Chinese pirates in Taiwan

Koxinga, 1624-1662, known in China as Zheng Chenggong, was a scholar, a pirate and aMing loyalist. He was born in Japan, the son of a Chinese father and a Japanese mother. At the age of seven he moved to China where he successfully sat for the imperial exams. When Manchu tribes began their takeover of the country in 1644, and eventually established their own, Qing, dynasty, Koxinga continued to fight for the Ming cause. In 1656, partly helped by a big storm, he managed to destroy the Qing navy and continued on to the island of Taiwan. In the eyes of the new regime, he was an outlaw and a pirate.

In the early part of the seventeenth century Taiwan was controlled by the Dutch East India Company. [Read more: “De Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie”] Undaunted by the power of the Europeans, Koxinga laid a siege on their major fortification, Fort Zeelandia, in the city of Tainan, and eventually defeated them in 1661. Yet only a year later, when conducting raids in the Philippines, he contracted malaria and died, only thirty-seven years old. In 1683, the Qing army defeated Koxinga’s descendants, claiming Taiwan as a part of the Chinese empire.

In today’s Taiwan there are temples dedicated to Koxinga and he is remembered as a hero and as something of a saint. After 1949, when Guomindang, the Chinese nationalists, were defeated by Mao’s Communists, they, just as Koxinga, took refuge in Taiwan. And just like him, they regarded the island as a staging-post for a reconquest of the mainland. Yet Koxinga has been remembered in other ways as well. Taiwanese people who want to remain independent from China emphasize that Koxinga effectively turned the island into a self-governing territory. The only Taiwanese who refuse to acknowledge Koxinga’s memory are the original inhabitants, the aborigines, which make up about 2 percent of the island’s population. As a result of Koxinga’s occupation they were pushed off the best agricultural land and their lucrative trade with the Dutch came to a halt.

When the leaders in Beijing insist that “Taiwan is an eternal part of the motherland,” they are wrong. First there were only aborigines on the island; then came the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the Dutch. Only after that came the Chinese – and Koxinga, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, was the first Chinese ruler on the island.

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Taiwanese national anthem

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