Writing Pirates

Vernacular Fiction and Oceans in Late Ming China
Yuanfei Wang
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 a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California.

Praise / Awards

  • 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
  • “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
  • "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)

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 226pp.
  • 19 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13254-6

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  • $75.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03851-0

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90248-4

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  • pirates, Chinese literature, oceans, maritime history, pirate kings, admiral Zheng He, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, lower Yangzi river region, early modern globalism, vernacular language, translation studies, cross-cultural exchange, cross-border war, diplomacy, trade, narratives, history writing, travel writing, China's Orient, postcolonial studies, empire, race and ethnicity, the Other, authenticity, Hideyoshi, Japanese pirates, migrants, migration, Chinese diaspora, public space, the age of European exploration