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  • Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West by Tonio Andrade
  • Xiaorong Han
Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West. By Tonio Andrade. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011. 428 pp. $35.00 (cloth).

Lost Colony is a dramatic story of how Koxinga, or Zheng Cheng-gong, seized Taiwan from the Dutch in 1662. Andrade starts his account with the controversial trial in Batavia of Frederick Coyet, the last governor of the Dutch colony in Taiwan, after he lost the island. This is followed by a brief discussion of the debate between the supporters of the Military Revolution theory, who argue that the military system [End Page 212] of preindustrial Europe was superior to that of China and other non-Western societies, and proponents of the Chinese Military Revolution theory, who contest that something similar to the European military revolution had already been going on in China when Western arms were first introduced to China in the modern era, and that the military history of non-Western societies needs to be carefully examined before any conclusion about Europe’s advantage can be reached. Andrade believes that an analysis of the war between Koxinga and the Dutch over Taiwan can help resolve the disputes between these two groups of scholars because it was the first war between Europe and China, and therefore provides a rare opportunity for comparing and contrasting European and Chinese military technologies and organizations.

The rest of the book is divided into three parts and a closing section. Part 1 traces the complex relations between Koxinga’s father, Zheng Zhilong, and the Dutch in Taiwan as well as the rise of Koxinga as the sea king. Zhilong made great profits from his dealings with the Dutch in his early years as a translator, merchant, and pirate, and then became a Ming official and an enemy of the Dutch. After defeating a Dutch fleet near Jinmen, he was able to consolidate his position in the Ming officialdom, particularly his control over Xiamen and Fujian, and he then resumed his trade with the Dutch. In many ways, Zhilong paved the way for Koxinga’s emergence as a powerful general, although after 1644 the father and the son took opposing positions toward the Qing. As a Ming loyalist, Koxinga fought the Qing for many years, but he then decided to turn against the Dutch in Taiwan.

In part 2 Andrade describes in detail the stalemate between Koxinga and the Dutch during their earlier confrontations. After making a surprise landing on Taiwan in April 1661 and capturing the Dutch possessions on the coast as well as a major island in the Bay of Taiwan, Koxinga came across great difficulties in conquering Zeelandia Castle, built on a small island in the Taiwan Bay. Koxinga besieged the castle shortly after arriving in Taiwan, believing that the Dutch would be intimidated by the sheer number of his troops and surrender, but the Dutch persisted. He then tried to storm the castle but failed. The shortage of grain forced Koxinga to disperse his troops, and the arrival of Dutch reinforcements in July 1661 further diminished Koxinga’s hope of forcing the Dutch into submission. However, as Andrade well illustrates in part 3, the stormy weather; the mistakes made by the Dutch leaders, including the launching of a foolish attack; and the wise tactics adopted by Koxinga, particularly his quick mastering of some European techniques, soon put an end to the stalemate. Their hasty and contingent alliance with the Manchus in mainland China, instead of saving [End Page 213] the Dutch, served to push Koxinga for a quick and final action, which resulted in the Dutch surrender in February 1662.

In “Epilogues and Conclusions,” which forms the heart of the closing, Andrade moves back to the theories about the European and Chinese military revolutions. He argues that the conflict between Koxinga and the Dutch illustrates that the Dutch firearms (cannons and muskets) and military discipline were not superior to those of China, but their warships and castles were. The Dutch ships, with their tall and sturdy bodies and broadside sailings, could...


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