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Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > History & Politics

Personalities in Taiwan's History Before 1800

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Koxinga (國姓爺, 1624-1662)

Taiwanese people usually refer to the man credited with bringing Taiwan into the Han fold by his Chinese name, Zheng Chenggong (鄭成功), Koxinga being a honorific title meaning "Lord who shares the imperial surname." Born in what's now Nagasaki Prefecture, southwest Japan, to a Japanese mother and a Fujianese father who was both a pirate and a merchant, Koxinga was fervent in his support for China’s Ming Dynasty just as it was being overthrown by Manchu invaders from the north. Koxinga's father defected to the Qing Dynasty, but negotiations between Koxinga and the Qing broke down. Pushed southward, Koxinga decided to relocate to Taiwan. On April 2, 1661 his soldiers surrounded and bombarded the Dutch East India Company's fortresses in Tainan. Fort Provintia surrendered two days later, but Fort Zeelandia held out for ten months before the Europeans agreed to evacuate. Almost 10,000 people (including half of Fort Zeelandia's European population of 2,300) perished during the siege. Koxinga himself died - apparently as a result of malaria - just five months after his victory.

Zheng Jing (鄭經, 1642-1681)

Koxinga's oldest son succeeded him as warlord in charge of the Kingdom of Dongning and followed very similar policies. He continued the low-level war against the Qing. On the economic front, he encouraged smuggling to evade the Qing Empire's economic blockade, and he ordered his soldiers to fan out across the countryside and support themselves by farming. Like his father, he was vehemently anti-Christian. Dispirited by his failure to roll back Qing power on the mainland, he became dissolute and weak in his final years.

Shi Lang (施琅, 1621-1696)

Born in Fujian and trained in naval warfare, Shi fought alongside Koxinga and other Ming supporters in southern China for two years after the Qing Dynasty was established in 1644. He then threw in his lot with the new regime; when Koxinga's retreated to Taiwan, he began to plan an invasion of the island. Shi had to wait two decades as the imperial court did not give permission to invade until early 1683. Shi masterminded a quick and relatively bloodless victory. His invasion fleet left Fujian on July 8, 1683. Nine days later in the Penghu islands, Shi's forces defeated the Kingdom of Dongning's navy; in early September Koxinga's 12-year-old grandson surrendered. There is a small temple dedicated to Shi in Magong, the capital of Penghu County. The People's Republic of China has named its first (but not yet operational) aircraft carrier Shi Lang in honor of the admiral.

Lin Shuang-wen (林爽文, 1756-1788)  

Born in Fujian, Lin migrated to Taiwan in 1773. In 1786, the semi-religious secret society he led rose up against the Qing Empire. For a while the rebels dominated about half of Taiwan, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 1788 that imperial forces regained full control of the western lowlands. Lin was captured, taken to Beijing and executed. His rebellion was the most serious in the island’s history, and has left a legacy of yimin shrines in Fangliao, Beigang and other places. Even though his movement was extremely violent and attracted many people whose only motive was plunder, its anti-Qing character appealed to the KMT. Even now a village in central Taiwan, two schools and some roads bear his name.

Type: Tip
Location: Taiwan

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