Arguably the single most important event in Taiwan’s history – and certainly the most dramatic story – was the arrival in 1661 of warlord and Ming loyalist Koxinga (鄭成功 Zheng Chenggong). After a fierce struggle, Koxinga evicted the Dutch, who had established a successful settlement in southwestern Taiwan in 1624. This clash is the subject of “Lord of Formosa,” a wonderful novel by Dutch writer Joyce Bergvelt. Too epic a historical story for just one episode, in the first of this special two-part series, John chats with Joyce about the Dutch East India Company (the VOC). What was the VOC and why was it here in Taiwan? And why on earth were the Dutch importing bricks from Europe and exporting deer skins to Japan?
Left cover image: A map shows the Brouwer Route, devised by the Dutch navigator Hendrik Brouwerin 1611. This new route greatly reduced the voyage between the Dutch Cape Colony's Cape of Good Hope (now near Cape Town, South Africa), to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta, Indonesia) from almost 12 months to about 6 months, compared to the previous Arab and Portuguese so-called "monsoon route."
Right cover image: Joyce Bergvelt's 2018 novel "Lord of Formosa," published by Camphor Press. The cover features the VOC insignia (VOC is the abbreviation for Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, known in English as the Dutch East India Company).
Below: The Chinese-language edition of Lord of Formosa (in traditional Chinese characters) was published in 2023 by Avanguard.
Below: A Wikipedia Commons image shows the location of the Cape of Good Hope.
Below: Japanese armor (mostly used for ceremonial purposes) made partially with deer skin. Taiwan exported a significant amount of Formosan sika deer skin to Japan via Dutch traders. Photo via the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Public domain.
Below: Re-introduced sika deer graze under "Da Jian Shan," a rock overlooking the beaches of Kenting in the far south of Taiwan (Pingtung County). Image via Wikimedia Commons/李順發