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A maritime scenery with multiple perspectives: building a future on the archaeological remnants of Fort Zeelandia in Tainan, Taiwan

Monday, December 17, 2018 - 15:51

The remains of the original walls of Fort Zeelandia in Taiwan.

The National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan (Taiwan) organized a symposium on the 15th of October, “Dutch Colonial Heritage”: an archaeological perspective ” related to their research on the Dutch VOC fort Zeelandia (nowadays known as Fort Anping), which is situated in the Anping district of that city. For that day, three experts from The Netherlands were invited: Oscar Hefting, director of the New Holland Foundation, Ranjith Jayasena from the University of Amsterdam and Martijn Manders from the University of Leiden and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

The island formerly known as Formosa was under Dutch (VOC) rule between 1624 and 1662. In order to defend the island several forts were built of which the remnants are still visible in the landscape. Fort Zeelandia was the largest and most important one set up for the trade with China. In 1661 the fort came under siege by the Chinese Ming loyalist Koxinga. After nine months a peace treaty was signed and the Dutch left the island. After several restorations, parts of the fort still stand in a park enclosed by houses. The idea of the university is to set up a project to archaeologically research the remnants that are visible and not visible in the area and to include the archaeological resources into further developments of the area, giving meaning to the fort in current society. This project Zeelandia 2024 – when granted – will be financed by the National Cheng Kung University and the Taiwanese Government. There is more interest in locating shipwrecks in the area connected to the fort and the village Old Anping that was located next to the fort and a sandbank. This village has not yet been found, but its location has been identified. In the past, news about the discovery of VOC wrecks turned out to be unfounded. We know for certain they are present and the result of a very recent discovery may show that the first VOC discovered shipwreck in Taiwanese waters has been found. However, this current knowledge will have to be checked. In 2019 the Dutch and Taiwanese archaeologists will continue their discussion on how to set up the project which will be a multidisciplinary research. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is very much interested in the way the Dutch fort can be integrated in the research and what new information will be discovered in the years to come. Everytime we discover new information about the Dutch in different areas in the world, we learn about the way they operated from a multiple perspective. Whether it was good or bad, succesful or unsuccesful, it helps us understand who we are. In that way, the past is like a mirror; by reflecting on our shared past, we learn how to deal with the future.

The following presentations were given during the symposium:

• Oscar Hefting (Director of New Holland Foundation and Dutch Fortress Museum): ‘Dutch Colonial Heritage. 17th Century Taiwan in a worldwide perspective’

• Ranjith Jayasena (Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam): ‘The forts of Zeelandia and Provintia as key-elements in the VOC’s network of fortifications in Asia and the material culture of 17th-century Asian-Dutch encounters’

• Dr Martijn Manders ( The Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University): ‘Connecting places. Maritime landscapes studies as a basis for contextual approach in cultural heritage management.’

The Taiwanese counterparts gave the following presentations:

• Prof Dr Yi -chang Liu: ‘Rethinking Fort Zeelandia 2003-2005 excavation’

• Prof Dr Der-her Lee Yen -Hua Chen: ‘The location of Fort Zeelandia’

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