Head of an executed Chinese criminal, English, 1910-1922.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Painted plaster model of the decaptitated head of a Chinese pirate with a long pigtail. Piracy was rife in China and throughout Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The area has a complex maritime geography and the ships of pasing traders, carrying spices, coins, horns (used for medicine) and rare woods, were easy targets. However, the punishments for piracy were severe, and hangings and executions were common reprisals.