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Proxy Emperor II

Monday, December 28, 2009
By Joe Hung, The China Post


It was Admiral Shi Lang (施琅) who conquered Taiwan for Qing China. His armada of war junks fought a decisive sea battle off the Pescadores on July 7, 1683. As Shi was ready to attack Taiwan after occupying the Pescadores, Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽), the heir to Zheng Jing, decided to surrender. On receiving the instrument of surrender, Shi sent a small contingent to Tainan to supervise the shaving of the head by all the people on Taiwan.

One condition of surrender was for all the people on the island to wear a Manchu-style queue. They had to shave all the hair but keep what is commonly known as a pigtail as a symbol of total allegiance to their Manchu emperor.

Admiral Shi, a former Koxinga confidant, arrived at Luermen (鹿耳門) near Tainan on September 23. Two days later he reached Tainan to accept the formal submission by Zheng Keshuang, who, on September 28, wore the queue. So did his officials and all Ming princes in Taiwan. That ended the ruling of the house of Zheng.

Seventeen Ming princes were sent back to China on October 10. The Prince of Peaceful Serenity refused to wear the pigtail. He committed suicide on September 28, 1683, which corresponds to the twenty-fifth day of the ninth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. He was 66. On the following day, his three royal concubines and two ladies in waiting killed themselves as well to join him in death.

His tenant farmers, who were not forcibly evacuated back to China like Koxinga's men and officers, built a small shrine to worship him. Known as Huashan Shrine (華山殿), it was rebuilt as the Museum in Memory of the Ming Prince of Peaceful Serenity after Taiwan was restored to the Republic of China at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

A temple was erected in Tainan. It is named the Temple for Five Royal Consorts (五妃廟 ), dedicated to the Prince of Peaceful Serenity and the five ladies who joined him in death. Followers hold a Taoist memorial mass on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth moon of the lunar calendar, the day the prince refused to surrender to the Manchu and committed suicide. The temple is one of Tainan's top tourist attractions.

Shi Lang was instrumental in keeping Taiwan as part of China. After his conquest of Taiwan, the Manchu court in Beijing had to decide whether to keep the island or give it up. Practically all court ministers wanted to abandon Taiwan. Shi alone argued for keeping the island, which, if abandoned, would be reoccupied by the Dutch. Finally, the Emperor Kangxi decided to annex Taiwan in 1683. It was made the prefecture of Taiwan under the jurisdiction of the province of Fujian. Taiwan was made a province after the Sino-French War in 1885 and ceded to Japan at the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895.

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