A famous pirate in Hong Kong, he was a son of a Tanka fisherman who lived in Xinhui of Jiangmen but was kidnapped by the pirate Cheng I and his wife Ching Shih when he was 15. He was adopted by the kidnappers as their son. Cheung Po later took over the pirating business from his adopted parents.
Cheung Po Tsai was active along the Guangdong (Canton) coastal area during the Qing Dynasty. His followers are said to have reached 50,000+ and his fleet said to have possessed 600 ships. His piracy mate was Cai Qian and the two worked together until Cai Qian was destroyed by the Qing government, making Cheung decide to surrender. Cheung Po capitulated to the Chinese government in 1810 and became a captain in the Qing imperial navy, receiving the rank of navy colonel and an appointment in Penghu, far away from Hong Kong. He spent the rest of his life helping the government fight other pirates.
The 1973 Hong Kong action film The Pirate (Da hai dao) has Cheung Po Tsai as its lead character.
The 1983 Hong Kong action film Project A depicts a character based on Cheung Po Tsai. The lead villain, San Po (played by Dick Wei) is a pirate with similar characteristics. Project A's time period is a composite of several in Hong Kong's history.
The 1994 Hong Kong action film Once Upon a Time in China V has Cheung Po Tsai as one of the main villains opposing the protagonist Wong Fei-Hung. As the movie apocrythally takes place shortly after the Boxer Rebellion, however (over seventy years after Cheung Po Tsai had historically lived), Cheung is depicted in that movie as an extremely old man.
Tony Hung portrays Cheung Po Tsai in the 2015 Hong Kong television drama Captain of Destiny, a historical sci-fi series about a 21st-century police officer who meets Cheung Po Tsai after traveling back in time.