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Chapter 3   The Era of Cheng Ch'eng-kung

"Overthrow Ch'ing, Restore Ming"

      During the Dutch rule, the Ming Dynasty in China was threatened by the expanding power of Manchurians. In 1636 the Manchu, who subjugated Korea, changed their dynastic name from Latter Chin to "Great Ch'ing", and threatened to replace the Ming as the ruler of China. In 1628, the Ming Emperor Sze Tsung enlisted the help of Cheng Zhi-long, a pirate chief operating from a base in Taiwan, to rebuild China's armed forces and economy.

      Cheng Zhi-long was married to a Japanese woman, Tagawa of Hirato, who gave birth to a son named Cheng Shen. In 1631, at the age of seven, Cheng Shen went to China with his mother and younger brother. At that time, the Ming Dynasty was on the verge of collapse: Emperor Zong-zheng committed suicide in 1644, Prince Fu-Wang acceded to the throne as Emperor Hong-Kuang, but the Nanking regime supported by Cheng Zhi-long only lasted one year and collapsed. Cheng supported Prince Tang to accede as Emperor Long-Wu in 1645. Cheng Shen, now a young man of 21, was granted an audience by the Emperor who said to him: "I regret that I have no daughter to grant you as a spouse. Do not forget me and be loyal to your country." The Emperor gave Cheng the royal family name "Chu" and changed his name to "Ch'eng-kung". This is the origin of "Koxinga" Cheng Ch'eng-kung.

       By 1645, Ch'ing forces had crossed the Yang-tse River, seized Chin-ling (the capital) and surrounded Fukien. Emperor Long-Wu was captured in August 1646, and in November Cheng Zhi-long surrendered to Ch'ing in spite of his son's opposition. Ch'ing broke its promise and sent Cheng Zhi-long to Peking to be imprisoned, while his wife Tagawa committed suicide after being raped by the Ch'ing soldiers. Upon learning the fates of his parents, Cheng Ch'eng-kung swore in front of a Confucius temple that he will become a soldier instead of a scholar and avenge his parents and motherland.

       After the death of Emperor Long-Wu, Prince Kuei, who had taken refuge in Guantong, acceded as Emperor Yung-Li. This last emperor of the Ming Dynasty conferred the titles "Prince of Yeng Ping Prefecture" and "Great Rebellion Quelling General" on Cheng Ch'eng-kung in 1653. In 1661, after a crushing defeat in an attempt to recapture Chin-ling (Nanking), Emperor Yung-li died. Cheng Ch'eng-kung, retreated from the mainland, and sought refuge in Penghu and Taiwan. He preserved Ming's dynasty name "Yung-Li", and resolved to "overthrow Ch'ing and restore Ming". Later, Cheng Ch'eng-kung overthrew the Dutch on Taiwan, and moved to Taiwan in order to realize his goal of restoring Ming Dynasty. Cheng's relocation to Taiwan was a new turning point in the fate of Taiwan.

Cheng's Occupation of Taiwan

       Since the efforts to overthrow the Manchu rule in China proved fruitless, Cheng Ch'eng-kung was forced to retreat to the islands of Amoi and Kimoi in 1661. At that time, Ho Bin, who had worked as an interpreter for Dutch West India Company, fled to Amoi to avoid debt collectors. Ho presented a sea chart to Cheng Ch'eng-kung, urging him to attack Taiwan, where fertile land was abundant. Entrusting the defenses of Amoi and Kimoi to his eldest son, Cheng Jing and appointing Ho Bin as guide, Cheng Ch'eng-kung led 400 vessels and 25,000 troops and seized Penghu Island. Then, he prepared to launch an attack on Taiwan.

       Han immigrants on Taiwan, whose hatred toward the Dutch was intensified after the Kuo Huai-Yit incident, welcomed Cheng's troops wholeheartedly. Cheng avoided Fort Zeelandia at seashore, launched an attack on Fort Providentia where defense was weak and seized it with little effort. Cheng's troops then closed in upon Fort Zeelandia, forcing the Dutch to entrench in the castle waiting for reinforcements from Batavia. While requesting help from Batavia, the Dutch administrator also demanded aborigines' support. However, reinforcements from Batavia were delayed, and the aborigines were annihilated. In February 1662, the Dutch negotiated an agreement whereby they would evacuate to Batavia, and in so doing ended their thirty-eight year occupation of Taiwan. 

