Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dutchmen in Tainan

In Koxinga's time, Baxemboy北汕尾(or 北線尾) was a sandbar directly across a narrow channel from Ft Zeelandia. It was where the Dutch infantrymen were annihilated by Koxinga's Iron Man Corps (see previous post: here).

Through the years, the geological changes have greatly altered this area. Initially, the Tai Bay, later the 四草湖, was deep enough for large ships to enter and anchor off Anping. In 1906, the sandy deposits from a huge flood cut off the lake from the sea rendering it nautically useless.

In the Baxemboy area, now known as 四草Shi-chau, a 大眾廟 [Temple of the Public] was built. In 1971, when the temple was being re-constructed, more than 100 sets of skeletal remains with 30+ intact skulls were uncovered. Local legends had long held that this area was an ancient battlefield and a burial ground. And that some of the remains were those of the Dutch soldiers. Indeed, some of the recovered leg bones appeared to be longer than that of the average Han man, suggesting a Caucasian origin.

[Above: the 四草大眾廟]

These bones were carefully cleaned, collected, and stored in large pottery jars in a concrete vault:

[The sign indicates the "Tomb of the Dutch"; these and the picture of the monument below are all from]

And in 2001, a stone monument "海靈佳城" (below) was erected to mark the discovery of the remains. The inscription explains that the skeletons were probably of mixed ancestries. The designation of the Tomb of the Dutch was actually tentative.

On Jan 23, 2003, former PM of the Netherlands, Dr Andreas van Agt visited the tomb following up on a formal invitation. He was very proud that his fore-bearers were brave enough to venture this far from home; although he was also saddened at the same time that these brave souls had lost their lives. He also proposed further study for a historically accurate manner of honoring and interring the skulls and bones. Dr van Agt in fact has paid a second visit on May 31, 2006.

Between Nov 18-29, 2002, an extensive anthropological/biometric examination of the skulls (33 males and 2 females - see one of them above) was performed. It was concluded, and reported in April, 2006, that they were of Southern Island (21) and East Asian (14) origin with none European. The researchers, however, also pointed out that the sample size was small, that DNA analysis would be a better approach, and more important, that the results still could not rule in or out the presence of Dutch bones in the collection.

No additional studies were carried out since.