Thu, Oct 04, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Book review: A Swiss soldier on Dutch Formosa

Elie Ripon kept a diary of his adventures in the East, including China, the Dutch East Indes and Taiwan

By Gerrit van der Wees

However, only a few months later, when the Ming Emperor’s emissary tells the Dutch to “move beyond Chinese territory,” the Dutch return to Tayouan and establish a more permanent presence there. The agreement was signed on Aug. 24, 1624, and only four days later, the new governor, Martinus Sonck, leaves for Formosa to build a new fortress there. He arrives on Aug. 31, 1624, and immediately starts with the construction of what was to become Fort Zeelandia.

Ripon stays behind to oversee the dismantling of the Penghu Fortress, which is completed in just five days, from Sept. 8 through Sept. 13, 1624. He and his soldiers leave Penghu on Sept. 16 “with flying banners and the sounding of the drums,” arriving in Formosa a couple of days later.

There the construction of the new fortress has already started, so Ripon and his soldiers are tasked with finding food for the quickly expanding population. He goes hunting, and carries back some hares, pheasants and deer.

However, Ripon’s further stay at Formosa is short-lived: he strongly disagrees with the way the new governor, Cornelius Sonck, treats his soldiers and sailors, and decides to return to Batavia. In early December 1624, Ripon sails on the ship North Holland, and leaves Formosa far behind him.

This is a brief description of Ripon’s adventures in Formosa. He returns to the East Indies, and goes on to many more explorations of faraway islands, colorful descriptions of the local population and fights against the Spanish, Portuguese, and local adversaries in Sumatra, Borneo and the Moluccas.

After a couple more years of such an adventurous life, Ripon returns to his homeland, and in December 1626 sets sail back to Europe on the Dutch sailing ship Ter Tholen. According to Dutch records, the ship, together with another sailing ship, the Schiedam, arrives in the Netherlands on July 25th 1627. After that, we lose track of Ripon.

Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat. From 1980 through 2016 he published the Taiwan Communique. He currently teaches History of Taiwan at George Mason University.

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