22 Jun 2007

Chinese Pirate in Singapore?

When the last sequel of Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End was being shot, I was so excited because one of its plots would depict busy Singapore’s entreport.

However, after the film was released, I wondered if the plot depicted was real or not. Although it’s a fiction, the background has to be accurate.

In 19th century, British government encouraged its people to sail around the world to look for new things and to come with those new findings. And this story is told in the movie.

Captain Sao Feng, whom Chow Yun Fat casts, is a Chinese pirate lord based in Singapore. However, the accuracy of the cast is a big question mark. In fact, according to the history, there is no Chinese pirate based in Singapore at the time.

Of course there were a lot of pirates in Malacca Straits; even now they still exist. During Malacca’s Malay Sultanate era, Hang Tuah was promoted to Royal Admiral after defeating pirates in Malacca Straits. The pirates were actually locals who lived along coastal area of Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and the surrounding islands. They were mainly ethnic of Malay, Orang Laut and Bugis from Celebes.

Thus, depicting a powerful Chinese pirate lord based in Singapore is not accurate at all. People from China, at the time, came here with no bad agenda but they came to trade and even married local women. Only in 18th and early 19th century, there were a huge number of Chinese immigrants in the region as British brought them here to work.

I somewhat agree with China Government to ban the character as it degrades Chinese as a cruel or bad people sailing abroad as a pirate. To the Malay world where present Singapore is located, it somehow does not tell the truth where there were few Malay kingdoms conquering the surrounding area and by having 'a powerful Chinese pirate' there, seemed they were not in control of the area.

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