Chihkan tower (Fort Provintia)赤嵌樓
No.212 Minzu Rd.,Sec 2, West Central Dist., Tainan City 700700 台南市中西區民族路二段212號
Welcome to one of Taiwan’s most important historical monuments, the Chihkan Tower, or sometimes called Fort Provintia. Tag along, as we go to explore Tainan’s main attraction of Taiwan’s tumultuous history between Dutch colonialists and the Ching Dynasty.
Koxinga & Chihkan Tower (Fort Provintia)
Fort Provintia was originally erected by the Dutch in 1635 for defense against Han Chinese rebels and also as a hub for commercial and administrative activities. Later, Koxinga came to Taiwan to reclaim the land as the base for overthrowing the ruling Ching and restoring the Ming government. A battle against the Dutch thus began. After defending the besieged Fort Provintia for 4 days, the Dutch finally surrendered to Koxinga. The building was then taken over by Koxinga and used as the administrative center for Southern Ming regime’s Eastern Capital.
Who was Koxinga? Better known in Chinese as Zheng Cheng Gong, he was the founding father of the ancient capital of Tainan. Although he and his successors’ rule over Taiwan only lasted 21 years, many fundamental constructions and systems were established during this period that set the modern stage for Taiwan. Today he is still revered by locals for his contributions and profound influence.
The Sculpture of the Compromise between Koxinga and the Dutch
As we come to the front, you’ll first notice the famous sculpture called the Koxinga Compromise. This was a peaceful final agreement between the Dutch colonists and Koxinga. As defeat for the Dutch was inescapable, a respectful meeting was called with Koxinga and the Dutch top authorities. They worked out the conditions of the Dutch surrender and the events that would follow Koxinga’s seizure of Dutch posts.
Beautiful Garden Design
Behind this sculpture, we come to the perimeter of the tower. We can see a beautiful garden, koi ponds, waterfalls and perfectly preened bushes and hedges provide an aesthetic feel to the monument. These perhaps are an unconsciously motivated task to pay sentiment to the fact that even though the Chihkan Tower was taken by force in a brutal manner, beauty can be always be restored through dedication to honor the past.
Small Stele Forest
As you enjoy the relaxing and peaceful walk around the tower, you may notice many marble and stone tablets with writing on them. Tablets inscribed with invaluable knowledge of construction plans, workers, renovation projects and city history are placed nicely along the perimeter. Venturing further out of view, however, we see the tablets lain askew that didn’t make the cut. Possibly one of history’s first examples of ‘junk mail’. What could they say? “Tired of the gym? Try NEW 100% Dutch made diet pills! Can’t have too Dutch of a good thing!” Well, that’s probably not what they say, but it’s fun to speculate.
The Original Entrance to Fort Provintia
Before we head upstairs to the tower, you really need to take a look at the original foyer to the tower. Here is what the original entrance looks like. I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine how anyone could move their furniture in with that clearance.
Just behind the sculpture of compromise is the refurbished Chihkan tower. Having already established Fort Zeelandia, the Dutch were in need of a commercial and financial center for all the new administrative headaches and PR complaints that come along with invading a country. The Dutch called it Fort Provintia which means “God’s Protection,” while the locals called it “Redheads Castle” because of the hair color of the foreigners.
As we walk upstairs at the end of the tower, we come to the display of some attributes of the old tower. It is inspiring not only to look and enjoy its beauty but to also wonder what methods were employed to create such a beautiful piece. These types of decorations are found almost on every block in parts of Asia, but it doesn’t take away from their simple but intricate design. In this example we can see layers of progression shedding away to see just how the artisan would begin creating this sculpture.
As you enter one of the display rooms from the stairs, you’ll see the luxurious desk and painting. The guy with the awesome dance moves in the photo is Lord Kuixing. If you ever have thought of yourself as a good student, think again. Legend has it, he was on his way to Beijing to write an exam and fell off a cliff. He picked himself back up and got himself in that desk anyway. He aced it of course and was summoned by the emperor, who instead of giving him the most epic of high-fives, was blown away by just how ugly he was. Ouch. Depressed and battered, he decided he didn’t need his formidable brain anymore and tried to commit suicide. The Jade Emperor of Heaven was so impressed by him, though, he made him a Lord. Dedicated students from far and wide have been praying to him for good tests results ever since.
The Legendary Wells
As we exit the display room and take a look to the rear side of the tower, we can see a half-moon shaped well structure. Legend has it this was the entrance to a secret tunnel that connected the other Dutch establishment of Fort Zeelandia more than 4km away. However, after inspection, it was just a normal well used for drinking water.
Back to the front of the tower and down the steps, we can see the original Peng Hu School on the right hand side. This is the last remaining school built in the Ching Dynasty. Unfortunately, typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters have demolished most of it over the years. But one thing is for sure, the dedicated students who went here definitely didn’t get rain days. They also had to walk uphill both ways barefoot to get there...times were tough.
Inside the school we can see how some of the classrooms were arranged. Students had the luxury of studying at one of the most respected institutions of its time at Peng Hu. You can see inscriptions congruent to present day motivational posters on placards along the hallways. Some read, ‘learn in a hands-on way’, ‘mind your manners’ and ‘respect Confucian scriptures’. Scribed into the student desks we see similar wisdom, ‘Fang Li was here, 1904’ and ‘Mr. Chang eats boogers’.
We concluded our tour here, and hope you enjoyed it as much as we’ve enjoyed it during making it. We hope you learned some fun facts, even though some of it is more fun than fact. Thank you for joining along on Tainan City’s audio guided tour of Fort Provintia.
Bilingual service Bilingual documents/information available Bilingual signs English tour service