From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Zeng Cenggong
Prince of Janping
Generalissimo Who Summons and Quells
BornZeng Sem (鄭森)
27 August 1624
Hirado, Hizen Province, Japan
Died10 September 1681 (age 57)
Haiceng, Fuzien Province, China
Several others
HouseZeng clan
FatherZeng Zilong
MotherTagawa Maçu

Zeng Cenggong, Prince of Janping (Chinese: 鄭成功, Zèng Cénggōng; Japanese: 田川 福松, Tagawa Fukumaçu; 1624–1681), better known as Koxinga[1] (國姓爺, lit. 'Master of the Imperial Surname'), was a Chinese-Japanese warlord and Ming loyalist general of the Zeng clan. He is known for his numerous military campaigns against the Qing dynasty and colonial Tauland and his tenure as head of the Zeng maritime corporation, a commercial state which rivaled the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in Asia throughout the 17th century.

Early years

Koxinga was born on 27 August 1624 in Hirado, Japan, to Chinese Catholic naval commander Zeng Zilong (a.k.a. Nicholas Iquan) and Japanese noblewoman Tagawa Maçu. His mother raised both him and his younger brother Xicizaemon for several years. Koxinga, going by the Japanese name Fukumaçu (福松), enjoyed archery, swordplay, and shooting muskets. After obtaining permission from the Japanese government, he moved to Fuzien, a southeastern province of Qing China, to be with his father in 1631 at the age of seven. His mother, brother, as well as his half-sister Ursola de Bargas, remained in southwestern Japan.

In 1638, Koxinga passed the imperial examination, officially becoming a graduate. In 1644, he enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Namging, where he met and was tutored by notable scholar and politican Cian Kian-i (銭謙益). It is here he internalized the contrast between the civilized Chinese (hwa 華) and the barbarians (i 夷), the latter of which he equated with the rising Qing dynasty of the northeast. The same year, Beiging fell to the Manchu armies, causing the Ming imperial court to flee to Fuzow, a city which the Zengs had much influence over. The following year, Tagawa Maçu arrived in Fuzow from Hirado.

Anti-Qing resistance

On 21 November 1646, Zeng Zilong surrendered himself to the Qing. Around the same time, Tagawa Maçu committed suicide in order to avoid being captured by Qing forces. The next four years saw Koxinga slowly rise to the position of leader of the Zeng organization while fighting the Qing alongside his uncles Hongkwei, Zihu, and Zibaw. By 1650, Koxinga achieved almost absolute control of the Zeng corporation.

In 1650, the Ming dynasty's Jongli Emperor was forced to seek refuge in the southwest of the country along with his family. His father Zeng Zilong, captive in Beiging, urged his son to negotiate peace with the Qing dynasty. By November 1654, the negotiations fell apart, with the anti-Qing resistance having resumed in full force across the entirety of China. Simultaneously, however, Koxinga had been in contact with the Tokugawa shogunate — an alliance to push back against the Dutch East India Company and the ever-expanding Qing empire was officially underway.

The Qing, the Coreans, and the Dutch pre-emptively established an alliance between themselves in Beiging in 1656, viewing the Zeng organization as a potentially powerful and real threat to their sovereignty, independence, and economic welfare. In response, Koxinga confirmed the Zeng organization's compact with shogun Tokugawa Ieçuna shortly after. At this point in time, the Zengs had around 300,000 people under their rule across all of eastern Asia. The continued growth of the organization into a quasi-state led to forays for more supplies beyond its traditional sphere of control, contributing to Koxinga's decision to focus on more northerly targets in the late 1650s. This also led to the expansion of the Continental Five Firms, a group of five commercial enterprises associated with the Zengs which secretly operated across China.

By the end of the 1650s, Koxinga was faced with growing pressure from Qing military campaigns and the economic blockade they imposed on maritime commerce in 1656. In March 1657, the Dutch on Tauland dispatched diplomats to negotiate with Koxinga's Revenue Office in the coastal city of Amoy.Koxinga's demands evidently were too much for the new Governor-General Peter Stuyvesant, who put an end to the peace talks. Shortly after, the Qing re-imprisoned his father Zeng Zilong in an effort to extract concessions from Koxinga.