       After occupying Fort Providentia in Chih-kan, Cheng Ch'eng-kung immediately set about dividing the administrative regions. First, he renamed the island "Tong-Du" (Eastern Capital), named the area around Fort Zeelandia "An-ping County", Chih-kan and its surrounding area which is present-day Tainan city was named "Sheng-Tien Prefecture". He established two prefectures, one in the north, one in the south, and a garrison command on Penghu Island. Furthermore, he led his troops to tribal villages of aborigines and demonstrated his power in an effort to repress aborigines. The Cheng Royalty settled down in Taiwan as a government in exile, whose ultimate goal was to restore the Ming Dynasty in China.

       Toward the end of Dutch rule, the population of Taiwan, including aborigines and immigrants, was approximately 100,000. Immigrants were estimated to number around 20,000. The numerous troops and their dependents that Cheng Ch'eng-kung brought to Taiwan were estimated at about 30,000. It was the first mass immigration to Taiwan from China. Due to the sudden increase in population, there was an urgent need to secure food supplies. To cope with the situation, Cheng forfeited all "King's Fields" owned by Dutch East India Company, and turned them into "Government Lands" owned by the new regime.

       In addition, beside allotting lands for official residences and barracks, Cheng allowed families of government officials to obtain lands according to the number of family. These were called "Private Lands" or "Official Lands". The soldiers were allowed to reclaim lands provided they did not intrude upon lands already owned by aborigines and immigrants. These lands were called "Station Fields". As a result of expansion in agricultural land centered in southern Taiwan, the number of large scale "Station Fields" grew to more than 40, and the production of foods increased greatly. The agricultural development by Cheng was worthy of notice because he established a system of private land ownership in Taiwan. In the times following, Cheng and his family expanded their spheres of influence from sea to shore.

Cheng Ch'eng-kung's Death

       Within one year after arriving in Taiwan, Cheng Ch'eng-kung died in May 1662, at the age of 38, before he was able to realize his dream of over-throwing Ch'ing. Cheng was recognized as an hero for driving away the Dutch and for developing Taiwan, and was revered as "Lord of Pioneer". During the Ch'ing era, a temple of the "Prince of Yeng-ping Prefecture" was built by the Imperial Command in honor of Cheng and his mother. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Prince of Yeng-ping Prefecture temple was renamed as "Lord of Pioneer Shrine", and Cheng Ch'eng-kung was deified.

       Upon Cheng Cheng-kung's death, his son, Cheng Jing, whose power base was in Fukien Province, vied with his uncle in Taiwan for succession. Cheng Jing finally forced the troops of his uncle to surrender and became Taiwan's ruler. He also led several expeditions against the Manchu, trying to fulfill his father's dream of restoring the Ming, but failed. In January 1664, he moved seven thousands troops and their families to Taiwan. It was a general retreat of anti-Ch'ing forces from China.

       After moving to Taiwan, Cheng Jing renamed Tong-Du "Tong-ning", and in addition to Penghu Island, he added two garrison commands in the north and south of Taiwan. He also administered family registration system and divided cities into streets and blocks which became an important basis for "Bao-Jia System" (Resident Control System) later. Cheng Jing died prematurely in 1681.

       For nineteen years, Cheng Jing concentrated his time and efforts in battling the Manchu, and therefore, had little time left for political affairs at home. All governmental matters were entrusted to Chen Yung-hua, an state minister since the time of Cheng Ch'eng-kung's reign. Chen, who masterminded the development of Taiwan, not only established the feudal land system, family register and administrative structure, but also laid the foundation of the Cheng Royalty government. Moreover, he actively engaged the residents in skill training, and promoted foreign trade in order to secure a source of revenue. Being a distinguished minister, Chen Yung-hua's achievements rarely noted due to the fact that he acted mostly behind the scenes. However, in the pursuit of restoring the Ming, his policies were often harsh and oppressive, and the residents suffered greatly.

