Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Xu Hai: One Pirate, Several Lives?

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Harding, Mezzanine Level

Xu Hai徐海 (?-1556), a former Buddhist monk possibly affiliated to the famous Hupao temple虎跑寺 in the vicinity of Hangzhou, is mostly known for his plundering along the Chinese south-east coast during the years 1555-1556. With Wang Zhi 王直 ( ? -1560), he is one of the few Chinese pirates who were immortalized in a personal biography. However, his story knew further developments due to his alleged romance with the beautiful Wang Cuiqiao王翠翹. The life of Wang Cuiqiao having been adopted into various novels during the last decades of the Ming dynasty, Xu Hai lived an unparalleled long life among the Chinese marauders destinies; since his love story having also been adapted into a Vietnamese fiction, his reputation even extended beyond the borders of China. During the 20th century, Marxist propaganda will offer him a last role.


Through the study of all these works of fictions, this paper will analyze the various metamorphoses Xu Hai underwent, in attempt to understand their historical background and significance. This should contribute to a better understanding of this complex period in coastal history that is still controversial, in particular when attempting to specify the historical role of the wokou in the mid-16th century. 

Paola Calanca

École française d'Extrême-Orient, France

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1 - Xu Hai: One Pirate, Several Lives?



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