Ching Shih was one of the most badass pirates of all time. In a ten-year span, Ching's "Red Flag Fleet", a pirate armada consisting of somewhere around four hundred Chinese twenty-gun junks and several thousand men, sailed up and down the coast of Imperial China kicking asses, sacking towns, breaking necks and cashing cheques. Few pirates ever enjoyed such unbridled financial and military success as the Red Flag Fleet, thanks in a large part to the cunning and ruthlessness of Captain Ching Shih and her desire to be the most feared pirate in history.
Yeah, that's right. I said her.
Ching Shih's origins are a mystery to historians. She first appears in historical records in 1801, as a Chinese prostitute taken to be the wife of Cheng I, a notorious pirate captain. Now Cheng I already had a pretty sweet deal going with his pirate fleet, and like any pirate worth his eyepatch he enjoyed kicking an ass or two. However, things really started to pick up once Ching Shih showed up on the scene. Then all of a sudden the Red Flag Fleet was like a fucking super-size scrotum-kicking machine in a room full of men with elephantiasis of the balls.
Cheng I ended up on the wrong side of a tsunami and died in 1807, so Ching Shih married her husband's First Mate and started running the show herself. Now a lot of people weren't too keen on having a chick for an Admiral, so like any good pirate would, Ching exerted her authority by laying down a pirate code of conduct that made Abu Gharib look like fucking Club Med. If you stole or looted from a town that provided assistance or tribute to the pirate fleet, Ching would chop your fucking head off with a battle axe and dump your lifeless body in the ocean. If you stole from the pirate treasury, or she thought you were stealing from the pirate treasury, Ching would chop your fucking head off with a battle axe and dump your lifeless body in the ocean. Raping any captured female prisoners was punishable by death. Fuck, if you had consensual sex while on duty you got your head chopped off and the babe you were getting it on with would be strapped to a couple cannnonballs and chucked off the side of the boat. Ching wasn't fucking around, and she wanted to make damn sure you weren't fucking around when you should have been working. Plus, she knew that cultivating tons of pent-up sexual frustration was a good way to end up with a bunch of pissed-off guys who were more than eager to take out their aggression on any dumbass pirate hunters stupid enough to get in their way. If you weren't able to handle it, and tried to go AWOL she would track you down, chop off your ear and pass it around to all of the other pirates with a note on it saying, "this guy ran like a little fucking bitch because he was a total pussy."
Throughout the remainder of 1807 Ching sailed up and down the Chinese coastline plundering ships, sacking towns and being an all-around scourge on society. She would sometimes even take her shallow-bottomed boats and row them up small rivers to attack towns that were least expecting it. She rarely lost a battle, and any resistance she faced was crushed handily. One time, two dumbass towns decided it would be a good idea to raise an army and attack her fucking pirate army. Just think about how stupid that is for a minute. Ching not only paddled their asses like a Frat Brother during Pledge Week, but after the peasant armies were crushed she sacked the two towns and beheaded any man stupid enough to be hanging out inside the city walls.
Ching gets ready to fuck somebody up.
In 1808 the Chinese government finally got fed up with Ching's shit. They commissioned an Imperial fleet so set sail and attack the Red Flag Fleet. Now most Caribbean pirates and privateers would have taken this opportunity to find a nice big cave and hide out for a few months. Not Ching. She sailed right out and met the Navy head-on, and kicked their fucking asses. During the fighting, she was able to capture sixty-three ships from the Chinese Navy. Any sailors she came across had two options - they could either join the pirates or they could be tied down to the deck and beaten to death with clubs. As you can imagine, it wasn't too difficult for her to replace the pirate soldiers who had fallen in battle. Her military success was so ultimate and her wrath so terrible that the goddamned Admiral of the Chinese Navy, Kwo Lang, committed suicide when being faced with the prospect of being captured by her forces.
Over the next two years, Ching Shih would do battle with a renegade group of mutinous pirates and would face Dutch and British warships that had been called in by China for the explicit purpose of turning the Red Flag Fleet into a coral reef. None of them were successful in defeating her. In 1810, Ching accepted a general offer of amnesty from the Chinese government. She and her force of seventeen thousand men pulled their two hundred ships into port for the last time and were allowed to keep their plunder and retire to quiet lives in the Chinese countryside. Ching lived to the ripe old age of 69, spending her days running a brothel/casino and being a big-time pimpmaster.
Ching Shih assembled and ran one of the most formidable pirate armadas the world has ever seen. Her forces wreaked havoc not only among the merchant shipping population, but were also incredibly successful at going toe-to-toe with the Chinese Navy in large-scale sea battles. She was tough, well-respected, had a formidable code of honor, and was militarily and tactically superior to a number of Chinese and European naval commanders. And best of all, she was able to get away with everything, keep all of her loot and avoid suffering the indignity of a death by hanging.