Imagine being a pirate in command of a fleet so large that you annihilate the naval forces meant to destroy you and end up being awarded the rank of admiral in the ensuing peace negotiations.

It sounds like a movie script, but it was the actual life of Zheng Zhilong (鄭芝龍), a maritime outlaw from the Ming Dynasty. Unlike well-known fictional characters Captain Jack Sparrow and Long John Silver, he was no Jolly-Roger-waving buccaneer sailing around the Caribbean Islands. He was master of the South China Sea.

What makes Zheng Zhilong’s story phenomenal is that it is not unique only to him. Many other Chinese pirates, like Ching Shih (鄭氏) and Fang Guozhen (方國珍), shared similar fates.

On August 8, Dennis Chen will give a virtual presentation, Pirates of China. He’ll share stories about Zheng Zhilong and his legacy, and he’ll discuss the era in which Chinese pirates thrived and ruled the China seas.

Dennis Chen is a member of the Department of Asian Studies Faculty at Alexander College where he teaches courses on China. He has been the programs supervisor and volunteer coordinator at the Vancouver Maritime Museum since 2017. At the VMM Dennis leads and develops education programs, including the Lost Fleet and the Science of Navigation. He has been involved in a variety of nautical publications on the Ming Dynasty Voyages and the Byzantine Navy, in the roles of editor and author, respectively.

Tickets for Pirates of China are only $5 and are free for members. When you sign up for a membership at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, you’ll also get access to the Captain’s Table, an exclusive magazine. Dennis will be writing a feature article about the pirates of China in the next issue.

To get a free member ticket to this event, email