TSA'AI CH'IEN, THE PIRATE KING WHO DOMINATES THE SEAS: A STUDY OF COASTAL PIRACY IN CHINA, 1795-1810.
AuthorCHANG, CHUNG-SHEN THOMAS.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCoastal piracy in southeast China during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was caused by such factors as the conflict between dominant continental values and peripheral maritime interests, the legacy of Ho-shen's maladministration, the explosive population growth, the deterioration of the imperial navy, and the Annamese civil war. During the late eighteenth century, the waters of Fukien and Chekiang were infested by an Annamese pirate fleet working in concert with Chinese pirate groups, including the Phoenix Tails, the Water Bays, and the Bamboo-yellows. The total strength of these pirate groups was about two hundred ships and ten thousand men. However, in the years following 1800 the configuration of pirate power in Fukien and Chekiang water underwent a profound change. This change was triggered by a "divine wind" which arose in mid-August 1800, which led to the demise of the Annamese fleet and other leading pirate bands. As a result, by the end of 1802 the waters of southeast China were dominated by a new generation of pirate association led by Ts'ai Ch'ien, Chang Ah-chih, Chu Fen, Ch'en Huang-k'uei, and other lesser chieftains. The imperial suppression campaigns initiated by Juan Yuan and Li Ch'ang-keng were hindered by uncooperative officials like Yu-te, A-linpao, and other Fukien authorities, who advocated a policy of "pardon and enticement" rather than aggressive counter measures. The situation was further worsened when Ts'ai Ch'ien obtained a number of "giant ocean-crossing junks" from Fukien shipbuilders and extended his sphere of influence to the waters of Taiwan. The pirate problem reached its peak between 1806 and 1807, when both Ts'ai Ch'ien and Chu Fen sought to challenge the legitimacy of Manchu rule through their conquest of Taiwan. However, both failed in their respective attempts to establish a maritime regime on Taiwan. By 1810, the fleets of Ts'ai Ch'ien, Chu Fen, Chang Ah-chih and others had been destroyed or pacified by the suppression tactics of the imperial authorities. Finally, the dissertation analyzes pirate organizations in terms of their inter-group relationships, internal structures, membership, ideologies, criminal activities, on-shore connections, and financial networks.
Degree ProgramOriental Studies