DAYAK under pressure
Formosa Lost - A search for signs from the 17th century


Chapter 1 - Taipei

Although Taiwan (formerly Formosa) has been part of the Chinese empire for a very long time, this was not always the case. The aboriginal inhabitants are not even related to the Chinese, but probably originate from the islands in the Pacific. The Chinese only arrived in large numbers after 1600, when the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had established trade posts and forts. And after they had defeated the Dutch in 1662 they gained control over the island and stayed there until the end of the 19th century. Then the Japanese took over. They too left their mark on the island, staying until after WO II, when they were succeeded by Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. On our trip around the island we are looking for signs from the time when the Dutch were on Formosa in the 17th century,. But we decide to explore the city of Taipei first and visit the 18th century mansion of Lin Antai, the architecture and placement of which has been calculated according to the rules of Feng Shui.

Chapter 2 - Tainan

Tainan is the oldest city of Taiwan. On this spot the Dutch build Fort Zeelandia in 1624. The VOC had been interested in trade with China for many years and wanted to establish themselves in the region. They build Fort Zeelandia after a struggle with the Portuguese. The Dutch lived inside the fort and had to adapt to the unfamiliar environment. Around the fort a town arose where, amongst others, Chinese came to live. And although the trade with China never really flourished, Fort Zeelandia eventually became a mayor trade post. To prevent the Chinese from gaining too much influence the VOC decided to become more directly involved in the internal affairs of the island and appointed a governor or 'Gouverneur'. Until 1634 the contacts between the Dutch and the aboriginal population were limited to the direct environment of the fort. Thereafter the VOC became more involved and aboriginal villages were placed under Dutch government. Vicars, who came to Formosa for missionary work, also were given governmental and political duties to perform. When the harbour of Fort Zeelandia slowly became too muddy and shallow a new fort was built nearby. They called it Fort Provintia. Nowadays, this fort lies in the centre of Tainan and has become a major tourist attraction. There are also many temples and shrines in Tainan worth visiting, like the shrine of Cheng Chengkung, better known as Coxinga, the Chinese pirate who defeated the Dutch in 1662 and who now is a national hero in Taiwan. His opponent was the last Gouverneur of the VOC on Formosa, Frederik Coyett.

Chapter 3 - Alishan

From Tainan we go to Alishan, a popular holiday spot in the mountains. We walk along the trails and notice how the landscape resembles a giant Chinese garden. Taiwan is densely populated. Nature has been cultivated wherever possible, but in other places the landscape is rough and difficult to access. That was also what Albrecht Herport noticed, a German sailor who joined the VOC and came to Formosa in 1661. He left us a journal in which he describes his adventures and his impressions of the country. He was part of an expedition that came up against the local inhabitants of a mountain village and he tells about the suffering and problems he and his colleagues had to face. He also gives us a description of the village and its inhabitants.

Chapter 4 - Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Park

The Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Park in Puli is a big open air museum, dedicated to the culture of the first inhabitants of Taiwan. Every aboriginal tribe is represented by a small village, build in the local tradition. The village of the Bunun reminds us of the writings of Albrecht Herport. The Bunun live in the mountains and have a reputation as mountaineers, guides and porters. Lately however, there is less demand for their skills and in spite of their great knowledge they often lack the necessary qualifications to compete in the professional world. Inside the park we also see a replica of the house where traditional priestesses, called Inibs, lived. Their roll in the 17th century society has been described by the Reverend Candidius, who was a vicar on Formosa in those days. Candidius also tells us about the occupations and habits of the aboriginal peoples.

Chapter 5 - Keelung and Tanshui

From Puli we travel to Keelung by bus along the Central Cross Island Highway. We spend the night at Lishan, a village of farmers and fruit growers. Through the spectacular Taroko Gorge we reach the east coast and head north. In Keelung we unsuccessfully try to find the remnants of an old Spanish fort that later became Dutch. In Tanshui however there is the fort San Domingo and this is easy to find. After Formosa had fallen in 1661 the VOC managed tot hold on to this fort until 1668, but by that tome the trade was gone. Nowadays, the fort serves as a consulate. The fact that Formosa was lost to the VOC bothered the people back home in Holland for quite some time. Frederik Coyett was accused of high treason and was severely punished. A book, probably written by him, was published in 1675, in which his point of view was described and defended.

Chapter 6 - Formosa found again?

For many Taiwanese history begins in 1662, when Coxinga expelled the Dutch. From then on Taiwan has been part of the Chinese empire. The aboriginal inhabitants disappeared from the main scene. Nowadays, they still form a small minority and hold a week position in modern Taiwan. In the 1970s, however, people worldwide became more aware of and interested in aboriginal cultures. This also happened in Taiwan. Now. the aboriginal people seem more self-aware now and their religion, art, music and literature get more attention. In the beginning of the 19th century recollections of the Dutch presence were described in several books but since then a lot has disappeared. The short Dutch episode in Taiwan's history lives on in some geographical names and in the museums. And of course in the different forts on the island.

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