Koxinga: History and the legends
（Professor, History Department, National Central University ）
2001-04-30 A portrait of Koxinga
Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) was the first HanChinese leader to hold political power in thehistory of Taiwan. Although he died less than ayear after his arrival in Taiwan, and the ruleof the Cheng family lasted only 12 years,Koxinga was not categorized as a roving banditbecause of political failure. On the contrary,in Taiwanese folk legend, his every action andinteraction with others has been depicted as that of a saint or a sage, and temples havebeenconsecrated to him all over Taiwan. The peopleof Taiwan see Koxinga as the original ancestorwho developed Taiwan. This week, we have invitedProfessor Tai Pao-tsun from the historydepartment at National Central University totell us about this legendary figure in Taiwanesehistory.
340 years ago, on April 30, 1661, Koxinga lead armedforces ashore to Luerhmen, Tainan, and besieged theDutch for nine months, and then forced them out ofTaiwan, which they had ruled for 38 years. Koxingawanted to use Taiwan as a base for his resistanceagainst the Qing empire, but in 1662, he suddenlyfell ill and died, and his kingdom of Tung-ning wasinherited by his son, Zheng Qing, and then by thethird generation, his grandson, Zheng Keshuang, whowas defeated and overthrown in 1683 by a Qing generalnamed Shi Lang. Although Koxinga’s time in Taiwanwas short, he left behind many stories and legends.
Family background and education
Zheng Chenggong’s (1624-1662) hometown was Nan’an,in Quanzhou, Fujian, and his father, Zheng Zhilong(1600-1661) was a maritime merchant and pirate, whoin 1622 came to Peikang in Taiwan with Yan Siqi,and often went to Hirato in Japan to trade. As aconsequence of this last connection, he married aJapanese woman by the name of Tamura Matsu. In 1624,Zheng Chenggong’ was born. The coastal area where hewas born still has a relic called the “childbirthstone.” Zheng Chenggong”s mother, Tamura, raisedhim on her own until he was seven, and had greatinfluence on the development of his personality.In 1630, Zheng Zhilong took him back to Nan’an forhis education. Because women were forbidden fromleaving Japan, Tamura was unable to accompany him.Zheng Zhilong engaged Confucian scholars to educateZheng Chenggong, so that he might be able to passthe imperial examinations.
The origin of the name “Koxinga”
The Ming empire fell in 1644, but the coastalareas of the southeast, princes such as PrinceFu, Prince Tang, Prince Lu and Prince Gui,endeavored to fight back and prolong thepolitical power of the Ming empire. Prince Tanghad influence in Fuzhou, and received thesupport of Zheng Zhilong, and since Prince Tanghad no sons to succeed him, Zheng Zhilongarranged for Zheng Chenggong to serve him, andso he became known as “Guo-xing-ye,” which means”lord of the royal surname.” [The Dutch laterromanized the name as Koxinga]
Father and son have different ideas and part company
Zheng Zhilong did not put his heart and soul intohelping Prince Tang resist the Qing, instead he usedhis position and achievements to throw his weight around,and in 1646, the Qing army attacked Fujian and PrinceTang was taken prisoner and died. Zheng Zhilong saw thatthe Southern Ming had no way of succeeding, andsurrendered to the Qing court. Koxinga had argued longand hard with his father, but it was impossible to gethim to change his opportunistic behavior, and in the endthey parted company, each going his own way. Not longafterwards, Qing troops attacked Nan’an. Koxinga’s motherTamura, from whom he had been separated for more than 10years, finally came over from Hirato, but was raped andkilled, which made Koxinga all the more implacable andbent on revenge towards the Qing court. Thereupon,taking Xiamen and Jinmen (Amoy and Quemoy) as his bases,he supported Prince Gui (Emperor Yongli), received fromhim the title of “Prince of Yanping Prefecture,” andwaged war against the Qing army in the coastal regionsof Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang.
The last Dutch governor, FrederickCoijett, surrenders to Koxinga
In May 1658, Koxinga commanded 170,000 amphibioustroops on a campaign to the north, and planned toattack Nanjing, but because he was unablecollaborate with Zhang Huangyan from the YangtzeRiver Basin and wage war with full force, the Qingarmy defended the city and prevented war. Koxinga’sarmy did not have enough food to feed itself, soultimately Koxinga did not attack Nanjing butinstead returned to Xiamen. Koxinga thought thatwith only Xiamen and Jinmen, it would be difficultto resist the Qing in the long term, and on top ofthis, the Qing court was using a policy of banningmaritime trade, which blocked financial resourcesfrom trading for Koxinga’s army. Koxinga’s familyhad traded with the Dutch in Taiwan in the past,and a man named He Bin, who worked for the Dutchin Taiwan, had come to Xiamen to seek shelter. HeBin apprised Koxinga of the military situation inTainan, and gave him information about thegeographical topography, whereupon Koxinga acceptedmilitary staff office Chen Yonghua’s suggestion thathe mobilize his army to capture Taiwan.
