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Director John Woo's latest two-part epic The Crossing opens today (Dec 2) and has already earned the nickname of "China's Titanic," as the story focuses on star-crossed lovers aboard a doomed ship.

SS Taiping sailed from Shanghai to Keelung on Taiwan on January 27, 1949, with 1,000-1,500 passengers aboard but was only designed to carry around 500. Sailing through the East China Sea's Zhoushan Archipelago, Taiping collided with cargo ship Chienyuan while sailing with its lights out  as the sailing took place towards the end of the Chinese Civil War, running dark was ironically intended to keep the ship safe. Reportedly no bodies were ever recovered, although some may have washed up on nearby islands.

The ship sank quickly, with only 36 people ultimately rescued. Although Taiping was not as luxurious as Titanic, nor as large, Taiping's passengers tended to be rich and powerful, hence earning it the Titanic comparison. Also, if the death toll of 1,500 is to be believed  the total number on board Taiping is not definitively known  it would be similar to Titanic's loss of 1,517.

Also like Titanic, Taiping is not the worst shipwreck in Chinese history, although both are often believed to be apex disasters. However, the combination of wealth, power, and tragedy have imprinted the sinking of Taiping into the contemporary Chinese memory.

More stories by this author here.

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Photo: Live for Films


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