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Gulangyu! Guide to Gulangyu
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in Japan Chinese Legend"
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Dutch Governor of Taiwan"
Last Defender of the Ming Dynasty
the same implacable hatred against the Tartars, proclaimed himself chief
of the dispersed Chinese and gathered large forces around him, with which,
as well on land as on sea, he greatly harassed the enemy and conquered
towns and villages; he performed such gallant deeds of warfare that the
Tartars, who had conquered the whole of China, had more work in trying
to exterminate the sole Koxinga than they had experienced in subduing
so many millions of men, and they soon had to acknowledge that they were
unable to consolidate their position.” (Neglected Formosa, by Frederic
Coyett, Last Dutch Governor of Taiwan, p.1,2)
The massive granite statue greeting ships in Xiamen harbor
is of Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), the last hero to defend the Ming from
the Manchu usurpers. From Gulangyu’s Sunlight Rock he trained troops
to liberate Taiwan from the Dutch, and has been worshipped ever since
not only by Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait but by the Japanese
in Japan” Chinese Legend
Koxinga (1624-1662) was born in Japan, the son of Chinese pirate Zheng
Zhilong and a Japanese maiden of the Tagawa clan. Koxinga’s exploits
were so great that 18th century plays about Koxinga were as popular in
Japan as Shakespearean plays were in Europe. Even today, Japanese legends
claim that on the night of Koxinga’s birth, the skies were ablaze
with shooting stars, auguring an auspicious future for this product of
an early Sino-Japanese joint venture.
Like all good fathers, Zheng Zhilong wanted his son to have what he him-self
had lacked as a youth—namely, lots of homework. He sent 7-year-old
Kox-inga to study in their ancestral home of Nan’an (today, an hour’s
drive north of Xiamen). While Koxinga excelled as a scholar, he learned
too soon that the pen is not always mightier than the sword.
After a peasant army overthrew the Ming dynasty, the Manchus waltzed into
the power vacuum and created the Qing Dynasty. The Han put up a futile
fight, and after a defeat in Fuzhou in 1646, Koxinga’s mother committed
suicide and his opportunistic father capitulated. Confucian filial piety
demanded Kox-inga follow his father’s lead, but he remained loyal
to the Ming.
Koxinga burned his
scholarly Confucian robes, donned armor, and took up the cry “Remember
the Ming!” (Siming!)
On April 21, 1661, Koxinga crossed the Taiwan Strait with 25,000 men and
hundreds of war junks to wrest Taiwan from the Dutch. The shrewd strategist
had waited until the end of the north monsoon so that Dutch sailing ships
could not send warning to colonial authorities in Batavia (now Jakarta).
The Dutch awoke on the misty morning of April 30th to find a “forest
of masts upon the sea.” They were surprised but not overly alarmed,
because they assumed that all Chinese were cowards and would flee like
farmers at the first whiff of gunpowder. They paid for this mistake with
In his fascinating book “Neglected Taiwan,” Frederic Coyett,
the last Dutch governor of Taiwan, recounted the fate of the brave but
brainless Captain Pedel, who waltzed into the midst of several thousand
Chinese warriors with only a couple hundred men:
“Pedel divided his troops into two companies, positioned them, and
called upon them to be brave and to fear not the Chinese enemy, for victory
was certain. Captain Pedel was unwaveringly confident, and his bright,
hopeful attitude inspired the men, who believed that Chinese had no liking
for the smell of powder, or the noise of muskets, and that after the first
charge, in which only a few of them might be shot, they would immediately
take flight and become completely disorganized.
“Such an event actually happened in the year 1652, when two or three
hundred of our soldiers quite overwhelmed and put to flight seven or eight
thousand armed Chinese. Since then, the Hollanders regarded the Chinese
in Formosa as insignificant and effeminate men, and cowardly in warfare.