       Development and Harsh Demand

       After Cheng Ch'eng-kung moved to Taiwan, Ch'ing for fear of the return of Cheng's troops, evacuated the coastal areas of Chinese mainland. Many of the residents in these areas were deprived of their livelihood and thus were forced to leave for Taiwan. Blockade was also enforced on sea ports where traffic of fishing boats as well as commercial vessels was banned. As a result, smuggling became rampant, and Taiwan became a foothold of smuggling trade with China. The Cheng Royalty regime encouraged residents of coastal provinces to come to Taiwan, setting immigrating in motion that soon resulted in sudden increase of population in Taiwan.

       The increase of population was accompanied with progress in the development of Taiwan. Regions including Tamsui, Keelung and part of present day Taipei in the north, and Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Tajia, Miaoli, Lukang, Changhua, Beikang, Toulio, Jiayi, Hsinying, Fongshan, Kaohsiung, Henchun etc. on the west side of the Central Mountain Range were developed one after the other. The total cultivated land increased greatly, hence, production of foods was multiplied. Food supplies were not only self-sufficient, but were enough to support military operations against the Manchu.

       In order to fund agricultural and industrial developments as well as gigantic government spending, the Cheng regime taxed residents rigorously. In addition to the head tax, a Dutch invention, the Cheng government also introduced property tax which included pig and chicken pens. Taxing objects were extended to all areas of industry, such as oxen-powered noodle production, sugar cane transport carts, salt fields, and so on. Not only were fishing boats taxed according to their size, a harbor tax and fish catch tax were also levied. Buddhist and Taoist monks were required to pay "special professional taxes", while matchmakers were also needed to pay tax for payments they received in arranging marriages. Although Cheng regime was financially well off due to huge trade revenue and tax income, expenses were also extremely high. Tormented by heavy taxation, residents gradually grew bitter against the Cheng regime and were soon in deep despair.

Internal Troubles

       Ideally, the Cheng Royalty and their followers should have banded together to build foundation for a sound regime. However, in reality their internal troubles were never ending. Following the death of their leader, family members and their supporters were involved in internal power struggle that weakened their unity. When Cheng Ch'eng-kung died, Cheng Jing, who was in Amoi, fought with his younger brother Cheng Shih-Si in Taiwan over the right of succession. Cheng Jing had had an affair with his brother's nanny and even fathered a love child in this relationship. This had angered Cheng Ch'eng-kung and Cheng Jing was deemed not suitable to be a lord. Therefore, upon the death of Cheng Ch'eng-kung, Cheng Shih-Si was immediately exalted as the successor. Learning this, Cheng Jing led his troops to Taiwan, and after some struggle, finally reclaimed the role of successor .

       When Cheng Jing died in February 1681, a more destructive struggle for succession followed. This time, the dispute between the two sons of Cheng Jing was complicated by two opposition ideals that of a hard-line war advocate and those of a faction of practical affairs who stressed developing Taiwan. As a result, Chen Yung-hua, the distinguished minister was purged. Surely, the power struggle was a last-stage symptom of Cheng Royalty rule in Taiwan. It seemed to the Ch'ing Dynasty that the opportunity to destroy Cheng regime had finally come.

       When the war between the Cheng Royalty and the Ch'ing Dynasty was at its worst, psychological warfare was pushed to the extreme. Betrayal was encouraged by both sides. The Ch'ing Dynasty opened a "Welcome House" in Fukien, and promised jobs and freedom to soldiers who would rebel against Cheng's camp. Monetary rewards were also given to men who grew pigtails. This scheme had proven effective as rebels continuously arrived from Cheng's camp. Moreover, this "Welcome House" not only published the names of deserters, but also deliberately included names and positions of Cheng government officials. This induced suspicion inside the Cheng regime and accelerated its downfall.

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