Most Feared Pirate?
This one badass lady...
When you think about pirates a few names immediately spring to mind, Blackbeard, Jack Sparrow, Hook, Pugwash etc. All of which are men. However, terrorizing the high seas and raiding coastal towns and cities was not a male-only exploit.
Meet Ching Shih, she is heralded as one of, if not, the most feared pirate that ever sailed.
Very little is known of her early life, she was born in the Guangdong province of China in 1775. What is known is that she was worked her way up through the ranks in a Guangdong brothel, all the time perfecting her ability to influence men.
Her rise to power started with her marriage to Zheng Yi, who came from a long line of prosperous pirates. She made him promise that she would be treated as an equal in the family business. 6 years later when he died, she succeeded him as head of the Red Flag Fleet.
To maintain order, she enforced a strict code of conduct, including rules for the protection of female captives, victims and slaves - (oxymoron?). Executions of her own crew who disobeyed her were not uncommon.
At its largest, her Red Flag Fleet consisted of over 1,800 ships and between 40,000 to 80,000 male and female pirates. It was so powerful the Chinese government concluded that even with the English and Portuguese navies assistance they could not overpower the fleet. They offered pardons to any pirate that would return ashore.
Ching Shih spent the remainder of her life operating her gambling house in Macao until her death at the age of 69.
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