Friday, November 9, 2012

Coming home - Part 6 Meet-up

歸宗 - returning to the roots (Nov 6, 2012)

Update: A Koxinga 金身 will be sent from the Cheng Family Temple in Tainan to replace the one lost from the Jelutong Koxinga Temple in 1910-20:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Coming home - Part 6

This seemingly ordinary dragon table is actually 136 years old. The horizontal inscription 開山聖王 is a more formal title than 開山王 that again refers to Koxinga. The vertical inscription on the right side reads 光緒丁丑年 (i.e., 1876) - when it was dedicated, and the left side the donor's name, a Wang ? Shan (王?山, the middle name is not readable). The table was installed during a period when the Koxinga statue was the only deity in the temple.

After 192 years of being on its own, unguided yet never strayed from its origin, it is now time for the Koxinga Temple in Jelutong to link up with the original Koxinga Temple 鄭成功祖廟Cheng Family Temple in Tainan. Unlike 延平郡王祠, which was a Qing installation, the Cheng Family Temple was built by Koxinga's son and heir, 鄭經Cheng Jing.

Principal overseer Mr J Lim will travel from Penang, Malaysia, to Taiwan, and on Nov 6 to pay a courtesy visit to the Cheng Family Temple in Tainan. A delegation from Penenag is also being organized and its members will participate in the celebration of 鄭成功開台紀念日 on April 29, 2013.

His Highness will no doubt continue to look after those who tough it out and honor him throughout the ages, be they residents of Taiwan or the distant Malaysia, they are all members of the extended 東寧Tung-Ning Cheng Family.

To our bretherens in Penang: Welcome home!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Coming home - Part 5 哪吒

From the outside, the most prominent feature of the Jelutong Koxinga Temple is the five martial flags planted on the roof. This is a tradition held over from since the temple was built and yet no one knows what they meant.

Until now.

These 5 triangular banners each has a surname in the center:
These flags represent the five divine battalions led by the central battalion commander (Li) 哪吒NaZa. In other words, although never realized before, NaZa has always been present in the Koxinga Temple in Jelutong. The five battalions are 東營 (East Battalion); 南營 (South); 西營 (West); 北營 (North); and 中營 (Central), and the respective flag colors are 青 (green); 紅 (red); 白 (white); 黑 (black); and 黃 (yellow), and the commanders' names, 張(基清); 蕭(其明); 劉(武秀); 連(忠宮); and 李(哪吒).

This is in fact the 五營信仰 (the 5-batallion belief), still common in southern Taiwan. Even though it is not known when the belief first started, in view of the central role of NaZa, it appears to have been part of the NaZa worship by the Koxinga soldiers.

NaZa哪吒 is a Taoist god worshipped primarily in Taiwan as 三太子 [the Third Prince]. The statue of NaZa is seen in almost all Koxinga temples in Taiwan. This practice can be traced back to the Ming-Cheng soldiers. Where they had settled, working in the field tilling the land, small 三太子 temples were also built.

NaZa was a mischievous youth and one of his deeds eventually got him into big trouble with the East Sea Dragon King for accidentally killing the latter’s son. In order not to cause problems for his parents, he carved up himself and returned the muscles to his mother and bones to his father, thereby paying the debt of birth in full. He was subsequently given a second lease on life by Buddha. NaZa was mentioned in many ancient popular Chinese texts, often described as having unusual power in defeating evil forces. And because he rode on wheels of wind and fire, NaZa has been revered as a guardian angel for those in transportation businesses.

There was no historical account on why the Ming-Cheng soldiers had chosen NaZa as their guardian deity, perhaps as a sorrowful reminder that Koxinga, just like NaZa, was not only estranged from his father but also was no longer cared for by his parents. In any case, it is historically accurate to see NaZa in the Koxinga Temple in Jelutong.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Coming home - Part 5 大伯公

The worship of 大伯公, literally Granduncle, is unique to Chinese immigrant communities throughout SE Asia. There are a number of such temples in Penang alone. Below is the gateway to the oldest one, dating back to 1799, located in Tanjong Tokong珠海嶼:

The temple itself is maintained jointly by 5 Hakka clans as indicated by the sign atop the temple office:

And who was this Granduncle? A multiple-language memorial plaque clearly shows that the deity in residence is actually a trio, Zhang Li張理, Qiu Zhao-jing丘兆進, and Ma Fu-chun馬福春. They first settled in Tanjong Tokong in the mid-1700s,  and were honored as 大伯公 after their death. In other words, they were the ancestors of the Hakka immigrants to Penang. This is actually a clan memorial, rather than a Taoist, temple.

In contrast, the 大伯公 in the 開山王大伯公廟 is the Earth/Village God, known in Taiwan and China as 土地公, with a formal title of 福德正神. The banners inside the temple clearly indicates the true identity:

Combining the four characters from top down in the two banners, it reads: 開山王廟福德正神. The obvious conclusion is that this 大伯公 was not an ancestor as the others in Penang, but a more traditional 土地公. Normally, an earth god, only a minor deity, cannot share the same altar with a king. Why was the exception in the Jelutong temple?

Here the story gets a bit complicated and is in part somewhat supernatural.

In ca 1910-20, some businessman "from the north (probably Siam)", asked to "borrow" the Koxinga statue to be honored in wherever he came from. This was a common practice at that time. Not suspecting any malicious intents, the Jelutong temple overseers had generously agreed. And that was the last time they saw the statue. Since a temple cannot be without a deity, in semi-panic, the idea of inviting a 大伯公 in, emerged. And since there was no appropriate ancestors to choose from because Koxinga was the one, the earth god would have to be a stand-in. For the next several decades, the temple became known as the Koxinga-earth god temple. That is until 1991 when Koxinga, through a spiritual medium, had "asked" to return to the temple. And the followers immediately complied. His Highness had very specific description of a statue plus another of NaZa, both to be commissioned and fashioned in Hokkien, China. And amidst great fanfare, Koxinga finally came back to Jelutong.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coming home - Part 5

[The main altar with Koxinga in the center. This statue resembles the one in the Cheng Family Temple in Tainan, both clean-shaven. The one in 延平郡王祠, also in Tainan, is based on a portrait with a black beard suggesting it was done during a mourning period. In Hokkien custom, sons do not shave when their parents passed. ]

The full name of Khye-Sian-Ong-Tua-Pek-Kong temple in Jelutong日落洞, Penang檳榔嶼, is 開山王大伯公廟. We already know who 開山王 is [Koxinga], but who is 大伯公 (the bearded one on the right), and why a third deity (the child on the left), apparently NaZa哪吒, is also on the altar?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Coming home - Part 4

[Above: Fu-Ling Tample in LuKang鹿港福靈宮]

Were there Taiwanese in Penang in the late 1700s? It appears so. Fung-yin provided one fairly prominent example:

"。。。居同安白礁(今属龙海县,早属泉州,清末民初属厦门)。元朝至正年间(公元1341年),十九世孙辜志明由白礁迁泉州打锡巷。志明九世孙辜旺于明崇祯(1628年)由泉州迁惠安洋埔,是为惠安辜氏一世公。旺之六世孙邦变(洋埔三房)于清乾隆初年移居惠安上坂(昔称象坂)东村,蕃衍生息:长子水英、次子尚、三子宗。辜宗于乾隆四十年(公元1775年)趁开海禁携眷赴台谋生,择居鹿港。辜宗四子之一辜礼欢又赴马来西亚槟榔屿拓展,为英属马来西亚首任甲必丹(地方首领)。辜礼欢生八子三女,其子之一辜安平自小送回国内读书。中进士后,为林则徐幕僚,后调任台湾并定居鹿港。安平之孙辜显荣为台湾巨富,被誉为“百年昌盛家族”。辜显荣即是辜振甫之父。安平胞兄弟龙池之孙为辜鸿铭,故辜振甫称辜鸿铭为“鸿铭伯”。上坂辜氏,历经坎坷, 以小手艺谋生,又属小姓,旧时怕受欺凌,曾一度恢复林姓。1952年又复辜姓。"

In short, a Gu family member, 辜宗, migrated to Taiwan in 1775 and settled in LuKang. One of 辜宗's four sons, 辜礼欢 then moved south to Penang to seek and in fact found more fortune. He became the first Kapitan of the British Malaya and raised a large family with 8 sons and 3 daughters. One of them 辜安平 was sent back to China to study who eventually returned to LuKang. And in 1895, one of his grandsons 辜顯榮 (1866-1937) invited the Japanese invading force to enter Taipei to keep peace as Taipei was then being looted by the retreating Qing soldiers. In return, the Japanese rewarded him with various trading rights. Gu became immensely wealthy as a result. And this branch continues on, active in Taiwan banking and commerce to this day. It is, however, unclear as to the fate of the branch in Penang, most likely as wealthy and influential as the Taiwan branch. In stark contrast, those who stayed behind in China did not fare so well.

It should be noted that LuKang was the stronghold of 洪門天地會Hong-Men Heaven and Earth Society rebels led by Lin Shuang-Wen林爽文 (1756-1788). The 福靈宮 (pictured above) honors one of Lin's generals, Wang Shun平海大將軍“王勳”.

The activities of 洪門天地會 in Penang, reported by the British Admin in 1799, now appears a matter of course.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Coming home - Part 3

It is a time-honored tradition that when a temple is built, the names of the donors are literally etched in stone and stone tablets are erected on temple grounds in perpetual memory.  In fact, there are such tablets inside the Khye-Sian-Ong temple in Penang; although, curiously, the first one was dated 1864. The only memorial going back to the year 1820 is again the foundation stone:

A close examination of the inscription in Chinese reveals  something intriguing. Normally, any mention of the names of the Chinese emperors, strict rules known as 避諱 must be followed. In written documents, for example, an emperor's name wherever encountered must begin at the top of the page and the characters must not be in a complete form, usually one stroke less. These are to show the utmost respect to the emperor. Violate these rules, the consequences can be quite dire.

And yet, in this founding stone, the emperor's name was carved in a complete traditional character followed by a simplified character 嘉庆. Notice the 庆, instead of 大, has a 犬 inside the character. This is not a common form, and 犬 means dog, a lowly animal. In other words, this was a deliberate insult aimed at the Qing Emperor 嘉慶. The multiple mention of the year referring to 1820 also suggests a reluctance in accepting the Qing imperial calendar.

Who would have been so brazen as to create this ultimate anti-Qing expression? In that era, the Heaven and Earth secret society readily stood out.

Indeed, it is known that "早在1799年,英属槟榔屿政府就发现天地会活动的记载, i.e., as early as 1799, the British Penang Admin had discovered and recorded the activities of the Heaven and Earth Society". This statement is of immense importance. It provides the crucial extension from the past, since the 洪門天地会 or the Hong-Men branch of the 天地会 Heaven and Earth Society was linked directly to Koxinga.

Koxinga was honored as 萬雲龍 or 萬大哥 [Chief Big Brother Wan] of the society and Chen Yong-Hua [陳永華, 1634-1680 - Koxiga's political consultant and later the Prime Minister under Koxinga's son 鄭經Cheng Jing] further expanded the operation under the pseudonym 陳近南. These aliases were adopted later by the secret society to avoid detection of its anti-Qing restore-Ming activities by the Qing government and the consequential prosecution with severe punishments.

This may explain the reason why the original donors of the Jelutong temple had chosen to remain anonymous.

The Hong-Men itself was first started by Yin Hong-Seng 殷洪盛 during the rule of the last Ming Emperor of China 崇祯 Chung-zhen. After the fall of the Ming Dynasty, the fight of the Han people against the Qing invaders continued. Yin was eventually killed in action, and his son 洪旭Hong-Xu together with the remaining generals then joined Koxinga's force. And the character Hong洪 became a code word used by the members to greet one another.

To this day, branches of this now semi-secret society can still be found in Chinatowns all over the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Coming home - Part 2

開山 Kai-Shan or mountain-opening means trail-blazing, not unlike the first Europeans settling in the Midwest and the West Coast in the US, two centuries ago. In the Chinese tradition, ancestors are often memorialized in family temples. Sometimes, a prosperous enough clan may choose to build a large temple to worship the very first ancestor, elevated to the deity status through Taoism. For example, in Penang, Malaysia, the Chen clan worships 開漳聖王 who was the first ancestor to settle in 漳州Zhang-zhou in Hokkien. The sage-kingship was an honorary title in Taoism.

Sometimes, however, the use of  開山 in the temple title deviates from the norm. An example is the Khai-San Temple located in Bukit Merah in Singapore:

This one honors Jie Zi Tui (介子推, ?-636BC), born in the Spring-Autumn Period (春秋時代), in now 山西介休. His story is one of loyalty and piety. He sliced off a piece of his own flesh and prepared it into soup to serve his starving master, then escaping from the enemies. When his master finally became the King of 晉 Nation, Jie Zi Tui resigned quietly from his high post to be with his aging mother, and both of them then resided in 綿山Mian Mountain. The King's summons for Jie Zi Tui to return to his court to be honored went unheeded. In a half-brained attempt to force Jie out from hiding, the mountain was torched only to find both Jie and his mother died in the fire, huddled together under a tree. Jie was honored posthumously by the king and the populace. The term Khai-San of the temple in Singapore, however, is only a tangential link to the Mian "Mountain". It has nothing to do with any pioneering activities.

Unlike Southeast Asia where Hokkinese en masse had also migrated to, in Taiwan, 開山 has retained its original meaning and 開山王 is still a true, not a Taoist, kingship title in reference to the one and only Koxinga. The only other temple that has 開山 in its name is the 開山宮Kai-Shan Palace in Tainan. It was erected by the Ming-Cheng Kingdom to honor 陳稜Chen Ling.

In 台灣通史 vol 22  (published in 1920), 連橫 wrote that, "開山宮: 在府治內新街。鄭氏時建,祀隋虎賁中郎將陳稜。乾隆五年修。而舊志以為吳真人,且謂臺多漳泉人,以其神醫,建廟獨盛。夫吳真人一醫者爾,何得當此開山之號?鄭氏之時,追溯往哲,以稜有開臺之功,故建此廟。而今又誤為開仙宮,更屬不通。" It is possible that, not realizing who Chen really was, other deities had been invited by the overseers to increase the temple attendance. A physician-deity, Dr Wu, would fit the bill well for those seeking medical miracles.

陳稜 (? - 619AD) was a general of the 隋Sui Dynasty (581-618AD). Records show that he had sailed from 潮州Tiochew to conquer 流求Liu-qiu in 610AD. Some, including the Ming-Cheng officials, argued that Liu-qiu was actually Taiwan while others thought it was Okinawa. This is still in debate even now; although this deed has already been cited by some in China as the historical evidence of Chinese ownership of Taiwan (or Ryukyu, for that matter).

Back to 開山王. Inside the Khye-Sian-Ong-Tua-Pek-Kong temple in Jelutong日落洞 in Penang檳榔嶼, these plaques, dating back to when the temple was built, are found:

Clearly a temple that honors Koxinga, the 開山王, at least in the Taiwanese definition. To our knowledge, this is also the only one in SE Asia. But who had built it, back in 1820?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Coming home - Part 1

Visitors to the Khye-Sian-Ong-Tua-Pek-Kong Temple in Jelutong, Penang, are often intrigued by a memorial stone. The inscription has both English and Chinese parts. The English part reads:

“This ground was given to the Chinese community to erect a temple by Ichik Jemal, The late penghulu of this district on Nov 1820” 

And the Chinese part (above, highlighted with water-soluble dyes), a mention of the year 1820 in multiple calendar forms:

庚辰1820年 龍年

In other words, this temple has a long history and in fact has just celebrated the 192nd anniversary of its founding.

Khye-Sian-Ong is the Hokkien pronunciation of 開山王, a title that refers specifically to Koxinga.  And this is also where the story begins.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to govern Taiwan

藍鼎元 (Lan Ding-Yuan, 1680-1733)

All students of Taiwan history know this phrase "三年一小反,五年一大反", a description of the difficulty in governing this beautiful island, "an uprising every 3 years, a revolt every 5 years". This is not a Taiwan proverb as commonly believed. It was coined by 道臺Tao-tai, Xu Zhong-gan徐宗幹 (1796-1866, as Taiwan Tao-tai in 1848), originally "三年小反, 五年大反" published in the 治臺必告錄 [The Essential of Governing Taiwan, edited by Xu] and his personal journal 斯未信齋文集.

Indeed, from 1696 to 1892, there had been 138 anti-Qing incidents in all, involving mostly the Han people and in some cases, the Aborigines. Was Taiwan a land of lawlessness full of ruffians, pirates, criminals, and murderers? Or was it the common Taiwanese folks simply trying to send a message? Why did the rebellions and uprisings take place at all and so frequently too?

We'll now provide some explanation:

Needless to say, people move to another land to seek a better life. This has always been true throughout the ages in Taiwan. The Hokkienese and others migrated to Taiwan, starting in the Dutch rule, through the Ming-Cheng era, indeed to leave behind a life of extreme hardship in China. Despite the ban during the early Qing rule, this migration continued unabated.

After the sacking of the Ming-Cheng Kingdom by Shi Lang in 1683, the Qing regarded Taiwan merely as a piece of conquered land, to be stripped of its wealth and riches and the spoils to be shipped back to China. In essence, a colonial governance was imposed. The ruling principles therefore did not include economic development of the land or the construction of defendable cities/towns. Instead, the Qing expanded the taxation system based on that from the Dutch and Ming-Cheng periods, i.e., the land and head taxes, while at the same time, levied an additional mind-boggling number of new taxes. As a small example, not only land farming, all manners of fish farming were also taxed. Plus, exorbitant licensing fees were charged to all commercial and fishing ships, even tiny ferry boats. Where applicable, the tax rates were much higher, from 10% to 3 times more, than those back in Mainland China.

These days, one can e-file income tax and pay land taxes at 7-11 without ever seeing the face of a taxman. Not so during the Qing rule. The extortionary taxation implemented by a corrupt officialdom was aided and abetted by thuggish enforcer-taxmen and soldier-turned loan sharks. In other words, the encounters were quite personal: either pay up or risk bodily harm, imprisonment, confiscation of properties, and loss of family members.

The officials posted to Taiwan were often of questionable character. Their sole mission was to get rich by extracting as much as possible from the populace whose welfare be damned. Worse, each official was assisted by a contingent of law enforcers known as Li吏. The Li's were in fact Mafia enforcers on steroid (no offense). This was a well-recognized festering sore of the Qing rule (more below). Then there were the soldiers of the garrison force or loan sharks from hell, who often lent money, gained from illegitimate means, to a good number of Taiwanese who could not afford to pay off the taxes. The rate was quite high, for example, at 0.5% compounded daily. Missing one payment and the paid interest was nullified only to start all over again. This was known as the 五虎利 [five-tiger interest]. "Tiger" was mentioned together with the gov't in the Confucius fable of 苛政猛於虎 [living under a despotic gov't is worse than living with a (man-eating) tiger]. Five tigers was an euphemism which does not even begin to tell what the Taiwanese had to endure.

The presence of the thuggish enforcers persisted to the end of Qing rule of Taiwan. The Royal Commissioner to Taiwan 沈葆楨 (Shen Bao-zen, 1820-1879) in his report to the Qing Court "請移駐巡撫摺" opined that "始由官以吏胥為爪牙, 吏胥以民為魚肉 (the officials enable the Li as their claws and teeth abusing and extorting the common people)". This was during the Mu-Dan-She Incident in 1874.

Lured by the rumor 台灣錢淹腳目 [Taiwan is ankle-deep in money], the migrants continued to come. However, realizing that life was no better or even worse than the one they had left behind, the suppressed got organized, again and again, and attacked the suppressors in the vain hope of gaining self-rule or independence. This was the history of the 213 years of Qing rule of Taiwan. It is fair to say that a residual visceral distrust of the central government continues to this day - a sentiment apparently still unknown to the Chinese of today.

Had the problem been addressed before? Yes. And this brings up the story of 藍鼎元 (Lan Ding-Yuan, see photo above). Lan followed his older cousin to Taiwan, the latter was charged with putting down the large-scale revolt of 朱一貴 (1721) and the subsequent popular unrests. Lan was a learned scholar who offered these observations, "臺民喜亂,如撲燈之蛾.死者在前,投者不已 (The Taiwanese love to rebel, just like moths attracted to the flames, dying one after another)" and "方慶削平,又圖復起 (Just getting ready to celebrate a mission completed, the insurgence starts up again)" - kind of blaming the victims. Although, Lan did study everything Taiwan, including its society, politics, economy, military, and the geography, custom, religion, and education. He then proposed the 19 rules of how to govern Taiwan. In his 平台紀略說 [A Synopsis of Governing Taiwan, 1731] they were, "信賞罰 (institute believable reward and punishment), 懲訟師 (penalize the lawyers), 除草竊 (weed out petty thefts), 治客民 (reign in the Hakka), 禁惡欲 (ban evil greed), 儆吏胥[punish the Li], 革規例 (reduce regulations), 崇節儉 (encourage thrift and savings), 正婚嫁 (normalize marriages), 興學校 (build schools), 修武備 (re-build military), 嚴守御 (restrict the garrison), 教樹畜 (teach husbandry), 寬租賦 [cut taxes], 行墾日 (till undeveloped land), 復官庄 (restore official fields), 恤澎民 (help the people of Peng-hu), 撫士番 (compensate the Aborigines), 招生番 (civilize the Aborigines)". Did any of these work or even implemented in the first place? From the number of armed revolts after 1731, a no across the board. In fact, even if only two [high-lighted in red] had been instituted, Taiwan would have become a much different place, possibly even the proverbial jewel on the Qing crown. Instead, Taiwan was handled as a hot potato, to be tossed at the first opportunity. That became true in 1895.

Lan also had succeeded in petitioning the Qing Court to relax the ban on the officials' bringing family members to Taiwan. The Lan family and followers stayed in Taiwan and settled in 阿里港 in Pintung [now 屏東縣里港鄉] where their descendants still reside.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lost Colony - a new book by Tonio Andrade (Part 2)

Prof Andrade's "Lost Colony" will not be translated into Chinese and published in China - unless it is revised/abridged. He writes:

"...My erstwhile publisher asked whether I would acquiesce to omitting some “sensitive material” and changing some wording. It sounded like an innocuous request until I got to the details. Since Koxinga is considered a “positive figure in China,” my publisher informed me that the text would have to omit any discussion of torture by him and his soldiers. (Descriptions of Dutch atrocities were acceptable, though.) The book couldn’t refer to Koxinga as a “conqueror” or a “warlord,” and his “restoration of Taiwan” couldn’t be referred to as an invasion or an attack. Similarly, any mention of resistance by Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples (who, historical sources make clear, rose up and killed thousands of his soldiers), would also have to be excised, on the grounds that such episodes hint of “some sort of consciousness of Taiwanese independence.” The Chinese publisher said that if I refused to make such changes, the translation wouldn’t proceed. “Abridgement,” I was told, “is unavoidable.”

And so I set aside my dreams of renown and royalties and said no."

The entire article is here.

Members of the Cheng Clan have no problems as far as how Koxinga was portrayed in Prof Andrade's book. It should be published in Taiwan in the first place.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Celebrating the 192nd Anniversary of Koxinga Temple in Penang

The 開山王廟 [Koxinga Temple] in 日落洞Jelutong, Penang, Malaysia, is celebrating the 192nd anniversary of its founding this week.

Penang has kept the legacy of Koxinga going, 329 years after the fall of Ming-Cheng Kingdom. And the temple trustees have finally reconstructed the rich history of this venerable house of Koxinga so far away from Taiwan. We are very glad to be of some assistance in this endeavor.

We wish the people of Penang the best of luck. And hope for a safe return of the original Koxinga statue which was on loan and then disappeared in 1910-20.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

History of Koxinga Temple in Tainan

延平郡王祠 [Koxinga Temple] in Tainan [address: 臺南市中西區開山路152號] is now a very popular tourist attraction.

Before reaching the temple itself, the first structure that looms into view is actually the roofed gate of the original outer walls:
And to its right, a stone marker inscribed with 開山王廟 or Temple of King Kai-Shan also can be seen:Both 開山王 and 延平郡王 refer to the one and only Koxinga國姓爺, i.e., 鄭成功 [Cheng Chen-Gong], who recovered Taiwan from the Dutch in 1661-2.

Soon after Koxinga's death in 1662, a small shrine was built on this site to memorialize him. In 1683, the Qing defeated Ming-Cheng. To avoid anti-Qing popular uprising in the name of Koxinga, his tomb was relocated to Nan-An, his hometown in Hokkien. The worship of Koxinga nonetheless continued unabated, and this shrine and all other similar ones in Taiwan were named 開山王廟 to avoid trouble since Koxinga was still regarded as a historical archenemy of the Qing state. 開山, literally mountain-opening or trail-blazing, was a hidden reference to Koxinga as the first legitimate ruler of Taiwan. It was not until 1874 when Imperial Commissioner 沈葆楨 Shen Bao-Zen, recognizing the popular sentiment, petitioned the Qing Court to rehabilitate Koxinga instead as a national hero who drove the Dutch out of Taiwan. This was at a time when foreign powers came to invade China and the success of Koxinga was cited as an example to inspire the populace. Shen's request was granted, Koxinga was even promoted from 延平王 to 延平郡王 [some sources claim that this was to conform to the Qing nobleman ranking system rather than a promotion], and enshrined in an officially-sanctioned temple built in 1875 on the same site in Tainan.

This was the front gate 三川門 leading into the courtyard of the temple:
And the Hokkien-style temple itself is shown below [picture was taken during the Japanese era, hence the two out-of-place ishidoros]:
When Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, this temple was preserved and re-named 開山神社 to demonstrate the Japanese affinity toward Koxinga - because his mother was Japanese, and to placate the Taiwanese. In 1914, a worship pavilion and other accessory buildings were also added (with a traditional Japanese torii planted outside of the main gate):
[The worship pavilion in the courtyard. Source:, under Cities-Tainan-Japanese shrine]

After the KMT takeover of Taiwan in 1945, most Japanese jinjas were either destroyed or altered, the Koxinga Shrine/Jinja was no exception. The temple itself was saved although the Japanese structures were all removed and the temple name 延平郡王祠 restored. This time, Koxinga became a national hero again, credited for his efforts in trying to recover mainland China for the Ming while his Japanese heritage was downplayed at the same time.

In 1963, the old Hokkien-style temple was demolished and replaced with a Chinese palace-style building constructed with concrete and steel:
And a sculpture of Koxinga by a modern-day Taiwanese artist Mr Yang Yin-Feng was installed [the original statue remains at the Cheng Family Temple]:
The Japanese torii was also modified into a Chinese-style monument complete with a KMT emblem:
And the horizontal portion of the original Japanese torii has been recovered and is now kind of on display in an obscure corner on the temple grounds:
Over a span of 300 years, the Koxinga Temple has gone through four iterations - a reflection of not only the times but also the politics.

Needless to say, whichever way the wind blows, exploitation or otherwise, Koxinga will always remain a folk hero to the Taiwanese.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Fresh from Taipei, celebrating the first day of 2012
[contributed by Mr Sam Wu].