Ching Shih: Prostitute Turned Pirate Commander

Leslie Zemeckis
4 min readMay 15, 2023

By Zilia Thien Nguyen

The Prostitute turned Pirate Commander’s name is Ching Shih and she’s sucking on a fat cigar. She sits on her wooden throne in Macau as she thumbs through the profit she has made from her gambling and brothel houses. She will be dead soon. The children she had with her second husband will inherit her wealth.

Her birth given name was Shi Xianggu, which means truthful and lucky. She wasn’t so at first, but she made her own luck later in life. Ching Shih came from absolutely nothing. She sold her pubescent pussy to make a living to feed her family. She grew up in China in the late eighteenth century where there was no fucking food, no fucking land, and no fucking jobs. Fucking-A.

Her gorgeous cheekbones and deep black eyes lured lustful rich men to her bedroom. As a prostitute, the young Ching Shih would bat her eyes at them and spread her legs like butterfly wings to discover where their loot was hidden, who had the best goods to plunder, and what businesses were most profitable. What were the best businesses to put your money toward? Sin. Always invest in sin. Sex. Alcoholism. Gambling. There’s always money there, always customers.

Ching Shih brought the information she learned as a prostitute to her union with Pirate Lord Zheng Yi. After meeting her on a floating brothel off the coast of China, he proposed marriage. Ching Shih didn’t love him, but she knew love was not a prerequisite for marriage. She accepted under these conditions: that she receive half of his wealth, and control of Zheng Yi’s Red Flag Fleet. He agreed, and with Ching Shih at his side, she increased their ships from two hundred to one thousand and eight hundred. In comparison, the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, who is well inscribed in pirate-lore, managed a mere four ships.

Ching Shih and Zheng Yi worked together successfully for many years until Zheng Yi’s death in Vietnam. How Zheng Yi died remains a mystery. Maybe he died in a typhoon. Maybe he got the clap. Or maybe Ching Shih killed him to gain full control over the entire fleet. Ching Shih knew how to manage the fleet better than her deceased husband. But his heir, an adopted son named Cheung Pao, whom he stole from fisherman parents and forced into piracy, stood in her way. Cheung Pao was not the man Ching Shih planned on marrying next, yet she did so to reclaim her command over the fleet.

Ching Shih was highly respected by her pirate outlaws. She would stalk her ships wearing leather vests and a sword dangling at her hip demanding that pregnant women and the elderly be released from captivity. If you disobeyed her, you were beheaded. Caught cheating on your wife? Fuck you, you’re dead. Stole from the peasants in the village? Fuck you, you’re dead. Raped a woman on the ship? Fuck you, you’re dead.

Ching Shih had everything: power, beauty, money. She commanded the most terrorizing fleet of the nineteenth century. Even the Chinese Emperor couldn’t take her down. He was on his knees pleading for her to stop. She wouldn’t. No matter how hard the Navy tried to defeat and capture her, she always escaped. She raided other pirates. She instructed her men to kill, steal, and burn, and they listened.

Ching Shih was unstoppable. She was feared, she was respected, and she was admired. No one could make Ching Shih surrender. She agreed to back down on her own terms from her post of pirate to receive amnesty from the Chinese Government. No one knows why she retired from her position as Pirate Commander. Maybe she thought she had enough money, deaths, and

power to her name.

The Prostitute turned Pirate Commander sucks on a fat cigar on her wooden throne as she thumbs through the profit she has made off her gambling and brothel houses. Her wrinkled face is powdered, the salt and pepper hair that once wore a pirate’s cap is pulled up in a bun, and her chin, that was once always held up high, now presses against her chest. The cigar falls from her lips onto her lap. She is dead.

Her name was Ching Shih and she was an impoverished prostitute turned notorious prosperous pirate who terrorized the South China Sea.

Writer Zilia Thien Nguyen

Stories Matters is a mentoring program founded by writer Leslie Zemeckis, and co-sponsored by the SBIFF and ENTITY Magazine, for young female writers, nurturing and inspiring the next generation of writers to tell their stories. A weekly intensive with published female author’s giving their time to encourage greatness and share their writing process. The theme was “A Woman You Should Know.” These stories are the best of the bunch, some remain works-in-progress, some will (hopefully) take these stories and turn them into longer pieces. (More info at @lesliezemeckis on IG)



Leslie Zemeckis

Author (Feuding Fan Dancers), Historian (Behind the Burly Q), Actor (Polar Express) & Doc. Director (BOUND BY FLESH -Netflix). (IG/FB @lesliezemeckis)