In December 1846, the Keying, a Chinese junk purchased by British investors, set sail from Hong Kong for London. Named after the Chinese Imperial Commissioner who had signed away Hong Kong to the British, manned by a Chinese and European crew, and carrying a travelling exhibition of Chinese items, the Keying had a troubled voyage. After quarrels on the way and a diversion to New York, culminating in a legal dispute over arrears of wages for Chinese members of the crew, it finally reached London in 1848, where it went on exhibition on the River Thames until 1853. It was then auctioned off, towed to Liverpool, and finally broken up. In this account of the ship, the crew and the voyage, Stephen Davies tells a story of missed opportunities, with an erratic course, overambitious aims, and achievements born of lucky breaks—a microcosm, in fact, of early Hong Kong and of the relations between China and the West.
Stephen Davies is former Museum Director of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and later its first China State Ship building Corporation Research Fellow. He is currently an Hon. Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the University of Hong Kong.
"Stephen Davies reinstates a unique—and long forgotten—voyage of a Chinese junk across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to its rightful place in global history. A remarkable scholarly achievement based on a rare combination of sharp historical analysis, meticulous research and an encyclopedic knowledge of ships and sailing."
—Elizabeth Sinn, author of Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong
"Davies presents a superbly written lively account of the junk Keying and its famous voyage from Hong Kong to New York and London. Being of a naval tradition himself and understanding the intricacies of marine voyages and naval architecture, the author retraces this fascinating story with all the wonderful descriptive details it deserves."
—Paul A. Van Dyke, author of Merchants of Canton and Macao: Politics and Strategies in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade and The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845
"An erudite and scholarly account of a largely forgotten mid-nineteenth century verifiable voyage of the three-masted Chinese trading junk, Keying from Hong Kong to London via the Cape of Good Hope, New York and Boston, which will be of interest to all maritime historians and students of naval architecture."
—Hugh Murphy, Visiting Reader in Maritime History, Royal Museums, Greenwich
"Davies has brought a little-known story of Chinese economic and cultural outreach to light. Rising above the heated controversies regarding just where and how far afield junks could and did travel, he presents an entertaining but carefully documented tale of a nineteenth-century voyage that is redolent of both medieval and modern times."
—Daniel Finamore, Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, Peabody Essex Museum