Wang Zhi (pirate)

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wang.

Wang Zhi (Chinese: 汪直 or 王直)[1] was a Chinese pirate and trader of the 16th century,[2] one of the chief named and known figures among the wokou ("Japanese" pirates; wako in Japanese) prevalent during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor. Wang Zhi arrived in Japan in the 1540s and made his base in the Goto Islands. Although he was the leader of a great smuggling syndicate that launched many raids against China, he himself claimed to have never participated in a raid in person. Indeed, Wang Zhi considered himself a "sea merchant" (Chinese haishang 海商).,[3] In the end, the Chinese government thought otherwise, and beheaded him.

Wang Zhi was the captain of the Chinese junk that carried a number of Portuguese traders that shipwrecked on Tanegashima, off the coast of Japan in 1543, marking the first contact between Europe and Japan. [4] Under the name of Wufeng (五峰), Wang Zhi acted as an interpreter when the Portuguese landed. [5]

In 2000, a monument was erected to Wang Zhi in his hometown of Huangshan City. In 2005, two Chinese professors defaced this monument, stating that Wang Zhi was a "race traitor".[6] However, Wang Zhi was only one of the more successful Chinese pirate-merchants working with Japanese during this period. Indeed, the international character of wako makes them very similar to buccaneers of the West.


  1. Note: The History of Ming records his name as 汪直, whilst the Annals of Zhejiang lists his name as 王直.
  2. Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1334–1615. Stanford University Press. p. 268. ISBN 0804705259.
  3. Kojima Tsuyoshi. 海からみた歴史と伝統, pp. 95-102
  4. Arano, Yasunori. "The Formation of a Japanocentric World Order." International Journal of Asian Studies 2:2 (2005). p189.
  5. Marius B. Jansen. "China in the Tokugawa World," p. 7.
  6. 新華社通信オンライン2005年2月2日記事「日本人が建てた倭寇の墓壊す=「中国人蔑視」と反発−安徽省」
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