Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

Maritime Trade


Liu Ye


We consider ships to be the third form of Bay Area architecture. Compared to the first two (see the term "Bay Area Architecture",) a ship is much smaller in scale. Still, its mobility and replicability allowed the Bay Area to become a historical-geographical nexus. Keying, a member of the royal Aisin-Gioro lineage family, was born to a Plain Blue Banner rank Manchu family. A lifelong official, he unfortunately, was only remembered as the representative of the Qing empire in signing the Treaty of Nanking and a series of ensuing treaties. The concepts of international law, such as "unequal treaties" and "extraterritoriality," became known to the Chinese after that which formed the cornerstones of modern Chinese history. The Keying was a typical Foochow trading junk(福船), a wooden sailing ship with three masts and a pointed head. It is "as tall as a building, with a narrow bottom but broad deck," which was one of the common types of ships used for offshore trade in the South China Sea. But the British captain purchased it secretly (and named her Keying), and with 12 British sailors, 30 Cantonese sailors, and the name of the very "mandarin," and set sail from Hong Kong at the end of 1846. Keying braved the winds and waves around the world until she was dismantled in England a few years later. The ship had caused incredible sensations upon arriving at New York and London. It was the first time such a massive oriental object had ever crossed the ocean. At the docks, the Chinese wooden ship became a temporary pavilion (and an exhibit in its own right) and local citizens paid to line up to see it. As if the ship was Canton, or China itself, the London Times commented, "one step across the entrance, and you are in the Chinese world; you have quitted the Thames for the vicinity of Canton." Without exaggeration, like the message carried by this ship, the Pearl River estuary was a critical spatial support for Marx's discussions of the Chinese question in the same period. In his series of writings about China, many of the early conflicts between the British-established global capitalist network and the Chinese Empire were ignited by incidents with ships such as Keying. The nineteenth-century ship was a prop for the pilgrims of maritime capitalism to carry out their historical mission, a key switch between the mountains and the waters and the people. Its trajectories were the historical threads by which the Bay Area is finally delineated with specific forms.

(Translated by Fiona He)

About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange