Episode 9: Queen of Pirates: Cheng I Sao


As the 19th century loomed, China experienced a huge boom in piracy—and the largest, most terrifyingly organized fleet that menaced the South China Sea was led by…a woman. Madame Cheng (remembered as Cheng I Sao or Ching Shih) had a meteoric rise from impoverished sex worker to climb to arguably the most successful and influential pirate of all time. Should we cheer her on—or remember her as a criminal?


Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810, by Dian Murray

“One Woman's Rise to Power: Cheng I's Wife and the Pirates,” by Dian Murray, published in Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 8, No. 3

Piracy in Early Modern China,” by Robert Antony, International Institute for Asian Studies newsletter #35

Asian Piracy,” by Sebastian R. Prange, Oxford Research Encyclopedia

The History of Piracy, by Philip Gosse


“Guilty” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Gnossiennes no. 1” by Erik Satie, via musopen.org

Tori Telfer