It was reckoned that twenty-five Chinese were not the equal of one Dutch
sol-dier, and that all Chinese were the same, with no difference between
peas-ants and soldiers; if he was but a native of China, he was a coward
with no backbone. This had come to be quite a fixed conclusion with our
soldiers, and although they had often heard the tales of Koxinga’s
brave exploits against the Tartars, proving his soldiers to be anything
but cowardly, this did not alter the general opinion. Koxinga had so far
only fought the poor, mis-erable Tartars, but had not yet had opportunity
to fight the Netherlanders, who would quickly deal with them and make
them laugh on the wrong side of their faces.
with such thoughts, Captain Pedel said a short prayer and then marched
his men in formation straight towards the enemy, which sent 4,000 fully
armored men to meet him. When the Chinese saw Pedel had only a couple
hundred men, they detached seven or eight hundred soldiers around behind
the hill to attack this little Dutch force from the rear.
“Pedel’s troops courageously marched in rows of twelve towards
the en-emy, and when they came near enough, they charged by firing three
volleys uniformly. The enemy, not less brave, discharged so great a storm
of arrows that they seemed to darken the sky. From both sides a few fell
injured, but contrary to expectations, the Chinese did not run away.
“When the Dutch saw that not only did those in front refuse to flee
but that they were being attacked from behind as well, they realized they
had underestimated their enemy. Fear now replaced the great courage they’d
felt before battle, and many threw down their weapons without firing a
shot at the enemy. Indeed, they took to their heels, with shameful haste,
leaving their brave comrades and valiant Captain in the lurch. Pedel saw
the folly in trying to stand against such overwhelming numbers and wanted
his troops to retreat in good order, but his soldiers would not listen.
Fear had the upper-hand, and life was dear to them; each therefore sought
to save himself. The Chinese saw the disorder and attacked still more
vigorously, cutting down all before them. They gave no quarter, but went
on until the Captain with one hundred and eighteen of his army were slain
on the field of battle, as a pen-alty for making light of the enemy.”
It was a sore lesson, and as the siege dragged on, Kox-inga rubbed salt
in the wound by reminding Governor Coyett:
“On land you
saw how the pride of Captain Pedel was so much humbled that he with his
men, who are as foolish as himself, could not even bear the look of my
men; and how, on the mere sight of my warriors, they threw down their
arms and willingly awaited their well-deserved punishment with outstretched
necks. Are these not sufficient proofs of your incompetency and inability
to resist my forces?”
Koxinga again urged the Dutch to accept their fate:
“You Hollanders are conceited and senseless people; you will make
yourselves unworthy of the mercy which I now offer; you will subject yourselves
to the highest punishment by proudly opposing the great force I have brought
with the mere handful of men which I am told you have in your Castle;
you will obstinately persevere in this.
“Do you not wish to be wiser? Let your losses at least teach you,
that your power here cannot be compared to a thousandth part of mine.
“…if you still persist in refusing to listen to reason and
decline to do my bidding, and if you wish deliberately to rush to your
ruin, then I will shortly, in your presence, order your Castle to be stormed.
(Here he pointed with one hand towards Fort Provintia.)
“My smart boys
will attack it, conquer it, and demolish it in such a way, that not one
stone will remain standing. If I wish to set my forces to work, then I
am able to move Heaven and Earth; wherever I go, I am destined to win.
Therefore take warning, and think the matter well over.”
Surrender On January
27, 1662, the Dutch surrendered their prize of 38 years, and Chinese on
both sides of the strait rejoiced. But patriotism had taken a toll on
Koxinga’s health, for as one Chinese historian put it, he died five
months later on June 23 of “overwork.” May it be a lesson
to us all.
In 1683, the Qing
government merged Taiwan and Xiamen into one prefec-ture, “Tai Xia
Dao,” and though later they were again divided into two adminis-trative
areas, Xiamen and Taiwan have ever since enjoyed very close ties, since
80% of Taiwanese come from Fujian, and both sides are linked by reverence
for Koxinga, China’s great Made in Japan Hero.
towers 41.2 meters above the sea from its lofty perch upon Fuding Rock,
in Gulangyu’s Bright Moon Garden (Haoyue Yuan). The garden was named
after a poem by Koxinga inscribed upon a Gulangyu rock. “I miss
you so much I can’t sleep, while moonlight seeps through the curtains.”
