Monday, July 11, 2011

The Hambroek affair

Anthonius Hambroek (1607-1661) (in Taiwanese pronunciation, his last name = 范無如區) who arrived in Taiwan in 1648 and started his missionary work under the auspices of the VOC. He was posted to the aboriginal 麻豆社(Mattau) together with his wife, Anna Vincentamoy, and children.

A drama composed by Joannes Nomsz (1738-1803), "Anthonius Hanbroak, of de belegering van Formosa, treurspel [English translation = Anthonius Hambroek, or the Siege of Formosa, tragedy]" published in 1775 had secured for Hambroek his place in history [source:]. The question is if the events depicted in the drama were true to the history.

The story started by setting the background: Koxinga landed so unexpectedly that he, Hambroek the minister, his wife, son and daughter, and many other prominent Christians, unable to escape to the safety of Zeelandia, fell into his hands. [Note: This probably refers to the fall of Ft Provintia, 270 Dutch including 140 soldiers were captured and later relocated to Sakam.]

In the drama, the scenes took place inside Ft Zeelandia where Hambroeck was sent by Koxinga to deliver the message for Coyett to surrender. There were 7 characters/players in all:

Anthonius Hambroek, Formosa preacher.
FREDRIK CAJÉT [i.e., Coyett], commander in Ft Zeelandia.
CORNELIA Hambroek, daughter of the pastor, wife of Fredrik [more to follow]
XAMTI, envoy of the Chinese general Coxinga.
Van den Broek, a captain, friend of Fredrik.
ELIZABETH, vrindin [girl friend] of Cornelia.

In this scene, a grief-stricken Cornelia is being consoled by Elizabeth while Hambroek is making his exit to return to a certain death (with the Coyetts looking on and a map of Ft Zeelandia on the wall):
Since Coyett married his second wife Helena de Sterke in 1658 after his first wife, Susanna Boudaens, passed in 1656, Cornelia might have been married not to Frederic Coyett but to his son, Balthasar. Other sources claimed that two Hambroke's adult daughters were inside Ft Zeelandia when he visited and two younger daughters were held hostages by Koxinga. And of the latter, one later became Koxinga's concubine and the other a subordinate's wife. In contrast, this drama mentioned only one adult daughter [Cornelia] and two other children, a boy and a girl.

Indeed, on May 24, 1661, Rev Hambroek was sent by Koxinga to Zeelandia. At the Senate meeting, the surrender issue was hotly debated. The initial consensus to give in was, however, reversed after a stirring speech by Rev Hambroek. A loose translation below:

"I am perfectly aware that my speech is my own death sentence. However, I will not disregard my duties to God and the Company because of fear. I'd rather risk a thousand times my own and my wife's lives than being exploited by our enemy. Because the cruel Koxinga will make up any excuse to kill all the captured Dutchmen. And since they are already doomed, if we negotiate for their lives out of sympathy, we will have fallen into the enemy's trap and be slaughtered at random. These savage enemy are calculating and sneaky at the same time with no mercy in their hearts. They only want to cheat, rob and massacre the Dutch in their worship of Satan."

Soldiers and civilians alike then vowed to take up arms and defend Zeelandia with all their might [and did]. Having delivered his own instead of Koxinga's message, Hambroek, despite the plea of his daughter (daughters?) and Coyett's advice to do otherwise, decided to return to Koxinga's camp to join his wife and children and face the music, he declared thus:

"Comrades, I will surely die; although, for the sake of you all and those captured by the enemy, I cannot allow myself to be blamed for hiding in the fort to see others sacrificed. May God save our people, He will deliver you from danger. You all must persevere and do not lose your faith."

Our friend Patrick Cowsill has provided this list regarding the aftermath, that

1. He [Koxinga] had all male POWs put to death - true
2. Hambroek was beheaded - true
3. Some women and children were beheaded - true
4. One of Hambroek's daughters was put in Koxinga's harem - doubtful, Hambroek's wife and children appeared to have all been killed (i.e., point 3 above)
plus no Cheng household record of such a union could be found
5. The remainder of the women were divided amongst his officers - unconfirmed, maybe true

There were also other loose ends:

(1) Hambroek et al were not executed immediately upon his return from Zeelandia. Rather it was after the Dutch, in captivity, had conspired with the Aborigines to revolt again Koxinga; this was when they were put to death; and

(2) Besides Hambroek, also killed were 牟士Petrus Mus of 諸羅山 and 溫世繆Aronldus Winsmius of 新港/赤崁. And possibly 安信紐Jacobus Ampzingius and 甘比宇Joannes Campius as well [church records indicate that both had died from other causes, however]. All preachers.

This was the unfortunate yet avoidable conclusion of the Hambroek affair as Koxinga's primary objective was the recovery of Taiwan, not one of taking Dutch lives. Hambroek had not only sealed his own fate but also that of his family and others.

In the end, Koxinga entered a peace treaty with Coyett and the Dutch were allowed to depart Zeelandia peacefully. This was not what Rev Hambroek had envisioned. He had predicted, incorrectly, a wholesale massacre if Zeelandia surrendered. Koxinga might have worshiped MaZu but she was hardly Satan incarnate. Without knowing Koxinga's pragmatism, in demonizing Koxinga, Hambroek's speech at the Senate might have been both dramatic and fear-inspiring, but it was quite misguided. And 1,600 Dutch had died by the end of the siege (Feb 9, 1662).

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