Screening Dutch Formosa in 2000: Taiwan as China’s Renegade Province in Wu Ziniu’s The Sino-Dutch War 1661  

Scenes from Dutch Formosa: Staging Taiwan’s Colonial Past, ed. Llyn Scott (Portland ME: MerwinAsia, 2014), pp. 153-179    :::  ISBN 978-1-937385-28-6

What does Koxinga mean to today’s China and Taiwan? How does Wu Ziniu’s film The Sino-Dutch War 1661, a 2000 mainland Chinese film about seventeenth-century Dutch Formosa–with a mainland Chinese / Hong Kong / Japanese cast–complicate the questions of belonging and betrayal?

     Taiwan’s cultural identities have always been politically charged, in 1661 as in the new millennium, and film and literature have played different roles in censoring and projecting the history of colonialism and nationalism.

     One of the most important legends to emerge from this history of competing visions of Taiwanese identity is Zheng Chenggong (aka Coxinga, Lord of the Imperial Surname, or Imperial Name Keeper, 1624-1662). He has alternately been cast as a Han Chinese martyr to a lost cause to oppose the “barbaric” Manchurian rulers, a defender of Ming China’s last frontier against Dutch colonizers, a deity in Taiwan, and an iconic “national” hero in Taiwan and China.

     Complete with a textual excerpt from the film’s key scenes, translated by Joubin, this chapter argues that Wu’s film transforms Zheng (Coxinga) from a pirate leader to a founding father who establishes Chinese control over Taiwan and liberates the Taiwanese from Dutch colonial rule. Anyone familiar with this multi-determined history would not miss its potentially dangerous political messages about today’s China-Taiwan relations.


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