China’s rule on the Kingdom of Tungning

Between 1661 and 1683, the dynasty maritime state of the Kingdom of Tungning, sometimes called Tywan by the British at the time, reigned over the Penghu islands and a portion of southwest Formosa (now Taiwan). It is the first state in Taiwanese history to be primarily Han Chinese. At its height, the Kingdom’s maritime dominance extended from Japan to Southeast Asia, and it controlled the main sea routes in both China Seas as well as portions of the coastal districts of southeast China.

Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) established the Kingdom by taking Taiwan, a foreign territory at the time that was outside of Chinese borders, from Dutch domination. When the Manchu-led Qing dynasty gradually engulfed the Ming remnants’ rump kingdom in southern China, Zheng planned to reinstate the Ming dynasty in mainland China. Taiwan served as a military base for the Zheng dynasty’s Ming loyalist movement, which sought to retake mainland China from the Qing. During Zheng’s control, Taiwan experienced a sinicization process to strengthen the final bastion of Han Chinese resistance against the advancing Manchus. The House of Koxinga, Koxinga’s successors, governed the Kingdom from 1683 until the Qing dynasty annexed it. This reign period is often called the Koxinga dynasty or the Zheng dynasty.


Chinese:  pinyin: Zhengsh Wangchao; Peh-e-j: Tn-s ng-tiau; pinyin: Yanpng Wangguo; Peh-e-j: Ian-peng ng-kok) Or Yanping Kingdom (Chinese: pinyin: Yanpng Wangguo; Peh-e-j Koxinga first referred to Taiwan as Tungtu (Chinese: pinyin: Dngd; Peh-e-j: Tang-to, meaning “eastern capital”) in his writings. His son and successor, Zheng Jing, renamed it Tungning (Chinese: pinyin: Dngnng; Peh-e-j: Tang-leng, literally “Eastern Pacification”) in 1664. The name change conveyed Jing’s intention to settle permanently in Taiwan rather than his unrealistic expectation that it would serve as a temporary capital in the east for the Yongli emperor, who had been assassinated

It was referred to as Tywan (Taiwan) in Britain since it is the name of the city where the King lived, which is today called Tainan. The Koxinga dynasty is another name for the historical period of dominance.

History of The conquest of Taiwan and the founding of the Kingdom

The Manchu Qing gave some high-ranking Ming officials and military men places in the Qing court in exchange for a halt to their resistance efforts after the Ming dynasty was defeated in 1644. Zheng Zhilong, a Ming admiral and father of Koxinga, accepted the Qing offer but was subsequently captured and beheaded for not transferring control of his armed troops to the Qing cause when asked to do so.

When Koxinga learned of this while studying abroad, he vowed to take up his father’s post and command his surviving soldiers to restore Ming rule over China. Koxinga learned about the situational strategic benefits of a retreat and conquest of Taiwan via the Dutch East India Company’s interpreter Ho-Bin [zh], who was in charge of most of China at the time. Koxinga gathered his troops, estimated to number 400 ships and 25,000 soldiers, and captured the Pescadores (also known as the Penghu Islands) to use them as a strategic staging area from which to invade Taiwan, which at the time was a foreign territory outside of Chinese territory controlled by the Dutch. Ho-Bin gave Koxinga maps of the island.

In 1661, Koxinga’s navy made a landing at Fort Provincia and pushed its way into Lakjemuyse [zh]. In less than a year, he overran Fort Provincia and besieged Fort Zeelandia. When no outside assistance arrived, the Dutch governor Frederick Coyett signed a settlement under which the Dutch ceded the bastion and left all of the Dutch East India Company’s possessions and property behind. The 38-year period of Dutch colonial control in Taiwan ended in exchange for allowing the majority of Dutch officials, troops, and citizens to depart with their goods and supplies and return to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta, Indonesia). However, Koxinga did imprison some Dutch “women, children, and priests.” After that, he led a group of around 100,000 soldiers on an inspection trip so that he could “see with his own eyes the extent and condition of his new realm.”

Koxinga started making Taiwan a functional, if ideally transitory, seat of power for the Southern Ming loyalist movement after realizing that growing his forces into a significant threat to overthrow the Qing would not be possible shortly. Koxinga established the first Chinese administration in Taiwan, replacing the Dutch system that had previously been in place. Six departments made up this type of government: public works, rituals, war, punishment, and income.

With Taiwan intended to function as a regional office of the legitimate Ming authority of China, much effort was made to signify support for Ming legitimacy. One example is using the term guan instead of bu to identify departments. Zheng Jing faithfully followed the rules outlined for Ming officials, submitting reports regularly and honoring the absent Ming emperor. Koxinga also altered the name of Formosa (Taiwan) to Tungtu; however, his son Zheng Jing eventually changed the name to Tungning.

Development of Kingdom of Tungning

After the invasion of Taiwan was successful, Koxinga’s biggest challenge right away was severe food scarcity. Taiwan’s population was less than 100,000 when Koxinga invaded, but the first Zheng army, including their families and retainers, is said to have numbered at least 30,000. Koxinga implemented a Tunisian policy, which required troops to double as farmers when not on active service in a guard unit, to alleviate the food scarcity. Several land and taxation policies were designed to stimulate the extension and cultivation of fertile areas for enhanced capacity for food production to assure the effective implementation of this program to transform Taiwan into a self-sufficient island.

While appropriately developing other farmlands in the south and pursuing the claiming, clearing, and cultivation of Aboriginal lands to the east, Dutch-held fields were swiftly seized, and ownership split among Koxinga’s trusted servants and relatives for rental to small farmers. A strategy of differential taxation, wherein productive land newly claimed for the Zheng regime would be taxed at a considerably lower rate than those regained from the Dutch, deemed “official land,” was put into place to further stimulate growth into new farmlands.

In response to the Spanish maltreatment of the Chinese residents there, Koxinga once stated his desire to conquer the Philippines. When he first declared his plans to take Taiwan from the Dutch, he also emphasized a wish to defend Chinese inhabitants in Taiwan from abuse by the Dutch.

After Koxinga passed away from malaria in 1662, his son Zheng Jing gained control of the Zheng government and led the last 7,000 Ming loyalist soldiers to Taiwan. Zheng Jing aimed to assimilate Taiwan and reintroduce Han Chinese traditions.

Unlike Koxinga, it appears that Jing tried to reach a peaceful agreement with the Qing by going to Peking and requesting that Taiwan become an independent state. Still, he refused to accept the terms of a Manchu hairstyle requirement and regular tribute payments of money and soldiers. The Qing ordered the relocation of all southern coastal towns and ports that had been the targets of attacks by the Zheng fleet and had therefore given supplies for the resistance in reaction to the Zheng Jing’s assaults and to starve out the forces in Taiwan.

Due to the tremendous suffering caused by this transfer program, this largely backfired, and between 1662 and 1664, there were six significant waves of immigration from these regions to Taiwan. Zheng Jing encouraged immigration to Taiwan by promising free eastern land cultivation and ownership for peasants in exchange for mandatory military service by all males if the island needed to be defended against Qing invaders. This was done to capitalize on this Qing blunder. Around 1,000 former Ming government officials fled to Taiwan under the Qing dynasty.

In addition, Zheng Jing enlisted Chen Yonghua, his early mentor, and gave him control of most official government activities. In addition to a tax system nearly as onerous as the one used by the Dutch colonizers, this resulted in adopting several significant developmental programs for Taiwan in education, agriculture, commerce, industry, and finance.

Chinese language schools for Chinese and indigenous populations were soon established in Taiwan, along with a concerted effort to reverse Dutch and indigenous cultural influences and promote Chinese socio-cultural hegemony. Towns and farmland were also expanded further into the south and east. This was made clear by Taiwan’s final closure of all schools and churches founded by Europeans, and therefore by Christians, and by establishing Confucian temples and the Confucian civil service examinations to go along with the newly established Confucian educational system.

In addition to the cooperative unit technology for mass sugar refining, Chen Yong-Hua is credited with the introduction of novel agricultural practices such as water storage for seasonal dry spells and the intentional planting of sugar cane as a cash crop for commerce with the Europeans. With Chen’s development of mass salt drying by evaporation, which produced considerably superior quality salt than from rock deposits discovered to be extremely scarce in Taiwan, the island became more economically self-sufficient.

The Dutch had previously maintained a monopoly on trade with specific Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. Under the Zheng administration, this monopoly was upheld and actively transformed into a quota-tribute system of exploitation of the aboriginal tribes to support global commerce.

The Zheng monopoly on sugar cane and deer hide, as well as the British inability to match the price of East Asian items for resale, severely restricted trade with the British from 1670 until the collapse of the Zheng administration. The Qing maritime ban (haijin), which was in effect for all of Tungning’s existence, restricted its commerce with the mainland to smugglers. Although there is evidence of commerce with numerous Asian nations, Zheng’s main trading partners outside the British were the Dutch and the Japanese.

In 1664, a combined Qing-Dutch fleet led by Han Banner general Ma Degong was routed by Zheng Jing’s navy; Ma was killed in the conflict. After conquering a Buddhist compound at Putuoshan on the Zhoushan islands in 1665, the Dutch plundered artifacts and executed monks.

In 1672, near the northeastern coast of Taiwan, Zheng Jing’s fleet ambushed, looted, and sank the Dutch fluyt ship Cuylenburg, killing thirty-four Dutch men and drowning eight more. Only 21 Dutch seamen managed to flee to Japan. On a trading expedition, the ship was sailing from Nagasaki to Batavia.

The Kingdom of Tungning actively utilized these regions to feed their massive army while they were constantly at war and were barred from marine trade by the hostile Dutch-Qing alliance. As a result, the native population’s rebellions were brutally put down, and the rival Kingdom of Middag gradually lost strength.

The Saisiyat population was devastated, and most of their country was taken by the Kingdom of Tungning due to several significant battles. Although the specifics of the fights are yet unknown, historians concur that the Saisiyat suffered as a result.

Collapse of Zheng

Due to Zheng Jing’s lack of a natural successor, his illegitimate son came to govern Taiwan after his death in 1681. Due to the significant divide produced among the military and political establishments, the battle for succession was particularly damaging. Shi Lang led the Qing navy that was sent out to attack the Zheng fleet led by Liu Guoxuan in the Penghu Islands, taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the internal strife.

Zheng Keshuang submitted to the Qing dynasty’s demands for surrender in 1683 after being persuaded by the “surrender” group led by Feng Xian and Liu Guoxuan after Qing forces had arrived in Taiwan during the Battle of Penghu. After more than two decades of dominance by the Zheng family, his Kingdom was absorbed into the Qing dynasty as a component of Fujian province.

Zheng Keshuang was brought to Beijing, where the Qing emperor elevated him to the rank of Duke of Hanjun and entered him, along with his family and other top commanders, into the Eight Banners. The younger Koxinga House members inherited the Sia hairstyle. The 17 Ming princes still residing in Taiwan were transported back to mainland China by the Qing, where they lived the remainder of their lives.

The Tengpaiying troops, who excelled in combat with rattan shields and swords, were suggested to the Kangxi Emperor. A demonstration of their tactics pleased Kangxi, who then assigned 500 of them to support Ho Yu, a former Koxinga disciple, and Lin Hsing-chu, a former General of Wu, in their siege of Albazin against the Russians. These soldiers defeated Russian warriors on the river who were riding on rafts using just rattan shields and swords while attacking from the water. They did it without incurring a single loss.

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