Saturday, September 16, 2006
Sunday Scribblings #25 - Pirate Research
Okay, I confess, the Sunday Scribblings prompt was my idea this week. I can tell many scribblers are groaning about it. Research? Feh! Right? Well, it’s barely research. I mean, it’s just a google search! And the reason I wanted to do this prompt is because I’ve done a lot of google searches on various topics for various writing projects recently and it’s FUN. And EASY. And I hope there aren’t any sometime-scribblers out there who are shirking this week’s prompt because they can’t think of a single subject they’re curious about. C’mon people! The world is FASCINATING.
I chose the subject of piracy in the South China Seas. There’s a slim chance it might come into play in my current novel, so I thought I’d look into it.
Pirates have been terrorizing the South China Seas since the time of the Roman Empire. In the lawlessness that followed the fall of the Han dynasty in 220, an institution of piracy formed that would flourish until 1849 when the British Navy finally cracked down on it in order to better control the opium trade.
The great Kwangtung Pirate Federation was at it height composed of 400 junks (those ships with the distinctive fan-shaped sails) and 70,000 men. Within the federation were formerly rival pirate fleets, acting in cooperation. The life of the pirates was a whole subset of society with its own laws and rules. They worshipped sea gods and had their own dialects. Children were encouraged to fight as play, thus honing their skills for their future profession. Gambling was rife, favorite games were fantan, majiang, and quail fighting. They chewed betel nut as a stimulant, which blackened their teeth, and they drank a blue liquor called “bee-chew,” served in small cups. Among the various specialized jobs the pirates had, it was the duty of one to burn incense. They mostly went barefoot. The raping, beating, or marrying of female captives was a capital offense, the execution-style for which was beheading of the pirate, while the female in question was cast overboard with weights attached to her legs. Interesting justice! Most junks could carry between 300 and 500 tons of plunder. The pirates kept food, fresh water, gun powder, and weapons for themselves. For several years, the pirate federation was ruled by a woman, Cheng I Sao, a former prostitute.
The Gulf of Tonkin remains the most active region in the world for piracy.
Okay, that's what I found in a quickie search. May or may not be accurate, but it's interesting!
Posted by Laini Taylor at 8:41 AM