The substance of history is facts. A piece of history can only be regarded as such if there is tried and trusted documentation to support it.
A media personality recently said in an article that Taiwan was governed by China’s Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. He also said that Chinese pirate and trader Cheng Chih-lung (鄭芝龍) came to Taiwan in 1621 and asked the Chinese government for permission to emigrate to Taiwan in 1628, and that warlord Koxinga (鄭成功) wrote “Taiwan is an inheritance from our ancestors” in his declaration of war on the Dutch in 1660.
This is all nonsense. None of these are historical facts. Documentation from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties show no records of them governing Taiwan. Cheng followed in Chinese Peter’s (顏思齊) footsteps, arriving in Taiwan in October 1624, two months after the Dutch did so at the Ming’s request. Cheng’s emigration to Taiwan in 1628 was completely fabricated. Koxinga’s 1660 declaration did say “Taiwan is an inheritance from our ancestors,” but it was a lie, without which he had no excuse to start a war with the Dutch.
Taiwan and China have been like two parallel lines, extending independently through time. The two separate lines only met between the 17th and 19th centuries; neither governed the other before or after this period.
Due to political motives, Taiwan’s history has been considerably falsified. Hence, not many people understand the historical facts between Taiwan and China.
Two examples spring to mind:
First, Kublai Khan (忽必烈) sent officials to the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1292 to demand its loyalty to the Yuan Dynasty, but the officials ended up in Taiwan and mistook it for Okinawa, home to the Ryuku Kingdom. After they arrived in Taiwan, they were unable to communicate with the Taiwanese because of the language barrier. After three soldiers were killed, the delegation immediately retreated to Quanzhou in China. How can such a major event, as recorded officially in the Yuan Dynasty’s history, prove that Yuan once governed Taiwan?
Second, the patriarch and also the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Chu Yuan-chang (朱元璋), issued a decree on the day of his ascension to the throne in 1638, ordering future generations to restrain themselves from greed and military attacks on other nations, for “a vast territory is not the key to sustainability.” He mentioned 15 nations that must never be invaded by his people and Taiwan was one of them. At that time, Taiwan was called “Little Ryukyu” and this was the first time in history that Taiwan’s political relationship with China was mentioned.
When did Taiwan and China stop being two separate states? It happened between 1683, when Cheng’s Tung Ning Kingdom was annihilated by the Qing Dynasty, and 1895, when Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing: a span of 212 years.
However, China was destroyed long before Cheng’s regime in Taiwan was. In 1644, the Ming Dynasty came to an end. China was then ruled by the Qing until 1912. The Qing governed China for 268 years, during which Taiwan and China were both Qing colonies. The definition of colony can be found in UN Resolution 2908, dated Nov. 2, 1972.
Hence, Taiwan and China only shared a portion of history when they were both ruled by the Qing. China did not govern Taiwan; the Qing Dynasty established by Manchus governed Taiwan. Being colonies of the Qing is the only thing that Taiwan and China shared.
Lai Fu-shun is a professor of history at the Chinese Culture University.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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