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Chinese Pirates

Last modified: 2020-07-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: pirates | chang i sao |
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Cheng I Sao 鄭一嫂

There is one literary reference I know of about Cheng I Sao - A Universal History of Infamy (1935) by Jorges Luis Borges, chapter 'The Widow Ching, Lady Pirate'. In my (French) translation I read that her fleet was composed of six squadrons each flying a flag of a different colour: red, yellow, green, black, purple; the flagship flew one bearing a serpent.

Wikipedia says:

A semi-fictionalized account of Ching Shih's piracy appeared in Jorge Luis Borges's short story The Widow Ching, Lady Pirate (part of A Universal History of Infamy, first edited in 1954), where she is described as "a lady pirate who operated in Asian waters, all the way from the Yellow Sea to the rivers of the Annam coast"

and who, after surrendering to the imperial forces, is pardoned and allowed to live the rest of her life as an opium smuggler. Borges acknowledged the 1932 book The History of Piracy, by Philip Gosse (grandson of the naturalist Philip Henry Gosse), as the source of the tale.
Jan Mertens, 6 November 2008


And Gosse cites from Neumann, C.F.: The History of the Pirates, who infested the China Sea from 1807 to 1810. Translated from the Chinese by C.F. Neumann, London, 1831.

In my Dutch edition of Gosses (Geschiedenis van de Zeeroverij, 1932) the flags of the pirates of Cheng I Sao's Red Fleet are not described.
Jarig Bakker, 6 November 2008