Koxinga : biography
Koxinga (literally "Lord of the Imperial Surname"; August 1624 – 23 June 1662) is the customary Western spelling of the popular appellation of Zheng Chenggong, a Chinese military leader who was born in 1624 in Hirado, Japan to the Chinese merchant/pirate Zheng Zhilong and his Japanese wife, and died in 1662 on the Island of Formosa (Taiwan).
A Ming loyalist and the chief commander of the Ming troops on the maritime front for the later emperors of the withering dynasty, Koxinga devoted the last 16 years of his life to resisting the conquest of China by the Manchus. Upon defeating the forces of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) on Formosa in his last campaign in 1661–1662, Koxinga took over the island in order to support his grand campaign against the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty. After Koxinga’s death, his son and successor, Zheng Jing, gradually became the ruler of an independent Kingdom of Tungning, the first Chinese state to rule the island.
There are hundreds of public pieces, shrines dedicated to and worship Koxinga. The Koxinga Temple in Tainan City, Taiwan, is perhaps the most interesting as it is “the only Fujianese style shrine in Taiwan.” The temple “illustrat[es] the geographic connection between Taiwan and the Mainland, [whilst] describ[ing] the evolution of life from the past to the present,” which means that the temple acknowledges that Koxinga is a legacy shared by both Taiwan and the Mainland and that this perhaps is still important today.
In Mainland China however, there is only one official memorial to their ‘conqueror of Taiwan’ and that is on Gulang Island of Xiamen, Fujian Province (which is positioned directly across Taiwan’s Kinmen. The imposing statue of Zheng Chenggong in full military regalia, gazes over the water facing Taiwan.
Whilst “the statue of Zheng portrays a clean-shaven young general in armour … [in] Taiwan, Koxinga seldom appears as a warrior. His portraits show him as a Ming noble in civilian robes – and wearing a small beard, a symbol of seniority and sobriety.”
This difference in commemoration of the Koxinga story illustrates the wide difference in attitudes on either side of the Taiwan Strait on the issue of Taiwan sovereignty.
- National Cheng Kung University (Koxinga University)
- Cheng Kung Senior High School
- Cheng Kung class frigate
- Chenggong, Taitung
Koxinga died of malaria at the age of 37. There were speculations that he died in a sudden fit of madness when his officers refused to carry out his orders to execute his son Zheng Jing. Zheng Jing had an affair with his wet nurse and conceived a child with her.The General History of Taiwan, 1920, Lian Heng Zheng Jing succeeded his father as the King of Tungning.
In the Philippines
In 1662, Koxinga’s forces raided several towns in the Philippines. Koxinga’s chief adviser was an Italian friar named Riccio, whom he sent to Manila to demand tribute from the Philippine government, threatening to attack the city if his demands were not met.
The Spanish refused to pay the tribute and reinforced the garrisons around Manila, but the planned attack never took place due to Koxinga’s sudden death in that year after expelling the Dutch on Taiwan.
Koxinga’s threat to invade the islands and expel the Spanish eventually caused the Spanish failure to conquer the Muslim Moro people in Mindanao. The threat of Chinese invasion forced the Spanish to withdraw their forces to Manila, leaving some troops in Jolo and by Lake Lanao to engage the Moro in protracted conflict, while Zamboanga was immediately evacuated upon Koxinga’s threats.
Resisting the Qing Dynasty
Zheng Chenggong statue in Xiamen, Fujian, China
By 1650, Koxinga was strong enough to establish himself as the head of the Zheng family. He pledged allegiance to the only remaining claimant to the throne of the Ming Dynasty, the Yongli Emperor. The Yongli Emperor was fleeing from the Manchus in south-western China with a motley court and hastily assembled army at the time. Despite one fruitless attempt, Koxinga was unable to do anything to aid the last Ming emperor. Instead, he decided to concentrate on securing his own position on the southeast coast.