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Koxinga (國姓爺; Taiwanese: Kok-sèng-iâ/Kok-sìⁿ-iâ; pinyin: Gúoxìngyé) is the popular name of Zhèng Chénggōng; (鄭成功; WG: Cheng Ch'eng-kung; Cheng Kung; Taiwanese: Tēⁿ Sêng-kong) (1624 - 1662), who was a military leader at the end of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. He was a prominent leader of the anti-Qing movement opposing the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and a Han Chinese general who recovered Taiwan from Dutch colonial occupation in 1661.
- Popular name: Koxinga or Coxinga is the Dutch Romanization of his popular name "Lord with the Royal Surname" (國姓爺).
- Surname: Zhèng (鄭)
- Birth name: Sēn (森)
- Japanese name: Tei Seikō (鄭 成功)
- Childhood name: Fukumatsu (福松)
- Courtesy name: Dàmù (大木)
- Royal surname: Zhū (朱)
- Granted by Prince Tang of Southern Ming
- Royal title: Prince of Yánpíng and Zhāotǎo Grand General (延平郡王招討大將軍)
- Awarded by Prince Gui of Southern Ming
Koxinga was born to Zhèng Zhīlóng (鄭芝龍), a Chinese merchant and pirate, and Tagawa Matsu, a Japanese woman, in 1624 in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He was raised there until seven and moved to Quanzhou, in the Fujian province of China. He studied at Nanjing Taixue (The Imperial Central College in Ming dynasty of China) when he was young. He is still known in Japan by his birth name as Tei Seīkō, or by his popular name as Kokusen'ya.
Loyalty to the Ming Empire
Beijing fell in 1644 to rebels led by Li Zicheng, and the last emperor Chongzhen hanged himself on a tree at modern-day Jingshan Park in Beijing. Aided by Wu Sangui, Manchurian armies knocked off the rebels with ease and took the city. In the areas below the Yangtze River, there were many anti-Qing people of principle and ambition who wanted to restore descendants of the Ming Dynasty to the Imperial throne. One of these descendants, Prince Tang, was aided to gain power in Fuzhou by Huang Daozhou and Zheng Zhilong, Koxinga's father. When the Qing captured Prince Tang, Koxinga was in Zhangzhou raising soldiers and supplies. He heard the news that his father was preparing to surrender to the Qing court and hurried to Quanzhou to persuade him against this plan, but his father refused to listen and turned himself in.
Death of his mother
Not long afterwards the Qing army captured Quanzhou, and Koxinga's mother either committed suicide out of loyalty to the Ming Dynasty or was raped and killed by Qing troops (like many other aspects of Koxinga's life the facts seem to have been obscured by ulterior purposes). When Koxinga heard this news he led an army to attack Quanzhou, forcing the Qing troops back. After giving his mother a proper burial Koxinga went directly to the Confucian temple outside the city. Legend has it, that he then burned his scholarly robes in protest. There he is rumored to have prayed in tears, Confucius saying, "In the past I was a good Confucian subject and a good son. Now I am an orphan without an emperor. I have no country and no home. I have sworn that I will fight the Qing army to the end, but my father has surrendered and my only choice is to be an unfilial son. Please forgive me."
He left the Confucian temple and proceeded to assemble a group of comrades with the same goal who together swore an allegiance to the Ming in defiance of the Qing.
Fighting the Qing
He sent forces to attack the Qing forces in the area of Fujian and Guangdong. While defending Zhangzhou and Quanzhou, he once fought all the way to the walls of the city of Nanjing. But in the end, his forces were no match for the Qing. The Qing court sent a huge army to attack him and many of Koxinga's generals had died in battle, which left him no option but retreat.
In 1661, Koxinga led his troops to a landing at Lu'ermen to attack Taiwan. By the end of the year, he had chased out the Dutch, who had controlled Taiwan for 38 years. Koxinga had devoted himself to making Taiwan into an effective base for anti-Qing sympathizers who wanted to restore the Ming Dynasty to power.
At the age of 39, Koxinga died of malaria, although speculations said that he died in a sudden fit of madness upon hearing the death of his father under the Qing. His son, Zheng Jing, succeeded as the King of Taiwan.
There is a temple dedicated to Koxinga and his mother in Tainan County, Taiwan. The play Kokusen'ya Kassen (国姓爺合戦; formally 国性爺合戦) was written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in Japan in the 18th century, first performed in Kyoto. A movie with the same title was produced by the PRC and Japan in 2002 in Mandarin Chinese.
In politics, Koxinga is an interesting figure for the fact that conflicting political forces have invoked him as a hero. The historical narratives in which Koxinga is a hero are interesting because of the conflicting views national identities they attribute to Koxinga and his opponents and the different motives which they attribute to Koxinga.
He has been considered a national hero by Chinese nationalists both in Mainland China and on Taiwan because he was a Ming loyalist and an anti-Manchu leader and for his role in expelling the Dutch from Taiwan which Chinese nationalists portray as establishing Chinese rule over the island. During the Japanese rule of Taiwan Koxinga was honored as a bridge between Taiwan and Mainland Japan for his maternal linkage to Japan. Koxinga has been utilized by the Kuomintang too. Chiang Kai-shek invoked Koxinga as fighter who retreated to Taiwan and used it as base to launch counterattacks to Mainland China. Although supporters of Taiwan independence have historically had mixed feelings toward Koxinga, recent Taiwanese Independence historiography presents him in a positive light, portraying him as a native Taiwanese hero seeking to keep Taiwan independent from a mainland Chinese government (i.e. the Manchus).
Some historians have expressed concern at the way that all sides have attempted to co-opt Koxinga for two reasons. The first is that all of the historical narratives tend to simplify a very complex character by focusing on one attribute of the man to the exclusion of others. In doing so they ascribe motives to Koxinga that make sense to people living in the 21st century but which might not have made any sense to people living in the 17th. The second problem is that by seeking to portray Koxinga as a hero, all sides play down the less savory aspects of the character.
- Research on Koxinga: short bio and more links to articles about Koxinga
- 3-part copyrighted biography: written by a Taiwanese history professor
- Erratum: Koxinga's mother is not surnamed Tamura (田村). The Chinese half has it right, but the English half got it wrong.
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