Advocates of a replica of a 17th-century merchant ship on display in Tainan on Wednesday said that comments calling for the troubled piece to be burned exposed an attitude against cultural heritage among politicians.
The Taiwan Cheng Kung — a reproduction of a ship used by Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功), better known as Koxinga, who drove out Dutch colonists from Southern Taiwan — has been on display at the 1661 Taiwan Ship Exhibition Park in Tainan’s Anping District (安平) since 2019 after its main mast was damaged in 2011.
Democratic Progressive Party Tainan City Councilor Lee Chi-wei (李啟維) told a council meeting that spending more money on the display was meaningless, and it might be better if “we picked an auspicious day and burned it in memory of Koxinga.”
Photo: Tsai Wen-chu, Taipei Times
An inspection showed that the main mast has a termite infestation.
However, Tainan’s claim to be the nation’s “culture capital” would be worthless if the city cannot maintain a piece of international-standard heritage, a former shipbuilding team member said on condition of anonymity.
The Tainan Department of Culture should convene a national meeting on how to maintain the ship, the shipbuilder said.
“The 400th anniversary of Anping Fort (安平古堡) is approaching, as is the 363rd anniversary of the ship arriving in what is now Tainan,” the shipbuilder said, adding that the replica holds great historic value.
An Anping resident surnamed Lin (林) said that the ship is the only reproduction of a vessel from that era.
Its site is near the planned final resting spot of the LST-201, the last remaining Republic of China Navy vessel that played a role in the 823 Artillery Bombardment in 1958, which will form a significant link between the historic and modern naval record, Lin said.
Tainan Citizen Thinktank, a non-governmental organization, said that the city should not shy away from spending money to improve maintenance of the Taiwan Cheng Kung.
The replica was unseaworthy because, among other issues, not enough research was done of the building process for such vessels, the think tank said.
Tainan Citizen Thinktank head Huang Chien-lung (黃建龍) said that reproductions of ships in Spain from the Spanish Armada — 130 vessels that sailed from Lisbon in 1588 — and ships operated by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan were still capable of circumnavigating the world, and their blueprints are in a museum in Spain.
The culture department said that the Taiwan Cheng Kung has not “expired” and the city government is maintaining it.
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