Zheng Yi (pirate)

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Zheng Yi
Native name simplified Chinese: 郑一; traditional Chinese: 鄭一; pinyin: Zhèng Yī; Wade–Giles: Cheng I
Born 1765 (1765)
Xin'an County, Guangdong, China
Died November 16, 1807(1807-11-16) (aged 41–42)
Nguyễn Vietnam
Occupation pirate
Ching Shih (m. 1801–1807)
  • Zheng Ying Shi (son)
  • Zheng Xiong Shi (son)
Parent(s) Zheng Lian Chang (father)
Relatives Zheng Qi (cousin)
Cheung Po Tsai (adopted son)
Piratical career
Type Pirate
Allegiance Red Flag Fleet
Years active late 1700s – early 1800s
Rank fleet commander
Base of operations Leizhou Peninsula, South China Sea
Commands Red Flag Fleet (300 ships of 20,000-40,000 pirates)

Zheng Yi (simplified Chinese: 郑一; traditional Chinese: 鄭一; pinyin: Zhèng Yī; Wade–Giles: Cheng I; Cantonese: Jihng Yāt, also romanised as Cheng Yud and translated as Cheng One; 1765 – 16 November 1807)[1] was a powerful Chinese pirate operating from Guangdong and throughout the South China Sea in the late 1700s.


Zheng Yi was born in 1765 in Xin'an County, Guangdong, China, his family had been pirates for generations, he was heavily involved in government intrigue and was instrumental in China's interventions during the Tây Sơn dynasty's control of Vietnam. In the year of about 1798, Zheng Yi kidnapped Cheung Po, a 15-year-old son of a Tankan fisherman and pressed him into piracy. There are some rumors that he took the young man as a lover. Cheung Po's natural talent helped him adapt well to his unplanned new career, and he rose swiftly through the ranks.

In 1801, the nefarious intrigues of the 26 year old Cantonese brothel madame or prostitute known as Shi Xianggu (Chinese: 石香姑; Jyutping: sek6 hoeng1 gu1), known for her shrewd business savvy and trade in secrets through the pillow talk of her wealthy and political clientele, caught his attention. Either he became infatuated with her or purely as a business move, Zheng Yi made a proposal of marriage to Shi Xianggu 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. Shi Xianggu took the name of Cheng I Sao or "Zheng Yi Sao" (simplified Chinese: 郑一嫂; traditional Chinese: 鄭一嫂; pinyin: zhèng yī sǎo; meaning "wife of Zheng Yi"). They adopted Cheung Po as their step-son, making him Zheng's legal heir. She also bore him two sons; Zheng Ying Shi (simplified Chinese: 郑英石; traditional Chinese: 鄭英石; pinyin: zhèng yīng shí) and Zheng Xiong Shi (simplified Chinese: 郑雄石; traditional Chinese: 鄭雄石; pinyin: Zhèng xióng shí).

Zheng Yi used military assertion and his reputation to consolidate a coalition of competing Cantonese pirate fleets of uncertain numbers into an alliance. By 1804, this coalition was a formidable force, and one of the most powerful pirate fleets in all of China, they were known as the Red Flag Fleet.


Zheng Yi died in Vietnam on 16 November 1807, sources varied as he died in a typhoon or in an accident, falling overboard and some even pointed at his wife, or his new heir. Soon after his death, his widow Ching Shih (simplified Chinese: 郑氏; traditional Chinese: 鄭氏; pinyin: Zhèng Shì; meaning "widow of Zheng") acted quickly to solidify the partnership with her step-son Cheung Po which soon became intimate. Their first success came when they are able to secure the loyalty of Zheng's relatives, they became lovers within weeks. Cheung Po, best known as Cheung Po Tsai, would act as Ching Shih's second-in-command of the Red Flag Fleet.[2]

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. ^ https://www.headstuff.org/history/ching-shih-and-cheung-po-tsai-pirate-monarchs/