(Sounds like MTV lyrics, or a Canton-ese pop song).
Professor Shi Yi, from Beijing’s Central Fine Arts College, spent
3 ½ years researching and building her 15.7 meter, 1,617 ton masterpiece,
which consists of 625 blocks of granite. Locals claim the statue protects
Xiamen from typhoons but after the disastrous storm of October, 1999 wreaked
havoc on our beautiful island, I asked a friend, “Where was Koxinga
when we needed him?”
“Koxinga was laid off,” he replied. “Tough times, you
Koxinga Legends on Taiwan
Xiamen has long been
cozy with Taiwan, which for centuries was our “granary” because
our island lacked enough arable land for its burgeoning population of
merchants and traders. Both sides of the Strait are also united in their
devotion to the “Sage King.” Taiwan has 63 temples to Koxinga,
and countless Koxinga legends and customs, most concerning food (not surprising,
since Chinese are adept at both cooking and eating).
Cave in Keelung City
gushed endless rice to feed Koxinga’s army. Alas, the lazy soldiers
must have gone against the grain when they dug deeper into the cave because
the flow of rice ceased.
Koxinga allegedly enjoyed certain kinds of fish and snails, which Taiwanese
now call “Koxinga-Fish” (Guoxing Yu) and Koxinga-Snails”
Sword Well on Anvil Hill
When Koxinga’s thirsty army passed through
Taizhong’s Dajia Town, the Sage King pierced the earth with his
sword tip and sweet water gushed forth. But Gulangyu also has its own
miraculous “Koxinga Well”…
Gulangyu’s Koxinga Well,
in Yanping Park (Yanping Gongyuan) has supposedly produced sweet water
for over three centuries, even though it lies so close to Gulangyu’s
Gangzihou Beach and the sea.
It is said that Koxinga’s soldiers were digging the well when they
encoun-tered a stone at 3 meters, and plopped down on the ground, discouraged
Koxinga dropped by to see how the well was coming along. When he heard
the hard news, he crawled into the hole to examine the well closely, and
discov-ered the sandy soil was moist. “You’re discouraged
because of the stone,” he said, “but in fact there is water
just beneath it!”
As soon as Koxinga shook the sand from his robes, he heard a trickling
sound, and water bubbled out from beneath the stone. Koxinga leaped out
of the well, which brimmed with sweet water, and from that day until now
people have marveled at Koxinga’s Well. (Read more in the “Festivals
& Legends” chapter)
Click Here for
"Frederic Coyett--Last Dutch Governor of Taiwan"
Fascinating Fujian Destinations!
Mythical Zaytun (Quanzhou) Start of the
Maritime Silk Road!
Fujian's Marvelous Wooden Bridges!
Zhangzhou Ancient City of Flowers
Hakka Roundhouses Unique earthen
Ningde Birthplaces of S. China Civilization?
Water World (Sandu'ao)
Fishing Villages Upon the Sea!
Xiapu Rafting, Kukai's Temple (Japanese),
Seafood, deng deng!
Zhouning (my favorite!) Zhouning
Thumbnails Delightful place--China's largest waterfalls complex, Kungfu
fighting highlanders, carp worshippers...
Wuyi Mountain Amazing historical, cultural and
Fujian Foto Album!!!
An Intro to Fujian and How I Got Here
Reading! Click Here for Misc.
articles on everything from Darwinian Driving
to "Around China in 80 Days"
and why did we Westerners open up Xiamen and Fujian to trade? You'll be
glad the Chinese are such a forgiving people after you read my brief overview
The Opium Wars
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Guide to Xiamen and Fujian
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Last Updated October 2006
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