Taiwan at the Fall of the Ming Dynasty

During the Ming, Taiwan was not under the control of the Chinese state, although traders, fishermen, and pirates from Fujian Province had established themselves on the west coast of the island. Political upheaval on the mainland helped link Taiwanese and Chinese history. When the Ming collapsed in 1644, Taiwan became a redoubt for a fallen regime that claimed to represent the true China and its culture against alien rule, an image the Nationalists revived after 1949. The life and career of Zheng Chenggong (1624-62), known in many Western histories as Koxinga, a regional strongman and pirate who gained increasing influence as the Ming collapsed, linked Taiwan to the mainland’s political history. Zheng’s support of the Ming court against the non-Han Manchu invaders made him a permanent icon of Chinese patriotism. Even today he remains a particular source of local pride in Tainan, the city on the site where Zheng’s forces brought about the Dutch evacuation from their small colonial outpost in 1662. A combination of effective military strategy and generous peace terms, however, in 1683 enticed Zheng’s heirs to surrender to the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

SOURCE: Between Assimilation and Independence: The Taiwanese Encounter Nationalist China, 1945-1950, by Steven E. Phillips (Stanford U. Press, 2003), p. 4

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