qing dynasty

The Greatest Pirate Who Ever Lived


In 1801, a pirate named Zheng Yi was busy raiding Canton. Aside from the prerequisite plundering and rum-drinking, he had given his men one specific order: to break into a local brothel and bring him the prostitute Zheng Yi Sao (郑一嫂), or “Zheng Yi’s wife”.

One might expect a sinister fate to have awaited Zheng Yi Sao upon her deliverance to the pirate captain (rape, swiftly followed by murder, being the most obvious). In actuality, Zheng Yi’s intentions were considerably more gentlemanly.

He intended to marry her. And recognizing that her current future prospects were rather limited, Zheng Yi Sao accepted.

But Zheng Yi Sao didn’t intend on spending the rest of her days as some plunder-hungry pirate’s eye candy. She wanted to become a pirate as well, and she did – one of the greatest pirates to have ever lived.

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Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat is an educational Canadian-American animated television series based on a 1994 novel by Amy Tan which aired on PBS Kids, produced by Canadian animation studio CinéGroupe and Sesame Street creator Sesame Workshop. In the series, which is set c. 1840, during the Qing Dynasty, Sagwa has fun in her day-to-day life while learning and teaching valuable life lessons. The show is notable for its setting and messages about family obligations and loyalty. It was also a huge ratings success for PBS Kids.

It aired for one season and 40 episodes, premiering on September 3, 2001, and was quietly cancelled in 2003.



龚贤 - 金碧山水

by Gong Xian (Qing dynasty)

*There’s a special style in Chinese landscape painting called 青绿山水Qinglu shanshui which uses mineral dyes to complete the artwork. Those artworks have major green and blue colors. During Song Dynasty, artists and scholars added 泥金 (made of glue and powdered gold or other metals) to the dyeing materials. These landscape paintings are 金碧山水 Jinbi shanshui. 

“Adjusted Rank” means what percentage of the world’s population were killed by a particular conflict or upheaval. In other words, the An Lushan Rebellion killed somewhere around 15% of the people alive in the world. World War II, for comparison, killed around 3% of the people alive in the world in 1940.

In the style of Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione),

The Fragrant Concubine

Italy/China: Qing Dynasty, 18th Century.

Oil on paper, framed; 27 by 19 ½ in., 68.6 by 49.5 cm.

photo: Sotheby’s.


This is another portrait of Xaing Fei, or Fragrant Concubine, the same woman who was painted in European plate armor for these portraits. Her story is fascinating, and more can be read about her at that link.

This painting was sold to William Haynsworth in 1987 for 1.2 million dollars.


John Thomson: Chinese Women, 1869-72.

John Thomson (1837-1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer who, after traveling through various parts of Asia, settled in Hong Kong in 1868 and operated a studio there for the next four years. Using Hong Kong as his base, he traveled extensively throughout China and was the first known photographer to document the people and landscapes of China for publication in the western market. Returning to England, he published a four volume book entitled “Illustrations of China and its People” in London, 1873-1874.

Images courtesy of Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.