Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki


Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki
Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki

"The Empress..."
"Sao Feng's flagship!
Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Joshamee Gibbs[src]

The Empress was a notorious opulent Chinese junk that operated during the Age of Piracy. Sailing across the Seven Seas, the Empress was well-known as the flagship of Sao Feng, the Pirate Lord of Singapore and the South China Sea.

During Lord Cutler Beckett's ruthless War Against Piracy, the Empress took part in capturing the Black Pearl. After Sao Feng was betrayed by Beckett, he returned that betrayal by helping the Pearl escape. Because of this, Beckett ordered the Flying Dutchman to track down the Empress, which resulted in the death of Sao Feng. Before he died, Feng gave Elizabeth Swann his piece of eight, along with the title of Pirate Lord and captain. Though the ship was towed by the Dutchman, the Empress escaped and sailed for Shipwreck Cove to meet with the Fourth Brethren Court, where Elizabeth would become the Pirate King. Soon afterwards, the Empress joined the other ships in the Brethren's fleet, where they would stand together in their fight against Beckett's Armada. Led by Tai Huang, the Empress crew witnessed the following battle, which ended in the pirates' victory.


Early use[]

It is unknown when this opulent Chinese junk was built, but she would become the flagship of Captain Sao Feng. Feared throughout the South China Seas, Sao Feng's pirate junk brought despair into the hearts of respectable merchants from the Gulf of Siam to Macao.[2] She would take part in Sao Feng's assistance in Jack Sparrow's search for the Shadow Gold.[4]

War Against Piracy[]

Mutiny on the Pearl[]

"Hoy! We got company!"

The Empress and the Black Pearl off of Black Sand Beach.

The Empress took a rather large part in the War Against Piracy. Following the rescue of Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones' Locker, the Empress would ambush the crew of the Black Pearl off of Black Sand Beach. The ambush was successful with the help of Tai Huang and some of Feng's men aboard the Pearl, who were led by Will Turner in a mutiny. Sao Feng had made a deal with Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company, though was persuaded by fellow Pirate Lord Hector Barbossa to turn against the HMS Endeavour after Beckett's betrayal. Feng agreed to this in exchange for Elizabeth Swann, whom at the time he believed was the sea goddess Calypso. While the Black Pearl attacked the Endeavour, the Empress made its escape, bearing for Shipwreck Cove.[1]

A new captain[]

"Signal the Dutchman to track down Sao Feng. We follow the Pearl."
Cutler Beckett[src]
Empress Flying Dutchman Attack

The Empress attacked by the Flying Dutchman.

Because of Sao Feng's apparent double-cross, Beckett ordered the Flying Dutchman to give chase, and the Empress was attacked the following night. Cannonfire struck the captain's cabin, mortally wounding Sao Feng as he attempted to seduce Elizabeth Swann. While the crew fought against Davy Jones' crew, Feng gave Elizabeth his piece of eight and gave her captaincy of the Empress, asking her to go to Shipwreck Cove and meet with the Brethren Court in his place. Though Tai Huang did not consider Elizabeth a fitting replacement, the crew did not hesitate in assuring Davy Jones that she was indeed the captain.[1]

Admiral James Norrington ordered the Empress was towed by the Flying Dutchman and, in his respect for Elizabeth Swann, sent the crew alive to the Dutchman's brig. During the voyage, Norrington decided to help Elizabeth by setting the crew free, and sacrificed himself to a delusional Bootstrap Bill Turner to allow Elizabeth and her crew to return to their ship. The Empress would reach Shipwreck Cove, where Elizabeth represented Sao Feng in the Brethren Court meeting.[1]

Fighting with the Brethren[]


Tai Huang in command on the Empress.

"I hear that Miss Swann is now captain of the Empress."
Cutler Beckett[src]

During the Fourth Brethren Court, Elizabeth was voted as the new Pirate King. With her new kingship, Elizabeth ordered the Brethren to prepare for war against Lord Beckett. The Empress was part of the Brethren's armada that met with Beckett's armada. By this time, Tai Huang was given command of the Empress while Elizabeth helped out aboard the Black Pearl, which served as the Brethren's flagship.

