Central Pier 8
Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world and has been a historically important port. Naturally, this makes the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and a great place to check out. The museum is located at Central Pier 8 and only costs 30 HKD to enter. This makes it easy to take the Star Ferry from Kowloon where I was staying to the Museum.
Despite being the type to get sea sick I actually kind of like boats. Well, maybe I like the idea of being on a boat out on the ocean better than the actual reality. Maybe a canoe or a kayak on a lake is more my speed but so his reading about history.
Hong Kong Maritime Museum
Southern China has a long history of boat building, trade, and other maritime activities. However, it was not constant. At times it was encouraged, at other times China was isolationist and tried to shield itself from the rest of the world. So no different then what we have seen for the last 100 years. Someone could probably write a long essay or book about how China is trying to do both at the same time right now. Or how China is similar to the USA in having two political poles of isolationism and desire to be central in the world order.
The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is an interesting museum that traces both Hong Kong and early Chinese Maritime History. Unfortunately, the bottom floor is really dark and it is hard to read or see some of the exhibits. Naturally, a lot of the photography is not that good. The upper level has more modern history and the special exhibits. The special exhibit when I visited was artwork about sharks. The exhibit is meant to draw attention to the problems that sharks and facing. Shark Fin soup is a delicacy in China and sharks are caught, have their fins cut off and thrown back in the water. It’s not shocking but like almost every other conservation effort education seems to the be the most effective way of the attacking a problem. I guess thats an argument for demand creates supply.
China long held on to a trading system called the tribute system. The simplest explanation was that tribute state recognized China as the superior in order to engage in trade with China. The system was restricted in how much trade could be done and where. The first European traders engaged in the system too until the British, in British fashion, had a better idea.
Some historians argue that it was the clinging to the tributary system and similar old systems that slowed down China’s modernization when compared to places like Japan. I suspect this is not the complete answer.
Anyway, the Tributary system of trade is long dead. However, it echoes are still heard be it in China’s insistence that it is the center of Asia, that a country should listen to it, or that some islands or land belongs to them because it did hundreds of years ago or paid tribute. Conveniently forgotten from all these conversations is that China had paid tribute to Mongolian and Turkic groups in the past.
Piracy “Sea Banditry” was a common problem throughout Chinese history. Sea Banditry covered what we know as piracy, smuggling, and human trafficking. China did not have a concept comparable to international water “High Seas” and considered anything that happened on the sea to be outside China’s control. This difference in jurisprudence was a big part of what led to the opium war.
Another interesting conflict was over the taking of prizes. For much of western history, it was common to take captured and defeated enemy vessels as prizes. Often times the officers and maybe the crew would get prize money from the selling of the ship and its goods. Being economically sound and serving the self-interest of most parties prize law lasted for four centuries. On the other hand, Chinese jurisprudence still saw it as piracy.
Hong Kong Rifle Association
The Hong Kong Maritime Museum has an interesting case with some memorabilia about Nancy Kong. She had been in the Hong Kong Defense Force and was an exceptional shooter. I know that sports shooting was much more popular in the UK in the early 50’s and it seems to be the same in Hong Kong. Even today there is some sports shooting in Hong Kong, and I think in Macau.