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!

16 comments:

susanlavonne said...

Firstly--Truly interesting stuff about pirate and I hope somehow you can work at least some of it in to your novel.

Secondly --I adore research so much that I often get stuck there and find it difficult to move on to the writing part :-) So thank you for this week's facinating topic...I will try to move on to the writing so I can participate!

Michelle said...

Perhaps we should encourage more fighting as play, to prepare our kids for the army.

Interesting post. I've never thought of pirates in a Chinese context before, but of course! Why not?

paris parfait said...

Terrific piece about pirates, Laini. Pirates are so fascinating - it would be terrific if you manage to incorporate pirates into your next book!

Alexandra S said...

As we just discussed, I simply can't imagine life anymore without the Net & Google. ! This was so interesting, though not terribly fair to the accused ladies that they would have to be thrown overboard too. Its amazing how brutish we can be as humans, and yet, I found it interesting that there was laws at all about the treatment of women. I would have assumed women were free to be pillaged as was everything else they invaded, sadly. And they still exist? wow!

NuttersNotes said...

Just the word "Pirate" makes you want to be a pirate....though, once investigated, it's not that glamorous of a life. Thanks for the heads up...I'll steer clear of the Gulf of Tonkin!!!

swampgrrl said...

very cool research, grrrrrrllll.
doesn't the word pirate sound sooo
sexy?

susanna said...

Cooool! Not that I'll ever go to the Gulf of Tonkin in reality...but I will plunder the bookstore! Great subject choice!

wendylou who? said...

When Johnny Depp called The girl "Pirate" in the latest movie..towards the end I nearly swooned. Very sexy. Great post..about the Real things...As for the assignment...I of course, managed to STILL make it..all about me!!

Living Part Deux said...

So interesting! I never thought about there being such strict codes of conduct and honor among this segment of reprobates. I also never thought of them as being an organized subset of society. Looks like fertile fodder for your book.

Mardougrrl said...

I am fascinated by the blue drink and the pirate who was in charge of the incense. That's something to put on a resume!

You + pirates=must read.

la vie en rose said...

i LOVED this week's prompt, seriously loved it!

this post makes me wanna stick pirates of the caribbean in the dvd player

Ally Bean said...

And this is just one piece of the worldwide pirate puzzle. A fascinating post on a topic I knew nothing about. It doesn't sound like my kind of life-- I'm too fussy about my teeth to let them get black!

DonPare said...

Fun facts!
But where does Johnny Depp fit in? :)

Amber said...

No, i thought it was a good topic! I love to research. Maybe, more than I should. LOL.
This is a good one. You should go read Deb, at Red Shoe. She is talking like a pirate today. *snort*

:)

dorinny said...

Ooh, i love it! Pirates really are fascinating. And I find the whole 'pirate' deal awefully romantic, in a johnny depp sort of way. LOL seriously though, very interesting research topic :)

deirdre said...

Great research. Suddenly pirates don't seem so dashing and romantic. The incense burner is an interesting high-seas job, makes me wonder just how stinky those pirates were.