Beyond Anne Bonny and Mary Read 

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I recently made the mistake of watching the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. However, this won't be a review of that movie (don't see it). I wanted to explore one of the characters. No, nothing more on that Depp character. We all know about the Keith Richards thing. Smarter people than myself even suspect Depp's reference to Adam Ant (maybe the next historical craze, now that we've gone through Antoinette, Greek fighting boys and half-serious pirate, will be English highwaymen).

What I do want to point out is the female Asian pirate. The Chinese pirate who didn't get censored out of the movie by the Chinese government.

Credited as Mistress Ching and played by an American of Japanese extraction, Takayo Fischer nee Tsubouchi), I immediately suspected that this pirate was influenced by Zheng Yi Sao (or Zheng Shi in Wikipedia). A few years ago, this name appeared in a kid's pirate book, with only a snippet saying that she was active in the first half of the nineteenth century and that she commanded thousands in the South China Sea.

Growing up, like all little girls who want to grow up to pillage coastal towns and keelhaul insubordinate minions, I read up about my predecessors. In those days, the only female pirates who made it into the classical pirate canon were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. All other women in history, the books implied by omission, stayed home and baked strudels.

When I looked up Zheng this time, besides a Wikipedia page (and some cultural influences - she appeared in a Borges story), she was joined by other Chinese pirates with two x-chromosomes. Seven of them according to this list. This other list has three more to add to this roster.

Here's the total combined list, with possible redundancies and no standardization of romanization (I hate Wade-Giles):
  1. Ch'iao K'uo Fü Jën (c. 600 BCE): Chinese legend.
  2. Qi Sao (Seventh Elder Sister-in-law): South China Sea, commanded a fleet of 20 ships.
  3. Li (wife of Chen Acheng) (early 1800s): South China Sea, was involved in at least 10 robberies at sea with her husband before she was captured and made the slave of a military officer.
  4. Shi Xainggu (or Zheng Yi Sao) (1801-1810): South China Sea, commanded either five or six squadrons consisting of 800 large junks, about 1,000 smaller vessels, and between 70,000 and 80,000 men and women.
  5. Cai Quin Ma (Matron Cai Quin) (died 1804): South China Sea.
  6. T'ang Ch'en Ch'iao: alias "Golden Grace".
  7. Lo Hon-cho (Honcho Lo): took over command on husband’s death in 1921, was a supporter of the Chinese revolution.
  8. Wong (1922): united her 50 ship fleet with Lo Hon-cho's 64 junks.
  9. Lai Sho Sz'en (Lai Choi San) (1922-1939): South China Sea, commanded 12 junks.
  10. P'en Ch'ih Ch'iko (1936): commanded 100 pirates.
  11. Ki Ming (this may be another name for P'en Ch'ih Ch'iko).
  12. Huang P'ei-mei (1937-1950s): leader of 50,000 pirates.
Now the little girls of today can have other heroes besides Paris, Lindsay and Nicole.

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Thanks for the wasp/hornet comment. I kinda felt bad jet spraying their nest down, but I didn't want to risk getting stung either. Cheers - LJ
Oh hey, about the comment on my 'ring' post... I sized my wedding and engagement rings 3 times before finding the right circumference. It does take a while for a ring to settle, especially if you've never wore one on a particular finger everyday, like, ever.

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