Chinese piracy and coastal defence in the eighteen and early nineteen centuries with an emphasis on the Canton Delta
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Piracy and coastal defence are inter-related. When coastal defence of an area was not strong enough pirates would take the opportunity to be active. On the other hand, if piracy became so severe as to threaten the lives and properties of the people, the Imperial authorities would take action to develop or reinforce the coastal defence. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, owing to such factors as poor social conditions, inefficient administration, and the consequences of civil wars in the neighbouring country, Annam, Chinese piracy in the Canton Delta became a severe problem to the Qing government for over half a century. Coastal defence became an ultimate concern of the Manchus in this period. The focus of this study is to investigate into the development of the coastal defence along the Canton Delta in this period, in relation to the rise and fall of Chinese piracy.
The study is divided into four chapters. Chapter I portrays the coastal defence of the Canton Delta before the 18th century, from the Ming dynasty, through the early Qing period before the Coastal Evacuation, to the reestablishment of coastal defence after the Evacuation.
Chapter II explores the reasons for the rise of Chinese piracy in the Guangdong coastal area in the late 18th century in relation to the social conditions of the area and the weaknesses of the Imperial government.
The third chapter describe~ a brief history of Chinese pirates along the coast of Guangdong, from the time of their collaboration with the Vietnamese pirates, through the period of their causing disasters to the coastal frontier and then further into the inland area, to their ultimate fall.
Chapter IV reveals how the Imperial navy and coastal fortifications were
strengthened. The construction of walled cities and forts in strategic positions; the reinforcement of armaments and warboats; and the appointment of more efficient and brave officials to the Delta region are evidences to trace the wish of the government on developing a strqng coastal defence force in the period under
In the conclusion the point that owing to poor and incapable leadership of
the government in the late 18th century, the Chinese pirates caused severe disasters
in the Delta region.
In the early 19th century, capable and efficient officials, like Bailing, were
appointed as governor-generals ofGuangdong and Guangxi. They imposed different measures to deal with piracy. However, these measures alone were not sufficient to put an end to the pir:atical crises. Luckily, pirates began to quarrel among themselves and this led to the break down of their unity, hence weakening their strength. The problem of piracy in the Canton Delta region was solved for the time being. However, the coastal defence remained weak, and this led to the fall of the Qing government under the foreign invasions in the late Qing period.
The Chinese names in this thesis are all in Pinyin. The photographs without acknowledgement of sources are taken during my visits to the historic sites.
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:pirates china guangzhou history coast defenses
Date of Publication:01/01/1999