Monday, August 1, 2011

The taking of Ft Zeelandia

[Above: a VOC canon]

Readers of "Formosa under the Dutch (1903)" by Rev William Campbell甘為霖 (1841-1921) will know from the preface that this book consists of three parts, the first was based on the work of François Valentyn; the second, a collection of contemporary letters and church documents; and the third and last part, "Neglected Formosa ('t Verwaerloosde Formosa, 1675)" by Frederick Coyett 揆一.

For years, this has pretty much been the only source, presented in the English language, on the history of Koxinga's conquest of Taiwan. In fact, many authors have "borrowed" liberally from Campbell's book including, e.g., Davidson (1903), Rutter (1923), and Lach and Van Kley (1998). And since the contemporary Chinese records have not been systematically translated into English, the understanding of this part of the history is necessarily limited to Coyett's own account .

On the Chinese language side, not only Campbell's book has been translated, materials based on the VOC archives have also appeared in recent years. For example, "Degh-Register gehounden int Costeel Batavia [巴達維亞城日記The Batavia Diaries]" has been translated first into Japanese in 1970 by 村上真次郎 and then into Chinese and published in 1991. In 1999, Prof 江樹生 started publishing "De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia [熱蘭遮城日誌The Zeelandia Diaries]", also in Chinese, that covers the period of 1629-1662. These Zeelandia Diaries recorded the reports of the Dutch Governor Generals of Formosa, the meeting minutes of the Senate, and the official letters/documents, all in unprecedented detail. For example, in May, 1661 alone, there had been 8 communications between Koxinga and Coyett with most already lost from Chinese records:

1. voc 1235, f.520-521 Translaet missive door den groot mandorijn Cocxinja geschrijven aen den heere gouverneur Frederick, geschrijven in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van Indick de 3en mane den 29 dach。
2. voc 1235, f.520-521 Translaet van zekere placcaet van den Cocxinja vn den 27en 28 dach der 3en mane in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van coninick Indick
3. voc 1235, f.536-537 Translaet missive van Cocxinja naer casteeel Zeelandia aen den gouverneur Frederick, Saccam, 3 meij 1661 in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van Indick de 4en mane den 5 dach
4. voc 1235, f.542 Translaet missive van Cocxinja naer casteeel Zeelandia aen Frederick Coyett. Saccam, 4 meij 1661, in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van Indick de 4en mane den 6 dach
5. voc 1235, f.563 Translaet missive van Koksinja (Cocxinja) naer casteeel Zeelandia aen den gouverneur Frederick. Uijt het leger in de Pijnappels, 10 meij 1661 in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van Indick de 4en mane den 12 dach
6. voc 1235, f.565 Missive van Frederick Coyett naer Bokkenburgh aen Cocxinja . Casteeel Zeelandia,10 meij 1661.
7. voc f.595-597 Translaet missive van Cocxinja naer casteeel Zeelandia aen Frederick Coyett. Uijt het leger in Bokkenburg, 24 meij 1661, in 't 15 jaer der regeringe van Indick de 4en mane den 26 dach
8. voc 1235, f.597-598 Missive van Frederick Coyett naer Bokkenburgh aen Cocxinja . Casteeel Zeelandia,25 Meij 1661.

Presumably, only No 7 (dated May 24) appeared in Campbell's book. The famed Taiwanese historian Lien-Heng連橫 did include in his 台湾通史Comprehensive History of Taiwan Vol 1 (1920) such a letter, dated 永曆十五年 [the 15th year of Yong-li], the 4th Month, 26th Day (i.e., May 24, 1661), in which Koxinga explained to Coyett why the Dutch must surrender [with only a few hundred men hopelessly surrounded, a shame to lose more lives] and if they did, they could leave peacefully; and those who decided to stay would be well-treated; however, if the Dutch refused to comply, a red flag was to be hoisted as a sign of declaration of war [which the Dutch did]; and Koxinga would be personally watching for the sign on the horseback; the final advice was for the Dutch not to hesitate in choosing life over death:


It was apparently a very long and protracted process of negotiation, diplomacy in action in fact, during the siege of Ft Zeelandia.

Interestingly, Lien-Heng also stated "鄭師捕其商人羅谷具,令入城勸降。荷人不從。" [The Cheng army captured a Dutch merchant named Luo-go-ju (original name in Dutch unknown) and ordered him to enter the fort to advise surrender, which was rejected by the Dutch.] There was no mention of Rev Anthonius Hambroek at all.

From Lien-Heng's work, it is clear that sources other than the Campbell tome were available, most likely in the Chinese language. In fact, two of them have been widely cited by other Chinese historians: (1) Jiang Ri-shen江日昇's《台灣外記A Supplemental History of Taiwan》and (2) Yang Ying楊英's《從征實錄Actual Records of the Military Campaigns》:

(1) Jiang江日昇's 台灣外紀Taiwan History was published in 1704. Jiang was from Hokkien. His father 江美鰲 served as a ranking officer in Koxinga'a army until 1677 when he joined the Qing. Jiang's book was based on his father's recall and memoirs of many other actual participants. It described the events from 1621 until 1683, i.e., from the rise of Cheng Zhi-Lung to the end of the Tung-Ning Kingdom. It was written in the style of a traditional Chinese novel albeit with factual contents. Chapter 11, for example, detailed Koxinga's strategy for striking back at an attack mounted by Capt Thomas Pedel's company - this would not have been known to Coyett naturally:

"Early in the morning, Koxinga heard the fife and drum playing inside Ft Zeelandia. Knowing the Dutch were preparing for an attack, he announced to his generals that, "The Dutch have no other skills than using the firearms, Huang-Zhao: you will lead 500 musketeers [note: these would have been the Black Battalion] together with 200 guns and split them into three teams to face the advancing Dutch. Yang-Shiang: you will take 500 rattan-shield soldiers and get ready to attack from the left flank. And Hsiao Gung-chen: you will prepare 20 ships with the men on board making movements and noises pretending to attack Zeelandia from Ft Provintia. When the Dutch see this, they will start to panic, too worried about the security of Zeelandia to fight. Then they will be easy to defeat."

After the strategy was set, Koxinga ordered all to stay put. What followed was indeed as predicted, the Dutch infantry could not hold the line as soon as they sensed the imminent attack on Ft Zeelandia. And half of the men were killed before the rest fled back into the Fort.

Coyett's version, however, had 200 of the Dutch musketeers battle against 4,000 Koxinga's elite iron-man corps and the "mad-dog" rattan-shield soldiers, amidst a shower of arrows.

(2) Yang Ying楊英's《從征實錄》was in effect a daily log of Koxinga's military activities from 1649-1662 (note: □ = lost or archaic characters). Yang was a non-combatant officer in the Household Dept whose duty was to faithfully record all the important events:

四月初一日黎明,藩坐駕船即至臺灣外沙線,各船魚貫絡繹亦至。辰時天亮,即到鹿耳門線外。本藩隨下小哨,繇(由)鹿耳門先登岸,踏勘營地。午後,大船齊進鹿耳門。先時此港頗淺,大船俱無出入,是日水漲數尺,我舟極大者亦無□□,□天意默助也。是晚,我舟齊到,泊禾寮港,登岸,札營近街坊梨 □□□□□□□鎮督虎衛將坐銃船札鹿耳門,□□水師甲板,並防北線尾。
In the early dawn hours on the first day of the 4th month, Koxinga arrived at the sandy line of Tayouan Bay with all the other ships following in a single file. By dawn, all had reached the outside of the Lakjemuyse Channel. Koxinga disembarked to examine the camp sites. In the afternoon, all the ships even the large ones entered the Channel unhindered riding the higher than usual high tides. This was a silent help from Heaven. By nightfall, all ships were docked in He-Liao Port and the soldiers encamped on shore. A gunboat was dispatched to guard the Channel and Baxemboy.

In the same night, Ft Provintia on order of its Commander fired at our camp site causing some damage to the staple and food storage. Since Sakam District was a residential area with houses built with straws, in order to avoid a firestorm and destruction of food supplies, Koxinga ordered the soldiers to be on guard and to wait until the next morning to distribute the rations. The supplies were in fact secured and the rice and grains, enough to last for half a month on the average, was distributed to the soldiers.

On the 3rd Day, Forward Guards were sent to set up camps at Baxemboy. Coyett, noticing our soldiers were in transit, sent Capt Pedel and a few hundred of his musketeers to ambush us. This was quickly beaten back by the Guards. The Captain was killed together with the rest of the Dutchmen.

On the 4th Day, the commander of Ft Provintia Valentyn was ready to capitulate after the water supply ran out. One day before, his younger brother together with the brother's wife were detained outside the Fort and sent to Koxinga. Koxinga treated them kindly and returned them to the Fort unharmed. In gratitude, Valentyn decided to give up the Fort. An agreement was reached in which Koxinga vowed not to kill anyone. He then sent three officials, bearing gifts from China, to receive the surrender and allowed Valentyn to stay in the Fort. The commander was later invited to go to Zeelandia to ask for Coyett's white flag, so that all citizens could return home and move on with their lives.

On the 5th Day, Coyett's envoy, a Chinese employed as a Dutch consul, came to visit to sue for peace. Koxinga demanded a high ranking representative instead.

On the 6th Day, Coyett did send a high-level Dutch representative together with Valentyn, both of whom Koxinga had received courteously. At the banquet, Koxinga instructed He Ting-bing to inquire when Coyett would yield, to which the reply was that Coyett would not surrender and that if Koxinga would to withdraw, the Dutch were willing to pay annual taxes and tributes in amounts to be decided, plus an immediate compensation of 100,000 taels of silver and delivery of ships. Koxinga promptly declined the offer and ordered the envoys to leave.

Also, on the account of the sea battle on May 1st, Coyett reported the loss of one large ship [the Hector] with the other three escaped destruction; whereas Yang recorded the capture of two Dutch galleons and three smaller ships.

It is inevitable that historical accounts from the opposing sides differ. This maybe acceptable if the general storylines more or less agree; however, the Koxinga-Coyett conflict based solely on Coyett's narrative is simply too one-sided. The devil is therefore in the details. A far more balanced view of Koxinga's operation obviously is still needed; already a picture of Koxinga's seeking a peaceful resolution begins to emerge.