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Tainan building another 'Princess Taiping'-like Ming vessel

TAINAN, Taiwan -- Another Princess Taiping is under construction in the city of Tainan.

An exact replica of a three-masted war junk of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Princess Taiping was rammed into two halves off Suao on Sunday, only 20 miles away from the goal of its record-making 14,000-mile trans-Pacific voyage.

Its skipper, Nelson Liu, and all 10 members of the crew were rescued after an unknown freighter, christened Champion Express, had hit it almost at the end of its ten-month odyssey.

“Our replica of a Koxinga war junk is now half complete,” Mayor of Tainan Hsu Tain-tsair said yesterday.

Koxinga, a loyal Ming general, drove out the Dutch from Taiwan and claimed the island for China in 1672. He made Fort Provinzia, present-day Tainan, his capital.

What is known as “Taiwan Vessel” is being built at the Goddess of the Seas Park at Anping, which was known as Fort Zeelandia while the Dutch ruled Taiwan for 38 years.

The ship, not christened yet, is 29.5 meters long and 7.26 meters at the beam, when completed.

The Taiwan Vessel is almost exactly the same as one of the war junks Admiral Zheng He commanded in his voyage to Southeast Asia and North Africa in the early 15th century. Ming China had the world's strongest navy at that time. The Princess Taiping was patterned after a Zheng He war junk.

Hsu said his copy of the Koxinga war junk could carry 12 to 36 cannons and 200 marines.

“We'll be able to launch our war junk in November” Hsu said. No exact date has been fixed.

After it is launched, Hsu went on, a crew of 20 would be recruited to sail the war junk. “We are not going to set any world record,” he added, “but our ship would go to Hirado, Quemoy, Amoy and as far as Jakarta on a friendship mission.”

Hirado, on the western tip of Kyushu near Nagasaki, is the birth place of Koxinga. Amoy and Quemoy were the power bases of the House of Zheng.

Koxinga's Chinese name is Zheng Chenggong. Koxinga means the Lord of the Imperial Surname. A Southern Ming emperor conferred the imperial surname of Zhu on the Hirado-born general.

Jakarta was the seat of the government of the Dutch governor-general, who had the jurisdiction over the Dutch colony of Taiwan.

A Koxinga festival, the eighth of the annual event, was opened in Tainan on Saturday. It will last until May 3.

One feature is a guided tour of Tainan and Anping, from the temple dedicated to Koxinga to the park where visitors would be able to watch shipbuilders at work on the war junk.

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