Is Our Flag Means Death' Zheng Yi Sao Based on a Real Person?

Is Our Flag Means Death' Zheng Yi Sao Based on a Real Person?
Image credit: Max

The iconic pirate joined the show's roster of characters.

There's no denying that Max's Our Flag Means Death was one of the best premieres of 2022, as the story of a rag-tag crew of LGBTQ+ pirates proved to be not only exciting and compelling as a raunchy romcom, but also a viable source of real-life pirate history. Even the two main characters of the story, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), were based on real pirates, though the personalities were entirely fictional.

In addition, most of the show's characters are based on real pirates, including the recently introduced Anne Bonny, played by the iconic Minnie Driver. But is Zheng Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian) also based on a real person?

An icon among pirates

Although not many people have heard of Sao, she is by far one of the most powerful pirates to ever sail the seas, as this captain essentially ruled the Earth's waters during China's Qing Dynasty.

Sao began her career as a sex worker, but her shrewd nature and businesswoman mentality allowed her to marry pirate Cheng I, Lord of the Red Flag Fleet. After her husband's death, Sao became a pirate lord herself, commanding 1,800,000 ships and 80,000 men, putting Blackbeard to shame.

Sao was feared by pirates and officials alike, and it's not hard to see why. Violent and extremely cunning, she never suffered defeat, even when the East India Company, Chinese, and Portuguese fleets all fought against her at the same time.

In the end, Sao simply grew tired of her pirate life and retired in exchange for total amnesty, living the rest of her life in complete harmony and peace.

OFMD's storylines get bigger and bigger

With the addition of Sao to the show's roster of characters, it became quite obvious that the writers are planning to turn the cozy pirate comedy into a real blockbuster show, as a pirate of Sao's stature must have a storyline worthy of her talents. It's unlikely that the writers will end her story without at least one big battle.

Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episode 4 will premiere on Max on October 12, 2023.

Did you know Sao before you saw her on OFMD?