Ching Shih

Ching Shih (also known as Cheng I Sao, and Ching Yih Saou), was born in 1775, in Canton, China. Ching engaged in illegal activities throughout her early years, therefore not much is known about her childhood, not even her birth name! However, the name most commonly used was Ching Shih, which means ‘widow of Zheng’. In 1801, she married the pirate Zheng Yi.


Zheng Yi belonged to a family of pirates and criminals that traced back to the mid-Seventeenth century. After their marriage, Zheng Yi used military assertion and his family's reputation to gather a group of competing Cantonese pirate fleets into an alliance. By 1804, this group was one of the most powerful pirate forces in all of China.


In 1807, Zheng Yi died, and Ching maneuvered her way into Zheng’s leadership position. The fleet (under Ching’s command) established leadership in many villages, and in some cases, imposed taxes in settlements.

Ching Shih also robbed towns, markets and villages from Macau to Canton.


She ended her career in 1810, accepting a pardon from the Chinese government. She kept her loot, married her lieutenant (Cheung Po Tsai), and opened a gambling house.


Ching died in 1844, at the age of 69.The cause is unknown.