Honor Among Heroes

Treaty drawn up and concluded by his Highness Coxinga and the Dutch Governor of Formosa Frederick Coyett|Treaty drawn up and concluded by his Highness Coxinga and the Dutch Governor of Formosa Frederick CoyettIn his T'ai-wan T'ung-shih (?箇? or General History of Taiwan), Lien Heng (??帖) includes a letter sent by Cheng Ch'eng-kung to Frederick Coyett, Governor of the besieged Dutch outpost on Taiwan. In it, Cheng entreats Coyett to spare the lives of the hundreds trapped within Fort Zeelandia by the overwhelming Chinese forces under his command. He also promises to allow them to leave Taiwan, with their belongings, in peace. He concludes by asking Coyett to raise a white flag if he wishes to surrender and a red flag if he wishes to continue the fight.

Treaty drawn up and concluded by his Highness Coxinga and the Dutch Governor of Formosa Frederick Coyett|Treaty drawn up and concluded by his Highness Coxinga and the Dutch Governor of Formosa Frederick CoyettWhile the Chinese version of this letter has not survived, it is likely that Cheng had sent several such requests. Of these, it is probable that only the last letter was translated into Dutch, and carried by the missionary Anthonius Hambroek to the Governor. That letter is now in the collection of the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands, and its content is quite close to that of Lien Heng's account. The document records the name of the translator and the name of Jacobus Valentijn, who had already surrendered to Cheng and was asked to embellish the content of the letter.

Coyett's reply requests that his men and their possessions be allowed to leave Taiwan in safety and with honor. The tone is quite different from the intractable fortitude of his earlier letters, which express the Governor's will to sacrifice the lives of his garrison in the fort's defense.

Two versions of the treaty between Cheng Ch'eng-kung and the Dutch survive. The first, signed by Governor Coyett and 27 others, has a total of 18 entries. The latter, left in the possession of Cheng Ch'eng-kung, has 16 entries. While the original copy of the second version is lost, a Dutch translation made at the time of the surrender does still exist. The content of the two letters is largely consistent, showing agreement on the part of both parties.

The first entry in both letters is a statement that the two parties wish to forget the animosity that caused the conflict.

t' Verwaarloosde FormosaThe remaining entries detail what property will pass into the possession of Cheng Ch'eng-kung, and what the Dutch will be allowed to take. These lines are quite specific. Essentially it was agreed that Fort Zeelandia and its fortifications, cannons and other weapons, foodstuffs, goods, and currency, would pass to Cheng.

The Dutch were allowed to depart with rice, bread, wine, rope, canvas, seed, gunpowder, shot, and other goods needed for an ocean voyage. The mobile property of the Dutch officials, after inspection by Cheng's forces, could also be taken. Each of the 28 councilmen could also take 200 silver rijksdaalers. Other married, supervisory, and important members of the Dutch settlement, totaling 20, could jointly depart with 1000 silver rijksdaalers.

The Dutch were allowed to take all account documents and other records to Batavia. It was also agreed that they would draw up an itemized list of monies owed to the VOC by Chinese debtors for Cheng Ch'eng-kung.

All employees of the VOC, freemen, women, children, male and female slaves, and those who had been captured in the course of the war would be sent to Dutch ships within 8 to 10 days. Dutch dwellers in other parts of China or Taiwan would also be returned with all speed. Agreements were also made on the final stay of the Dutch on the island. Prior to their departure for Batavia, the Dutch would erect a white flag at Fort Zeelandia, and Cheng Ch'eng-kung's army would not cross the line to enter the fortress. Cheng also agreed to sell, at a reasonable price, food supplies that the Dutch required.

The Dutch soldiers, after inspection, were allowed to depart with their private possessions and currency, in full uniform, with flag and loaded arms. Store inspectors were to remain ashore after the ships were loaded for two or three days. They would then be released along with the other hostages. Both sides agreed to free all prisoners.

After the treaty was signed, Cheng sent two hostages aboard the VOC ships, while the Dutch sent two hostages to Cheng's camp at Tayouan. The purpose was to ensure that both side followed the provisions outlined in the treaty.

The war between Cheng and the Dutch, which dragged out for nine months, finally ended in a peaceful settlement. The losers kept their honor, and the honor of their country. The victors were magnanimous. Cheng Ch'eng-kung and Frederick Coyett both left the field as honored heroes.