After the release of the sea goddess Calypso from her human form, the Empress crew witnessed the battle around Calypso's maelstrom. After the battle, which resulted in the death of Davy Jones and Lord Cutler Beckett, Tai Huang and the crew celebrated the pirates' victory.[1] The ship's further fate is unknown.

Design and appearance[]

Empress art

The Empress concept art.

Feared throughout the South China Seas, Sao Feng's pirate junk brought despair into the hearts of respectable merchants from the Gulf of Siam to Macao.[2] The Empress was an opulent junk with sturdy internal walls and sails strengthened by bamboo battens. The junk's aerodynamic sails were not square-rigged as with its Western counterparts, but angled toward the wind, allowing the Empress to sail almost straight into it. A traditional "eye", thought to provide the ship with vision, was painted on the green hull of the Empress. The vessel could hold up to six hundred tons of cargo, and the forward hold was commonly used as a mobile prison. In a cutaway of the Empress it is shown that some prisoners were kept in this prison too long, with their bones still hanging from their shackles.

The vessel was armed with fifteen heavy iron cannons, loaded both with typical cannonballs and "stink bombs": an ancient Chinese practice wherein clay pots loaded with gunpowder, nails, sulfur and other assorted refinements were fired from the cannons as a form of grisly entertainment for the crew.[2] The ornamented cannons resembled the jaws of fearsome dragons.[1]

Sao Feng's personal quarters, located aft of the main deck, were lavishly decorated with exotic dyes and expensive furniture to emphasize the captain's exalted position. Exotic artifacts, such as acupuncture needles, elixirs and fragrance burners, were among Feng's prized possessions kept in his cabin. Feng was known to perform an ancient ritual with these objects to bring good fortune on voyages.[5]

Behind the scenes[]

"For the Empress, we were taking off on the idea of Captain Sao Feng as something of a peacock, so there are design elements which reflect that, such as the long arc of its shape which seems to almost swoop up into a tail on the rear of the ship. There are sail extensions on the sides of the ship which are almost like feathers that help to drive the ship forward."
Rick Heinrichs[src]
  • While the Empress was never named in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End onscreen, it was named behind the scenes and in other media. This includes the film's original screenplay draft,[6] the Calypso's Fury draft,[7] the junior novelization, video game adaption, The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide.
  • Much of At World's End was set on the sea, and in addition to the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman, production designer Rick Heinrichs had designed more ships for the film, including the Hai Peng and the Empress. Both ships were Chinese junks, but a real study in contrasts. The Empress was portrayed by a floating set built atop a barge in At World's End,[8] as the elaborately decorated flagship of Chinese pirate Captain Sao Feng, portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat. Sao Feng's elaborate cabin on the Empress was separately constructed on a Walt Disney Studios soundstage, layered with sensual fabrics, a multitude of burning candles which created atmospheric lighting, and a moon gate entrance. "It really takes great craftsmanship to make a ship like the Empress," said Chow Yun-Fat. "The only problem was that because I was born into a family of farmers, I never went on ships. So when I was on the Empress I got seasick after I went on board! So although the ship was beautiful, I didn't have any feelings because I was too dizzy!"[9]


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Notes and references[]

Crew of the Empress
Captain: Sao Feng
LianParkTai Huang

Captain: Sao Feng
HandmaidensTai Huang

Captain: Elizabeth Swann
HandmaidensTai Huang
Pirate ships in Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirate ships
AdventureBlack BarnacleBlack Bart's shipBlack DogBlack HarbingerBlack PearlBlack Pearl (frigate)BuzzardCenturionChing's flagshipCobraCursed crew's pirate shipCutlassDeath OmenDolphinDragonDying GullEmpressFancyFleur de la MortFortuneFuchuanGhostly SeadogGretchenGrim ReaperHai PengHanyu PinyinHarkawayHMS InterceptorJack Sparrow's sloopJack Sparrow's corvetteJack Sparrow's galleonJack Sparrow's bilanderKing George's AmnestyKin Tai FongKirbacKoldunyaLa Vipère Misty LadyMonkeebuttNemesisNeptuneNingpoOtterParadoxPearlPhantomPirate galleonPrincessQueen Anne's RevengeRangerRed DragonRevenantRevengeRoyal FortuneRuddy RoseSatisfactionSea NymphSea StarSerefSiren's RevengeSongSparrowStorm ReaperSwiftTroubadourVenganzaVictoryWicked Wench