Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) Shrine
Zheng Chenggong Shrine (Zhèng Chénggōng Miào 鄭成功廟)
If you live in or even visit Tainan, it should be required that you know who Zheng Chenggong is. His name is aligned to both the city and the very foundations of Taiwan. The city’s most central street and its most prestigious university are named after him (note there are a variety of spellings such as Jheng Cheng Kung), and you wouldn’t be able to read the text of any tourist site without seeing his name. There might be some confusion, however, because in most English writings he is known as Koxinga. This is a more internationally recognized name, but if you mention ‘Koxinga’ to Taiwanese people you will probably receive a blank stare. Mention Zheng Chenggong, however, and you might see their eyes light up with pride for their national hero. His name is very revered in Taiwanese culture and quite synonymous with success and ability. If you want to give praise to someone’s achievements, you could tell them they are very chénggōng.
The name Koxinga is a mispronunciation of Guóxìngyé(國姓爺), a title meaning “Lord of the Imperial Surname” given to Zheng by the Ming emperor. Zheng Chenggong was a champion of the Ming in their struggle to maintain their dynasty against the surging Manchu Qing who would ultimately take over China and serve as its final dynasty before becoming a republic.
Zheng Chenggong was born in Japan in 1624 to the Fujianese merchant/pirate Zheng Zhilong and a Japanese mother, Tagawa Matsu. He was educated in China where he later inherited his father’s fleet and loyalty to the Ming. After a decisive loss to the Qing, Zheng took his fleet and 25,000 men to take Taiwan from the Dutch so that he could rebuild in a safe haven. The Ming were never able to take back China, so Zheng’s legacy is more prolific in building the foundations of Taiwan as a Chinese settlement. Zheng Chenggong died of illness shortly after taking over the island, but his early work in building Tainan was inspirational to his followers and to his son, Zheng Jing, who continued his legacy.
Zheng Chenggong has achieved god-like status in the view of many Taiwanese. Some even say that his mother was the physical embodiment of the goddess Matsu. In his shrine, he is worshipped like any other diety in the city.
For a shrine to a war hero, the Zheng Chengong Shrine is amazingly serene. It is flanked by a lovely garden and plum trees (one of which was reportedly planted by Zheng Chengong himself) grow in the back of the main hall. The shrine is itself a great museum with tons of information on the man and the founding of the city. Many of the plaques are even written in proper English, which goes to show the dedication put forth by the government.
The shrine has been converted several times with changes in style appealing to Taiwan’s various occupiers. He is the one figure in Taiwanese history that was venerated by all of Taiwan’s rulers. Although he was their sworn enemy, when the Qing finally took Taiwan they still honored his achievements. The Japanese favored his Japanese heritage, and he was of course loved by the KMT whose retreat to Taiwan is a near re-enactment of his legacy.
The museum next to the shrine is sometimes worth a look. It has some permanent displays dedicated to Zheng Chenggong and also serves as a satellite operation for the Chi Mei Museum.
Admission to the shrine is free. It is open from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm.
Location: 152 Kaishan Rd, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 700