Ching Shih can be retired to gain 100 Gold (on Standard speed), and to permanently increase rewards for plundering sea Trade Routes by +60%. In Gathering Storm, in addition to increased plundering rewards, retiring Shih grants 500 Gold instead of 100.
From prostitute to pirate lord … not the usual career path for a great admiral, but at her peak Ching Shih commanded the infamous Red Flag Fleet of some 400 cannon-armed junks and over 20 thousand men.
Little is known of her early life, save that she was born as Shi Xiang Gu in the Guangdong province in 1775 AD. At a young age she became a prostitute working in a floating brothel in Canton and there – supposedly taken by her beauty – the pirate Zheng Yi wooed and wed her in 1801. At the time Zheng commanded a modest fleet plundering the trade routes in the South China Sea. Shi soon took a hand in the pirate operations, and together with Zheng they built it into an imposing 200 ships. As the piracy became ever more successful, the Red Flag Fleet fissioned into others, all owing allegiance to Zheng: the Black, White, Yellow, Blue and Green. And Shi helped forge the Cantonese Pirate Coalition with their major competitor, the psychotic Wu Shi’er, whom even other pirates loathed.
But in November 1807 Zheng died in Vietnam, and Shi took over – her name now Ching Shih (simply: “Zheng’s widow”). She set forth strict rules, focused on business and military strategy, and diversified into opium smuggling, slavery, and “protection” of coastal villages, stretching from Macau to Canton, which provided anchorage and supplies. The pirate fleet plundered the trade routes, and defeated all Chinese, Portuguese, and British warships sent to end the “Terror of South China.”
Finally accepting the futility of chasing the Red Flag Fleet, having lost 63 naval ships, the Chinese government offered a general amnesty to Ching Shih and her rogues in 1810. Now respectable, she returned to Canton to open the best gambling house in China, and died peacefully in 1844.