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Taipei, Taiwan: History of ‘native Taiwanese’


The history of what today is called the ‘native Taiwanese’ population (or ‘benshengren’) started some 350 years ago, when the loyal warrior Koxinga settled on the island.

Koxinga_and_Zheng_Zhilong1Zheng Zhilong
Koxinga was the son of Zheng Zhilong, a Nan’an, Fujian native who built up an immense pirate fleet that ransacked the east coast of China during the early 1600s. Zheng initially collaborated with the Dutch, who gave him ships and weapons in exchange for part of his loot. In 1628, he led his pirates to an impressive victory against the Imperial forces of China’s Ming emperor.

But then Zheng switched sides and became a Major-General in the Ming fleet, taking up arms against his former comrades and the Dutch. In the following decade, he would build up a Fujian-based maritime ‘empire’ with more than 1000 vessels, a private navy of tens of thousands of men, and complete control over the international trade in the region stretching from Manila to Nagasaki.

A loyal son?
Koxinga, or Zheng Chenggong, joined his father’s empire at the age of seven. By the time he turned 20, the Qing rulers had taken control in Beijing, driving the Ming emperor to southern China. This saw Koxinga’s father switch allegiance once again, defecting from the Ming to become Qing Governor of Fujian and Guangdong.

Forced to make a bitter choice between two essential virtues of Confucianism, Koxinga chose loyalty to his Ming rulers over filial piety. At the age of 22, he inherited the Zheng family fleet abandoned by his father when he defected, and Koxinga spent the next 16 years opposing the Qing Emperors and his father.

In 1661, Koxinga took 30,000 followers and moved to Taiwan, which at the time was under Dutch rule. Like his father some 30 years earlier, Koxinga fought, beat, and chased away the Dutch. He based himself on Taiwan, continuing his resistance against the Qing Dynasty and establishing the foundation of today’s ‘native Taiwanese’.

Flesh and blood
For years, Zheng urged Koxinga to negotiate with the Qing rulers, but to no avail. In 1661, Zheng himself was executed by his Qing masters because of his son’s resistance, the foundations of which Zhilong himself had established 30 years before.

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