Zheng Chenggong

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(Redirected from Koxinga)
Zheng Chenggong
King of Tungning
Prince of Yanping.
The Portrait of Koxinga.jpg
Reign Feb 2, 1662 – August, 1662
Born August 24, 1624
Died August 24 1662 (aged 38)
Predecessor None as he is the Founder of the Kingdom
Successor Zheng Jing
Issue Zheng Jing (1642–11682)
Royal House Zheng
Father Zheng Zhilong
Mother Tagawa Matsu

Zheng Chenggong (Traditional Chinese: 鄭成功; Hanyu Pinyin: Zhèng Chénggōng; Wade-Giles: Cheng Ch'eng-kung; Pe̍h-oē-jī: Tēⁿ Sêng-kong); Koxinga (Traditional Chinese: 國姓爺; Hanyu Pinyin: Guóxìngyé; Wade-Giles: Kuo-hsing-yeh) is the traditional Western spelling; (1624 - 1662), was a military leader at the end of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Han Chinese pirate-merchant, he was brought by his father to China and educated to be his scholar. When the Manchu took Beijing and established the Qing dynasty, his father arranged for Zheng to become the adopted heir of Prince Tang, one of the Ming loyalists who opposed Manchu rule.

Zheng Chenggong was a prominent leader of the Ming loyalist movement opposing the Qing Dynasty (Ch'ing) dynasty), and led many unsuccessful campaigns against the Qing. He then turned his attention to Taiwan as a possible military base. In April of 1662, he defeated the Dutch and claimed Taiwan, bringing it under Chinese Han rule for the first time in history. The population of the southern coast of China was evacuated in 1662 to facilitate the defense against his raids. In August of that same year, Zheng Chenggong died of malaria and his son Zheng Jing succeeded him as the King of Taiwan, for 12 years. After the death of his son Zheng Jing, Taiwan fell to the Ch'ing (1683).

Historical Background

By the 1620s the Ming system of taxation had become so corrupt that many wealthy landowners were paying no taxes at all, while the tax burdens on their less powerful neighbors steadily increased. While private individuals prospered, the government faced huge arrears in tax collections and an empty treasury. To cut costs, the Ming government dismissed employees of the extensive government postal-relay system in the northwest. Some of these ex-employees became the leaders of bands of mounted rebels that swept back and forth across north China for years at a time. On the northeast frontier, the Manchu people, who were descended from the Jurchen who had ruled north China as the Jin dynasty from 1125 to 1234, established an independent empire and began to encroach on Chinese border towns. In the capital of Beijing, the all-powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian dismissed or beat to death dedicated officials whom he perceived as his opposition.

In 1642 the rebels began to take over whole provinces, and on April 27, 1644, they entered Beijing. The last Ming emperor hanged himself on Prospect Hill, north of the palaces. The Manchus, who had assimilated Chinese generals, troops, and cannon into their own forces and had advanced all the way to the Great Wall, were ready when a Ming general sought their assistance against the rebels. On June 5, just six weeks after the rebel coup, a large force of Manchus entered the capital, proclaiming that their Qing dynasty had received the Mandate of Heaven and that they had come to chastise the rebels who had caused the death of the Ming emperor.


Koxinga was born in 1624 to Zheng Zhilong (Cheng Chih-lung) (鄭芝龍, 1600-1661), a Chinese merchant and pirate who made a fortune through trade and piracy in the Taiwan Straits, and Tagawa Matsu (田川松), or Weng-shi (翁氏) (1601 - 1646), a Japanese woman, in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture, a small Japanese coastal town where Cheng Chih-lung often went to trade. The coastal area where he was born still has a relic called the "childbirth stone." His mother raised him on her own until he was seven, and had a strong influence on the development of his personality. In 1630, he was taken to Nan'an by Zheng Zhilong; because women were forbidden from leaving Japan, Tagawa Matsu was unable to accompany him. Zheng Zhilong engaged Confucian scholars to educate Zheng Chenggong, so that he might be able to pass the imperial examinations. He moved to Quanzhou (泉州), in Fujian (福建) Province, studied at Nanjing Guozijian (Imperial Nanking University (南京大學), the main Chinese university of the Ming Dynasty). Zheng Chenggong is still known in Japan by the Japanese pronunciation of 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 (李自成), and the last Chongzhen emperor, (pinyin: Chóngzhēn; WG: Ch'ung-chen, February 6, 1611 - April 25, 1644), sixteenth emperor of the Ming dynasty, hanged himself on a tree on Prospect Hill in modern-day Jingshan Park (景山) in Beijing. Aided by Wu Sangui (吳三桂), Manchurian armies knocked off the rebels with ease and took the city. In the areas south of the Yangtze River (長江), though, there were many people of principle and ambition who wanted to depose the Manchu and restore descendants of the Ming Dynasty to the imperial throne. Princes such as Prince Fu, Prince Tang, Prince Lu and Prince Gui, endeavored to fight back and prolong the political power of the Ming empire. Prince Tang, was aided in gaining power in Fuzhou(福州) by Huang Daozhou and Zheng Zhilong, Zheng Chenggong's father. Since Prince Tang had no heirs to succeed him, Zheng Zhilong arranged for Zheng Chenggong to serve him, and he became known as "Guo-xing-ye," which means "lord of the royal surname." [The Dutch later romanized the name as ” Koxinga”]. The emperor bestowed on him the imperial surname Zhu and a new personal name, Chenggong. Zheng Chenggong was in Zhangzhou (漳州), raising soldiers and supplies, when the Manchurian Qing Dynasty's forces captured Prince Tang. He heard the news that his father was preparing to surrender to the Qing court (it is also possible that the Qing Court promised amnesty to him and his followers as a lure) and hurried to Quanzhou to persuade him against this plan, but his father refused to listen and turned himself in. Soon afterwards, Qing troops attacked Nan'an. [1]

Death of His Mother

Zheng Chenggong's mother Tamura, whom he had not seen for more than ten years, finally came to China from Hirato, Japan. Not long afterwards the Qing army captured Quanzhou (泉州), and his mother either committed suicide out of loyalty to the Ming Dynasty, or was raped and killed by Qing troops (the facts have been obscured by conflicting legends). When Zheng Chenggong heard this news, he led an army to attack Quanzhou, forcing the Qing troops back. After giving his mother a proper burial, Zheng Chenggong went directly to the Confucian temple outside the city. According to legend, he then burned his scholarly robes in protest. He is rumored to have prayed in tears there, 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. Taking Xiamen and Jinmen (Amoy and Quemoy) as his bases, Zheng Chenggong pledged his support to Prince Gui (Emperor Yongli), received from him the title of "Prince of Yanping Prefecture," and waged war against the Qing army in the coastal regions of Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang.

Fighting the Qing

Zheng Chenggong sent forces to attack the Qing forces in the area of Fujian and Guangdong (廣東). In May 1658, Zheng Chenggong commanded 170,000 amphibious troops on a campaign to the north. While defending Zhangzhou and Quanzhou, he fought all the way to the walls of the city of Nanjing (南京), but because he was unable collaborate with Zhang Huangyan from the Yangtze River Basin and wage war with full force, the Qing army was able to defend the city and prevent war. In the end, his forces were no match for the Qing. The Qing court sent a huge army to attack him and many of Zheng Chenggong's generals had died in battle, which left him no option but retreat. He did not have enough supplies to feed his army, so he returned to Xiamen.

Landing in Taiwan

Zheng Chenggong felt that it would be difficult to resist the Qing in the long term, with bases only in Xiamen and Jinmen. The Qing court had banned maritime trade, blocking Zheng’s army from trading to support themselves. In the past, Zheng’s family had traded with the Dutch in Taiwan. A man named He Bin, who had worked under the Dutch in Taiwan, came to Xiamen seeking shelter and gave Zheng information about the military situation there and about the geographical topography of Japan. One of Zheng’s staff officers, Chen Yonghua, suggested that Zheng mobilize his army to capture Taiwan.

In April 1661, Koxinga 400 warships and 25,000 troops from Xiamen via Penghu (the Pescadores) to a landing at Lu'ermen to attack Taiwan. According to legend, the ships had run out of food and sandbanks were making it difficult for them to come ashore. Zheng Chenggong stood on the bow of his ship and burned incense to Matzu, the tide swelled and his army was able to come ashore smoothly. Later, Zheng Chenggong built a temple dedicated to Matzu on the spot where he had landed. Today there are two large Matzu temples in Tainan, one in Tuchengtsu and one in Hsienkungli, both of which claim to be the place where Zheng came ashore. Because the coastline of Tainan has altered dramatically since that time, it is difficult to say which is the real landing place.

Zheng Chenggong's troops immediately besieged the Dutch. After numerous attacks, defenses and exchanges of written communication, on February 1, 1662 the Dutch Governor of Taiwan, Frederik Coyett, surrendered Fort Zeelandia to Zheng, [2] effectively ending 38 years of Dutch rule and establishing the first Han Chinese rule in the history of Taiwan. The Dutch left behind goods and property, but all officials, soldiers and ordinary citizens were allowed to leave Taiwan with their personal goods and supplies. On February 9, Coyett handed over the keys to the fort, and led two thousand people back, by sea, to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta). Zheng then devoted himself to making Taiwan into an effective base for anti-Qing sympathizers who wanted to restore the Ming Dynasty to power.

In August of that same year, at the age of 38, Koxinga (the name by which he was known to the Dutch) died of malaria. Some speculate that he died in a sudden fit of madness when his officers refused to carry out his orders to execute his son Zheng Jing after he learned that Zheng Jing had had an affair with a nurse and even had a child by her. Zheng Jing succeeded as the King of Taiwan.


Zheng Chenggong is an interesting figure because several opposing political forces have given him the status of a hero. For this reason, historical narratives regarding Koxinga frequently differ in explaining his motives and affiliations.

The Qing emperors eventually came to esteem him for his loyalty, even though it had been in opposition to their ancestors, and conferred honors on him.

During the Japanese control of Taiwan, Koxinga was honored as a bridge between Taiwan and Japan for his maternal linkage to Japan.

The Chinese Nationalist Party regarded Koxinga as a patriot who retreated to Taiwan and used it as base to launch counterattacks against the Qing Dynasty government on the Mainland. The Nationalists have frequently compared Koxinga to their own leader, Chiang Kai-shek.

He is considered a national hero by the Communist Party in Mainland China because he expelled the Dutch from Taiwan and established Chinese rule over the island.

Supporters of Taiwan independence have historically held mixed feelings toward Koxinga. But recent Taiwanese Independence supporters have presented him in a positive light, portraying him as a native Taiwanese hero seeking to keep Taiwan independent from a mainland Chinese government.

There is a temple dedicated to Zheng Chenggong and his mother in Tainan City, Taiwan. The play The Battles of Coxinga (Kokusen'ya Kassen, 国姓爺合戦; formerly 國姓爺合戰) was written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in Japan in the eighteenth century, first performed in Kyoto. A movie made about his life in 2001, Zheng Chenggong 1661 (English title Sino-Dutch War) starred actor Zhao Wenzhou as Zheng. [3] The film was renamed “Kokusenya Kassen” after the eighteenth-century play and released in Japan in 2002. A biography of Koxinga has been written by Jonathan Clements, reprinted as Coxinga: The Pirate King of the Ming Dynasty.


  1. Zamboanga City History, Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong): "History and the Legends." Edited by Tina Lee, translated by Elizabeth Hoile (李美儀編輯/何麗薩翻譯), Taiwan News 2001-04-30. Retrieved 8 11 2007
  2. [1] taiwandocuments.org. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
  3. Sino-Dutch War 1661 (2001). Kung Fu Cinema. Retrieved August 21, 2007.

See also

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Clements, Jonathan. 2004. Pirate king: Coxinga and the fall of the Ming dynasty. Gloucestershire, Sutton: Phoenix Mill, ISBN 0750932694
  • Coyet, Fredrik, Inez de Beauclair, and Coyet, Fredrik. 1975. Neglected Formosa: a translation from the Dutch of Frederic Coyett's Verwaerloosde Formosa. (Occasional series - Chinese Materials and Research Aids Service Center) San Francisco: Chinese Materials Center. ASIN: B0006W7G54
  • Croizier, Ralph C. 1977. Koxinga and Chinese nationalism: history, myth, and the hero. Harvard East Asian monographs, 67. Cambridge, MA: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University: distributed by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674505662
  • Foccardi, Gabriele. 1986. The last warrior: the life of Cheng Chʻeng-kung, the lord of the "Terrace Bay": a study on the Tʻai-wan wai-chih by Chiang Jih-sheng (1704). Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz. ISBN 3447026340
  • Wills, John E., Jr. 1994. Mountain of fame: portraits in Chinese history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691055424 ISBN 9780691055428


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