From our room in the Yukai Resort Hotel Ranpu we could see a line of monuments on the other side of the road, looking out to sea. Perhaps, I thought, they were something to do with the Dutch, who were granted a trade concession at the port of Hirado from 1609. The hotel lobby had a series of glass cases in which were preserved memorabilia of that time, including paintings, pottery and artefacts; and, elsewhere, there was a bad sculpture of a knight on horseback which I think was meant to be a Dutchman. However, when we went down there for a look, after lunch in a small café up the road, the monuments concerned someone else entirely: Zheng Chenggong aka Koxinga, Teiseiko in Japanese. He fought to preserve the Ming Dynasty rulers of China against the incursions of the Qing from the north; later he was instrumental in taking Taiwan (Formosa) from the Dutch who had occupied the island. On one of the stones was his biography, in Chinese characters, composed and inscribed in 1852 under the auspices of the 35th Lord of Hirado.

Zheng was born here, at Kawachi, in 1624, the son of a Chinese merchant by a Japanese woman, and spent his first seven or eight years at Hirado before moving to Fukien in southern China. His career thereafter is complex and resists easy summary. Suffice to say that his attempts to preserve the rule of the Ming Dynasty failed and that his taking of Taiwan was, in part, an attempt to find a base for Ming forces from which they could, at some point, retake the mainland. Just like Chiang Kai-shek, many years later. He was as much a warlord as a loyal servant and, when his sudden death, from malaria, occurred at the age of just 37, he was engaged in a campaign to expel the Spanish from the Philippines. In both places he supported the indigenous peoples of those lands against their European colonisers. His legacy too is complex: he is remembered very differently in Japan, in the Peoples Republic of China, and in present day Taiwan, though in all three places he is accounted a hero.

A graceful, curving breakwater sheltered the beach from the wide bay beyond. Hirado is an island, reached via a bridge; we were looking south and could see parts of the mainland on the other shore, as well as the opening of a passage to the East China Sea. Mostly we just hung about the hotel. It was cold, with a wind from the north, and we had had enough of sight seeing for the moment. We saw small steamers plying their trade back and forth and, that evening, three large fishing boats anchored in the bay and, with their lights blazing, let down nets (I suppose) to catch the tidal flow.

20-21 March, 2023


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