- Fort Zeelandia (Taiwan)
Fort Zeelandia (Chinese: 熱蘭遮城; pinyin: rèlánzhē chéng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ji̍at-lân-jia Siâⁿ) was a fortress built over ten years from 1624–1634 by the Dutch Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, in the town of Anping (Tainan) on the island of Formosa, present day Taiwan, during their 38-year rule over the western part of it. Although the site has been previously named Orange City (奧倫治城), Anping City (安平城), and Tayoan City (台灣城), the current name of the site in Chinese is Anping Fort (安平古堡).
During the 17th century, the European have been sailed to Asia to develop their trade. Formosa then has become one of the most important transit ports in the East Asian, and Fort Zeelandia has been an international business center. On behalf of the Dutch East India Company, the ships departed from Formosa, north forward to Japan, west to Fujian, south to Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, India, Iran or Europe.
The strategic location
The Dutch chose a sandy peninsula off the coast of Tainan as the site of the fortress since this would allow the fortress direct access to the sea and with it, supplies and reinforcements from Batavia in event of a siege. Unfortunately, the site chosen lacked adequate supplies of fresh water, which had to be shipped in from the mainland.
The importance of Anping’s geographical position is obvious, and can be seen from its depiction on an ancient map. According to the topography, there were a series of sandbars that extended from south to north; the east side of such sandbars was the Taijian Inner Sea. Fort Zeelandia was established on the largest sandbar to control the channel for entering the inner sea. The Taijian Inner Sea was also a good harbor for docking vessels.
The bricks used for the construction of the fortress were brought over from Java, and the mortar used consisted of a mixture of sugar, sand, ground seashells and glutinous rice. The fort was designed to be surrounded by three concentric layers of walls and the four corners of the fort were built into protruding bastions for better defense.
Dutch bond was used for laying bricks to build Fort Zeelandia. It is created by alternately laying headers and stretchers in a single course to avoid gaps. The next course is laid so that a header lies in the middle of the stretcher in the course below. The Dutch bricks should have a 10-days kilning, the texture is solid and compact, and its color is red.
There were three layers of wall, and a protruding bastion on each of four corners on Fort Zeelandia, in order to expand the defense scope; this is the typical European fort of the 17th century. Inside the fort was the military and administration center, the were church, garrisons, and jailhouse; outside was the downtown, Between the fort and downtown, there were market, slaughter house, the gallows execution ground and city weighing station.
The defense function
The complete Fort Zeelandia included an “inner fort” and an “outer fort”, the inner fort was a square and 3-layer construction. The lowest was the storage of ammunition and fodd, the second only has around the wall to revolve, and the middle part of each side has a semicircle protruding barrack to strengthen the defense. Above the third storey was the administrative center, including offices, garrison and church, all of them were independent houses. There were walls on the periphery, with protruding bastion on each of the four corners, armed with huge canons; a watch tower was set at the southwest bastion. The one-storey outer fort was a rectangular fort, also with the bastion on the northwest and southwest corners, armed with several artilleries. Inside the outer fort, there were residences, hospital and houses; the plaza was the commercial area.
The Dutch surrender
On 30 April 1661, General Zheng Chenggong ("Koxinga") of Ming China (1368-1644) laid siege to the fortress (defended by 2,000 Dutch soldiers) with 400 warships and 25,000 men. After a nine-month siege with the loss of 1,600 Dutch lives, the Dutch surrendered the Fortress on 1 February 1662, when it became clear that no reinforcements were forthcoming from Batavia (present day Jakarta, Java, Indonesia) and when the defenders ran short of fresh water.
Under the Koxinga-Dutch Treaty (1662) signed on 1 February 1662 between Koxinga and Frederick Coyett, the Dutch governor, the Dutch surrendered the Fortress and left all the goods and property of the VOC behind at Fort Zeelandia. In return, all officials, soldiers and civilians were free to leave with their personal belongings and supplies.
- Old print of Fort Zeelandia, Amsterdam 1675 (high resolution zoomable scan)
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