History Meme: [1/6] Women→ Ching Shih

Born during 1775, Ching Shih began working in a floating brothel at the age of 26. While working there, Ching Shin, whose birth name is unknown, met Zheng Yi. Zheng Yi was a successful pirate and commander of the Red Flag Fleet. The two began to work together and their fleet grew from 200 ships to 600 to 1800 ships.

On the sixteenth of November, 1807, Zheng Yi died. Ching Shih convinced the second-in-command Chang Pao to support her taking command of the fleet. Chang Pao became second-in-command to Ching Shih and lead the men. Ching Shih ran the business side, with planning military strategies and strengthening the fleet. During 1810, Ching Shih commanded 1800 ships and 70,000 to 80,000 men. She dominated the South Chinese Sea. Ching Shih was a ruthless but fair leader with strict rules regarding behavior aboard her ships. Her battles were not restricted to sea battles, and Ching Shih ransacked numerous towns. She easily defeated the Chinese, British and Portuguese armadas.

Admitting defeat, the Emperor decided to offer Ching Shih and her crew amnesty. Ching Shin initially rejected the amnesty treaty but later renegotiated terms for a peace treaty. This peace treaty meant some of her crew her executed, some were otherwise punished, some were set free with compensation for switching to life on the mainland after life and sea and some joined the military. Ching Shih’s second-in-command and husband Chang Pao was given command of twenty ships in the Qing Dynasty navy.

Ching Shih kept her fortune and acquired the title of ‘Lady by Imperial Decree.’ She later retired and opened a gambling house and brothel, which she managed until her death at age 69.