Establishing the first Han Chinese political rulein Taiwan’s history
In April 1661, Koxinga led around 400 warships and25,000 troops from Xiamen via Penghu (the Pescadores)to attack Taiwan, and in the morning of April 30,Koxinga’s army landed at what is now Luerhmen inTainan. Folk legend tells that before Koxinga cameashore, because they had run out of food, and sincesandbanks were making it difficult to come to shore,Koxinga stood on the bow of his ship and burnedincense to Matzu. As a result, the tide swelledand Koxinga’s army was able to come ashore smoothly.Later on, Koxinga built a temple which he dedicatedto Matzu on the spot where he had landed. Thetopography of the coast at Tainan has changeddramatically, so although Tuchengtsu and Hsienkungli,to the south both have large Matzu temples with longhistories, which of them is genuinely at the spotwhere Koxinga came ashore has long been a topic ofdebate.
鄭軍登陸後即圍困荷蘭人，經過數次攻防戰及書信往來，至1662年1 月底荷人決議和談投降，2月1日雙方簽訂合約，荷方留下在熱蘭遮城的物資財貨，私人財物及生活物品則可以攜離，官員、軍隊、平民均可自由安全離台，2月9日荷蘭末代總督揆一交出城鑰，率領2 千人的船隊返航巴達維亞，即雅加達，結束荷蘭在台灣38年的殖民統治，台灣歷史上第一個漢人政權正式建立。
After Koxinga’s troops landed, they immediately besiegedthe Dutch, and after numerous attacks, defenses andexchanges of written communication, at the end ofJanuary 1662, the Dutch resolved to negotiate andsurrender. On February 1, both sides signed a treaty.The Dutch left the goods and property behind at FortZeelandia, but all officials, soldiers and ordinarypeople were free to leave Taiwan, with their personalbelongings and supplies. On February 9, the last Dutchgovernor, Frederick Coijett, handed over the keys tothe fort, and led two thousand people back, by sea,to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), thereby ending 38years of Dutch colonial rule in Taiwan, and formallyestablishing the first Han Chinese political rule inthe history of Taiwan.
Koxinga’s troops marching on fortZeelandia (rare Dutch Illustration,1669)
Opinions divided on the cause of death
The Dutch left Taiwan at the beginning of February, andKoxinga died at the end of June. There are many differentexplanations concerning his death, some say that it wasbecause of his defeat at Nanjing in 1658, at thebeginning of 1662, Prince Gui was betrayed by Wu Sangui,taken prisoner and killed, or because Koxinga’spersonality was harsh, and he was severe with hisinferiors, and so many of his army deserted him. Thereis also the explanation that a false rumor reached thePhilippines, that Koxinga was going to invade and takethe Philippines, and local Chinese were acting as plants,which brought about a tragic massacre of Chinese peopleby the Spanish, and this made it hard for Koxinga to puthis mind at rest. There’s also the fact that his father,Zheng Zhilong, was sent into exile in the northeast,because his son had rebelled against the Qing, and at theend of 1661, he was put to death in Beijing, and the Qingcourt even sent people to desecrate his family’s ancestralgraves, all of which made Koxinga extremely upset andindignant. After Koxinga arrived in Taiwan, he left hiseldest son, Zheng Jing, to guard Xiamen. Zheng Jing hadan affair with his younger brother’s wet nurse, a womanby the name of Chen, and this liaison produced a son.Koxinga was furious, and considered this behaviorunpardonable, and he ordered an officer to go to Xiamenand kill this child. The officer unexpectedly disobeyedthese orders, causing Koxinga great distress and anger,with the result that he fell ill and died. In actual fact,the real cause of his death was most likely contraction ofmalaria, because the Taiwan of those days was rife withcontagious diseases, and malaria claimed countless lives.Koxinga died in his prime, and malaria must have been thefateful hand of death which took his life. The otherstories described above are simply the exaggerated legendsof a folk hero.
Deified figure: legends about Koxinga
Koxinga has become a sanctified historical figure in Taiwan,and so many legends concerning him abound in different places.For instance, fish and snails that Koxinga ate are called”Koxing-fish” and “Koxing-snails,” and there is a village inNantou called “Kuohshing Hsiang” (“Koxing-Village”). InTsaotun Township, Taichung County, legend tells that Koxinga’sarmy passed through that place, and rested a while therebecause of rain, and the mud which they shook off their strawshoes piled up to become the Straw Shoe Mound. At Tachiah inTaichung, there is a hill called Anvil Hill, with a wellcalled the Sword Well. Legend says that Koxinga’s army passedby, in need of drinking water, and Koxinga used the point ofhis sword to pierce open a well, from which sweet water gushedforth. In Ying-ko, in Taipei County, there is the Ying-ko Rock.The story behind this is that Koxinga’s army passed throughthis place, where there was an old eagle who made mischief. Theeagle was shot by a cannon and was turned into stone, and becamethe “Eagle Hill” in Sanhsia. In Keelung there is a Fairy Cavewhere, so the story goes, rice flowed out of the cave to feedKoxinga’s army, but the soldiers became lazy and dug deeper intothe cave, and the rice stopped flowing out. These tales reflectthe fact that it was Koxinga who brought the Han Chinese toTaiwan, and Taiwanese people still see Koxinga as the originalancestor who opened up Taiwan, which is why he is known as the”sage king who opened up Taiwan,” and worshiped as a deity.Taiwan has a total of 63 temples devoted to this “sage king,”the most representative of which is Tainan’s “Shrine of thePrince of Yanping Prefecture.”
Edited by Hsu, Shiou-Iuan/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile