TRIP TO SOUTHERN TAIWAN, HISTORICAL TAINAN (台南) PART 2
Part high-seas swashbuckler, part royal navy commander, and part dutiful son, Koxinga, the one-time ruler of Taiwan, is remembered in a shrine in downtown TaiNan (台南).
By Stuart Hill
TaiNan’s Koxinga Shrine
For a person revered by people in three different countries, and feared in several others, you might expect the Koxinga Shrine to be an imposing temple-like mausoleum or something akin to the extravagantly designed temples you can find all over Taiwan. Yet the fairly low-key shrine offers the interested visitor even more insight into the importance of Taiwan to its colonizing masters.
The man himself can be perceived in many ways. As the Ming Dynasty loyalist who “liberated” Taiwan from Dutch domination, he stands as a symbol of anti-western imperialism. As a Chinese military strategist who withdrew to Taiwan to form a base from which he could retake China, he offered a convenient blue-print for the similarly challenged Chiang Kai Shek.
For a man born to a Japanese mother living away from his father and raised in Nagasaki (which surely raises the question, was Japanese his native language?), he offered a convenient cultural bridge and political connection between Japan and its colony of Taiwan. For a politically astute son from a wealthy Chinese family, he was something of a successful leader too, living up to his adopted Chinese name “success” or ChengGong, except that in protecting his family interests he sided with the waning fortunes of the declining Ming Dynasty against the rising Qing clan.
Whichever way you want to look at his past, luckily you can enjoy deciphering lots of evidence yourself in the shrine’s detailed descriptions of Koxinga and his family. The English could do with a major re-write, but it is not hard to piece together the main threads to his glorious story.
The shrine itself is nicely maintained and not nearly as busy as ChihKan Tower and AnPing Fort. Check out the ancient tree just behind the central building that only blooms on auspicious occasions. There is a plaque to explain just when it has.
The gardens in the front and out the back are relaxing places to rest before moving on to other sites around town. There’s a small shop (also out the back) selling refreshments, where some elderly TaiNan locals might be hanging out enjoying some music or having a chat.
Next to the rear of the shrine is a museum that elaborates more on Koxinga and the Dutch he defeated, but the second floor is not limited to that topic. The day I visited, for example, there was an exhibition explaining the role of the US in Taiwan’s recent history, especially after World War II. Pure propaganda, but interesting nonetheless.