Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Formosan past in a modern Dutch village

A Siraya language monument has been unveiled in The Netherlands, honoring a former missionary to Taiwan who was killed by Koxinga

By Gerrit van der Wees  /  Contributing Reporter

A portrait of Reverend Anthonius Hambrouck.

photo courtesy of Gerrit Van Der Wees

On Saturday, Taiwan was the focus of activities in Schipluiden, a small village between The Hague and Rotterdam in The Netherlands.

The occasion was the unveiling of a monument commemorating Reverend Anthonius Hambrouck, who was a pastor in the old church in the village from 1632 until 1647, when Hambrouck left with his wife and four children, and sailed to faraway Formosa (a journey of almost one year). The church and the pulpit in the church remain the same as when Hambrouck left in 1647.

In Formosa, the Dutch East India Company had established its Fort Zeelandia in 1624 and built up a prosperous colony. Part of the work of the colony was to bring the gospel to the Aboriginal Siraya people, and establish schools and medical clinics in the area around today’s Anping (安平) in Tainan.

The first pastor to work in the area was Reverend George Candidius, who arrived in 1627 but refused to live at the fort, and instead made Sincan (present-day Sinshih District, 新市區) his home.

When Hambrouck arrived in 1647, he set up his parish in Mattau (today’s Madou District, 麻豆區) which in the early years had been hostile to the incoming Dutch — and at war with neighboring villages such as Sincan — when Candidius had been the pastor.

Hambrouck started preaching, and also began a school, and initially had some 145 male students, who received education “from the cock’s crowing.” The education gradually expanded, and Hambrouck started classes for girls and women in the afternoon. He trained a number of Aboriginal men as assistant teachers.

The ceremony in Schipluiden honored Hambrouck for his work, and particularly his role in establishing the written version of the Siraya language, which is currently undergoing revival efforts.

The plaque that was jointly unveiled by Taiwan representative Tom Chou (周台竹) and current Schipluiden pastor Erika Dibbets-van der Roest shows text taken from the Bible’s Gospel of St. Matthew in both old-Dutch and the Siraya language. The piece of art was a work by a former resident of Schipluiden, Marcel Koeleman.

The village of Schipluiden also decided to honor Reverend Hambrouck by naming the square in front of the church “Hambrouckplein” (Hambrouck square). The mayor of the village, Arnoud Rodenburg, and the town’s councilmember for culture and monuments Wendy Renzen jointly unveiled the new name plate.

Hambrouck became most famous in his role as intermediary after the landing of Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga) in late April 1661. Koxinga and his 25,000 invading troops had been able to occupy the countryside area around Fort Zeelandia, but not the heavily defended fort itself.

Koxinga arrested and imprisoned some 500 Dutch who lived in the 40 villages around Fort Zeelandia, and selected Hambrouck to go to the fort and ordered him to convince Governor-General Frederic Coyett to surrender. Koxinga kept Hambrouck’s wife, one daughter and son as hostages. The other two married daughters lived at the fort.

When Hambrouck met Coyett, he urged him not to surrender, but to hold out until reinforcements from Batavia (present day Jakarta) would arrive. His two daughters at the castle begged him to stay (a big painting at today’s Anping Old Fort depicts the scene), but Hambrouck wanted to safeguard the lives of his wife and son and daughter, and returned to Koxinga’s headquarters at Fort Provintia, handing Koxinga the negative answer of Coyett. Koxinga subsequently had Hambrouck killed.

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