MoSho’s Badass of the Week-China’s Prostitue To Pirate Ching Shih
Our badass is a woman who started her life being at the mercy of men and became her own leader- from prostitute to Pirate lord Ching Shih, leader of the Red Flag Fleet.
We're taking a look at Ben Thompson's book "Badass" and finding some of our favorite badasses in history. A few months ago, we discovered an amazing website Badass of the Week. The creator, Ben Thompson, founded the site so others could learn about various badass men and women in history. The site has been around since 2004 and Thompson has written several books on the subject of Badasses through history, as well as the Guts and Glory series of books. Both series look at various types of heroes and villains throughout history. While reading these books, we've found interesting facts, stories and people that we believe should be highlighted so you know more about them.
Chinh Shih, also known as Zheng Shi, started out as a prostitute in a brothel in China. A pirate named Zheng Yi was the leader of the Red Flag Fleet and met Ching and fell in love with her and her beauty. Stories differ on how they came to be married, he may have raided the brothel and married the woman. Other accounts say he simply asked and she went off with him, as long as she could have say in his organization. Either way, they were married and Chinh Shi and Zheng Yi ran the Red Fleet together and Zheng Yi was given an equal share of his plunders.
Together, the couple was able to turn his fleet of 200 ships into more than 600 ships and have a pirate fleet with 50,000 to 70,000 pirates all serving the couple. Sadly, Zheng Shih died only six years into the couple's marriage and threw the hierarchy of the pirate fleet into confusion. Chinh Shi could have stepped down and allowed the couple's second-in-command to take over but instead with his blessing became the Red Flag Fleet's leader. Once Ching Shih took control, she enacted strict pirate laws to help unify the people and give structure to their pirate organization. All loot was registered with 20% going to the ship and 80% going to the Red Flag's collective fund, according to Ancient-Origins. If ugly women were captured they would be released but if a pirate wished to keep a beautiful woman he would have to marry her, treat her well and be faithful. Failure to comply with those laws would result in the pirate's execution. Rape was also an executable offense as was adultery.
The Red Flag Fleet became such a formidable enemy that the Chinese launched an attack against Ching Shih but lost and the Red Flag Fleet was able to capture their ships. She also won battles against British and Portugese navy ships. Finally, in 1810, the Qing Dynasty offered the pirates amnesty if they would stop plundering coastal towns and ships. Ching Shih negotiated with the Qing Dynasty so that she would be able to keep all of her loot and she could marry her second-in-command, Chang Pao. They agreed and she took her fortune and moved to open a casino/brothel. She died peacefully surrounded by her family at the ripe old age of 69.