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AmoyMagic--Guide to Xiamen & Fujian Copyright 2004-7 by Sue Brown & Dr. Bill, Xiamenguide & Forum

Aerial view of Kulangyu islet
Discover Gulangyu! Guide to Gulangyu Bill Brown on Gulangyu(Kulongsoo)
Click for Gulangyu Main Page
Click for "Made in Japan Chinese Legend"
Click for "Retaking Taiwan"
Click for "Outstretched Necks!"
Click for "Koxinga Statue"
Click for "Koxinga Legends on Taiwan and Gulangyu"
Click for "Frederic Coyett--Last Dutch Governor of Taiwan"

Koxinga, Last Defender of the Ming Dynasty

“Koxinga, nourishing 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)

granite statue of Coxinga

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 as well.

“Made 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!)

Retaking Taiwan 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 their lives.
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.

“Preoccupied 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.”

Outstretched Necks 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.

The Koxinga Statue 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 know.”



Koxinga Legends on Taiwan and Gulangyu

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).

The Fairy 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 Fish Koxinga allegedly enjoyed certain kinds of fish and snails, which Taiwanese now call “Koxinga-Fish” (Guoxing Yu) and Koxinga-Snails” (Guoxing Wo).

Miraculous Sword Well on Anvil Hill When Koxinga’s thirsty army passed Koxinga's Well on back of Gulangyu Islet -- never runs dry!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 and exhausted.
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"

 

Other Fascinating Fujian Destinations! (Outside Xiamen)
Mythical Zaytun (Quanzhou) Start of the Maritime Silk Road!
......... Quanzhou Marionettes
Fujian's Marvelous Wooden Bridges!
Zhangzhou Ancient City of Flowers
Hakka Roundhouses Unique earthen castles
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 natural attractions

Fujian Foto Album!!!

An Intro to Fujian and How I Got Here

Extra Reading! Click Here for Misc. articles on everything from Darwinian Driving to "Around China in 80 Days"

How 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 of
The Opium Wars

Back to Top AmoyMagic Guide to Xiamen and Fujian

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Last Updated October 2006


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