Anping Fort (Fort Zeelandia)
Welcome to Tainan City’s audio guided tour of Anping Fort.
Known to the Dutch founders as Fort Zeelandia, Anping fort is smack dab in the center of a bustling market in old Anping District, Tainan. It’s hard to imagine that only a few hundred years ago, everything in a two mile radius was underwater. To understand the importance of this fort, you need to a) have a good imagination, and b) think like a Dutch colonialist; both easy to do with a pair of wooden shoes on.
The Dutch Watchtower
The Dutch watchtower is the first attraction we can see once entering the monument grounds. It sits at the epicenter of the fort. Today, it is still relevant as a place where you can get a good 360 degree view of your surroundings. But back in the 1600’s it was used to preemptively defend or attack, or see which ships were approaching.
Bronze Statue of Koxinga
As you scale the steps leading up to the tower, you’ll notice this prominent statue introducing the man of the hour, Mr. Zheng Cheng-gong. Born and raised in Japan by a Chinese father and Japanese mother, he was better known in English as Koxinga. He is the Ming Dynasty supporter who drove out the Dutch in 1661. Having already conquered a significant territory on coastal China, Koxinga’s victory was aided by the decision of Taiwanese locals to turn against the Dutch. Unfortunately, Koxinga was only here for a good time, and not a long time as he died the next year from malaria.
If you turn around and walk the perimeter of the tower, you’ll notice some medieval artillery. These are the coastal cannons built by the Ching Dynasty in 1814 to defend the coastlines of Anping. The cannons came with various weights, ranging from 400 to 2400 catties, around 500 to 3000 pounds. Originally, they were located all around Anping. It was not until 1930 that the Japanese relocated these cannons here for public viewing following the renovation of the fortress.
Remnants of the Dutch Fort
Walking back down the steps and directly onto the cannons, we can see some of the fort’s original walls. A fort without walls is very similar to a phone without a battery. It simply cannot serve its intended function. You can’t have any old barbarian or mercenary walk into your fortress unchallenged. You need a tall, thick wall to make sure all the people who mean to do you harm stay out.
Behind this, nearly out of the perimeter of the fort, we can see an excavation. Here are what appears to be some remains from the outer areas of the fort. Since the remains are still intact, we can glean some valuable insight into how life was lived 350 years ago in a Dutch fortress. Namely, how rooms were used and how the fortress was divided based on strategy and efficiency.
As we continue to walk along the grounds, we often come across the original architecture. Here is one of a few tunnels or doorways that are built into the fort walls. Now, I know what you’re thinking, this seems like a pretty big hole in wall building logic. But how do things get in and out of the fort? The Dutch hated magic so the only logical thing would be to build strategically placed holes in your own fortress to let goods in and out. Think of it like as a semi-permeable membrane; necessities get in and out with the ability to vet your guests with a birds eye view from on top of the wall.
Continue along the ground in the direction of two smaller structures. Here’s something you don’t see every day, the rarest tree in the world, the ever mysterious ‘walltree’. Scientists are baffled how a mere plant is able to create a wall out of nearby materials to buttress its growing frame. Some say it only works quietly at night, and others think it communicates with small furry creatures who help move the rocks. In any case, the tree has created a very solid base and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, since the wall it has built looks to be complete.
As we continue on to the other two buildings, have a look up the steps, and one of the first things you may notice is a rather odd-looking piece of metal. Can you guess what it might have been used for? No, this is not a large and cumbersome can opener. Nor is it a primitive pogo stick. This unique looking device was built into the walls in order to provide stability and strength, a kind of old tiny rebar.
As we conclude our tour, have you ever wondered what the Dutch were doing so far away from home? What was so good about this place that the Dutch opted to spend 16 odd years building this structure? Why were the Dutch even in this area to begin with? Just like bell bottoms and afros were defining trends in the 70’s, exploring and conquering were trends in the colonial era. That started in the 1400’s and lasted to arguably the early 20th century. Europe's key players were the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and the Dutch. The Dutch had managed to build a nice profitable company called VOC or the Dutch East India Company with stations throughout the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. With trade between these tropical places booming with Japan and China, the Europeans wanted a piece of the action. Having a newly acquired taste for sugar, spices and tea, the Dutch muscled their way into coastal Asia and began leaving their mark. With a home away from home in Taiwan, the Dutch were now much closer to their Chinese and Asian counterparts.
The Anping Fort stands monument to this chapter of Taiwan’s and Tainan’s, part in world history. Thank you for joining along on Tainan City’s audio guided tour of Anping Fort.
No.82, Guosheng Rd., Anping Dist., Tainan City