New research by cultural historians has shed new light on the romantic tale depicted in the classic Taiwanese song Anping Port Memory (安平追想曲), revealing that the characters and story were not fictional, but based on actual events.
Long considered a sorrowful story with an even sadder ending, the song tells of a heartbroken young woman on the docks of Greater Tainan’s Anping Port (安平港) longing for her Dutch lover who had sailed away. Among the lyrics were the words: “Thinking more about my fate, the sadder I felt.”
With new research turning up, a clearer picture of the central character, “Miss Chin” (金小姐), has emerged, and more information about her personal and family background.
Anping Port Memory has stood the test of time, as the golden oldie has remained popular in Taiwan and in the Chinese-speaking world over the past six decades. Most Taiwanese over the age of 40 know it well and can hum its melody or sing several verses.
Written in 1951, the song was the product of a collaboration between two Taiwanese masters: Hsu Shih (許石, 1920-1980) who wrote the musical score, based on the European “minuet,” which was uncommon in Taiwan at the time; and Chen Ta-ju (陳達儒, 1917-1992), who penned the lyrics after he was told about the Dutch-Taiwanese romantic tale by residents of then-Tainan City.
In the song, Miss Chin sings of how her Dutch sailor boyfriend had sailed away, leaving her behind with a broken heart, yet she keeps on coming to the docks, awaiting his return.
Miss Chin is described as having shades of blonde hair, being the offspring of a romantic encounter between a Taiwanese woman and a Dutch medical doctor on a merchant ship from the Netherlands.
The popularity of the song has left an indelible impression on the Taiwanese public’s mind — of a pretty young lady pining for her Dutch lover, researchers said.
A statue depicting Miss Chin and her mother was commissioned in 2011 and was placed near the harborfront at the now Anping District of Greater Tainan.
For many decades, questions abounded on whether the story was true. Now cultural historians and local officials have verified that Miss Chin was an actual person, and the song was based on a true story.
According to the researchers, Miss Chin is believed to have come from a wealthy family. Some of her descendants had inherited blue eyes from her Dutch father.
“When we spoke to family members, they confirmed that some of their ancestors had received a Western education, and that one had a romantic relationship with a Dutch doctor and had a child out of wedlock,” a researcher said.
“Given the conservative social mores at the time, her unmarried status would have raised eyebrows and created a scandal in the local community. As a result, she later took the child to live in a foreign country,” the researcher said.
“We are now focusing our efforts on locating a family portrait, so people can put a face to [the mother] and her child, Miss Chin,” he said.
Cheng Tao-tsung (鄭道聰), a member of Greater Tainan’s Archives Committee, wrote a book titled The Pearl and the Rose (珍珠與薔薇) last year, which was based on the song.
“From our analysis of historical documents and local accounts, we are certain there’s a real person called Miss Chin. Chen Ta-ju had visited her tomb when he wrote the song in 1951. However, many years have passed and most people have forgotten the location of the tomb,” Cheng said.