Zheng Yi Sao

1775 - 1844

Zheng Yi Sao, also known as Ching Shih, was a Chinese pirate leader who was active in the South China Sea from 1801 to 1810.
Born as Shi Yang in 1775 to humble origins, she married a pirate named Zheng Yi at age 26 in 1801. Zheng Yi Sao was a honorific bestowed upon her by the people of Guangdong, meaning wife of Zheng Yi. After the death of her husband in 1807, she took control of his pirate confederation with the support of his adopted son Zhang Bao, who she entered into a relationship with and later married. As the unofficial commander of the Guangdong Pirate Confederation, her fleet was composed of 400 junks and between 40,000 to 60,000 pirates in 1805. Her ships entered into conflict with several major powers, such as the East India Company, the Portuguese Empire, and Qing China.
In 1810, Zheng Yi Sao negotiated a surrender to the Qing authorities which allowed her and Zhang Bao to retain a substantial fleet and avoid prosecution. At the time of her surrender, she personally commanded 24 ships and over 1400 pirates. She died in 1844 at the approximate age of 68, having lived a relatively peaceful and prosperous life since the end of her career in piracy.
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