Cheng I

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Cheng I (1765 – 1807) [1] (鄭一, pinyin: Zhèng Yī, Cantonese: Jihng Yāt, also romanised as Cheng Yud and translated into Cheng One) was a powerful Chinese pirate operating from Canton (Guangdong) and throughout the South China Sea in the late 1700s.


Heavily involved in government intrigue, he was instrumental in China's interventions during the Tây Sơn Dynasty's control of Vietnam. Unable to marry his male lover, the son of a Tankan fisherman named Chang Paou who was later famously known as Cheung Po Tsai (called Sao Feng in Disney's portrayal of him in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), Cheng Yi adopted Chang Paou as his son which granted him inheritance rights as well as respect from the crew when Ching Yi appointed him as fleet commander.


In 1801, the nefarious intrigues of the notorious Cantonese brothel Madame Shih Yang, known for her shrewd business savvy and trade in secrets through the pillow talk of her wealthy and political clientele, caught his attention. Purely as a business move, Cheng Yi made a proposal of marriage to Shih Yang to consolidate the powers of intrigue, as it were, which she is said to have agreed to by formal contract granting her a 50% control and share.

Chang Paou thus became her step-son, while at the same time sharing Cheng Yi's bed. Shih Yang (now called "Cheng Yi Sao", meaning "wife of Cheng Yi") proved a formidable warrior and was instrumental in raising the fleet to upwards of 1,800 vessels and nearly 150,000 pirates.


After Cheng Yi "accidentally" drowned by falling overboard on 16 November 1807, Cheng Yi Sao (now called "Cheng Shih" or "Ching Shih", meaning "Cheng's Widow") who was at this point greatly admired and feared by the fleet, forced Chang Paou to marry her and took full command of the fleet.


In 1810 the two began to lose control of the fleet, which they had broken into six squadrons, and they agreed to a treaty with Qing Emperor Jiaqing, receiving full pardons; the two immediately retired. Cheng Shih would go on to operate gambling, opium smuggling and brothel cartels, dying in her sleep at 69 in 1844. Chang Paou was appointed as a commander in the Imperial Fleet, and as "Cheung Po Tsai" he devoted his short life to the destruction of every remnant of the pirate fleet that his two lovers had established, dying in his late 30s of unknown cause. There are several locations near Hong Kong named in his memory.[2][3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dian H. Murray 1987, p.64.:Murray, Dian H. (1987). Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1376-6. 
  2. ^ Dian H. Murray 1987, p.71, Ibid
  3. ^ Rev. Jim Cunningham, D.D., Female Pirates & How Historians Have Intentionally Stolen Their Thunder, 2014, Treasures of Knowledge Publications
  4. ^ Angus Konstam, History of Piracy