After her husband, the notorious pirate Cheng I, died in 1807, Ching Shih maneuvered her way into his position of power, eventually becoming one of the most feared pirates on the China Sea. She commanded a fleet of more than 200 ships, manned by anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 pirates. Shih united the pirates by establishing a code of laws that was strictly enforced, with punishments ranging from flogging to immediate beheading. In 1810, Shih took advantage of the amnesty offered to pirates by the Chinese government, becoming one of the only pirates in history to successfully “retire” from the career with her wealth, and health, intact. She used her loot to open a gambling house, which she ran until her death in 1844.
Illustration by Kaye Blegvad. Blegvad is an illustrator and general maker-of-things, born and raised in London and now based in Brooklyn.
Photo by unsplash
This article originally appeared in the Wild issue. For more inspiring stories about women, check out What I Learned as a Woman Traveling Alone and The Journey of a Female Sommelier: From Paris to New York.