Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The English Factory in Taiwan, 1670-1685

I was walking around the library at NCKU today and stumbled across an 800 page volume entitled The English Factory in Taiwan 1670-1685, compiling the records of a historical fact about Taiwan that I had not known: that from 1670-1685, the English maintained a trading post in Taiwan.

As the incoming Manchus overwhelmed the Ming, Cheng Chung-kong’s (Koxinga) father, Chen Chih-lung, who at first operated under loose Dutch control, later attacked the Dutch (in 1633) and permanently ejected them from the China trade, even as the Shogunate in Japan made them the sole Europeans able to trade with Japan. In 1641 he commenced directly trading with Japan, becoming both the strongest competitor and best supplier to the Dutch. Later Cheng Chih-lung would surrender to the Qing, and out of the remains of his organization, Cheng Cheng-kung would fashion a centralized state in Amoy (Fukien). Cheng ships controlled the trade between Taiwan and China.

As is well known, after a failed assault on Nanjing, Cheng Cheng-kung invaded Taiwan and drove out the Dutch, but died in 1662 before he could seize Luzon as well. The Dutch and Qing formed an alliance against the Cheng. In November of 1664 the allies levered the Chengs out of Amoy and Quemoy, forcing a full retreat to Taiwan. The Cheng regime then built a trading empire that stretched from Japan to Cambodia.

Enter the English. The English East India Company was established in 1600, but for the next few decades it would fail to make much impact on the European competition for the riches of the East. In 1670 the English factory (trading post) in Java received a letter from Koxinga's son Cheng Ching asking foreigners to set up factories in Taiwan. In June the English arrived and negotiations concluded satisfactorily with the ‘King of Tywan’ in September of that same year. The agreement contained twenty clauses that exempted English ships from Cheng attacks, permitted the English to take out gold and silver, to trade what they wanted and to use local sailors when their own men died. Because of the Chinese reverence for cattle as draught animals, the English were only permitted to kill one cow/buffalo per week, a concession to their strange habit of eating beef (even today many older Taiwanese will not eat beef). The English moved into Fort Zeelandia, which they rented for 500 Rs annually.

The factory on Taiwan carried on a voluminous correspondence with the factory in Amoy, the factory in Bantam, and the home office. These letters are collected in the volume, offering fascinating glimpses of the mundane…

“Our sandalwood we have consigned to you for sale, there being great quantities of it in towne, & therefore you judge it may yeild a more considerable prise at Tywan.”

…the cultural…

“You may please to note that they call all the Chinese Tartars that have cutt their haire and observed the Tartars’ religion as the Doage of the Chynees did about the yeare 1635 but are now generally returned to their old religion and againe weare long haire.”

…of travels…

“November the 19th in the morning we sett saile, Mr Peter Cooke (who went on the Experiment to Tywan for recovery of his health) being on board us to retorn for Bantam, but in a dying condicion, being quite worn out with a consumpcion. The 21th we were off the Bay of Maco & the 23 at night we fell with Aynam, when it pleased God to take Mr Peter Cooke out of this troublesome world.”

..and of military conflict and anarchy…

“Wee had not long remained here before were againe disturbed with terrors of another revolt by the mutinous inclinations of the soldiers, whome by their dayly threatening of the inhabitants & exhorbitance acted amongst them for want of pay to give them a due support had brought the affaires of a whole kingdome into such a tottering and unsettled condition that for some time it was dubious whether they could be reduced into order without unhinging the whole frame of government, but at length, by great summes drawnes from the commonalty, to apperance at present better sattisfied.”

In the end, the English were unable to establish a prosperous trading station, since the Cheng monopolized the Taiwan trade. From their trade with the Chengs, they shipped Chinese items such as tea, porcelain, and silks, and were in negotiations with the Qing to establish factories along the China coast when events outran them. First, in 1682 the Dutch took the English base at Bantam, forcing a withdrawal to India. In 1683 the Cheng in Taiwan fell, and it was from India that the English China trade to Macao, Amoy, and Canton was operated. Efforts to maintain the station on Taiwan proved fruitless. The Qing refused to grant the Dutch factories on the China coast, but threw open China to trade in 1684. The Dutch then came to rely on Chinese traffic to Batavia in Java, meaning that they were effectively out of the China trade, leaving it to the English to take it over in the 18th century.



4 comments:

walter said...

A movie you should watch:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=SG-LgqDdyq8&feature=related

What good would it do for Taiwan to gain sovereignty, and yet its people die in vain?

Where will they go? Do they understand how this world came about in the first place Mr. Turton?

Democracy doesn't save people from death...people still die whether young or old...

Patrick Cowsill said...

Did the Brits stay in Taiwan for 15years or did they stay in the region for 15 years? I was under the impression they only stayed two (1670-72) in Taiwan. The terms of trade in Taiwan with Cheng's son were too expensive, and they weren't profiting from them.

Michael Turton said...

The whole 15 years, Patrick, near as I can tell. The home office kept trying to sell Taiwanese woolen cloth. One thing that did sell well was guns and ammo.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Compare this to the English experience in Japan, ie Will Adams, at about same time.