Famous Pirates #10: Ching Shih (Chinese, 1785-1844)

Also known as Cheng I Sao, Ching Shih is not only the most successful of all female pirates, she is also the most fascinating. She gained equality to her husband, the pirate Cheng and took over his operation upon his demise. She ordained her husband’s second-in-command, her adopted son, Cheung Po Tsai, the captain of her fleet (which equaled that of all the other most successful pirates combined). Beautiful and a former prostitute, Captain Sao controlled more than 1,500 ships with 80,000 men, and robbed and taxed towns, plundering ships along the coast of the South China Sea, all the while enforcing a strict code of conduct upon her men. She also married her adopted son, Chang Pao. When the Chinese government offered her universal pirate amnesty in exchange for peace, she accepted. Her pirates, on the other hand, were able to keep their riches and were given military jobs. She lived out her 69 years in charge of a casino and brothel with her husband.

Back to Top