The Ming Koxinga Era (1662 -1683)
In his endeavor to topple the Qing and restore the Ming, General Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) shifted base to Taiwan. He took advantage of high tides in the Taijiang inlet and landed via the Luermen waterways, chasing away the Dutch dubbed by the locals as “the red-haired foreigners”. From then on, a new chapter of Chinese culture began to blossom in Taiwan’s history, and Minnan (also known as Hokkien) architecture began to take root in Taiwan under Koxinga’s earnest development of the island.
Koxinga had his sights set on securing Taiwan as a base to overturn the Qing as early as 1660. A chance acquisition of Taiwanese maps and of the Dutch deployment particulars prompted him to set off from the offshore island of Jinmen with 25,000 soldiers in a fleet extending 5 kilometers long. They replenished in Penghu and continued to advance to Taiwan.
Upon landing, his army first laid seige to Fort Zeelandia and replaced the Dutch regime with the first Han administration in Taiwan. He set up administrative divisions after “liberation” of the island, declared Chikan (Tainan) the easterly capital of the Ming dynasty, and established Chengtianfu, the highest level of government in Taiwan. In light of low food supplies on the island, he also sent troops to settle and cultivate lands on the Jianan and Gaoping plains. Koxinga passed away less than six months after entering Taiwan, and his title of Lord Yanping was succeeded by his son Zhengjing. During this era, the Qing continued its policy of prohibiting any foreign entry along its seashores.
Aided by military advisor Chen Yong-hua, Zhengjing maintained frequent contact overseas including trade relations with Japan, Great Britain and countries in Southeast Asia. But lost naval battles in 1680 forced him to abandon territories in Fujian and retreat back to Taiwan. His death the year after was followed by a coup d’etat and the succession of his young son Zheng Ke-shuang. By then, the political state of affairs in Taiwan was a shambles and morale was at rock bottom. Two years later, Qing general Shi Lang launched an attack on Taiwan, and Zheng Ke-shuang surrendered to the Qing, ending three generations of Zheng rule over 23 years.
People and Culture
The most frequent commercial traffic during the Ming-Zheng era occurred with Japan at a volume of over 50 vessels annually. Copper cannons, swords and Ming Yongli coins were produced and exported to Japan along with sugar and deer hides. There was also trading with Luzon and Sulu (present-day Philippines), Brunei, Ryukyu (Okinawa) as well as with Annam (Tonkin China) and Cambodia, etc. Later, trade treaties were also signed with British merchants to exchange deer hide and sugar for British-made artillery and gunpowder, while British commercial posts were set up in Anping and Amoy.
After entry into Taiwan, the Zheng regime began cultivating land beyond the Tainan area already developed by the Dutch and expanded their military stations. It also commenced systematically planting the seeds of Han culture in Taiwan, constructing the Tainan Confucian Temple in 1656, building schools and recruiting students, and setting up an imperial examination system. Besides bringing in a mass of Han settlers, it also introduced traditional Chinese feudalism to Taiwan, which would continue through the Qing until the early 20th century when Japan enforced modern colonial policies.
While the Dutch introduced Christianity to placate Taiwan’s aborigines, the Ming-Zheng era brought in Han literature and traditional beliefs. The Confucian Temple was established as “the foremost school”, and Tianfei Temple was built to worship Matsu the motherly godless in an effort to pacify the aborigines and earlier Han migrants. At this point, the mass of Han settlers made it the predominant ethnic group in Taiwan.