Writing Pirates

Vernacular Fiction and Oceans in Late Ming China

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, History, Literary Studies
Paperback : 9780472038510, 226 pages, 19 illustrations, 6 x 9, June 2021
Hardcover : 9780472132546, 226 pages, 19 illustrations, 6 x 9, June 2021
Open Access : 9780472902484, 226 pages, 19 illustrations, 6 x 9, June 2021

This publication was made possible in part by an award from the James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation.
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Examines writings on China’s oceanic piracy wars of the sixteenth century


In Writing Pirates, Yuanfei Wang connects Chinese literary production to emerging discourses of pirates and the sea. In the late Ming dynasty, so-called “Japanese pirates” raided southeast coastal China. Hideyoshi invaded Korea. Europeans sailed for overseas territories, and Chinese maritime merchants and emigrants founded diaspora communities in Southeast Asia. Travel writings, histories, and fiction of the period jointly narrate pirates and China’s Orient in maritime Asia. Wang shows that the late Ming discourses of pirates and the sea were fluid, ambivalent, and dialogical; they simultaneously entailed imperialistic and personal narratives of the “other”: foreigners, renegades, migrants, and marginalized authors. At the center of the discourses, early modern concepts of empire, race, and authenticity were intensively negotiated. Connecting late Ming literature to the global maritime world, Writing Pirates expands current discussions of Chinese diaspora and debates on Sinophone language and identity.  

Yuanfei Wang is Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Writing Pirates is unique in that it draws from Asian literary sources to position Asian piracy and Chinese diaspora communities as alternatives to imperial corruption. While most recent studies have addressed piracy as it relates to historical rebellion and terrorism, as a continuum of threats to land-based societies, Wang instead approaches positive focal era regional piracy as a form of agency challenging political corruption.”
—Kenneth Hall, Ball State University

- Kenneth Hall

“This is a promising and exciting book. Wang gives a solid and convincing portrayal of how Ming subjects, not just elites but also merchants and a wider segment of early modern Chinese society, saw themselves in relation to their empire, the tributary system, and the world beyond. She highlights the crucial role played by fiction writing on foreign adventures, marginal social figures such as pirates, and translation and transcription.”
—Xing Hang, Brandeis University

- Xing Hang

"Writing Pirates is a thought-provoking and challenging book that makes a significant contribution to the fields of Chinese literature and history."
Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR)

- Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR)

“...by drawing rich connections between fiction and a wide variety of other writings, Writing Pirates casts new light on the genre and the broader “discourse of pirates” running through it. It fuses historiography and the imagination of the other, opening the door for a range of further inquiries for scholars of late Ming literature and comparative early modernities alike.”
The Journal of Asian Studies

- The Journal of Asian Studies

"Writing Pirates is a bountiful and valuable treasure for any academic library where literature and piracy are popular fields of study. . ."
Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy

- Cindy Vallar

"Reads do not need a background in Chinese history and literature to appreciate this study. Its major contribution might be in pushing scholars more familiar with maritime violence in other seas to break out of Eurocentric frameworks for thinking about early modern maritime imaginaries and the conquest of the sea."--The Great Circle

- The Great Circle