The Zheng Ancestral Shrine (Ancestral Shrine of Koxinga)

Zheng Ancestral Shrine

The Zheng Ancestral Shrine on Zhong Yi Road

The Zheng Ancestral Shrine (Zhèng Shì Jiā Miào 鄭氏家廟)

Much is made of the achievements of the national hero Zheng Chenggong (鄭成功), also known as Koxinga. He defeated the dutch and established the first Chinese kingdom on the island of Taiwan, and thus he has his own shrine dedicated to his worship in Tainan. However, the rest of the Zheng clan also heavily influenced the beginnings of Chinese settlement on the island. The Zheng Ancestral Shrine marks their importance and contributions.

Zheng Ancestral Shrine

The shrine contains the ancestral tablets for each generation of Zheng heritage

Zheng Chenggong’s father, Zheng Zhilong (鄭芝龍), was a pirate, merchant, and admiral who patrolled the waters of the East and South China Seas. It was Zhilong who first had visions of settlement on Taiwan. Hard times for the over-crowded lands of Fujian province as well as the encroaching Manchus pushed him to begin promoting the population of Taiwan with Fujianese farmers. He even sold his own people to the Dutch as indentured servants as a means to get poor people out of Fujian and onto Taiwan. He was a fearful pirate who was able to defeat the Dutch on the open seas, and he left his legacy as a capable admiral and a Ming loyalist to his son. Zheng Zhilong, however, saw less hope in the Ming struggle and defected to the side of the Qing. He was executed by the Qing in 1661 as a result of his sons continued resistance to Qing rule.

Because Zheng Chenggong died about a year after defeating the Dutch, much of Taiwan’s early development was headed by Chenggong’s military advisor, Chen Yonghua, and by Chenggong’s son Zheng Jing (鄭經). Zheng Jing gets a lot of credit for the development of early temples, infrastructure, and laws on the island, but it’s been debated whether or not he was effective himself, or just surrounded by more capable hands. Controversy followed Zheng Jing around like a faithful puppy. Jing was quite full of debauchery from an early age and had relations with his and his brother’s nannies. When Jing made one of these women his concubine and fathered an heir with her, Zheng Chenggong denounced Jing from being the heir to his thrown. However, after his father’s death, Zheng Jing took an army to Taiwan and forced the return of his title. Taiwan was under his rule for most of the Zheng period as his father died quickly after its establishment and his son quickly lost the island to the Qing. After losing naval battles and the rest of the mainland provinces to the Qing, Zheng Jing fell into depression and took up a life of drinking. He died in 1681.

Zheng Chenggong worship idol

Zheng Chenggong worship idol

Through the latter part of Zheng Jing’s life, he bestowed much of Taiwan’s administrative duties to his son, Zheng Kezang (鄭克臧). Kezang (also known as Master Qin) was a much more effective administrator than his father, both to the pride and jealousy of Jing. Zheng Kezang was married to one of the daughters of Chen Yonghua, and was set to take over his father’s legacy, but controversy followed Zheng Jing in death just as it had in life. It had always been rumored that Kezang was not Zheng Jing’s legitimate son. In an attempt to produce his first heir, it was commonly believed that Jing’s nanny-concubine had become impregnated by a local butcher and that Zheng Kezang was the result. Believing that Kezang was not really a Zheng, the family conspired against him. He was assassinated by strangulation so that he couldn’t take up his father’s post. It is unlikely Kezang is remembered as part of the ancestry, but it makes for an interesting bit of history.

Instead of an effective administrator becoming the third King of Tungning (as they called their territory), Zheng Jing’s second son, Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽) took up the thrown. This son was twelve years old at the time. Zheng Keshuang never got much of a chance to create a legacy for himself. Seeing that Tungning had fallen into the hands of a child, the Qing thought it a good time to attack. Within two years, the kingdom on Taiwan had fallen to the Qing.

Zheng Chenggong statue

Zheng Chenggong statue as a child with his mother

Despite all the family history, this shrine is still mainly focused on Zheng Chenggong. Zheng Jing had the shrine constructed in 1663 for the worship of his father. It didn’t become the Zheng Ancestral Shrine until 1771 when the Qing government returned the building to the Zheng family for their own use. At this time they installed a wooden tablet denoting “Three Generations of Heritage.” I’m not certain if the three generations are meant to include Zheng Zhilong or Zheng Keshuang, but I assume it’s the latter as Keshuang did rule the kingdom.

The shrine is an attractive brick building with an open and warm feeling to it. It has been renovated a few times since 1663, and took on its current appearance after the street was widened in 1983 (the same project that effected the neighboring Land Bank).  The shrine consists of a front yard, a front hall, a main hall, and a rear hall. Much of the building is austere, but there are some colorful details. Inside of the worship hall is a worship idol of Zheng Chenggong as well as ancestral tablets representing each generation of Zheng heritage. The Zheng Chenggong idol was made in 1947 and was once the idol in the Zheng Chenggong Shrine, but it was moved to the ancestral shrine in 1961 when a new idol was made. In the front yard of the shrine is another statue of Zheng Chenggong. This one depicts him as a child with his mother standing over him. Most of the features of this shrine are relatively new, but there is one element – the well built into the sidewalk – that remains from the original shrine.

Location: No. 36, Section 2 Zhong Yi Road (Jhongyi Rd. 忠義路), West Central District, Tainan City; next to the Land Bank (Old Kangyo Bank)

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Comments
5 Responses to “The Zheng Ancestral Shrine (Ancestral Shrine of Koxinga)”
  1. Fili says:

    Nice, but he really looks different than he does as the huge man riding the horse in his shrine.

    • tainancity says:

      The statue in the family shrine was realized from a Japanese painting. It looks like it, too. It’s definitely more feminine than the heroic statue in front of the Koxinga Shrine.

      • Jennifer says:

        I’m trying to trace the Zheng Chenggong’s family tree, but it looks like it ends right here with Zheng Keshuang. Any possible way of tracing the full tree? I’m 郑 by family name, by the way. Thanks.

      • tainancity says:

        I believe Zheng Keshuang was moved to Beijing after the Qing took Taiwan, but I don’t know what happened after that. Obviously, there were other Zhengs for whom the ancestral shrine was built, but I wouldn’t know how to trace that. I’m sure some professors at the local universities would know.

  2. Emme Maureen Hsieh says:

    Jennifer,

    Look for a Mr. Frank Eng in Newark, NJ. He is the last living remnant of a Chinatown that existed there long ago. Mr. Eng is one of the best Chinese historians alive and quite capable of tracing the Zheng family up to 6,000 years.

    He is the most impressive man you’ll ever meet.

    Respectfully,

    Emme

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