Ching Shih (also known as Shi Xainggu, Cheng I Sao, Ching Yih Saou, and Zheng Yi Sao) is today remembered as one of the most successful female pirates in the history of the world. During her active years as a pirate lord in early 19th century, she commanded over the famous Red Flag Fleet that consisted of over 1800 ships and 80 thousand male and female pirates. Under her rule, Chinese pirates became invincible, resisting attacks from every major naval power of her time.
Ching Shih was born in 1785 in an unknown location and has spent her youth and young adulthood as a prostitute in Chinese city Canton. Her lifestyle changed dramatically in 1801 when she married Zheng Yi, the famous pirate captain that came from the long and prosperous family of pirates. Before marrying her Zheng Yi managed to unite every major Chinese pirate organization into Red Flag Fleet, but after his death in 1807, Ching Shih managed to maneuver herself into a place of power and took control over the entire organization.
Under her rule Red Flag Fleet flourished. Their incredible strength and power enabled them to pillage and raid every town and ship between Macao to Canton. In addition to controlling the fleet, she also controlled every aspect of the organization's business. Many stories from that time describe her as ruthless - not only to her victims but even to her crew (executions were not uncommon). Fear that she inflicted to the pirate crew was so big that she had the final word in every raid decision, and all captured wealth were presented to her before dividing it to the surviving pirates.
After several years Chinese government came to the conclusion that their military forces (even with the combined help of England and Portuguese) will never break defenses of Shih's pirate operation, they finally issued an amnesty for all pirates who were willing to return to the shore as free citizens. She took advantage of this and negotiated pardon for herself and the vast majority of her fleet (while even retaining all her wealth).
Ching Shih spent the remainder of her life operating her gambling house until her death in 1844, at the age of 69. She had the profound influence on the history and modern popular culture, appearing in several pirate-themed books and movies. Most recently, powerful female pirate with the name Mistress Ching appeared in the third movie of the popular Disney movie franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean".