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Pirates of the South China Sea: Chasing Cheung Po Tsai and Port Cities

28 April to 8 October 2017

Long Gallery, Hong Kong Maritime Museum 

This exhibition will explore the development of ports and early trade routes in the South China Sea during the 16th to 20th centuries. It will provide a fresh angle on maritime history with its narrative through the eyes of pirates, with a focus on Hong Kong, then Pearl Delta River and Southern China. By exploring the locations of pirate bases such as those of Cheung Po Tsai, the exhibition will begin by tracing the development of China’s ports and trading routes from the Ming to the Qing dynasties.

The exhibition will also shed light on the evolution of shipbuilding technologies within the context of sea piracy in the South China Sea during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It will show how shipbuilding technologies and piracy were inter-influential; shipbuilding technologies were improved in order to enhance maritime safety while at the same time, the tactics of pirate attacks were influenced to counter these technological innovations.

In addition, this exhibition aims to provide a deeper understanding of the multiple concepts of piracy relative to time, place, and culture. For example, Zheng Zhilong and Zheng Changgong were considered to be pirates in the eyes of the Qing government.However, they were feted as heroes within the communities of Fujian.

The legends of local hero Cheung Po Tsai as well as the locations where he was actively based in Hong Kong’s seas will be highlighted in this exhibition. Several paintings and objects from the HKMM's collections and the Hong Kong Museum of Art will be displayed. These include a 200-year-old oil painting depicting the famous 9-day battle located at the Island of ChekLap Kok, and Tung Chung on the north shore of Lantau Island, which is close to the modern-day Hong Kong airport and Disneyland. The exhibition will also feature a digital animation showcasing the HKMM's eighteen metres long masterpiece Pacifying the South China Sea, an exquisite lego model of the local pirate scene and a giant interactive board game related to the legend of the pirate Cheung Po Tsai. Audiences will have various opportunities to learn more about Hong Kong’s successful maritime history, as well as about future port developments.