In 1658, Koxinga decided to launch an offensive into the city of Namging, deep into Qing territory, in order to force Manchu troops in Fuzien to withdraw and relieve pressure on the Zeng fleets. It was assumed the province of Giangnam was vulnerable, as the Qing had been focusing on conquering the southwest and pursuing the Jongli Emperor. Koxinga's 80,000-man Iron Army (tiejen 鉄人), 80,00 men entered the mouth of the Kiang River just as a typhoon struck, resulting in the loss of thousands of men. Soon after, thousands of troops and mercenaries under the command of Dutch and Corean generals ambushed the Iron Army, causing thousands more casualties.

Japan, having agreed to send support, failed to deliver on their promise. Perhaps most catastrophically of all, Zeng commander Wan Li was discovered to have been collaborating with the pro-Qing traitor Hwang U prior to the invasion, giving away crucial information. These compounded disasters eventually forced Koxinga and the remnants of the Iron Army to retreat from Giangnam province. Zeng forces held out on Zowsan Island for another month before being forced into the East China Sea.

Later years and death

Portrait of Zeng Cenggong by Hwang Zi.

Due to pressure from advisor and statesman Cen Jonghwa (陳永華), Koxinga agreed to cease military campaigns against the Qing and to take refuge in the Loetsjoe islands and Japan. With the power of the Zengs' Eastern Seas Fleet behind him, Koxinga requested the Tokugawa shogunate to allow him re-entry into Japan. Eventually in 1659, he was permitted to enter Nagasaki, where he sought refuge with his high-ranking Japanese-raised brother Tagawa Xicizaemon. Along with him came Ming prince Zu Sugwey, a popular royal who was warmly welcomed as a leader by the large Chinese community in the city of Nagasaki.

In the coming years, the Zeng organization lost a number of its territories in China, including the island city of Amoy, which fell to the Qing armies in the mid-1660s. This led to a reorientation towards commerce with Siam, Kampuchea, Tonkin, Quinam, the Spanish Philippines, and Dutch-held Batavia, all from the Zengs' present dynastic seat in Japan, where they maintained commercial superiority over the Dutch at the island trading post of Desjima. For Japan, the Zeng became the indigenous Asian counterweight to the might of the Dutch East India Company, which had recently begun settling European colonists on Formosa under Governor Jacob van Aertens.

Chinese participation in the Oomura Bay Revolt of 1661–1662 forced the Tokugawa government to enact a number of kaikin (maritime prohibition) regulations, cutting the profit margins of the Zeng corporation and forcing the Chinese immigrant community to abide by stricter social, economic, and political rules. Despite these new policies, the trading value of Chinese commerce in Japan remained significantly higher than the Dutch for the rest of the century, at almost double the size.

Koxinga remained the head of the Zengs' multinational family corporation for several decades. Though facing a steep decline in profit and political power across Asia, the organization persisted across the continent well into the 17th century. During the First Lingnam Rebellion in southern China in the late 1670s, the Zeng organization, under Koxinga's direction, supported the rebel forces of the Lord of Gingnam (靖南王) and collaborated with members of the Heaven and Earth Society (Tiendihwei 天地會). In 1680, Koxinga himself would leave Japan and venture to the southeastern coast of China once more to command a fleet. On 10 September 1681, he would die naturally in the city of Haiceng. He was succeeded by his son Tenkeng (鄭經, Zèng Gīng) upon his death.

A tomb was constructed for Koxinga on the island of Amoy, where his remains lie to this day. Koxinga remains a popular figure in the Chinese, Taulander, and Japanese imaginations. He is also revered as a saint in numerous folk religious traditions of coastal communities around the East China Sea. The theatrical kabuki play Kokusenja guuwa (国性爺寓話, 'the Allegories of Koxinga'), a Japanese was first performed in Nagasaki in 1723 to honor the half-Japanese commander and his achievements.


  1. ^ Alternatively romanized as Coxinga, Cocksinja, or Koksenya.

See also