Zheng Yi - Pirate of Chinese Sea - Cheng I
Cheng Yi or Zheng Yi
(also known as Cheng I and Cheng Yud) was one of the most powerful pirate captains that operated in the Chinese Sea during late 18th century. He was born in 1765,
and at the end of that century, he grew his business of piracy to such a
high level that he even forged a strong connection with Mac Dynasty that
then ruled China. His main base of operations was Canton (Guangdong) where
his large fleet of pirate ships preyed upon numerous merchant shipping
lanes, although he did not hesitate to move his fleet across other parts of
the South Chinese sea. One of his most nefarious feats happened when he
disturbed shipping lanes near the shores of Vietnam when Mac Dynasty sought
to take control of it.
The love life of Cheng I was very complicated since he was unable to marry
his true love, son of Tonkan fisherman named Chang Paou. Since Chang Paou
was much younger than Cheng Yi, the pirate captain elected to adopt him as
his son officially and managed to remain close and romantically involved
with them that way. He awarded him with full inheritance rights and even
command of the part of his large fleet.
However, that was not the end of the romantic troubles for Cheng Yi. Seeing
the rise of the nefarious and highly capable Madame Ching Shih (also known
as Shih Yan), Cantonese brother owner and commander of her pirate fleet,
both of them elected to strengthen their businesses and marry each other.
With their combined fleets and the smart political decisions of Madame
Ching Shih, in 1804 their mighty pirate fleet grew to the impressive size
of 1800 ships and nearly 150 thousand pirates. This alliance of pirates was
known as “Red Flag Fleet”, the largest sea pirate fleet in the history of
our world and a formidable force that not even Chinese royal family had the
resources to tackle head on.
The struggle for power within the dysfunctional family
where Cheng I, his lover Chang Paou and his wife Ching Shih all shared the
same bed intensified even further after the death of Cheng I on 16 November
1807. He drowned after falling overboard in Vietnam, but many to this day
suspect that his death was not accidental and was in fact orchestrated by
his wife. After his death, Ching Shih and Chang Paou struggled to remain in control of the large pirate fleet
that eventually splintered into six large squadrons. After managing to
secure royal pardons from Qing Emperor Jiaqing, they both retired. Madame
Ching Shih went back to controlling brothels, gambling, and smuggling until
her natural death in 1844 at the age of 69, while young Chang Paou became commander of the Imperial Fleet and hunted the
remains of his old pirate alliance until he died in his late 30s. He is
today remembered as the only member of his famous love triangle that is
viewed in positive light.