bailing? Zoom in to this masterpiece on our Google Art & Culture page to find him.

#CollectionHighlights #PacifyingtheSouthChinaSea #CheungPoTsai #ZhangBao #ZhangBaozi #ZhengYiSao #ShiXianggu #Bailing #SeaBandits

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